Queens Public Library celebrates Black History Month with nearly 150 programs highlighting Black resistance, culture

Queens Black History Month programming at Queens Public Library
(Courtesy of Queens Public Library)

Throughout February, Queens Public Library will celebrate “Black Resistance” — the theme of its 2023 Black History Month observance — with nearly 150 comprehensive programs and initiatives, including theater performances, author talks and art workshops for all ages, spotlighting various aspects of Black heritage, culture and resilience. 

On Thursday, Feb. 2 at 5 p.m., patrons at Peninsula Library, located at 92-25 Rockaway Beach Blvd., can explore “Quilting Codes.” 

During the time of slavery in the United States, enslaved Black people who ran away to find freedom were said to use quilts encoded with messages to help guide them on their journey. Quilting groups, like Ebony Quilters of Southeast Queens and Quilt-N-Queens, have formed in the borough to keep the tradition of quilting alive. In this workshop, participants will create their own collage versions of quilts encoded with messages to help guide us today.

Throughout February, the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, located at 100-01 Northern Blvd. in Corona, which houses New York City’s largest circulating Black heritage reading collection, will present an array of programs dedicated to Black History Month. Its offerings include the Annual Langston Hughes Day Celebration on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 2 to 5 p.m., featuring actor and writer David Mills’s one-person dramatic rendition of Langston Hughes’ poems and short stories, as well as a performance by The Don Hanson Quartet. 

Langston Hughes Library also will host Libraries and Liberation Open Mic” on Saturday, Feb. 25, at noon. The event is inspired by the history of Langston Hughes Library as well as mobile libraries that were founded by Black people and organizations. These include the southeast Queens-based J. Expressions, Reading 4 Black Lives and Lena’s Library. The open mic also will explore the future of libraries and reading collections that represent a diversity of voices.

Black gathering spaces and activism will be the focus of a virtual art lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 1 p.m. in which MoMA educator Jennifer Katanic will discuss Just Above Midtown—or JAM” — an art gallery and self-described laboratory led by Linda Goode Bryant that enabled Black artist to flourish. 

Open from 1974 until 1986, the gallery organized exhibitions that explored the idea of artistic and racial mixture, encouraged collaborations between artists, and offered a space for community and professional development. To attend this virtual program, click here

Throughout the month, QPL will present theater performances, including Shades of Truth Theatre’s presentation of “The Meeting,” a one-act play depicting a fictional meeting in Harlem between two of America’s best-known civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The play will be performed at Central Library, at 89-11 Merrick Blvd., on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 1:30 p.m. and at Hunters Point Library, at 47-40 Center Blvd., on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 1:30 p.m.

Another goal of the library’s Black History Month celebration is to deepen the public’s knowledge about Black icons who lived and worked in Queens

One of them — Louis Armstrong — is known primarily as a legendary trumpeter and for hits such as “What a Wonderful World” and “Hello, Dolly!” But he was also a civil rights pioneer who was not afraid to put his career on the line to speak out against injustice. Ricky Riccardi, director of Research Collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum, will discuss this aspect of Armstrong’s biography during a virtual presentation on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 11 a.m. To attend, click here.

On Thursday, Feb. 9, at 3:30 p.m. Bayside Library, at 214-20 Northern Blvd., will hold a workshop, dedicated to Lewis H. Latimer, a Black inventor, draftsman and poet who lived in Queens and is most known for improving the process for creating carbon filaments for light bulbs. Latimer was also the son of a fugitive enslaved Black man named George Latimer. Inspired by both of their stories, in this program, called “Jars of Light,” participants will make their own art “light bulbs” using jars, filling them with art and poetry “filaments” about resistance and liberation. Attendees are invited to bring items they would like to add to their jars.

Young library customers will also have multiple opportunities to learn more about Black culture and resistance. 

During “The Role of Buttons in Social Justice Movement” program they will find out about the role of pins, buttons and badges in the civil rights movement. Since these items could be quickly and cheaply made, bought and sold, buttons were a popular way to express one’s politics. Participants will create their own buttons to reflect their beliefs and opinions on Monday, Feb. 6, and Monday, Feb. 27, at 3:30 p.m. at Rochdale Village (169-09 137 Ave.) and on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 4 p.m. at Glen Oaks (256-04 Union Turnpike) 

At Arverne (312 Beach 54th St.), on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 2:30 p.m., children will celebrate Black History Month by making a paper replica of Kente cloth, a colorful fabric from West Africa, and gain appreciation for the Black artists who make it. 

During an art workshop titled “The Face of Afrofuturism With Ida Owens,middle-school students (grades 4-8) will use inspiration from Afrocentric films, music and images, to engage with mixed media materials and create their own Afrofuturistic face collage. The program will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 3:30 p.m. at Ridgewood Library (20-12 Madison St.), on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 3:30 p.m. at Peninsula Library (92-25 Rockaway Beach Blvd.), on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 3:30 p.m. at Rochdale Village Library (169-09 137th Ave.).

Teens will also get to learn more about Lewis H. Latimer and other African American inventors such as Mary W. Jackson and how they contributed to the STEM field during STEM Club at Queensbridge Tech Lab (10-43 41st Ave.) on Saturdays, Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25, at 3 p.m. 

And as hip-hop celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, QPL hip-hop coordinator Ralph McDaniels will host a book talk about “Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style” with authors Elena Romero and Elizabeth Way exploring hip-hop’s profound impact on the world of fashion, on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 5:45 p.m. at Central (89-11 Merrick Blvd.). 

Patrons are also invited to attend an in-person discussion titled “Self-Care as an Act of Resistance,” led by Dr. Naika Apeakorang, a naturopathic practitioner who also is an herbalist and an acupuncturist. The program, focusing on how to use the resources and tools available to us to boost our own social and emotional well-being, will take place at multiple locations:

  • Monday, Feb. 6, at noon at Bellerose Library (250-06 Hillside Ave.)
  • Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 4 p.m. at Ozone Park Library (92-24 Rockaway Blvd.)
  • Friday, Feb. 10, at 2 p.m. at Windsor Park Library (79-50 Bell Blvd.)
  • Saturday, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m. at Peninsula Library (92-25 Rockaway Beach Blvd.)

QPL customers may find further inspiration in free “Black Resistance Journals,” now available at all QPL locations and online

The journal offers facts about landmark moments of Black resistance, such as the enactment of the 14th Amendment in 1868, the New York Slave Revolt of 1712 or the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. It includes information on Black icons, who fought for racial equity through education, arts and culture, music, media, sports, politics, and more, such as activist and former Black Panther member Angela Davis, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, baseball player Jackie Robinson and labor organizer A. Philip Randolph. The journal also features stimulating prompts to get the readers thinking about how they can get involved in resistance movements close to their heart today. Throughout the month, Library locations across the borough will also feature posters of various Black Icons. 

Visit http://connect.queenslibrary.org/3287 for additional Black History Month programs, book lists, film screenings, resources and more.