Celebrating Black history through music, dance, poetry and more

black history month graphic featuring several small icons

The university will celebrate the legacy, culture and accomplishments of the Black community throughout Black History Month with speakers, celebrations and performances.

Lehman Benson

Lehman Benson

"It's so important for the university to recognize and celebrate its diverse community not only during cultural heritage months, but throughout the year," said Lehman Benson, vice president for Black advancement and engagement. "The university's Black History Month offerings will showcase how the community has helped shape the worlds of entrepreneurship, music, literature, scholarship and more. As a university committed to the core value of inclusion, showcasing the history and accomplishments of Black Americans in numerous fields such as medicine, engineering, the sciences, the arts and more is crucial to our mission."

The community's contributions and creativity in the arts are at the center of many of the month's events.

Flyer for the event with a photograph of jazz musicians and information about the event in overlaying text.

"An Evening of Jazz Celebrating Black History Month" will explore the cultural and historic importance of jazz.

On Feb. 10, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences will present "An Evening of Jazz Celebrating Black History Month" at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Tyina Steptoe, associate professor in the Department of History, and Derrais Carter, associate professor in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, will speak about the cultural and historical importance of jazz locally and nationally. Tucson-area jazz musicians and bands will perform.

Tyina Steptoe

Tyina Steptoe

"I think it's significant that this event will spotlight music created by African-descended people in different parts of the Americas, including jazz from English-, French- and Spanish-speaking societies," Steptoe said. "My talk will draw from my research on jazz programs in segregated Houston schools of the 1930s, and how those students influenced the national jazz scene of the '40s and '50s."

Graphic for the Black Culture and Movement event featuring the words in yellow, green, and red text.

W.A. Franke Honors College's "Black Culture and Movement" event will include dance, stepping, music and spoken word performances.

On Feb. 13, the W.A. Franke Honors College will hold "Black Culture and Movement: A Celebration of Black History Month" in the Honors Village Courtyard, 1101 E. Mabel St. The celebration, which is free and open to the public, will include dance, stepping, music and spoken word performances as well as opportunities to interact with clubs and organizations representing the Black student experience.

"We call it 'Black Culture and Movement' because we believe it encompasses culture, history, activism and accomplishment," said Cheree Meeks, the college's assistant dean for programs, diversity and inclusion. "Movement is intended to literally mean movement, such as dance, but also movement in terms of civil rights and other movements relevant to the culture and Black experience."

Cheree Meeks

Cheree Meeks

The University of Arizona Poetry Center will hold a Black History Month poetry circle at the Oro Valley Public Library, at 1305 W. Naranja Drive, on Feb. 15. The event is part of a monthly series of poetry discussions led by docents from the Poetry Center. The event is free and no preparation or knowledge of poetry is necessary to participate.

Other events and resources planned for Black History Month are listed at the bottom of this story.

Honoring the community all year

Over the summer, the university marked its first observance of Juneteenth as an official university holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas – June 19, 1865 – to announce the end of the Civil War and the freedom of all enslaved people, over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. As part of the celebration, campus welcomed strategist and peace advocate Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., and Ilyasah Shabazz, award-winning author, educator and daughter of Malcolm X, to speak at Centennial Hall. The discussion was the capstone event of the Beyond Juneteenth initiative – a yearlong celebration of Black people in the Southwest.

As part of the Beyond Juneteenth initiative, Special Collections in University Libraries curated Black History in the Borderlands, which looks at the experiences of Black people from Baja California, Mexico to Tamaulipas, Mexico.

The African American Museum of Southern Arizona marked its first anniversary on Jan. 9. The museum, located in Room 244 of the Student Union Memorial Center, attracted more than 2,500 visitors in its first year, according to its website.

In August, the university welcomed its most diverse class in history in August, including a 12% increase over 2022 in incoming students who identify as Black or African American. The one- and two-year retention rates of Black students each increased by more than 2%, according to data from University Analytics and Institutional Research.

Eight young children in a room with a teacher demonstrating a carnival game.

This photograph of the 1968 NAACP Tucson carnival is part of the "Black History in the Borderlands" collection at University Libraries.

University events planned during Black History Month

The list below highlights events open to faculty and staff is below and may not represent all of the events that are planned. Please visit the University Calendar, where more events might be posted in coming weeks.

Arizona Men's Basketball Black History Month Night | Thursday, Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m. | McKale Memorial Center

During the men's basketball game against California, Tucson-based DJ Jahmar will perform a tribute to 50 years of hip-hop. There will also be a special halftime dance performance.

Black Faculty, Staff and Student Mixer | Thursday, Feb. 1, 6-8:30 p.m. | Student Union Memorial Center, Cork and Craft

The Black Graduate and Professional Student Association will host night of networking and building meaningful connections throughout campus. The event is free but attendees are asked to register ahead of the event.

The Arizona Experience and Black/African American College Day | Saturday, Feb. 3, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. | Student Union Memorial Center, Grand Ballroom

Designed for prospective undergraduate students and their families, this event allows attendees to learn about the University of Arizona experience. Speakers will discuss academics and research, Tucson, student life and the Bear Down school spirit. The event is free but attendees are asked to register by Feb. 2.

Black History Month Kickoff | Monday, Feb. 5, 2-4 p.m | Student Union Memorial Center, North Ballroom

Attendees can learn about the Department of Africana Studies and enjoy free food, giveaways and entertainment. The event is free and open to the public.

Book Signings With Carlotta Walls LaNier, Youngest of the Little Rock Nine | Friday, Feb. 9, 11 a.m.-noon and 4:30-5:45 p.m. | African American Museum of Southern Arizona, Student Union Memorial Center, Room 244 (morning signing), and Palo Verde High School, 1302 S. Avenida Vega (afternoon signing).

Carlotta Walls LaNier, one of the first Black students to attend an all-white school in 1957 during a pivotal time in the Civil Rights Movement, will be signing her book "A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School." The event is free and open to the public; donations will be accepted. Following the signings, the author will take part in a "Chat With Carlotta Walls," which is being presented by the African American Museum of Southern Arizona. Seating is limited to those with paid sponsorships.

Meet Author Brandy Colbert | Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1-2 p.m. and 4-5 p.m. | Worlds of Words: Center of Global Literacies and Literatures, Education building, Room 453

Acclaimed young adult literature author Brandy Colbert will present two talks: "My Journey as an Author" from 1-2 p.m. and "Black History and the Tulsa Race Massacre – A YA Author's Perspective" from 4-5 p.m.

small black history month icons forming the shape of a wildcat head

Products featuring the university's Black History Month cultural logo are available for purchase, with a portion of the sales going to African American Student Affairs.

Making Magic Happen: Black Women Enriching Tucson | Tuesday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m. | University of Arizona Poetry Center, 1508 E. Helen St., Rubel Room

A panel of Black women innovators will discuss making an impact in Tucson, changing the world for everyone and thriving with joy. Panelists include Beverely Elliott, executive director of the African American Museum of Southern Arizona; Cheree Meeks, assistant dean for programs, diversity and inclusion at the W.A. Franke Honors College; and Laura Pendleton-Miller, board president of Blue Lotus Artists Collective.

Douglass Day Transcribe-a-Thon | Wednesday, Feb. 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. | CATalyst Studios, Main Library, Room B254

Help celebrate Frederick Douglass' birthday, also known as Douglass Day, with an annual nationwide transcribe-a-thon. Thousands of participants come together at more than 100 simultaneous events around the world to transcribe materials of this Black scholar and thinker. The free event is open to the public and registration is not required.

Arizona Women's Basketball Black History Month Day | Sunday, Feb. 18, 12 p.m.| McKale Memorial Center

There will be special Black History Month performances during halftime of the women's basketball game against Washington.

In addition to these events, shirts and other products featuring the university's Black History Month cultural logo and other related designs are available for purchase through the BookStores, the university's Amazon site and the Bear Down Shop, operated through Fanatics. A portion of the sales of BookStores, Amazon and Fanatics items will go to African American Student Affairs to benefit students.

Resources for the Media

Media Contact(s)