Montréal celebrates Black History Month

2024 Black History Month
Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett

This article was updated on January 29, 2024.

February 2024 marks the 33rd anniversary of Black History Month in Montréal, and this year’s edition features a full slate of theatre, film screenings, musical concerts and other cultural events.

This year’s theme is “Many Stories, One History” (Plusieurs nuances, Une Histoire). Click here for this year’s 12 Black History Month laureates and scroll down for some choice events.

Gospel music

The Schulich School of Music of McGill University kicks off Black History Month with choir director, songwriter and educator Karen Burke helming a special public Gospel Festival Workshop at Pollack Hall (555 Sherbrooke West) on February 1 at 7:30 pm as part of its Gospel Festival. Free admission. 

American gospel and neo-soul group Trey McLaughlin and The Sounds of Zamar headline Théatre Maisonneuve on February 2.

Then Michelle Sweeney – one of Montréal’s queens of jazz, soul and blues–headlines her popular Gospel Brunch with Michelle Sweeney & The Gospel Tribe at Le Balcon music hall and restaurant on March 2.

 

Music concerts

Productions Nuits d’Afrique – the good folks who run Montréal’s iconic Club Balattou and the summertime Festival International Nuits d’Afrique – presents Canada’s legendary Juno Award-winning South African World-Music diva Lorraine Klaasen at the Fairmount Theatre (February 10). Born and raised in Soweto, Klaasen is one of few remaining South African artists preserving the classic sound of township music.

 

video poster

 

Other concerts of note include Montréal-based French-Djiboutian musician Shay Lia (February 23) and Detroit rapper Veeze (February 20), both at Le Studio TD; New York rapper Lil Tecca at MTELUS (February 27); and Nigeria’s superstar “King of Afrofusion” Burna Boy at the Bell Centre (February 28 and 29).

Black literature

Lectures LOGOS Readings is a series of monthly multicultural readings hosted by award-winning author H. Nigel Thomas and renowned human rights advocate Maguy Métellus at the UNIA Hall (2741 Notre-Dame West) in Little Burgundy. For their February 12 BHM edition, guest readers are Jason SelmanYvonne SamShanna Aristil and Elina Timsit, followed by an open mic.


 

Live theatre

A Black Theatre Workshop world premiere co-production with Prairie Theatre Exchange presented in the Studio Theatre of The Segal Centre for Performing ArtsDiggers tells the story of three essential workers – gravediggers – who make the best of a bad situation as townsfolk grow increasingly distant when illness hits the town (February 1 to 7). A play full of song, laughter, tears and humanity.

 

video poster

Exhibitions

The Phi Centre in Old Montréal presents Colored: The Unknown Life of Claudette Colvin, an augmented-reality experience that uses the HoloLens 2 augmented reality headset to bring to life the story of U.S. Black civil rights pioneer and icon Claudette Colvin. Runs from February 7 to March 10.

The JAM Arts Centre (the Jamaica Association Arts Centre) presents the When Big Man Talk art exhibition from February 3 to 14, showcasing artists Garfield Morgan, Daniel Saintiche, Anthony McLennon and Quentin Vercetty. The multi-disciplinary arts exhibition is being held at the Atelier Lucie Michel art gallery (February 3 to 10), then at the UNIA Hall (2741 Notre-Dame West) in Little Burgundy (February 11 to 14). 

 

video poster

Afro-Colombian Dance

The acclaimed Danse Danse series presents Detrás del sur: danzas para Manuel by Sankofa Danzafro, the dance company founded by legendary Colombian choreographer Rafael Palacios who is dedicated to the exploration of Afro-traditional, contemporary and urban dance languages. This show pays tribute to the literary masterpiece Changó el Gran Putas by writer Manuel Zapata Olivella (1920–2004) which traces the saga of the Black African diaspora in the New World. At Théatre Maisonneuve from February 21 to 24.

 

Dance party!

Legendary Montréal party promoter Manclaudy hosts the second annual free-admission FRKY X LISTEN listening party at La Sala Rossa from 8 to 10:30 pm on February 3. This FRKY event brings together a diverse mix of individuals – from DJs and club owners to influencers and music enthusiasts – all united by their love for Black music. Then beginning at 10:30 pm, the ticketed FRKY x LISTEN x AFTER party will set the dancefloor ablaze with special guests.

 

video poster

At the movies

On February 20 at the Bell Centre, the Montréal Canadiens will screen filmmaker Hubert Davis’ TIFF award-winning documentary Black Ice which candidly explores racism in hockey, from Willie O’Ree, the first Black player in the National Hockey League, to P.K. Subban. Click here for more details.

The screening of the documentary Afrodiaspora Global – which explores the presence of people and cultures of African descent around the world – will be followed by a conversation with filmmaker and anthropologist Sheila S Walker, at the McCord Stewart Museum (February 14 at 6 pm). Free activity but space is limited. To reserve, click here

 

Black WinterFest

Organized by Hike Montréal, BLK WinterFest is a month-long celebration of winter sports and activities for the Black community. Every weekend in February, BLK WinterFest offers a variety of winter activities: skating, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing, for all ages and skill levels.

For instance, their introduction to ice climbing (four sessions on February 10 and 11) takes place on an eight-to-12 metre wall in Parc Jean-Drapeau, a few steps from La Ronde. All technical equipment is provided, and a team of professionals accredited by the Fédération québécoise de la montagne et de l’escalade will ensure safe conditions. Each session lasts three hours.

Click here for all BLK WinterFest events and to purchase tickets.

 

video poster

Black comics

The Comedy Nest nightclub hosts The Underground Comedy Railroad, the first-ever all-Black comedy tour in Canada, on February 18. The annual tour has traveled across Canada during BHM since 2012. This year’s show in Montréal features hilarious stand-up comics Rodney Ramsey, Daniel Woodrow, Tamara Shevon and Keesha Brownie. Click here for tickets.

 

Beyond Black History Month

Over at the Montréal, arts interculturels cultural organization – better known as “The MAI” – Infinithéâtre presents their Artistic Director Zach Fraser’s much-anticipated adaptation (in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team of artists) of revered Black Montréal novelist, poet and sound performer Kaie Kellough’s story collection Dominoes at the Crossroads, a poetic ode to the epic and universal search for home and identity (March 7 to 16).

Black Theatre Workshop – the oldest professional Black theatre company in Canada, founded in 1971 – presents the Montréal debut of the play Every Day She Rose at Studio Espace Libre (April 4 to 13). The play tells the story of Cathy Ann, a straight Black woman, and her roommate Mark, a gay white man, who return home from a Black Lives Matter protest at the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade, only to discover their racial and queer politics aren’t as aligned as they thought.

The 40th annual Festival international de cinéma Vues d’Afrique runs from April 11 to 21. The festival screens international features, documentaries and shorts by filmmakers from across Africa and the African diaspora.

Check out the complete Black History Month schedule at www.moishistoiredesnoirs.com.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ+ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

See articles by Richard