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Arts & Culture

Here's how you can celebrate Black History Month in San Antonio

students_outside_st_philips_normal_and_industrial_school_306_villita_street_san_antonio_texas_1898_copy.jpg
The Institute of Texan Cultures
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Students outside St. Philips Normal and Industrial School, 306 Villita St. San Antonio, TX 1898.

February is celebrated across the nation as Black History Month, and in San Antonio, that history runs deep. Black history in San Antonio is often overshadowed by those who fought for Texas’ independence. Historical figures like Ella Austin, Artemisia Bowden, and Charlie Bellinger have had a lasting influence on San Antonio.

There are several historic landmarks on the East Side you can see — including Ellis Alley and the Healy-Murphy Center — and several organizations will be hosting Black history events throughout the month as well. Here’s how you can celebrate San Antonio’s Black history this month.


Living history in San Antonio

San Pedro Creek dig unearths church cornerstone, illuminating more of AME community's history in San Antonio

An archeological dig last year on the banks of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park in the west end of downtown San Antonio unearthed the cornerstone of the post Civil War-era Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The initials AME and the year 1875 are among the markings chiseled into the cornerstone. Researchers believe the church stood on the site from 1871 to 1877.

The river authority is building walkways, retaining walls, public performance space, art installations and water features all along the creek. It's also adding landscaping to convert what was once a trashy creek and cement culvert for floodwaters into linear park space.

The artwork includes a five-panel mural that tells the county's 300-year-old history and a lighted waterfall that will sync to music or voices speaking into a retro 1950s style microphone in front of TPR, which sits on the creek banks in the 300 block of West Commerce Street.

TPR's Dreamweek panel discussion delved into this archeological significance, and the actual history with participation from the African American Archive and Museum, the city's Office of Historic Preservation, Army Corps of Engineers, Trinity University and the current. St James AME Church pastor.

History of Black cowboys told in new exhibit at San Antonio's Witte Museum

The traditional story of the Wild West needs a re-write to make it historically accurate.

The cherished fable of the horseback hero of the open range doesn’t reflect the actual racial diversity of the cattle drive.

For example, the 1960s cowboy TV show "Rawhide" was a fictionalized portrayal of the 1870s cattle trail. The characters, including Rowdy Yates played by a young Clint Eastwood, were all white. But — in fact — one in four of the cowboys on the trail was Black.

"A number of the cowboys were born in slavery and they began their journey as cowboys enslaved, as enslaved children,” said Ronald Davis, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Texas at Austin.

He co-curated the Witte exhibit The Black Cowboy: An American Story. It tells the story of how frequently Black people did the tough and perilous work of settling the West.

The Witte exhibit, The Black Cowboy: An American Story, runs through April 2202.


Events

Thursday, Feb. 10 | Noon to 1 p.m.: The Role of Code-Switching in DEIB | Virtual

Dr. Dana E. Crawford explores the psychological toll of code-switching, the price of not code-switching and more in this free virtual event. Register here.

Saturday, Feb. 5 | 1-3:30 p.m.: Saturday Afternoon at the Movies @ Ella Austin Community Center

“The Bronze Buckaroo” and “Two Gun Man from Harlem” will show as part of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum’s “Black History Month and Let’s Rodeo” event. There will be food trucks at the event.

Saturday, Feb. 12 | 3-4 p.m.: My Life as a Reader and Writer: A Visit with Author Varian Johnson | Virtual

Children’s and young adult author Varian Jones will share about his life and work in this San Antonio Public Library event.

Sunday, Feb. 13 | 4:30-6:30 p.m.: Black History River Tour @ La Villita

SAAACAM will host a 100-minute guided tour about the history of African American people in San Antonio. Tickets are on sale on the organization’s website.

Tuesday, Feb. 15 | 6-7 p.m.: Towards a Certain Future: Preserving African American Cultural Memory | Virtual

This SAPL event explores the transformation of historic spaces due to gentrification and what’s being done to preserve African American cultural memory and heritage in this time of change.

Tuesday, Feb. 15 | 6 p.m.: Living in My Skin @ The Carver 

“Living in My Skin” is a film about what it means to be a Black man in San Antonio. The in-person screening will be followed by a discussion with a panel of local men. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP here.

Sunday, Feb. 20 | 3:30 p.m.: The Untold Truths From Her Womb @ The Little Carver Civic Center

Presented by The Liberation Center, this dinner theater will highlight a feminine perspective of world history and the resistance, revolution and liberation that shaped the world.

Saturday, Feb. 26 | Starting at 2 p.m.: Film screenings @ Slab Cinema Arthouse

At 2 p.m., Slab Cinema will screen "I Am A Dreamer," a documentary about today’s current state of affairs. Then at 4:30 p.m., "Daughters in the Dust," an award-winning film. At 7 p.m., Slab Cinema will screen "Us." The 2 p.m. screening is free; the other movies are $10.

Sunday, Feb. 27 | Starting at 2 p.m.: Film screenings @ Slab Cinema Arthouse

Slab Cinema will screen a couple of foreign films: "Touki Bouki" and "Black Girl" at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively. Both movies are $10.

Digital Exhibit | Barrier Breakers: Pioneers in Medicine

The San Antonio Area African American Community Archive and Museum presents African American history-makers in San Antonio who changed the medical science field.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

Recent recognition

The "grandmother of Juneteenth" has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thirty-three members of Congress signed a letter nominating Opal Lee for the prestigious award.

The Fort Worth native led a years-long effort to get Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. She succeeded last year when President Biden signed it into law.

Juneteenth marks the day when enslaved African Americans were liberated in Texas two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

The nomination letter says that Lee's efforts were, "a symbol of her hope that we as Americans can come together and unify against social issues that are plagues on our nation."

Local organizations and resources

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