Now that Black History Month has come to a close, it’s important to remember that Black American culture and history can and should be celebrated year-round. Below is a sampling of Western New York’s many arts projects and organizations that provide creative and critical programming on Black American art, culture, and history all year.
African American Cultural Center
The African American Cultural Center is a nonprofit multipurpose arts organization dedicated to promoting, sponsoring, and developing an appreciation of and allegiance to African American heritage and to enhancing social behavior among African American youth through multidisciplinary training in the arts.
Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier
The Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier (AAHANF)’s primary mission is to preserve historical sources that pertain to Afro-Americans in Western New York and to promote research and scholarship dealing with the life and history of Afro-Americans in New York State. The AAHANF has published Afro Americans in New York Life and History since 1977, taped interviews of local individuals to gain insights into their lives and what it was like being alive in Buffalo during certain periods of time, and preserved historical records of local African American organizations and individuals with over 600,000 pages of documents that are available for public use.
Colored Musicians Club
The Colored Musicians Club fosters an environment where people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds can come together over a mutual love of jazz. Musicians can attend Jam Sessions on Sunday nights, network with other touring artists, and learn about the building’s history in the museum.
Frank E. Merriweather, Jr. Library
The library was designed by local African American architect Robert Traynham Coles and includes an African American Resource Room, technology lab, 150-seat auditorium, and an African motif in the block façade. This library is named after Frank E. Merriweather, Jr., editor and publisher of The Buffalo Criterion newspaper, which is the oldest minority newspaper in upstate New York.
The Freedom Wall
On the corner of Michigan Avenue and East Ferry Street in Buffalo is the northern entrance into the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, which serves as a nexus of the city’s deeply rooted African American history. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery Public Art Initiative, in collaboration with the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor and neighborhood stakeholders, envisioned this mural as a way to celebrate our nation’s historic and ongoing struggles for political and social equality, including the formative and lasting contributions of local leaders to this cause. The large concrete wall surrounding the NFTA’s Cold Spring Bus Maintenance Depot has been transformed into portraits of 28 notable civil rights leaders from America’s past and present.
Frontline Arts Buffalo
Frontline Arts Buffalo is a collaborative action research project created by the African American Cultural Center, Locust Street Art, Ujima Company, and El Museo. The group seeks to support frontline arts and cultural organizations in Buffalo by conducting community forums, collecting video interviews with key figures, documenting archival material, recording personal stories from community members, and publishing resources for future activities and campaigns.
Jefferson Avenue Arts Festival
The Jefferson Avenue Arts Festival, founded in 1996 by 50 Women with a Vision, celebrates art, culture and community. The festival consists of local, regional, and national artists, food, information booths, live music, DJ sets, and a Kid Place for children under 13 years of age) with pony rides, bounce houses, face-painting, free snacks, games, give-a-ways, and much more. This year’s festival is on Saturday, September 5, 2020 on Jefferson Avenue between E. Utica and E. Ferry streets.
Juneteenth of Buffalo, Inc.
Juneteenth of Buffalo, Inc. is a volunteer-run charitable organization with a mission to actively preserve and promote the broad spectrum of African American heritage through educational and cultural activities that benefit the community as a whole. The nonprofit partners with existing organizations with similar community-based objectives to help achieve its mission. Its big annual event, the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, is an important component of summertime events in the Buffalo-Niagara region.
Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor
This nationally and internationally recognized neighborhood in Buffalo serves as the focal point for learning about the city’s rich African American history through its shops, restaurants, structures, historical markers, people and institutions, and neighborhoods, as well as its impact on local, national, and international history. The time periods celebrated by the Michigan Street African American Heritage Area include the Abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights movement, and several cultural and artistic renaissance periods.
Muhammad School of Music
The Muhammad School of Music (MSOM) was founded in 1999 and serves youth and adults from Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Toronto, and the surrounding suburbs, as well as students who travel to Buffalo from all over the country. MSOM provides violin classes at numerous schools throughout the City of Buffalo and through community outreach programs. The MSOM Chamber Players and Maestro Henri L. Muhammad have performed nationwide and have appeared in several television, radio, newspaper, and magazine features, as well as CD and video recording projects.
The Nash House Museum
The Nash House Museum, located at 36 Nash Street in Buffalo, is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Reverend J. Edward Nash, Sr. The museum works to preserve the history of the African American community of Western New York.
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center strives to reveal authentic stories of Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls that inspire visitors to recognize modern injustices that stem from slavery and take action toward an equitable society. The center encourages visitors to take action for civil and human rights and create global change that begins in the Niagara Falls community.
Panthfrica is a collective of passionate creatives driven to empower and inspire underserved communities through rich and transformative arts-based experiences. The group curates art exhibitions, workshops, private screenings, and other cultural celebrations.
Pappy Martin Legacy Jazz Collective
The Pappy Martin Legacy Jazz Collective was formed in Buffalo to recognize and address the multi-pronged aspects of continuing the important music legacy of James “Pappy” Martin. The collective’s mission is to create opportunities for diverse community engagement to educate, honor, and celebrate the historical, cultural, and artistic significance of jazz.
Paul Robeson Theatre
The Paul Robeson Theatre is the second oldest component of the African American Cultural Center. It was founded in 1968 to nurture and showcase the talents of African American playwrights, producers, directors, actors, and stage technicians in the City of Buffalo and the surrounding Western New York region.
Ujima Company, Inc.
Ujima Company, Inc. is a professional theatre company dedicated to the development and presentation of work by African Americans. The company’s primary purpose is the preservation, perpetuation, and performance of African American theater by providing working opportunities for established artists and training experience for aspiring artists.
WNY Urban Arts Collective
The WNY Urban Arts Collective is a group of artists dedicated to creating a platform for addressing the need to recognize, develop, educate, support, and promote the professional development of visual artists.