Orlando celebrates local Black history with multiple events throughout 2023
Black History Month starts this week and there’s plenty of commemorations and celebrations of Black History and culture all 2023. Between limited-time exhibition and performances plus a slew of Black-owned businesses, Orlando is offering a wide array of activities locals and visitors can enjoy to learn about the rich, inspiring Black history in the Orlando-area.
The Black History Month events in Orlando, attractions plus Black-owned restaurants last long past February. Here’s what you can visit and restaurants to visit:
- The Story Quilters of Hannibal Square exhibit (Jan. 27 – April 29) at Winter Park’s The Hannibal Square Heritage Center features storytelling quilts and artist reflections on the Black experience, spirituality, justice, femininity, family, and nature. Visitors can enjoy free admission to view the exhibit.
- The Black Resistance Exhibit (Feb. 3 – April 30) inside Orlando City Hall’s Terrace Gallery is a new visual arts exhibition recognizing how African Americans have fought repression and inspired folks to participate in civil rights and racial equity movements.
- The Freedom Series (starting Feb. 10) at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts celebrates African American artists and showcase diverse performing arts like music and poetry inspired by African American culture.
- Orange County Regional History Center’s Black History Month will include History Book Club: Their Eyes Were Watching God (Feb. 16) focusing on Eatonville’s Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel and its ties to Central Florida, and Celebrating Black Arts and Culture (Feb. 18), a free family friendly event featuring hands-on activities and performances.
- Songs of Hope and Inspiration (Feb. 17) at the intimate Timucua Arts Foundation will feature performances by singer Samone Hicks and pianist Rose Grace of art song cycles from Black composers including Nkeiru Okoye, Undine Smith Moore, Florence Price, Adolphus Hailstork and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
- The 8th Annual MLK Gospel Concert (Feb. 18), produced and directed by Grammy Award Winner Dr. Jeffrey Redding, will be hosted at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’ Steinmetz Hall. Hear live music inside one of the world’s most acoustically wonderful spaces in exchange for non-perishable food donations.
- The Sanford Jazz Ensemble’s Salute to Black History Month Concert (Feb. 19) at the historic Ritz Theater in Sanford showcases musical genres like Motown, classic jazz, and DooWop plus celebrate acclaimed African American musicians.
- The Orange County Library System will pay tribute to Black History all throughout February with over 50 free events throughout Central Florida, including the 33rd Annual National African American Read-In (Feb. 5) at the Orlando Public Library. Visitors can experience live music folklore, hands-on crafts plus celebrate the accomplishments of notable black American inventors and scientists like Mae Jemison.
- The historic town of Eatonville, home to celebrated author Zora Neale Hurston, was one of the first self-governing African American communities in the U.S. It honors Hurston with the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts (aka The Hurston) and the annual ZORA! Festival (running through Jan. 29) with other events including HATitude Cultural Flair (Oct. 15) and Gathering & Gabbing, Zora Neale Hurston Book Club (Feb. 18, March 18 & May 20). The Hurston also displays work by legendary and emerging artists of African descent.
- Parramore, the only Commercial National Registered Historic District in Orlando, is the city’s oldest and largest African American neighborhood with a diverse collection of historic buildings like the Wells’ Built Hotel (now the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture), which is dedicated to preserving the memory of Orlando’s African American heritage with Civil Rights artifacts, memorabilia, and other displays.
- The Orange County Regional History Center features a permanent African American history exhibition highlighting the triumphs and tragedies of African Americans in Central Florida’s past, along with luminous paintings of Florida’s Highwaymen, a group of acclaimed African American landscape artists.
- Historic Hannibal Square, a community founded for black families in 1881, is home to the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, which welcomes visitors to explore the district’s origins and offers guided walking tours of the historic landmarks of “West Winter Park,” describing the hardships and the triumphs of the African American community from the 1900s to the present. Visitors can also experience small business shopping, free yoga, food and music during the SOKO Marketplace every Saturday morning, where proceeds support the development of programming for the Hannibal Square community.
- Visitors and locals can join Juneteenth (June 19) celebrations throughout Orlando, particularly in Eatonville and Hannibal Square. Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States.
- Locals and visitors looking for soul food post-Black History Month events in Orlando can visit Nikki’s Place and P&D Soul Food Kitchen in Downtown Orlando and Soul Food Fantasy in Eatonville.
- Foodies can experience delicious Caribbean-inspired eats at Island Thyme Caribbean Grille in East Orlando; Oley’s Kitchen & Smokehouse in Downtown Orlando; go to DaJen Eats Cafe & Creamery in Eatonville for a plant-based twist on Jamaican food.
- BBQ/southern food fans can dine at Orlando Famous Pete’s BBQ in Downtown Orlando and Brick & Spoon in Maitland. For seafood or wings, support Big Lou’s Single Wing Express and Stonington’s Fried Shrimp in Downtown Orlando; and Mad Crab Seafood & Wings in Eatonville.
- Looking for a healthier kick? Go to Vitality Bowls in the Dr. Phillips area and Bezerk Nutrition in Apopka. Head to downtown Orlando for sweeter option Pattie Lou’s Donuts and the award-winning Sister Honey’s serve all kinds of sugary delights from doughnuts and pies to cookies and pastries you’d definitely enjoy.
- Other Black-owned eateries include East Orlando’s Streetwise Urban Food and Downtown Orlando’s The District GastroBar paying homage to old world American taste and cuisine, where legendary musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and B.B. King performed at the South Street Casino that once stood nearby.
Updates on Black History Month events in Orlando can be found on VisitOrlando.com.
Photo c/o Visit Orlando