San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

San Francisco

The Most Festive Events in SF This Holiday Season

Get in the holiday spirit with pop-up bars, lighting displays, Christmas productions, a Chinese food and comedy night, and more.

Fairmont San Francisco
Fairmont San Francisco
Fairmont San Francisco

Christmas is less than two weeks away, which means it’s time to start chugging spiked eggnog and kick that holiday spirit into high gear. Just call us Santa’s little helpers as we’ve rounded up all of SF’s jolliest holiday events, from heartwarming opportunities to help those in need, holiday pop-ups at the city’s best bars to a slew of stage performances, and gingerbread houses that are so big you can walk inside of them. And if you’re still looking for fun stuff to do, there are cool events happening in SF every weekend and all winter long.

Visit the adorable and adoptable animals in Macy’s holiday windows

Ongoing through Sunday, January 1
Macy’s/Union Square
After a few years of virtual appearances, SF SPCA’s adoptable animals have returned live and in-kitten/puppy to Macy’s holiday windows. See them there every Thursday‚ÄďSunday from noon to 5 pm or virtually online every day from 9 am to 6 pm.
Cost: Free, but donations are appreciated. You can also bring newly purchased pet toys, blankets, flat sheets, and towels to the donation station on the 8th floor of Macy’s.

Visit the 83-foot-tall Christmas tree in Union Square

Ongoing through Sunday, January 1
Union Square
While you’re downtown contemplating whether or not to adopt a new furry friend, head to Union Square to see Macy’s Great Tree, an 83-foot-tall tree decorated with more than 33,000 LED lights and 1,100 ornaments.
Cost: Free

Union Square Ice Rink
Union Square Ice Rink
Union Square Ice Rink

Go ice skating on an outdoor rink beneath that 83-foot Christmas tree

Ongoing through Monday, January 16
Union Square
Mulling over which puppy to adopt and take home? Take a spin around The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square to clear your mind. There are 60-minute sessions every day, and if you go on Wednesday evenings, you can skate to music from Frozen. Just try not to fa-la-la-la-fall while you fa-la-la-la-la.
Cost: $20 (includes rentals)

Buy a Christmas tree and help at-risk youth at the same time

Ongoing through Friday, December 16
Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason/Marina
Pick up this year’s Christmas tree at the Guardsmen Tree Lot, and all of the proceeds from your spire of comfort and joy will go towards providing underprivileged youth in the Bay Area with opportunities to attend summer camps, after-school programs, and more. It’s also not too late to get tickets to theGuardsmen’s annual Tree Lot Party, which takes place the night after the last tree is sold and includes drinking, dancing, and lots of holly jolly fun (GA: $130; VIP: $255).
Cost: All of the trees are Noble Firs and range in price from $65 (2-4 feet) to $965 (15‚Äď18 feet).

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Wander the festive streets of Victorian London at the Dickens Fair

Saturday, December 17‚ÄďSunday, December 18
Cow Palace
Experience Victorian London without leaving SF at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair. As you wander the winding lanes, you’ll find music halls, pubs selling British fare, ale, mixed drinks, and hot buttered rum; colourful characters including Father Christmas, Tiny Tim, the ghost of Jacob Marley, chimney sweeps, and more; theatres, dance parties, ye old shoppes full of holiday treasures, and more.
Cost: $45 for an all-day ticket; $30 for twilight admission

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Enjoy a Christmas concert at Grace Cathedral

Ongoing through Saturday, December 24
Grace Cathedral/Nob Hill
All are welcome at Grace Cathedral, which is offering several concerts and services to celebrate the season, including “A Cathedral Christmas,” a performance of classic carols by the Grace Cathedral’s Choir of Men and Boys, family sing-alongs, and Christmas Lessons and Carols.
Cost: Free

SeeThe Golden Girls Live! The Christmas Shows

Ongoing through Friday, December 23
The Victoria Theatre/Mission
Grab a pal and a confidant to watch what has become one of SF’s best Christmas traditions: hilarious drag performers parodying (in the most loving way possible) two Christmas episodes of¬†The Golden Girls.
Cost: From $35

Photo courtesy of The Toni Rembe Theater
Photo courtesy of The Toni Rembe Theater
Photo courtesy of The Toni Rembe Theater

Watch as Scrooge gets a visit from three spooky (and delightful) ghosts

Ongoing through Saturday, December 24
The Toni Rembe Theater/Union Square
A.C.T.’s classic version of¬†A Christmas¬†Carol¬†returns to the stage this year with gorgeous costumes, a lively cast, and a moving rendition of the classic Dickens’ tale that reminds us all what the Christmas spirit is really all about.
Cost:Tickets start at $52.

Photo courtesy of War Memorial Opera House
Photo courtesy of War Memorial Opera House
Photo courtesy of War Memorial Opera House

Watch sugar plums dance on stage

Now – December 27
War Memorial Opera House/Civic Center
Going to a performance of the¬†Nutcracker¬†is a quintessential holiday tradition, especially in San Francisco since the SF Ballet was the first ballet company to ever perform the show in the United States. This version stays true to the original with giant mice, a growing Christmas tree, and Tchaikovksy’s timeless score, but with lots of SF-specific twists that you’ll want to be sure to keep an eye out for.
Cost:Tickets range from $10 (SRO) to $375 (Box Center).

Watch ‘Kung Pao Kosher Comedy’ in a pop-up Chinese restaurant

Friday, December 23‚ÄďMonday, December 26
Congregation Sherith Israel/Pacific Heights and Virtually
Chinese food and Christmas might be a Jewish clich√©, but it’s one we very much appreciate, especially when that clich√© manifests in the form of a Jewish comedy show in a pop-up Chinese restaurant inside an inclusive Jewish synagogue. Food will be provided by Green Chow Down, and laughs will be provided by a slew of stand-up comedians.
Cost: $90 to $100

Miracle Pop-Up
Miracle Pop-Up
Miracle Pop-Up

Drink festive cocktails at a bunch of holiday pop-up bars

Ongoing through Saturday, December 31
Various locations
Raise a glass to long weekends or escape visiting relatives at one of several holiday bars that have popped up around SF.¬†Pacific Cocktail Haven¬†(Union Square) has transformed into “Miracle,” the beloved pop-up that occurs all over the country (but only in one bar per city), and its sister bar,¬†Kona’s Street Market¬†(SoMa), is taking a tropical twist on the holiday with a¬†“Sippin’ Santa”¬†theme.¬†Trade Routes¬†(Russian Hill) is fully festive with a “Tinsel Time” theme, including a boozy Frosty the Slushie concoction and other cheer-inducing drinks. If you’re willing to plan ahead, book a reservation for¬†Tinseltown at Trademark Bar¬†(SoMa), where you’ll find the halls have been fully decked, and you may get to interact with some of Santa’s helpers and maybe even the jolly old man himself.¬†Horsefeather¬†(Divisadero Corridor) also has a Christmas cocktail menu, as does¬†The Madrigal¬†(Civic Center), and there are two¬†Deck the Halls¬†locations in Cow Hollow this year:¬†Outre¬†and¬†the Blue Light. Prefer your festivities with a side of devilish mayhem?¬†Rye Bar’s Krampus¬†pop-up is what you need.
Cost: Varies

See a Christmas ballet that’s unlike any other Christmas ballet you’ve ever seen

Ongoing through Saturday, December 24
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts/SoMa
We’ll always love the¬†Nutcracker,¬†but if you’re looking to mix it up this year, you’ll want to get tickets to¬†Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet,¬†which kicks off with beautiful classical ballet set to beloved carols and then transforms in the second act to “red hot contemporary numbers” set to pop favourites. Go on Tuesday, December 20, if you want to experience the LGBTQ+ night performance with a cameo from Lady Camden, first runner-up on the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Cost: $25 to $99

Photo courtesy of The Fairmont
Photo courtesy of The Fairmont
Photo courtesy of The Fairmont

Marvel at larger-than-life edible holiday displays at local hotels

Ongoing through Saturday, December 31
Fairmont San Francisco/Nob Hill and the Westin St. Francis/Union Square
We don’t like to pick favourites, but if you’re only going to visit one hotel to get your Christmas fix, it should be the Fairmont, which is where you’ll find¬†a two-story, life-sized Victorian gingerbread house that stands 25 feet tall, that you can walk inside. If you happen to be in Union Square, pop inside the¬†Westin¬†to see SF’s largest sugar castle. There’s also a boutique where you can buy your own sweet treats and Pop! Lounge, a pop-up champagne bar just off the lobby with a DJ and bubbles (open Friday-Sunday).

Listen to all kinds of holiday music at the SF Symphony

Ongoing through Friday, December 23
Davies Symphony Hall/Civic Center
There is truly something for every kind of human at the Symphony during the holidays, including an adult-themed holiday variety show co-emceed by conductor Edwin Outwater and drag sensation Peaches Christ (Thursday, December 15), a screening of How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the symphony playing the live score (December 16-17), Holiday Brass (Tuesday, December 20), Elf in concert (December 21-22), and A Merry-Achi Christmas (December 23) which is exactly what it sounds like.
Cost: Varies

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Daisy Barringer¬†is a freelance writer from SF who never misses a production of¬†“A Christmas Carol”¬†and thinks Scrooge gets a bad rap. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf.

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