As part of the commitment to preserving and promoting the legacy of and bringing visibility to Black stories in Niagara Falls, there are several events and programs slated in February to celebrate Black History Month.
This year’s theme is “Illuminating Voices: Connecting the Past to the Present.” In February, the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center will honor Black History Month by celebrating the rich history of people of African descent in Western New York by connecting historical events to modern social issues.
The Heritage Center offers this kind of programming year-round, so to enhance it during Black History Month, there is a wide variety of virtual, in-person, and hybrid programs planned to reach audiences across Western New York and beyond. Programming includes youth workshops, musical performances, the continued speaker series, and the grand opening of the historic Cataract House Restaurant and Academy in downtown Niagara Falls.
More information is available on the Heritage Center’s website. Most of the events take place in the Atrium of the Heritage Center in Niagara Falls or are available virtually. Events are as follows:
- “Frederick Douglass WNY: By Any Means Necessary,” 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, in the Atrium, 825 Depot Ave. West. The kickoff to Black History Month welcomes the Heritage Center’s own Dr. James Ponzo in “Frederick Douglas WNY: By Any Means Necessary,” a presentation on the life of Frederick Douglass, including the impact that he had on Rochester and all of Western New York. This is a hybrid event and pricing is $8 for singles, $12 for couples, and $25 for families.
- African Drumming & Dancing Community Fitness Class with Packard Court Community Center, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, in the Atrium at 825 Depot Ave. West, Niagara Falls. This community celebration embraces the resilience and power that Black History Month embodies. Join us in a collaborative event with the Packard Court Community Center in an African Dance Class Jamboree featuring drums, music, laughs, and educational conversation. These two sessions are part of the free 10-Week African Drumming and Dance Community fitness classes at the Packard Court Community Center to promote health and wellness, sponsored by the Niagara Falls Housing Authority and Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative. This is a free, hybrid event.
- “Illuminating Voices of our Future,” StoryTime Animation with the Atlantis School for Gifted Youngsters, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb 5, in the Heritage Center’s Meeting Room, 825 Depot Avenue West. This in-person collaborative event allows eight youngsters ages 9 to 12 to be the storytellers of their own tales over the four Saturdays. These eight students will create, produce, and record voice overs for a StoryTime animation episode that features their own character. Saladin Allah, Visitor Experience Specialist, Community Liaison, and the Founder of the Atlantis School for Gifted Youngsters, will create animations of each child to bring their character to life! The cost is $40 and that covers all four weeks. The Heritage Center is hoping to fund scholarships for each child. Register here.
- “Illuminating Voices of our Future,” Storytime Animation with the Atlantis School for Gifted Youngsters, Part 2, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb 12, in the Heritage Center’s Meeting Room; 825 Depot Avenue West, Niagara Falls.
- “Black Visions” & “Alma Thomas & Me.” This collaboration with the Explore & More Children’s Museum will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb 12, in two locations: the Atrium at 825 Depot Avenue West, Niagara Falls; and at Explore & More Children’s Museum, 130 Main St., Buffalo. This informative and empowering event will allow kids ages 8 to 12 to learn about important Black figures from the past and present who are role models for children and young adults in an effort to inspire them to be everything they wish to be and more. Participants at Explore & More will be led by Heritage Center staff. They will be given a short informative lesson about important and influential Black figures past and present. They will then be guided through the creation of vision boards in an effort to empower today’s youth. Participants at the Heritage Center will be led by Explore & More staff. They will receive a short informative lesson on art, Black artists, and will be guided in a watercolor painting activity inspired by Alma Thomas. This is a free, in-person event, and capacity is 20 youth at the Heritage Center, but there are no capacity restrictions at Explore & More. Register here.
- “Blacks in Niagara Falls” with Dr. Michael Boston in collaboration with the Niagara Falls Public Library, 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb 15, in the Atrium, 825 Depot Ave. West. Dr. Michael Boston, associate professor at SUNY Brockport, will present “Blacks in Niagara Falls,” detailed study of the history of African Americans in a small upstate New York city, from the days of the Underground Railroad to the deindustrialization of the 1980s. Blacks in Niagara Falls narrates and analyzes the history of Black Niagarans from the days of the Underground Railroad to the Age of Urban Renewal. This is a hybrid event and prices are $8 for singles, $12 for couples, and $25 for families.
- African Drumming & Dancing Community Fitness Class with Packard Court Community Center, Part 2, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, in the Atrium at 825 Depot Ave. West, Niagara Falls. This is a free, hybrid event.
- Cataract House Restaurant and Academy and Gallery Opening, 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb 18, at 310 Rainbow Blvd, Niagara Falls. The grand opening of the new F Bites Cataract House Restaurant and Academy is a free, in-person event celebrating the continuation of the legacy that is the Cataract House. The event also includes a micro gallery opening featuring Artist Tyshaun Tyson. Chef Bobby Anderson of Hell’s Kitchen and F-Bites is the Owner and Head Chef of this fine establishment with cuisine that reflects the historic African American meals once served. Tyshaun Tyson is one of the two artists to complete the “Black Lives Matter” mural on Main Street near the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.
- “Illuminating Voices of our Future,” Storytime Animation with the Atlantis School for Gifted Youngsters, Part 3, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb 19, in the Heritage Center’s Meeting Room; 825 Depot Avenue West, Niagara Falls.
- “Illuminating Voices of our Future,” Storytime Animation with the Atlantis School for Gifted Youngsters, Part 4, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb 26, in the Heritage Center’s Meeting Room; 825 Depot Avenue West, Niagara Falls.
- “History in WNY’s Backyard in collaboration with Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, 4 to 6:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb 26. This is the largest and most anticipated collaborative event of the month, and the first ever Buffalo and Niagara Falls Black History crossover tour. The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor will present this two- hour Black History virtual experience of the Heritage Center, the Nash House, Michigan Street Baptist Church, WUFO MIX1080AM, and the Colored Musicians Club. This is a virtual event and tickets are $20.
For more information or to register for these events, call (716) 300-8477 or visit the Heritage Center’s events page.
About the Heritage Center
The mission of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is to reveal authentic stories of Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls and to inspire visitors to recognize modern injustices that stem from slavery and to take action toward an equitable society. The Heritage Center is an experiential museum operating every Thursday through Sunday during the Winter season. We offer self-guided tours, facilitated guided tours, school field trips, and numerous public programs throughout the year. Through meaningful interpretive experiences, engaging public programs, services and events, we expand each visitor’s understanding of and appreciation for the Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls and the enduring impact of slavery in the United States.