African American Heritage Series in Portsmouth kicks off January 11


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – As we approach Black History Month, which is celebrated in February, the City of Portsmouth is kicking off its series of events a little early.

For the fifth year, Portsmouth museums and libraries are hosting an African American Heritage Series. This year’s series, titled “Black History Now – Celebrating Today’s Change Makers” begins Saturday, January 11 and culminates February 29.

Here is the complete schedule of events.


What: A Talk with Ted Ellis
Where: Children’s Museum of Virginia
When: 10 a.m.

Ted Ellis’ art captures and documents 400 years of the Black experience in North American and pays homage to his ancestors. For more than 25 years, Ellis has created over 5000 paintings that depict scenes from Southern churches, courtrooms, families, and everyday life of Black Americas’ 400-year journey. 


What: “When I Grow Up…” Career Day
Where: Children’s Museum of Virginia (Included with museum admission)
When: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Children can meet NASCAR pit crew members, celebrity hair stylist, music producers and other African-Americans who are successful in a variety of professional arenas, while parents learn to encourage their children to “think outside of the box” when selecting a career path.  


What: “Come Freedom Come” 
Where: Portsmouth Main Library
When:  2 p.m.

Celebrated storyteller and actor from film and stage, Valerie Davis, captures the physical, historical, and spiritual essence of this former enslaved woman, Martha Ann Fields, from the Nutshell Plantation in Hanover County. This story of freedom and empowerment is suitable for multi-generational audiences and includes a Q&A with the character Martha Ann Fields.


What: Women on the Warfront: African-American Women on the Battlefields of History”         
Where: Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center Art Annex
When: 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Taniki Richards of Just to Inspire will take visitors on a video and photographic journey through history as she explores the roles African and African-American women played in history’s greatest military conflicts, including her own experiences as an officer in the U.S. Marines Corps during the Iraqi War.


What: “Let My People Go: Moses Grandy’s Financial Fight for Freedom”
Where: Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center Art Annex
When: 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Eric Sheperd of Diversity Restoration Solutions will take visitors on a video and photographic journey from West Africa to the Dismal Swamp Canal to tell the story of how his ancestor, Moses Grandy, used industry and thrift to purchase his freedom from slavery in the early 1800s.

What: “Exploring Mali: A Young Person’s Guide to Ancient Civilization”   
Where: Cradock Branch Library
When: 1 p.m.
Target Audience: Ages 8 and up

Author Linda Goss helps young readers discover the history and culture of Ancient Mali as she leads a discussion of her book that includes the story of Sundjata, the boy who became king of Mali.


What: Black History Expo
Where: Churchland Branch Library
When: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Join together with your community in honoring African-American history. Hear from guest speaker Inez Randolph discussing the history of Grove Baptist Church, listen to local musical talent, and see breathtaking display of local artisans’ handiwork at this celebratory event recognizing African-American history in Portsmouth.


What: Neighborhood Black History Tour & Costume Parade
Where: High and Green Streets
When: 10:30 a.m.
Target audience: Families, all ages

Wear your favorite costume representing an African-American hero, past, present, local, city, state, national or international. Walk or ride a shuttle bus to see significant African American sites in Portsmouth, concluding at the Portsmouth Neighborhood Facility Recreation Center at 900 Elm Ave. To register contact Joyce White Tasby at 202-812-2804.  Registration fees are $10.00 for an individual and $50.00 for 10 or more.  The line-up begins at 10:30 am at High and Green Streets.


What: Portsmouth Community Concerts, Inc.
Where: Churchland High School Auditorium 
When:  7:30 p.m.

American operatic tenor Orson Van Gay II will bring audiences to their feet with his charisma and command of the stage.  A native of Southern California, Orson is no stranger to the Hampton Roads community, as he honed his vocal talents as a Vocal Performance major at Old Dominion University.  For ticket and other information visit the PCCI website: or call (757)686-5447.


What: “Java & Djembes” 
Where: Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center 
When:  11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Enjoy coffee from different regions of Africa while learning traditional West African percussion rhythms from master musician Kamiruri Kelly, of the DAY Program.  Hailed as the “Maestro”, Mr. Kelly is one of the few American percussionists to be declared a member of acclaimed musician Mammady Keita’s family of percussionists in Guinea, West Africa.  Price:  $10 per person.  Intended Audience:  Ages 17 & Up

Go to this link to register for this workshop:

Workshop participants are eligible to perform in a 2 p.m. public performance at the Churchland Branch Library as workshop participants showcase what they learned.


What: “Jammin’ at the Juke Joint”  
Where: Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center Art Center
When:  6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Local band leader Robert Giles of God’s Finest Gospel, Blues and Jazz Band will take listeners on a narrative musical journey through time to follow the gospel origins of blues, jazz, rock’n’roll, soul, R&B and funk music all the way to today’s hip-hop.


What: Portsmouth Institutions: Grove Baptist Church at 180
Where: Main Branch of the Portsmouth Public Library, 601 Court Street
When: January 17 – February 28 

Grove Baptist Church has contributed to Portsmouth’s spiritual, social, and community life since its establishment in 1840. Learn more about this historic congregation, founded as an African-American offshoot of a 19th century white church. Vintage images and articles will highlight the ways in which this long-standing church has truly become a Portsmouth Institution.

What: Portraits of Service: Portsmouth African Americans in the Military, 1946 – 1967
Where: Photographs from the collection of the Portsmouth Public Library. Portsmouth City Hall Lobby, 801 Crawford Street
When: January 17 – February 29

After World War II, the Colored Notes column of the Portsmouth Star newspaper described happenings in the African American community.  The column included frequent photographs of local residents in military service.  View this collection of military portraits and original captions in this temporary exhibit for Black History Month Now 2020.

What: “Follow the Drinking Gourd”
Where: The Beazley Planetarium at the Children’s Museum of Virginia (Included in museum admission)
When:  Show Times for the month of February:
Tuesday – Friday:  1 p.m. & 3 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Sunday: 12 p.m.

Analyze the celestial clues hidden within the Follow the Drinking Gourd folk song first published in 1928. This song reportedly used by the Underground Railroad offered hope to a people in an escape to freedom. Running time: 30 minutes

For updates about these events, visit the Portsmouth Museums’ websites:

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