While it’s vital to support NYC Black-owned businesses and cultural celebrations year-round, there are plenty of ways to learn, observe, and celebrate Black History Month locally with a bevy of performances, workshops, festivals, and exhibitions popping up in Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown throughout February! We’ve updated our 2022 guide to include new local Black-owned businesses, events and cultural institutions to honor Black History Month 2023 in Hell’s Kitchen.
NEW BLACK-OWNED BUSINESSES IN HELL’S KITCHEN
Your first stop this Black History Month? 2022 newcomer and W42ST reader favorite for Jamaican-fusion fare, Café 424 where Chef Nicola Campbell is joined by fellow Hell’s Kitchen entrepreneur Nalyse Seymore for their February pop-up at Prime Produce (424 W54th St bw 9/10th Ave). Chef Campbell will be hosting a Valentine’s Day-themed Aphrodisiac Cooking Mixer on Saturday February 11 which will feature a curated tasting menu, DJ and shopping from Seymore’s wellness and beauty brand, ETU Oils.
Seymore’s ETU Oils products will also be available through February 14 at the café’s Love Booth, which the Hell’s Kitchen-based business owner describes as an exciting step forward in engaging with the neighborhood. “I think this is the beginning of the building process in Hell’s Kitchen,” she said.
The process has been a long time coming. Seymore, who grew up learning her Jamaican grandmother’s recipes for natural beauty and wellness remedies, started ETU in 2017. After hosting numerous wellness workshops, she began offering a few of her handmade products for sale, which quickly took off. “I took a chance, and people were really impressed and kept buying them,” said Seymore. “It gave me the motivation to keep going, keep making products and keep making them better.”
Since then, she’s moved from Greenwich Village to Hell’s Kitchen and grown her business to include oils for every need. Seymore spent several months in South Africa perfecting her apothecary techniques and is now proudly manufacturing her products in the country and incorporating ancient techniques learned there. She’s also embarked on a beard oil collaboration with fellow creative Rome Williams which was recently featured in Ebony Magazine.
The partnership with Williams, who Seymore met in Hell’s Kitchen, underscored her belief that the neighborhood’s Black-owned business community is growing. In addition to making custom orders for locals, she’s planning another Hell’s Kitchen pop-up event soon.
For now, she’s excited to collaborate with Chef Nicola and her team. “Chef Nicola being here in Hell’s Kitchen makes me feel like, well, I know there’s at least two of us here doing this,” said Seymore. “I want to spread awareness of other Black woman-owned businesses, because we’re out here!”
MORE BLACK-OWNED BUSINESSES AND POP-UPS IN HELL’S KITCHEN
In need of a new wardrobe? Jason Alexander at Style on J (746 9th Ave bw W50/51st St) has got you covered. The Wall-Street-turned-Fashion-Week entrepreneur not only curates his store with hand-picked collections, but offers on-the-fly styling advice and outfit curation for his customers.
Looking to dine at more Black-owned restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen? Stop by Queen of Sheba (650 10th Ave — corner of W46th St), a traditional Ethiopian restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Philipos Mengistu. Try the Doro Wat chicken stew or the Zilzil Tibs marinated beef stir fry paired with a Mahr Spritzer composed of Ethiopian honey wine and vodka, soda, lemon, camomile, lemongrass and a citrus twist.
Pick up some prime beef or lentil samosas from Meske (468 W47th St — corner of 10th Ave) to pair with Buticha jalapeño ground chickpeas or Meskerem Tibs leg of lamb.
In the mood for an acai bowl? Visit Fresh from Hell (326 W47th St bw 8/9th Ave) for one of their signature, made-to-order Hell’s Kitchen sink acai bowls, smoothies or coconut oatmeal cups.
Le Soleil Brillant Restaurant (858 10th Ave bw W56/57th St) is a reader favorite for thoughtfully prepared Haitian cuisine, including signature Fried Fish with Plantain and marinated Griot (pork shoulder).
And for dessert, what could be better than a treat from The Little Pie Company (424 W43rd St bw 9/10th Ave), which Hell’s Kitchen actor Arnold Wilkerson founded in 1985 and has been serving up applause-worthy desserts ever since! We recommend the signature Sour Cream Apple Pie.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH PERFORMANCES, EXHIBITIONS AND EVENTS IN HELL’S KITCHEN
While we eagerly await the previews of FAT HAM and Jaja’s African Hair Braiding to hit Broadway (and look out for further news on Hell’s Kitchen local Alicia Keys’ new musical Hell’s Kitchen!) there are still plenty of performances, exhibitions and events honoring Black culture and Black History Month in Hell’s Kitchen and the West Side.
If you haven’t already, check out MJ The Musical (Neil Simon Theatre 250 W52nd St bw 7/8th Ave), a theatrical retelling of Michael Jackson’s 1992 Dangerous world tour with a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage.
Hell’s Kitchen’s is home to the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, whose next-generation company Ailey II will return to NYC in March, but until then, the Ailey Extension (405 W55th St — corner of 9th Ave) has planned a plethora of Black History Month programming and workshops through their Black History Dance Series. Honor the legacy of legendary dancer and Ailey inspiration Katherine Dunham by attending a workshop on her life and technique with Ailey teacher Marcia Daiter on February 11, learn more about Ailey’s lasting impact and learn Horton technique (the foundation of Ailey choreography) at a free workshop with Ailey Extension Director Lisa Johnson-Willingham on February 18, and explore the history of Afro-Cuban Dance and the Diaspora with choreographer, dance ethnologist and activist La Mora on February 25.
Over at Lincoln Center, check out Black Herstory Live, a two-day, multi-artist collaboration between the performing arts venue and Afropunk February 24 and 25. “Celebrating the Black woman’s journey to find her voice,” the festival features a cornucopia of live music, poetry readings, panels, sound baths, astrology readings, dance and screenings.
Jazz at Lincoln Center also features Black History Month lineups that honor the legacy of Black jazz pioneers. Check out sets from Dianne Reeves, Nduduzo Makhathini, Shedrick Mitchell, the Cyrus Chestnut Trio and of course, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra as well as educational talks on Allen Toussaint, Joe Harriott and Fela Kuti.
The Midnight Theatre at Manhattan West (75 Manhattan West Plaza bw 9/10th Ave) hosts Groundlings-born The Black Version, an improv group who, upon audience suggestion, create the “Black version” of popular films. The group sometimes features special guests like Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Nicey Nash, Maya Rudolph and more. Performances are February 24 and 25.
At MoMA (11 W53rd St bw 5/6th Ave) you can learn more about the Black artist-led gallery and collective Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces in a retrospective showing now through February 18. A few blocks south, Carlton Fine Arts gallery’s Black History Month exhibition Art is Dead (showing now through February 28) features artist Vincent Peters (known as ÆTHELSTAN) and his collection inspired by Afro-Cuban artists affected by the country’s censorship laws.
The 15th Annual Harlem Fine Arts Show comes to the Glasshouse (660 12th Ave bw W49/50th St) in Hell’s Kitchen this year, as the exhibit inspired by the Harlem Renaissance celebrates African diasporic and American artists February 24-26. Opening night on February 24 includes a cocktail reception and red carpet celebration.
The Paley Center for Media (25 W52nd St bw 5/6th Ave) is home to A Salute to Black Achievements in Music on Television, a comprehensive series of panels, exclusive artifacts and costume displays and screenings now through February 26, dedicated to the legacy of Black musicians on America’s cultural television landscape.
The New York Public Library is hosting a variety of Black History programming citywide (and online!). On February 16, check out a discussion on Food For Thought Book Club: “Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African-American Jew” by Michael W.Twitty. Be sure to also visit the perennial NYPL Treasures exhibit for the Black Progress and Representation Collection featuring “Black creators and activists reclaiming and establishing space in various fields and illustrates evolving representations of Black identity around the world.”
Another excellent option is to visit The Intrepid Museum (Pier 86, W46th St), offering a series of ongoing on-site educational talks highlighting the many contributions of Black Americans to the armed forces and US space program.
Learn the story of the brave sailors of Gun Tub 10 who manned WWII anti-aircraft guns — and who on October 29th, 1944 battled a kamikaze aircraft to save the Intrepid, paying the ultimate sacrifice as the plane crashed into their ship. Their battle continued for decades as the families of the sailors fought to ensure that they received proper military honors. This Black History Month, the Intrepid Museum honors veteran Alonzo Swan’s fight to gain rightful recognition for his World War II heroism.
Hear the story of Mae Jemison, a physician, engineer, and NASA astronaut who would become the first Black woman in space through her time as a mission specialist aboard the Endeavor in 1992, logging 190 minutes in space and orbiting the Earth 127 times. After NASA, Jemison would go on to found a technology research company, teach environmental science at Dartmouth University, earn several honorary doctorates, and work as an advocate to encourage children of color and young women to pursue STEM careers.
Slightly further uptown at the New York Historical Society (170 Central Park West bw W76/77th St), visit Crafting Freedom: The Life and Legacy of Free Black Potter Thomas W Commeraw, an exhibit dedicated to the artist born into slavery who eventually rose to prominence as an artist and engaged citizen of New York’s free Black community.
While you’re near the park, honor the many achievements of Black road runners (including NYRR founding president Ted Corbitt, known as “the father of long distance running” and the first African American to compete in an Olympic Marathon) by competing in the Virtual NYRR Black History Month 5K — register to run the race anytime (and anywhere!) from February 18 to 26.
And if you’re looking to explore even more Black History Month events citywide, check out a neighborhood guide to other Black-owned businesses, stories, and resources!