Celebrate Black History Month with Local DSM Events
Whether you’re interested in ensuring your workplace has diversity certification or want to nominate a local business for their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, February is the perfect time to begin thinking about how to honor and support Black business owners in the region. Greater Des Moines (DSM) will hold a variety of events in honor of Black History Month, including the 26th year of Iowa's Premier African American Festival, I'll Make Me a World in Iowa, with events denoted below with an asterisk. Support Black businesses, musicians and artists, and find Black history resources in the listings provided.
Black History Month Events in Greater Des Moines
World Food Prize Hall of Laureates
February 1 marks the state of Iowa’s annual George Washington Carver Day, celebrated at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in the Historic East Village in Downtown Des Moines (DSM). The event will include guided tours at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., a children’s story time at 9:30 a.m., a discussion with Iowa artist Mary Kline-Misol at 10:30 a.m. and a one-man play about George Washington Carver performed by Iowan Paxton Williams at 11 a.m. This event is free, and all ages are urged to attend.
World Food Prize Hall of Laureates will also host the Embracing Excellence Grand Gala* on Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. Formal attire is required for this cultural event for a great cause. Learn more about 2024 I'll Make Me a World in Iowa events at worldiniowa.org.
Des Moines Public Library
Des Moines Public Library will hold several scavenger hunts throughout the region this month. These include: An Authors Scavenger Hunt from Thursday, Feb. 1 through Saturday, Feb. 10 (Central location), Black Scientists and Inventors Scavenger Hunt from Tuesday, Feb. 6 through Saturday, Feb. 10 (Forest location), Black History Month Influential Figures from Sunday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, Feb. 18 (Central location), an Influential Figures Scavenger Hunt again on Tuesday, Feb. 20 through Saturday, Feb. 24 (Central location), Black History Month Amazing Artists Scavenger Hunt Tuesday, Feb. 20 – Saturday, March 2, Harlem Renaissance Scavenger Hunt on Wednesday, Feb. 21 – Sunday, Feb. 25 (Forest location) and Awesome Black Inventors Scavenger Hunt (Wednesday, Feb. 21 – Wednesday, Feb. 28 (South location).
At the East Side location, the children’s area will host Diversity Heart to celebrate Black History Month and Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, Feb. 13 from 1 – 5 p.m.
The Forest Avenue location will host Explore Visual Black History from Sunday, Feb. 4 through Saturday, Feb. 17. All ages are welcome to look through visual records of Black history, including graphic novels, picture books and more. A Watch Party featuring popcorn and activity will also be held at the Forest Avenue Meeting Room from 4 – 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 5. See “The Hate U Give” based on the book by Angie Thomas.
Black History Month hosts a three-day celebration from Thursday, Feb. 1 through Saturday, Feb. 3 that will take place at Simpson College and throughout Indianola. Festivities include a presentation on George Washington Carver's early years and a symposium that will explore agricultural production innovations. Learn more about the George Washington Carver Day Celebration details and events around the community, including scavenger hunt, treats and more.
Mainframe Studios in Downtown DSM will celebrate Black History Month during its “Our History” First Friday event from 5 – 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2. Mainframe Author and Artist Abena Snakofa Imhotep describes the February exhibition as a creative lens on how African American contributions are transcendent of the American Story and of optimism for Black futures.
Explore the rich history of the Black Panther Party in Des Moines at From History to Hope: Advocacy and Allyship in Focus. This event will include a poetry slam at 2 p.m., snacks, swag and more. Be inspired to make change from 1 – 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2 at the Olmsted Center at Drake University in Downtown DSM.
Waukee Public Library
At Waukee Public Library’s Black Panther Party event, learn about myths and facts around Black Power and how the Des Moines Black Panther Party worked to change life for Black Iowans. This event is free, but registration is required. Attend on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.
Iowa Events Center
The Iowa Wolves will host Black History Night at their basketball game against Sioux Falls Skyforce on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Downtown DSM. The first 1,000 fans will receive BLK and BLD Coffee and there will be a jersey auction benefiting the African American Museum of Iowa.
Teehee’s Comedy Club
See Felonious Munk perform stand-up comedy on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in Downtown DSM. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
Des Moines Art Center
The “States of Becoming” exhibition looks at the forces that shapes how a group of contemporary African artists are working in the U.S. During this free event, enjoy complimentary African flare cuisine, refreshments and more. The Opening Celebration will take place Friday, Feb. 9 from 5 – 7 p.m. at the Des Moines Art Center, while the Artist Discussion with curators and featured artists including Fitsum Shebeshe, Laura Burkhalter, Chukwudemebi Gabriel Amadi-Emina, Chido Johnson and Miatta Kawinzi on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at Levitt Auditorium.
Horizon Events Center
In 2024, Celebration Day* will be held on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Horizon Events Center in Clive and feature performances, a wellness expo and kids carnival. Education Day* on Friday, Feb. 9 at 9 a.m. will include activities such as a Biz Pitch Competition, Black History Game Show and more. Learn more about Iowa’s African American Festival, including more information on 2024 I'll Make Me a World in Iowa events at worldiniowa.org.
Des Moines Performing Arts
See Brea Baker speak during the Capital City Pride Speaker Series on topics from activism to politics and more. Baker is a queer Black millennial woman and currently the Director of Programs at Inspire Justice. This event will be held Thursday, Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. at Temple Theater in Western Gateway in Downtown DSM.
West Des Moines Public Library
Hear about the Underground Railroad in Iowa, including stories of Freedom Seekers and those who helped them at this free West Des Moines Public Library event on Sunday, Feb. 18 from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. This event will also be live streamed on the West Des Moines Historical Society’s Facebook page.
Skizzy Mars performs during The Bad As We Wanna Be Tour on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Wooly’s in the Historic East Village in Downtown DSM.
Vibrant Music Hall
Head to Vibrant Music Hall in Waukee to support Bryce Vine on The Saturday Night Tour on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.
Jordan House, a historical museum in West Des Moines that once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, offers Friday and Sunday tours throughout the month that must be reserved ahead of time. Tours take place at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the house, which is the oldest in West Des Moines and one of the oldest in Polk County.
Looking for even more resources? Learn more about Black Iowans who influenced the world at Iowa PBS, including Civil Rights Activist Alexander Clark and Scientist George Washington Carver as well as the racial harmony of a small mining town — Buxton, Iowa.
From Pride to Juneteenth to the Latino Heritage Festival, big, inclusive events are par for the course in Greater Des Moines (DSM). But there are smaller events celebrating diversity here, too. Attend one of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Multicultural Receptions, an event celebrating veterans or a sensory-friendly event in the region. Learn more here.