Events

Black History Month and Beyond in Tempe

Where to celebrate Black history, Black present and Black futures in Tempe, Arizona.

In Tempe, Black History means taking a look back to reflect on this city’s past. But also, celebrating the present day milestones and triumphs within the Black community, and recognizing the year-round efforts that are paving the way for future generations.

Our leaders, tastemakers, athletes, politicians, restauranteurs, educators and artists and other creatives have made their mark on this city – both in the past and in the present – and we’d like to tell you more about them. Here are a few events, businesses, spaces, facts and resources, that showcase Black history, Black present and Black futures in Tempe — and give us a reason to celebrate every month of the year:

Events

Jan. 8, 2024 | MLK Diversity Awards

Each year, the City of Tempe and the Human Relations Commission host an MLK Diversity Awards breakfast to honor and recognize community members and organizations demonstrating a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and who exemplify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s program honors people and organizations, including students, who work to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.

2023 MLK Diversity Award winners
2023 MLK Diversity Award winners

Jan. 12 – 15, 2024 | DREAM Series
Established by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball in 2017, the DREAM Series is a showcase event that focuses on the dynamics of pitching and catching for a diverse and elite group of, predominantly African America, high school athletes, from across the country. Hosted in Tempe over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, the event provides an avenue specifically geared to diversify the talent pool of pitchers and catchers — two positions that lack Black representation at the Major League level.

Unity Walk promo photo (not ours)
Regional Unity Walk | Courtesy photo

Jan. 27, 2023 | Regional Unity Walk
Tempe Beack Park & Tempe Town Lake
For 18 years, hundreds of residents from Chandler, Gilbert, Guadalupe, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe have gathered at Tempe Town Lake to celebrate coming together at the Diversity Festival and followed by participation in the Regional Unity Walk. For 2024, the event takes place at Tempe Town Lake on Saturday, Jan. 27. Festivities, including music, food and fun, kick off at 4:30 p.m. Then, the one-mile walk starts at 6 p.m. Participation is free, and all walkers will receive a free t-shirt commemorating this walk for unity, mutual respect and understanding.

Participation is open to the public, and families, schools, community groups, scout troops, and church groups are encouraged to attend.  Walkers are welcome to carry signs celebrating our community’s diversity and unity.

Feb. 2, 2024 | Mardi Gras Celebration
700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ 85281 | 480-350-2822
Join the men Omega Psi Phi Fraternity for their annual Mardi Gras Celebration. Taking place from 1 to 5 p.m. at Tempe Center for the Arts, this will be a fun afternoon of food, dancing, and music. Awards will be given for the best Mardi Gras masks.

Feb. 2, 2024 | Silent Disco at ASU Art Museum
51 E. 10th St., Tempe, AZ 85281 | 480-965-2787
Dance through music history from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. at ASU Art Museum’s Silent Disco. As part of “A Taste of Melanin” Series, this free event celebrates the ways in which Black culture has shaped the music we listen to today. Ages 18 and up welcome.

Black History Month Celebration at Desert Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden

Feb. 2–23 | Celebration Black History Month at the Desert Botanical Garden
1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85008 | 480-941-1225
Celebrate Black History Month at Desert Botanical Garden this February.

  • Feb. 2, 7-9 p.m.: Music in the Garden: Sandra Bassett
  • Feb. 14, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | For the Culture III: The Legacy of the Black Garden (virtual webinar) 
  • Feb. 15, 6-9 p.m.: Centered. A storytelling experience featuring Ebone “Muse” Johnson and others.
  • Feb. 16, 7-9 p.m.: Music in the Garden: Walt Richardson and Friends
  • Feb. 23, 10 a.m.: Storytime: “The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett” by Mélina Mangal.

Feb. 3, 2024 | Faith in Action Prayer Breakfast
Wyndham Phoenix Airport/Tempe, 1600 S. 52nd St., Tempe, AZ 85281 | 480-967-6600
Mark your calendars for the 2024 Faith in Action Prayer Breakfast, taking place from 9 to 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 2, at the Wyndham Phoenix Airport/Tempe Hotel. Presented by the African American Advisory Committee (Tempe), this event unites faith and civic leaders for the good of our city.

Feb. 3 – July 28, 2024 | “Twin Flames: The George Floyd Uprising from Minneapolis to Phoenix”
51 E. 10th St., Tempe, AZ 85281 | 480-965-2787

In partnership with ASU’s Center for Work and Democracy and the George Floyd Global Memorial, ASU Art Museum presents “Twin Flames: The George Floyd Uprising from Minneapolis to Phoenix.” Presented for the first time outside of Minnesota this exhibition asks important questions about the role of art and community as a vehicle for bearing witness and creating deeper understanding and empathy. It also examines the state of public memorials in this country, and prompts us to reflect on whose stories are shared, by whom and why. 

The following public programs will accompany the exhibition:

  • Feb. 2, 5-7 p.m.: Public Opening Reception
  • Feb. 2, 8-11 p.m.: Taste of Melanin, Silent Disco
  • March 28: Histories of Protest in Art and Music
  • April 6: Film screening + Panel Discussion for “Stonebreakers”
  • May 2: Are Objects Forever? The Evolving Thinking on Conservation and Collections Care. Hear from Twin Flames’ Community of Practice, a committee of community members steering the exhibition at ASU Art Museum
Photo courtesy of ASU Art Museum

Feb. 8, 2024 | Chic Chef 77 Bistro & Wine Bar Anniversary Celebration

1221 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, AZ 85281 | 480-664-4132
Join chef Nik Fields and her chic team as they celebrating the first anniversary of Arizona’s only Black-owned wine bar.

Open since Feb. 8, 2023, Chic Chef 77 Bistro & Wine Bar has been serving up selections from a 200-bottle list, as well as creative cocktails, loaded charcuterie boards, savory sharables for weekend brunch and daily dinner. These flavors pairs well with live music, DJs poetry and other themed events. 

This milestone soirée will take place from 5 to 10 p.m., and feature a photo booth, violinist, DJ, complementary champagne and the vibes this spot is known for. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Nik Fields announces new concept for Tempe
Photo credit: Anneke Marie Photography

Feb. 10, 2024 | Second Annual Jamaican Jerk, Roots & Reggae Festival
5500 S Mill Ave Tempe, AZ 85283 (Kiwanis Park, Ruben Romero Picnic Area)
Join the Afro-Caribbean Cultural Association of Arizona, in collaboration with Ocho Rios Jerk Spot and Big Dreamz Promotions, for at day of food, culture, music and vibes from Jamaica and islands! The festival, which takes place from 12 to 6 p.m., will include vendors, cultural dance performances, a celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday and the premiere of the Bob Marley: One Love movie, and performances by Tenelle, Ayo Jay, Ginjah, Josh David Barrett (former Wailers lead singer), Praise Kusi, Muchomante and more.

Photo courtesy of Tempe History Museum

Feb. 11, 2024 | Black History Month Activity Day at Tempe History Museum

809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ 85282 | 480-350-5100
Join the African American Advisory Committee of Tempe History Museum from 12 to 3 p.m. for a fun, interactive kids’ day to celebrate Black History Month! This free event is open to the entire family. 

Feb. 14, 2024 | Tempe History Lunch Talks
809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ 85282 | 480-350-5100
From 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., join Shannon Walker, ASU University Archivist, at Tempe History Museum for as she shares a recent project to identify, recognize, and honor the first African American female graduate of ASU, Stella McHenry. This project has led to further efforts to identify and tell the story of early students of color at the University using ASU and Tempe History Museum archival collections.

Additionaly, Walker will discuss the importance of developing relationships with the families of alumni and the Black community in Phoenix in general, coinciding with the work her ASU colleague Jessica Salow, curator of Black Collections, is doing to document the Black community of Arizona. Stop by Tempe History Museum for this free talk presented by Tempe History Society with generous support from Friendship Village.

Feb. 16, 2024 | Arizona Coyotes Black Excellence Celebration
411 S. Packard Drive, Tempe, AZ 85281 | 623-772-3200
The Arizona Coyotes will commemorate Black History Month as they host the Carolina Hurricanes at Mullett Arena. Stay tuned for additional ways in which this game will honor and celebrate Black excellence in the community. Tickets are available here.

Black Excellence Celebration 2023
Modern Rockstars x Arizona Coyotes | Credit: @arizonacoyotesfoundation

Additionally, the NHL released the first episode of “NHL Bound” in February 2022. This original content series (available on YouTube) follows Duante’ Abercrombie and Nathaniel Brooks, two Black hockey coaches chasing their dream of working in the NHL. The weekly series chronicles their participation in the Arizona Coyotes’ first-ever coaching internship program, dedicated to creating a deeper pool of diverse talent. Viewers will get a behind-the-scenes look at the Coyotes’ management and coaching staff operations as well as Abercrombie’s and Brooks’ personal dedication, sacrifices, and passion to shatter stereotypes and earn their place behind an NHL bench.

Feb. 24, 2024 | This is Melanin at Mountain America Stadium
500 E Veterans Way, Tempe, AZ 85287
Step into a world brimming with entertainment and education — including games, a marketplace, panel discussions, workshops and entertainment — from 4 to 9 p.m. at Mountain America Stadium. This all-ages event is presented by the Black Philanthropy Initiative (BPI).

A Taste of Melanin
This is Melanin
Martha Redbone
Martha Redbone. Courtesy photo.

Feb. 24, 2024 | This Land is Our Land
700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ 85281 | 480-350-2822
Join Martha Redbone and American Patchwork Quartet from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Tempe Center for the Arts for a night of soulful and captivating music that celebrates the rich and cultural tapestry of America. Martha Redbone’s soul-stirring voice and music are a tasty gumbo of folk, blues, and gospel celebrating her southeastern Cherokee/Choctaw and African American heritage. American Patchwork Quartet expertly weaves together jazz refinement, country twang, and West African hypnotics, to create a musical patchwork that celebrates both our differences and commonalities as a nation.

Feb. 27, 2024 | Walt Richardson Live Performance
1320 E. Broadway Road, Suite 108, Tempe, AZ 85282 | 480-687-1088
Head over to Tempe’s newest social concept, The Chill Room, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays for a an evening of live music performed by legendary Tempe musician Walt Richardson and special guests. The Chill Room serves non-alcoholic cocktails, tea and botanical-based beverages, CBD wine, coffee, light fare and great vibes.

Walt Richardson
Walt Richardson at The Chill Room.
Alexis Janae
Alexis Janae. Courtesy photo.

Feb. 29, 2024 | 48 LIVE: Alexis Janae
700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ 85281 | 480-350-2822

Experience the 5-octave range, unmatched vocal agility and captivating performances of Alexis Janae from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Tempe Center for the Arts. “To the Women Who Paved the Way” features songs by influential black female artists who have inspired the sound of today’s music.

Join TCA in honoring the trailblazing women who opened doors, empowering today’s generation to assert control over their art and express it boldly and unapologetically.

Through March 2024 | “Opportunity (reflection)” by Hank Willis Thomas

After making a few stops throughout Greater Phoenix as part of the Super Bowl LVII festivities, “Opportunity (reflection)” by Brooklyn-based activist artist Hank Willis Thomas arrived at ASU Art Museum on February 15, where it will remain for the year ahead. The 10-foot, stainless steel sculpture draws from Thomas’ 2015 sculpture “Opportunity,” which was inspired by the NFL — and his interest in photographic history, popular culture, and sports as a metaphor for individual and collective struggle or hope — but adds a finish reminiscent of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. In January, Thomas unveiled “The Embrace,” his tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King in Boston.

"Opportunity (reflection)" by Hank Willis Thomas.
“Opportunity (reflection)”

October 2024 | ASU Hall of Fame Game

Each year, Arizona State University inducts legendary athletes into the Sun Devil Athletics Hall of Fame and Distinction. The ceremony takes place during an October home game at Mountain America Stadium (formerly Sun Devil Stadium). Past inductees include Terrell Suggs (football), Anthony Robles (wrestling) and Briann January (women’s basketball).
Stay tuned for additional detail on the 2024 event.

Juneteenth

Juneteenth at Desert Botanical Garden

June 2024 | Juneteenth Celebration
Desert Botanical Garden honors Juneteenth’s legacy of change by celebrating Black culture and excellence through a variety of festivities, including storytelling, history, art, performance, community discussion and entrepreneurship.
The Juneteenth Evening Festival is a community event celebrating freedom and spotlighting the African American experience with musical performances, dance, food trucks, family-friendly activities and more. Event details to follow.

June 2024 | Downtown Tempe Juneteenth Celebration
The Juneteenth Celebration in Downtown Tempe will be the ultimate historical exploration and celebration of Black Joy. To commemorate Juneteenth, Downtown Tempe is celebrating with a free event at CenterPoint Plaza. This event will create a space where people of all races can come together to share in and witness joy. Come and experience live music, dancing, roller skating, food, beer and wine, and a marketplace featuring Black-owned businesses and Black artists. Event details to follow.

Juneteenth Celebration in Downtown Tempe
Juneteenth Celebration: Roads To Freedom

June 2024 | Arizona Historical Society’s Juneteenth Celebration
Through the Arizona Historical Society’s partnership with ASU Libraries, Black Collections, and Black Family Genealogy and History Society, it’s hosting a celebration of Juneteenth. You’re invited to join community members in recognizing the impact of Black communities in Arizona, connect with each other — as well as a variety of organizations representing historical societies, action groups, state resources, and the community at large — wander, discuss, and enjoy performances, activities and food. Registration is FREE.

June 2024 | Tempe History Museum Juneteenth Celebration
The African-American Advisory Committee presents the 11th Annual Juneteenth Celebration to educate the community and celebrate freedom from slavery in the United States. Located at the Tempe History Museum, this celebration is free, family friendly and will include hands-on activities, performances, vendors, story time, a video game pop-up, food truck vendors and more. Event details to follow.

Tempe History Museum Juneteenth

Meet Some of Tempe’s Tastemakers

According to Merriam-Webster, a tastemaker is “one who sets the standards of what is currently popular or fashionable.” For this set of creatives, we’re going to add: “and enrich our surroundings and spaced with their talents.” Check out the folks who made this list and you’ll quickly understand why:

Jayarr | Muralist

Widely known by simply his Instagram handle and his singular message of positivity, Jayarr has been beautifying everything from restaurant interiors to residential block walls — and everything in between — across the Valley of the Sun for the past few years. His signature, “YOU ARE AMAZING” tag line, combined with the ultra-vibrant color schemes and geometric shapes, never gets old. See for yourself by heading to Beck Avenue, south of University Drive (at the corner of Beck Avenue and Laird Street) for one of his large-scale piece. Then head over to Daily Jam and check out his interior work. To find out where his art will show up next, check him out on Instagram.

You Are Amazing Mural by @jayarr.art
“You Are Amazing” mural by @jayarr.art.
Mural painting in action
Artist Aaron Allen paints a mural box on Mill Avenue | Credit: @aaronallen1313

Aaron Allen Marner | Mixed-Media Artist, Painter & Muralist

While this talented painter calls Phoenix home, his works celebrating Black History and the Black experience can be found dotting the streets of Downtown Tempe. These boxes are a vibrant addition to the city’s streetscape and perfectly showcase Marner’s versatility, while staying true to the faces, figures, social issues and personal experiences that define his work. Last February, ASU’s ArtSpace West featured “Aaron Allen Marner: Life Beyond Measure,” and he opened a new show at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix in January 2023.

Philip Gabriel Steverson | Artist, Poet & Designer

Philip Gabriel Steverson is a multi-talented artist attending Arizona State University, double majoring in Fashion Design and Creative Writing with a focus on Poetry. In 2022, he was also one of Artlink’s three recipients of The Artist Forward Fund (TAFF). Additionally, the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art (phICA) launched a virtual exhibition showcasing the works in his “Abide by Struggle, Die by Defeat” series (view here).

According to Steverson, the goal for his art is to inspire his peers, individuals who encounter his work, and the youth that follow him to unlock their creativity to their fullest capacities. So, keep an eye out, because his work seems to be popping up everywhere!

Virtual art exhibit by Philip Gabriel Steverson - Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art (phICA)
“Abide by Struggle, Die by Defeat,” by Philip Gabriel Steverson

Sylvester McNutt III | Mindset Coach, Author & Social Influencer

Best known for his viral social media content and the eight best-selling books he’s written, Sylvester McNutt III is a mindset coach and author who calls Tempe home. After exiting the corporate world nearly a decade ago to pursue a more fulfilling path, he began to focus entirely on his passion. As a storyteller who specializes in deep connections through vulnerability and healing through pain (just for starters), he’s amassed quite a following across social media, authored a nine books, spoken in over 50 cities – and based his headquarters in Tempe since February 2021. Happy Tempe anniversary, Sylvester. We’re glad to have you here! For a dose of positivity, follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack | ASU Gammage Executive Director

Serving as ASU’s vice president for Cultural Affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage are only two of the hats that Colleen Jennings-Roggensack wears (though she is best-known for her signature beret). Among many other titles, she is Arizona’s only Tony voter. Which means she represents our city and state on the awards show’s red carpet each year — and she’s also represents several local designers there, too. In 2019, Loren Aragon, CEO and designer of Phoenix-based ACONAV, a Native American fashion brand, created her stunning red and black gown. The year prior, she wore a two-piece gown made out of a floral Spanish brocade, by Esteban Osuna, an emerging designer out of Tucson.

ASU's Space2Inspire weekend
Colleen Jennings-Roggensack poses with Dr. Sian Proctor and others at ASU’s Space2Inspire weekend | Credit: @cjroggensack
Walt Richardson
Walt Richardson

Walt Richardson | Musician

Walt Richardson is a celebrated Tempe performer and music legend. Starting as a solo performer on Mill Avenue, he went on to tour the U.S. extensively as part of the band Morning Star in the ’90s. Today, he still regularly performs here in Tempe, continues to host Walk-In Wednesdays open mic night at Tempe Center for the Arts and devotes time to the local community. In 2014, he was inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, and also became the inaugural musician enshrined on Tempe’s Music Walk — you can see his plaque on the southwest corner of Mill Avenue and 4th Street.

City of Tempe

“This month, and every month, shall honor the history of Black Americans and continue to make multi-cultural diversity a priority,” reads Tempe Mayor Corey Woods’ proclamation designating February as Black History Month.

For more on African American contributions to Tempe — from the African American to graduate from ASU (Benton James, 1924) to the first African American to serve on the City Council and as Mayor (Corey Woods, 2008 and 2020, respectively) — the City also maintains this list of recognition.

On Jan. 12, 2023, Mayor Woods announced the 27 recipients of Tempe’s BIPOC Micro-manufacturing Grants during the MLK Diversity Awards Breakfast. Only 11% of our country’s businesses are owned by People of Color. Entrepreneurship is one way that people can create financial prosperity for themselves and their families. Recognizing that gap, the City of Tempe set aside $300,000 and partnered with Rep. Greg Stanton to secure $500,000 in federal funding. This $800,000 fund is providing up to $25,000 stipends to BIPOC-owned businesses that they can use for rent, supplies, tools, anything they need to succeed. They also receive a Tempe Chamber of Commerce membership. 

MLK Diversity Awards Breakfast 2023

African American Advisory Committee

The African American Advisory Committee of Tempe History Museum meets monthly to plan events for Black History Month and Juneteenth. The group has also formed a book club and hosts “Community Chats,” which are both forums to discuss topics of interest and importance to the African American community of Tempe.

Arizona State University

Among the best-known stories from Tempe’s history may very well be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech entitled “Religious Witness for Human Dignity,” which he delivered at Arizona State University’s Goodwin Stadium on June 3, 1964. Although the land this event took place on has been transformed for new uses in the years that followed, visitors to the site will find landmark commemorating that occasion still standing today.

And, thanks to the archival efforts of ASU, photos and audio of that day can be found here.

Today, ASU celebrates Black History Month by honoring the rich culture and history through a variety of student-led educational and engaging programs. In addition to the events listed above, other happenings — from book clubs to film festivals — taking place across all the university campuses, and beyond, will be published here as details become available.

Goodwin Stadium Landmark
Goodwin Stadium Landmark

Tempe Tourism Office

The Tempe Tourism Office works with the Black Travel Alliance to support Black content creators around the world and increase representation in the travel industry.

If you are a Black-owned business or event producer, or know of Tempe happenings that we missed here, please reach out to us to let us know by contacting KJ Philp, Director of Communications, at [email protected].

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