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 contributions made by 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:
- Beyond Black History Month
- Meet Some of Tempe’s Tastemakers
- City of Tempe
- Arizona State University
- The Tempe Playlist (2021)
- Tempe Tourism Office
January 27 | An Evening with Fred Moten and Jericho Brown
Carson Ballroom, Old Main ASU Tempe Campus | 400 E. Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85287
The Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies invites you to an evening with Fred Moten and Jericho Brown in conversation with Ayanna Thompson.
Fred Moten is a cultural theorist and poet creating new conceptual spaces that accommodate emergent forms of Black cultural production, aesthetics and social life. He is developing a new mode of aesthetic inquiry wherein the conditions of being Black play a central role. Jericho Brown is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta, the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the recipient of noteworthy fellowships and the author of widely published works.
Jan. 27 & 28 | Poetics: A RaceB4Race Symposium
Carson Ballroom, Old Main ASU Tempe Campus | 400 E. Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85287
This symposium invites scholars and poets to examine the ways race can, should, and/or does function within poetic paradigms. Along with one of our distinguished speakers, Fred Moten, we ponder “the question of how we can read the poem is redoubled now. now, how can we read this poem?”
This free event will take place in-person and is also available via live stream.
Feb. 1 | Black History Mural Project Kick-off (near Tempe)
ASU’s Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center | 50 N. Centennial Way Mesa, AZ 85201
Join ASU for a celebration of the Sidney Poitier Mural unveiling from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Feb. 1. The event will spotlight alumna Gizette Knight of Shining Light Foundation, who has been commissioning mural projects all over the Phoenix metro area celebrating Black history. This mural is part of the foundation’s 2023 Black History Mural Project to highlight Black history and leaders throughout the Valley. The event will include an overview of the other murals being completed, musical performers and speakers, including the first African American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Founding Director of the Sidney Poitier New American Film School.
February 1 | ASU’s Black History Month Kickoff Breakfast
ASU Tempe Campus, Memorial Union, 220 Turquoise Room, 301 E. Orange St., Tempe, AZ 85281
Join the ASU community in kicking off Black History Month 2023 at this annual breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. Feb. 1. The event will include a keynote speech, “The Role of the Public Intellectual,” by Dr. Kenja Hassan, a Black History Month overview by Dr. Kira Gatewood and Black History Month Activity by LaToya Grigler.
Feb. 3 | “I AM: A Document of the Black Lives Matter Movement in Phoenix”
Arizona Heritage Center’s new exhibit, “I AM: A Document of the Black Lives Matter Movement in Phoenix,” features photos and statements from more than 100 local activists and allies of the Black Lives Matter Movement. The exhibit unveiling, which takes place from 5:50 to 7:30 p.m. February 3, is a free, public event that will feature live performances from dancers, spoken word poets and hip-hop artists. Additionally, photographer Eric Elmore and some of the artists featured in the exhibit will discuss their participation in the project and how their art reflects their lives in Arizona.
February 3 | Faith in Action Prayer Breakfast
Wyndham Phoenix Airport/Tempe, 1600 S. 52nd St., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 967-6600
Mark your calendars for the 2023 Faith in Action Prayer Breakfast, taking place from 9 to 11 a.m. on Friday, February 3, 2023, at the Wyndham Phoenix Airport/Tempe Hotel. Presented by the African American Advisory Committee (Tempe), this event marks “faith and civic leaders uniting for the good of our city,” and this year’s theme is “Inspired by the Past, a Vision for the Future.”
February 4 | State of Islam in Black America
Tempe History Museum, 809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ 85282
You’re invited to this lecture from acclaimed author and speaker Qasim Amin Nathari, which will examine the past, assess the present and look toward the future of Islam in Black America. This free event aims to offer insight into the unique experience Black Americans have had embracing, Islam, the second largest religion world-wide, in the United States, their home, a world power with a history of slavery, racism, and a nationally recognized Civil Rights Movement, the impact Black American Muslims have on Black American culture, American Culture, Islam, and Pop culture world-wide.
February 5 | Soulful Sunday A Celebration of African Diaspora (near Tempe)
7430 S. 48th St., Suite 108, Phoenix, AZ 85042
Soulful Sundays are fun community events that invite you to shop, eat, fellowship and listen to live music. February’s Soulful Sunday is all about celebrating the African Diaspora in celebration of Black History Month. From Jollof rice to Afro beats, join is celebrating the many flavors, sounds and colors that make the African Diaspora great. Tickets are $28.43 and include a delicious Nigerian culinary experience with flavors from Lasgidi Café. The menu includes peppered beef, chicken suya, Jollof rice, cabbage with red sauce and puff puff for dessert. A limited number of plates will be sold at the door, so attendees are encouraged to pre-order soul food plates for pick up. Tickets.
February 8 | Chic Chef 77 Bistro & Wine Bar
1221 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, AZ 85281
Renowned throughout the Valley of the Sun for her olive oils, vinegars, spices and celebrity clients, chef Nik Fields is making the move from her midtown Phoenix marketplace concept to Tempe with her very own twist on a wine bar.
Set to open February 8, Chic Chef 77 Bistro & Wine Bar promises a 200-bottle list, a dinner menu that will rotate monthly based on the creations by select chefs, charcuterie boards, private wine tastings, live music, poetry, and all the flavor we’ve come to know and love from this Chic Chef. Stay tuned on Instagram and Facebook for the latest from chef Nik.
Feb. 8 | ASU’s Black History Month Open Mic Poetry Reading
Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, 450 E. Tyler Mall, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281
The Piper Writers House invites you to an open mic poetry reading from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 8, in celebration of Black history Month. Share your poetry, whether you are a page poet, a slam or performance poet, or maybe aren’t yet comfortable calling yourself a poet at all. Storytelling and spoken word welcome! This event specifically centers on Black experiences, joy and resistance and we ask that performances be relevant to these themes. All community members are encouraged to attend, and food and refreshments will be provided.
February 11 | Black History Month Family Program at Tempe History Museum
809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ 85282 | (480) 350-5100
Join the African American Advisory Committee of Tempe History Museum for a fun, interactive program celebrating Black History Month. The free, family friendly event will kick off at 2 p.m. with an African dance and drum performance by Kawambe Omowale, and then keep on dancing with a basic ballet and hip-hop class. Children are invited to participate in a colorful magazine bead craft.
February 16 | African Futures and Urban Imaginaries
Ross-Blakley Hall 196 (RBHL196), 1102 S. McAllister Ave., Tempe, AZ 85281
Presented by the Institute for Humanities Research, African Futures and Urban Imaginaries invites you to a free and dynamic interdisciplinary panel composed of artists, writers, and intellectuals explore the roles that arts and the imagination play in envisioning global futures. Focusing on African-centered perspectives of worldmaking and non-Western futures, specifically in the context of urban spaces, this panel conversation investigates the intersections of fiction and creative endeavors for questioning, critiquing and re-envisioning developmental paradigms associated with modern metropolitan geographies. By placing an emphasis on indigenous and non-Western knowledge systems as vehicles for sustainable ecological and cultural futures, the panel will deliberate how different creative mediums can deepen African agency in re-imagining future cities.
February 17-19 | Space2Inspire Weekend at ASU with Dr. Sian Proctor
Sun Devil Stadium, 500 E. Veterans Way, Tempe, AZ 85281
In 2021, at age 51, Sian Proctor became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft when she served on Inspiration4, a mission that marked several historic milestones for human space exploration. Today, she’s an artist- and explorer-in-residence at the university. ASU’s Space2Inspire Weekend, a celebration of Black History Month, will include a poetry reading by Sian Proctor, an Afro-Futurism panel discussion, a screening of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Engaging STEM and STEAM activities on the stadium concourse, Astronaut VIP meet and greet opportunities, and the unveiling of a giant Black History Month inspired art mosaic on the field of Sun Devil Stadium that will be photographed from a satellite in outer space.
February 28 | Arizona Coyotes Black Excellence Celebration
The Arizona Coyotes will commemorate Black History Month as they host the Chicago Blackhawks at Mullett Arena. In honor of the Black Excellence Celebration, the Coyotes partnered with Modern Rockstars on the team’s limited-edition warm-up jerseys as well as shirts fans can get here.
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.
Additional efforts being made by the NHL organization can be found here.
Beyond Black History Month
October 8, 2022 | ASU Hall of Fame Game
For the first time since 2019, Arizona State University inducted nine legends into the Sun Devil Athletics Hall of Fame and Distinction. The ceremony took place October 8, during half time of the ASU Sun Devils Vs. Washington Huskies game at Sun Devil Stadium. This class of inductees included Terrell Suggs (football), Anthony Robles (wrestling) and Briann January (women’s basketball).
Find out more about this year’s class here.
January 9, 2023 | 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. Meet the 2023 award recipients here.
January 13-16, 2023 | 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.
January 29, 2023 | Regional Unity Walk
For 17 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 2023, the event takes place at Tempe Town Lake on Saturday, Jan. 28. 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.
Beginning March 25, 2023 | Rep Your Brand Monthly Market
Head to Arizona Mills on select Saturdays from March through December for Rep Your Brand Market, a Black-led effort to amplify small, local businesses. Shop fresh produce, flowers, candles, food, music and more from 2 to 9 p.m. in the Arizona Mills parking lot between Marshalls and Ross on the following dates:
March 25 | April 22 | May 20 | June 10 | July 22 | August 19 | September 30 | October 21 | November 25 | December 22
Vendor opportunities can be found here.
April 2023 | Miss Africa Arizona Pageant
Last year, the Miss Africa Arizona crowned its 2022 queen: Bernadette Amofa, who represented Ghana in the pageant. Since 2018, Miss Africa Arizona – presented by Presented by the GK Folks Foundation – has worked to educate people about Africa’s rich cultural heritage while providing financial assistance for African women who are pursuing their studies in the U.S. The 2022 pageant took place April 9 at FABRIC in Tempe; stay tuned for 2023 pageant announcements, as well as a variety of other affiliated event throughout the year, on their Facebook and Instagram.
May 16-21 | A Soldier’s Play at ASU Gammage
A Soldier’s Play, the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning thriller by Charles Fuller, has rocketed back into the spotlight, thanks to this 2020 Tony Award-winning Best Revival from Roundabout Theatre Company. “This is a play that deserves to be staged regularly all over America — though it’s hard to imagine that it will ever be done better than this. It keeps you guessing all the way to the final curtain,” –The Wall Street Journal.
In 1944, on a Louisiana Army base, two shots ring out. A Black sergeant is murdered. And a series of interrogations triggers a gripping barrage of questions about sacrifice, service, and identity in America. Broadway’s Norm Lewis leads a powerhouse cast in the show Variety calls “a knock-your-socks-off-drama,” directed by two-time Tony winner Kenny Leon.
September 21 | Samara Joy at Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe Center for the Arts announced that “once-in-a-generation” vocalist Samara Joy will kick-off its 2023 fall season. The 23-year-old winner of Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album at 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards will perform one night only.
September 1 & 2, 2023 | Arizona Black Rodeo (near Tempe)
One of the largest and most popular African-American cultural and educational events in the Grand Canyon State, the Arizona Black Rodeo has attracted as many as 9,000 rodeo fans through this annual weekend of fun and exciting Western experiences designed for the entire family. Mark your calendar for Labor Day weekend at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 January 12, 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.
Grant recipients include:
- The Molecules Company
- Big Red Hot Sauce
- White Hawk Industries
- Simply Wick
- Alpha Manufacturing Solutions
- Black Russian Label
- Pastiche La Femme
- LaMark Cole, LLC
- Heights Apparel
- Technoir Candy
- We Kingz Bro Apparel
- Ms. Martha’s Caribbean Kitchen
- Conscious Gear
- Pure Juice N’Joy Smoothie & Juice
- Skate Forty8
- Midge Chocolate
- Goldstar Shea Butter
- Sassy Cones
- RPH Beauty
- Fresh Peak
- Salad Sistah
- * R Spa and Wellness Center
- * Sugar Puffs
- * Satiete
*No website at this time
For additional information on Black-owned businesses and restaurants, please visit our blog here.
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 presented 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, you’ll find other happenings, from book clubs to film festivals, taking place across all the university campuses, and beyond, here.
The Tempe Playlist (2021)
Each year, the Tempe Public Library curates a list of the top songs by artists with Tempe ties. And we love this. The goal is to uplift local artists and inform Tempe enthusiasts of the music being created right around the corner. You won’t find many of these artists on other mainstream roundups, so prepare to explore new-to-you sounds by Black artists that represent this great city.
Dom Root ft. Leewater | Song: Suede
G-Owens | Song: Reflections
Rozotadi | Song: Armani
Stylz the Artiste ft. Zaris Adonis | Song: AFTY
The Maya Spectra | Song: Where I’m Coming From
Therosia | Song: I Ain’t Got No Time
Tireek & Lonely Leonard | Song: Hold On
Uvon | Song: Stuck in Traffic Blues
Check out more on Tempe Playlist artists, as well as Tempe Jam — a super local concert that takes place each fall, here.
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. Check out one such example, by The Daily Impressions, here.
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].