Recognizing Black History Month in Overland Park

Overland Park has long been an inclusive community, welcoming all people to live, work and play.

This month, we recognize and honor Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans. 

Get involved with Black History Month in your community in the following ways:

Learn + Reflect

Overland Park is fortunate to have a variety of historical knowledge available via many community resources and organizations.

Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center

The Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center has many educational opportunities available, both virtually through interactive social media content, and in-person at the center. Posts and informational exhibits at the center will feature African American artwork and quilts, information about how redlining impacted and continues to impact development in the Kansas City area, education of African American students and more. 

Visit the Arts & Heritage Center on Facebook to see virtual opportunities to learn, or visit the center in-person at 8788 Metcalf in Overland Park.

Johnson County NAACP

The Johnson County NAACP will host a virtual Black History Month celebration at noon on February 6. The event features Keynote Speaker Dr. Emmanuel Ngomsi presenting on the history of slaves on African land. Visit the NAACP website to learn more and access the celebration via a Zoom link.

Johnson County Library

The Johnson County Library recommends a reading list for Black History Month in Kansas, featuring historical stories with local connections. You may be surprised to learn the local connections many well-known African Americans have to our area, including Langston Hughes, George Washington Carver, Cathy Williams and others.  Browse the reading list on the Library website

Like the Arts & Heritage Center, the library is also featuring interactive virtual content to grow your knowledge of Black history. Take a quiz to stretch your knowledge, learn about Black women making history through their work in media, discover graphic novels by Black authors, and celebrate Black Kansans.

While not specific to Black History Month, the Johnson County Library also hosts a driving tour of racial division in Kansas City and Johnson County real estate. To take a journey through the history of segregation in Kansas City, this COVID-friendly tour requires a few hours of free time, a smartphone app download and a vehicle. Learn more on the Library website.

Local Police Departments

Several current and former black members of local police departments, including the Overland Park Police Department and Prairie Village Police Department, held a roundtable discussion for Black History Month. They explored black history and what it means to them, while also reflecting on their own experiences in law enforcement. You can watch their entire conversation below.

Admire the Art

Visit Overland Park City Hall, 8500 Santa Fe Drive, to see work from African American artists.

“Let the Music Play” is a vibrant work that pays homage to Kansas City’s roots in jazz. Bonds’ work is also featured at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, American Jazz Museum, Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, and other galleries. The vibrant piece hangs in the City Clerk’s Office hall on the first floor near the elevator.

While you’re at City Hall, visit “Love and Apathy” by Kwanza Humphrey. This colorful oil on canvas work will leave you wondering what the subjects are thinking about and considering their life stories. This piece hangs on the west side of the first floor at City Hall, across from the Council Chamber.

The Overland Park Convention Center also features works by African American artists. “Inner City Despair” by Terry Lynn Beavers hangs in the upper level of the convention center near the ballroom. “Cardinal Haven,” by Jonathan Knight, is near the cyber cafe, also on the upper level.

You can find additional works of art by local Black artists around Overland Park. A good place to start for more information is the InterUrban Art House in Downtown Overland Park.

Patronize Black-Owned Businesses

The NAACP lists “supporting a Black-owned business” as the number one way to celebrate Black History Month. Patronizing a local business is a great way to experience the history and customs of a minority group. From delicious meals at local restaurants to shopping, beauty and spa options, African Americans own and manage many local businesses. Visit Overland Park, through its partner Visit Kansas City, shared a list of Black-Owned businesses in the Kansas City area.

You can find additional information about local Black businesses to support on the Black Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City website.

Volunteer + Contribution Opportunities

Looking to go beyond learning and make a difference this month? Consider donating time or money to a Black nonprofit organization that supports a cause you champion.

Local NAACP chapters, including the Johnson County NAACP, accept donations and occasionally have volunteer opportunities for members and non-members.

The City is partnering with the Advocacy and Awareness Group of Johnson County, which advocates for and amplifies underrepresented voices and works to end systemic racism in Johnson County, for a Black History Month proclamation this year. AAGJC accepts volunteer assistance. Watch the video below to see the presentation of this year’s proclamation at the Feb. 15 City Council meeting.

The Black Community Fund, an affiliate of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, works to provide support and leadership to enhance socioeconomic aspects of African American communities in the metropolitan area. The fund provides scholarships and support to local nonprofit organizations that support minority communities in our area.

Many nonprofits are members of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City. You may find another volunteer or donation opportunity through the membership list om the chamber’s website.

Near Overland Park, the STAND Up for Black Lives+ Prairie Village and Johnson County NAACP are hosting a virtual Prairie Village Black History Month Virtual Celebration on Facebook live. This is an opportunity to better know your Black neighbors and celebrate their achievements through history, music, poetry and song.

The KC Black Archives collects, preserves and makes available materials and artifacts that document the ocial, economic, political and cultural histories of African Americans in our area. You can donate or visit the Black Archives in 1722 E. 17th Terrace in Kansas City, Mo. The City of Overland Park made a contribution to the KC Black Archives in honor of Black History Month this year.