Black History Month 2024

Black History Month: Celebrating African Americans and the Arts

St. Joseph Center acknowledges that Black History is a part of American history, but during this special month of recognition, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the overall contributions of African Americans in our communities.

This is the theme of “African Americans and the Arts” during Black History Month, celebrating the profound impact of Black educators and artists.

At St. Joseph Center, we acknowledge the achievements of African Americans in education and the arts, including figures like Alvin Ailey and Debbie Allen, who were black dance educators. Dance has provided opportunities for black people to showcase their talent and creativity, breaking barriers and making a significant impact in the arts industry. Debbie Allen continues her legacy as an educator for marginalized youth by running the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles. From pioneers in literature like award-winning science fiction author Octavia Butler to local talents making a difference in their communities, the contributions of Black educators in the arts are profound.

This 1950s image released by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater shows dancer Alvin Ailey. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrates its 60th anniversary this season, and it’s marking the moment by looking back at its founder, who grew up in poverty in the rural South and created one of the most visible dance companies in the world. (Zoe Dominic/Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater via AP)

Many other iconic Black artists, like Maya Angelou, Duke Ellington, and Kara Walker. It is important to recognize the struggles they’ve overcome as integral parts of their success. Maya Angelou rose above racial segregation and poverty to become a renowned poet and civil rights activist. Duke Ellington faced discrimination and limited opportunities in the music industry but still revolutionized jazz. Kara Walker challenges stereotypes and racism through her art, addressing issues of race and gender.

Black Artist James Ferrell Finds a Home


St. Joseph Center also celebrates the remarkable journey of James Ferrell, a Black artist who once faced homelessness and is now thriving. His story of resilience while staying true to his love of art is truly inspiring.

After the death of his beloved wife, James’ health declined, and he faced significant financial hardships until he ended up where he never thought he’d be living in his van on the streets of Venice. When he wasn’t sure where to turn, he found the help he needed at St. Joseph Center and started coming to the Bread and Roses Café.

He quickly became a popular diner, known for his cheery and positive attitude toward life. In addition to receiving nourishing meals and supportive case management services, James worked diligently towards getting a home of his own week by week. When asked about his experience developing a passion for the arts, James shared that while growing up in the 60’s, he learned many of his skills such as carpentry, planting, and cooking from his family and neighborhood mentors. Due to segregation, many of his black neighbors had to pull together their own resources in the community.


Please enjoy the lyricism of Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D., as we honor her poem, “You So Black” that has had a viral impact across the globe: