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Mayor Wu honors Black artists to kick off Black History Month

A gust of wind unfurled the Pan-Africn flag at Boston City Hall before a program inside that honored Black artists.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu presented awards to two Black artists Tuesday as part of an event kicking off the city’s Black History Month celebrations and programming, which this year revolves around the theme, “African Americans and the Arts.”

“Boston would not be the city that it is today if not for our Black leaders, Black artists and activists, Black entrepreneurs and advocates, all sharing their craft with a deep knowledge of how much is at stake for our communities,” Wu said at the City Hall event Tuesday.

After elected officials raised the Pan-African Flag on the third flagpole at City Hall Plaza, Black lawmakers, community leaders, and artists watched as Wu honored Boston-based artist Paul Goodnight, whose art has been featured in TV, films, and prestigious museums around the world, and Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga, the Founding Artistic Director of the OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center in Jamaica Plain.


Aziza Robinson-Goodnight, who is also an artist and the daughter of Paul Goodnight, accepted the honor on her father’s behalf. She emphasized that his impact goes far beyond just his artistic achievements, and extends to his character, resilience, and commitment to advocacy.

“The image is only the tip of the iceberg of his legacy,” Robinson-Goodnight said. “What is unseen is underneath the surface, of our ancestors, and the backs and shoulders of the folks that paved the way for him.”

Several speakers, including the second artist honored Tuesday, highlighted the importance of uplifting Black voices not just in February but year-round.

Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga received recognition for her contributions to Boston arts and culture. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

“Black history is American history,” said Dibinga, who was honored for her work at the OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center, a performing arts nonprofit that teaches children about African influence on contemporary art.

Others, including state Representative Chris Worrell who represents the Fifth Suffolk District, said it’s also important to take advantage of the annual opportunity to celebrate Black communities.


“Say it loud,” Worrell called out to the crowd Tuesday, who responded, “I’m Black, and I’m proud!”

Throughout the month, the city is hosting events to celebrate and educate on Black History in Boston, including a panel on gender and race in the workforce, an evening celebrating James Baldwin and African American spiritual music, a roller skating night, and a Black Heritage celebration.

In addition to displaying several Black History exhibits at locations around the city, Boston Public Libraries has released its annual “Black Is...” booklist — a collection of recent writing centered on Black experiences. The city also aggregated a list of Black and brown-owned businesses residents are encouraged to support this month.

Boston Mayor Wu honored two Black artists at the City Hall event Tuesday to kick off the city's Black History Month celebrations and programming.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Niki Griswold can be reached at niki.griswold@globe.com. Follow her @nikigriswold.