For 28 days in February, the nation pauses to remember the contributions black people have made and continue to make to American culture.
But what happens after that?
Spotify’s response to that question is Black History Is Happening Now, an ongoing program created in partnership with creative collective Saturday Morning to “bring attention to some of the many under-celebrated moments in black history that deserve to be amplified and celebrated beyond the month of February,” according to a statement.
In the program’s latest installment, Spotify launched an exclusive pop-up for a day in New York inspired by six moments in black music history that attendees could peruse: The Sacred Music of Survival, The Chitlin Circuit, Afro-Latinx Roots in Hip-Hop, Rosetta Tharpe the Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Legend of Sylvester and The Harlem Cultural Festival.
Each cultural moment comes to life with a note from the designer and vibrant imagery to tie the whole experience together, like the halo shining above massive black-and-white rendering of gospel rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe or disco balls hanging from the ceiling in celebration of gender-defying disco queen Sylvester. For a more sensory experience, Spotify curated playlists to go with each moment that users could listen to while in each exhibit.
The collection was designed by Joy Miessi and Brandan “bmike” Odums in collaboration with black music historian and researcher Naima Cochrane and curator of music and performing arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Dwandalyn R. Reece.
In addition to historical images and Spotify curated playlists, the exhibit featured Wear Black History, a limited edition collection of nine custom designed pieces “rooted in stories of the past, while shining light into the present and future,” according to the statement.
Spotify’s associate director of music marketing Amanda Butler said the pop-up was part of a larger effort to extend Black History Month beyond February.
“We know that we’re witnessing black history in real-time now and we want to acknowledge the past as well as the future,” Butler said.
Janelle Monáe was the first artist to take over the platform for Black History Is Now and curate a playlist full of artists who influenced her work, artists to be on the lookout for and a short film on what Afrofuturism means to her. Pharrell Williams has also contributed to the project with curated playlists and three original videos showcasing his perspective on black culture, the power of black women and more.
Black History Is Now playlists can be found on the Spotify app.