Five students win Black History Month art contest
March 5, 2018
The Mayor’s Office of Diversity and The Mayor’s Office of Arts And Culture, in partnership with Channel Boston 25, launched an Art Contest for Boston students (grades 6-12), with the theme being “Black History Inspiring Our Future.” The purpose of the contest was to inspire Boston public school students to celebrate the City’s Black History and envision themselves as future contributors, in the spirit of the many great Black historical figures that have made the City of Boston great. We wanted to know how these incredible men and women inspired them and how they will build on the successes of Bruce Bolling, Donna Summer, Phillis Wheatley, Bill Russell, or any other African-American pioneers.
Students were asked to visit one or more sites related to Boston’s Black History and submit artwork inspired by or related to the place they visited. The City of Boston provided a list of suggested sites to visit. In fact, participants were encouraged to introduce new sites they believed to be relevant to Boston’s Black community.
We had a great turn out. Students submitted music, performing arts, spoken word poetry, and visual arts, including photos and slideshows. All of the submissions were wonderful and we had a difficult time eliminating some contestants. Regardless of the results, in our eyes, everyone was a winner. In the end, we selected five participants as winners.
Samuel Stephens, a 17-year-old senior at EMK Academy for Health Careers. His original music performance, “Let My People Go” was inspired by The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury, a museum filled with Black artistic heritage that he often visits. He wants to continue working on his art and make more music that is positive for the Black community. His dream is to shoot a video for this song at the NCAA.
O’cyris Gomez chose the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building as his inspiration for his song, “Motivation.” He feels it's a place that has brought positive change to Dudley Square. Whether he is in the lobby where he can relax, do school work, meet friends, or just walk through the building with beautiful art displayed on the walls, O’cyris feels the Bolling Building is a welcoming and progressive place for the community.
Maryam Abbaz’s dance performance was inspired by Queen Latifah and the Phillis Wheatley statue on Commonwealth Avenue. She selected the first African-American published poet because of all she accomplished in her difficult life. Through all her hardships and undervalued life, Phyllis Wheatley never let anything get in the way of pursuing her creative passions.
Jadara WayBelmer’s poem, “Unbothered,” is a call to action to “be bothered” and do something to change stigmas about how minorities are viewed. Her performance is a tribute to all the strong African-American women who’ve created change and have been part of the collective fabric of Boston’s Black History.
Elayia Reid used personal experience as her inspiration for her poem and mixed media art piece, “Color Blind.” The piece expresses frustrations with beauty standards held by society about African-American skin color. The piece is ultimately about learning to accept the skin you’re in.
We want to thank all the participants for engaging in this contest. We appreciate our students for showcasing our heroes and the importance of Black History Month. In addition, Black History Month provides the chance to focus on different narratives of African Americans. We can applaud Madam C.J. Walker as the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S. We can let our eyes flit across the verses of poetry Phyllis Wheatley, the first African-American poet and woman to publish a book. And we can groove to soulful jazz and somber blues music composed by the likes of Miles Davis and Robert Johnson. Black History Month spurs us to seek out and lift up the best in African-American accomplishments.