By Rachel Shirey
History becomes the present for at least 29 Clayton County public school students who have been announced as semifinalists in the national “Dream@50” art contest.
Students were encouraged to enter the contest by creating titled artwork inspired by a word or phrase in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “The Dream Speech,” and they are required to submit an essay on the Civil Rights Movement.
“Art was a way of expressing myself, and seeing that it was a contest I thought, ‘Why not give it a shot and express your feelings to the world?’” said semifinalist Felix Saucedo, junior at Morrow High School. “And my goal is that my painting, or my drawing, will actually be shown to the world and give an important message that in order to achieve something, you have to take life’s obstacles.”
All students from kindergarten through 12th grade were invited to participate, along with students from nine other cities: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Memphis, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.
According to the contest website, the aim of contest is to clarify the relevance of history for young people, to demonstrate the importance of art in education and to build stronger communities based on mutual understanding and respect.
Semifinalist Jesseka Chatman, junior at Morrow High School, said she chose Rosa Parks as her muse because of her strength and heroism.
“To me I feel like I learned a lot to know that during those times, for (Rosa Parks) to be able to just get up and speak, that takes a lot of courage,” Chatman said. “And then I started to think that I don’t know if I could be able to do that, but it encouraged me to try my best and work to my goals, whatever they might be.”
Seven judges will select a first-place winner and two runners-up in each of the three school categories as well as an overall grand prize winner for a total of 10 winners in each of the participating cities. The winners will be announced online and at an award ceremony in February.
Winners will have an opportunity to win $10,000 and their artwork could be displayed on buses, trains, billboards, in airports, museums and public libraries throughout the country.
Winning district semi-finalists are: Elementary School — Arriel Barganier, “Freedom and Equality,” Oliver Elementary; Brejon Blasingame, “Freedom,” Lee Street Elementary; Brendon Raysor, “We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote,” McGarrah Elementary; Mike Casimir, “Friends,” Lee Street Elementary; Symone Dews, “Freedom Quilt,” West Clayton Elementary; Brandon Harvey, “The Martin Statue,” Northcutt Elementary; and Katlyn Hobby, “Equal Americans Together,” Lee Street Elementary.
Also in the Elementary Category are: Ashley Kittrell, “Freedom and Justice,” Harper Elementary; Jasmin Martinez, “Never Give Up,” King Elementary; Thomas McBride, “We Stand as One,” Northcutt Elementary; Alisson Murillo, “The Dream,” Haynie Elementary; Vyvy Nguyen, “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal,” McGarrah Elementary; Pryce Erwin, “One Hundred Years Later the Negro is Still Not Free,” Oliver Elementary; Jadyn Ross, “Children of God,” Riverdale Elementary; Omar Whitner, “I Have a Dream,” Harper Elementary; and Ariel Willis-Moore, “Never Walk Alone,” Kilpatrick Elementary.
Middle School winners are: Jeffrey Anyanwu, “Road to Joy,” White K-8 Academy; Destiny Brown, “Created Equal,” North Clayton Middle; Norah Jean-Charles, “Crushing Segregation,” Mundy's Mill Middle; Darya Johnson-Marshall, “50th Anniversary MLK,” Kendrick Middle; Darya Mitchell, “Again and again we must raise ...” , Morrow Middle; Chinyere Ohuoba, Untitled, Mundy's Mill Middle; and Cindy Ramirez, “Peace Throughout America,” Babb Middle.
High school finalists are: Aarianna Burden, “Judge my Character, Not my Skin,” Mount Zion High; Jesseka Chatman, “Trois Faces de Rosa Parks,” Morrow High; Keenon Davis, “Black Panther Spirit,” Morrow High; Ocha Ogba, “It’s Not The End ... It’s The Beginning,” Elite Scholars Academy; Felix Saucedo, “The African-American Voyage,” Morrow High; and Christopher Zenn, “Zoe,” Clayton County Fine Arts Magnet High.