Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice hosts inaugural art contestJordyn Moreland, 5, runs back to her family to celebrate her second place win in the elementary one category of the Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice’s art contest. The awards ceremony was held on Saturday, Feb. 27, at Finders Keepers Furniture. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA — A spirit of change and inspiration was in the air on Saturday, Feb. 27, at Finders Keepers Furniture as the Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice hosted their first art contest. The contest was inspired by Amanda Gormans’ poem “The Hill We Climb” and Black History Month.
“Amanda Gorman who inspired us during the inauguration, it was all about climbing. That means climbing together,” AARJ member Candice D. McKinley said. “We cannot impact and transform our communities and everywhere we touch unless we do it together.”
McKinley suggested the idea for the art contest after seeing information about an art contest from DeKalb Watershed. She wanted to adapt the idea to the AARJ to celebrate Black History Month.
“I think this way we could allow young people to speak in their own way and allow the community to come together to support young people,” McKinley told Decaturish. “ I was just so inspired by Amanda Gorman. I had never seen a young sister speak ever.”
The AARJ received over 50 entries to the art contest and handed out 17 awards. All award-winning art will be on display all week at Finders Keepers Furniture, 2853 E College Ave.
The judges were William Downs of Atlanta, Jamaali Roberts of Decatur and Jen Singh, owner of Garage Door Studio in Avondale Estates.
“When we saw what our young people did, we were just elated, because we were happy that not only that you submitted your artwork and a piece of yourself, you also wanted to stand for justice because that’s what this contest is all about,” AARJ member Nisheena Smith said.
The judges were impressed by the artwork submitted and said seeing the submission found the descriptions from the kids powerful. Singh thought these young artists will do something amazing going forward.
“After all that we’ve gone through in 2020, it was like reading what these kids were putting on paper or canvas or digital was the insides of them expressing what has been going on and what is so hard to talk about. Now there’s action and now there’s empathy and realizations,” Singh said.
Roberts added that art is often overlooked as a way of making an impact but is a great way to start finding one’s way and voice.
Parents and families in attendance were delighted to see their young artists win.
“It was really exciting to see that [my daughter’s] using her art in a positive way and to see her be able to connect with the poem was exciting,” LaTasha Adams said. Her daughter, Zoe, 6, won third place in the elementary one category.
“She loved the inauguration and hearing the poem, that’s all she’s been talking about. To see her actually use her art and be able to connect her photography was really exciting,” Adams said.
Zoe, who has a photography business, submitted a photo of a dead end sign.
“It’s about a dead end and then you climb up the dead end with the hill that you see,” Zoe said.
Kyle Miller-Dotson, 7, won first place in the same category for his piece “The Climb.”
“Because the poem’s called ‘The Hill We Climb’ so I drew a mountain and people climbing it,” Miller-Dotson said.
His mom, Denise Dotson, was excited to see her son win and added that Miller-Dotson knows the importance of voting, equal rights and being treated right.
“Well he enjoys drawing and art of all types and he’s a big time protester. He likes to go to marches and he knows how important it is to be heard and vote,” Dotson said.
About 50 people attended the event that featured speakers from the AARJ and guest speaker Ted Terry, Dekalb County Commissioner for District 6.
Terry spoke about the intersection of art and change, saying art gives people a chance to image what could be possible.
“Much to the theme I saw in some of the artwork here in the windows, reminding us that 2020 was a year that awakened, I think, a lot of people that might not have been there, maybe it reawakened some of us who maybe had kind of forgotten,” Terry said. “It was a year that showed us that the bitter truth is that the American ideal of justice has not yet been achieved for all.”
He went on to say that Black History is American history and African-American culture has shaped every aspect of American culture. He also acknowledged the importance of seeing progress and said Avondale Estates is an example of progress.
“So we should be optimistic about that, but let’s be honest, you can’t have a policy shift without a cultural shift,” Terry said
He added that art and cultural moments can be an entry point to showing what a world that is economically and racially just can look like and be a driver toward change.
The November and January elections were a step toward justice, Terry said. He added that Congress can act slowly, but communities don’t have to wait on the federal government to act.
“Local elected officials have the power to effect real policy change right now. But they can only act if they have the power of the people behind them, not just at the polls, but after the voting is done,” Terry said. “We’re talking about policy that will change the status quo, that will disrupt business as usual.”
All artwork can be viewed on the AARJ website.
Here’s the list of winners:
Elementary One, ages five through seven
First place: “The Climb” by Kyle Miller-Dotson, 7
Second place: “Helping Each Other Climb to the Top of History” by Jordyn Moreland, 5
Third place: “Climbing Past a Dead End” by Zoe Adams, 6
AARJ pick: “Black Lives Matter” by Cameron Hubbard, 7
Elementary Two, ages eight through 11
First place: “Black King and Queen” by Keianna Fredrick, 11
Second place: “Sunset at Bat” by Wyllow Trawick, 10
Third place: “Risk Taker” by Kennedy Smalls, 8
AARJ pick: “The One and Only Amanda Gorman” by Zakeria Walker, 10
First place: “Generations Building a Nation” by Aubrey Jordan-Yarbrough, 13
Second place: “Scar and Smile” by Townes Covington, 14
Third place: “Overcoming the Hill” by Ari Copeland, 13
AARJ pick: “The Struggle We Brave” by Cai Chee Wah, 12
First place: “The Bridges We’ve Made” by Eimear Kilcullen, 14
Second place: “Lay Down Our Arms” by Maya Frazier, 16
Third place: “Reaching Out” by Ella Macken, 15
AARJ pick: “Reparations & Repairs” by Ella Shiver, 16
First place: “Finding Light” by Sage Rogers, 23
Here are additional photos from the event: