Contest Celebrates African Americans in Arts

            Owen Excellent’s favorite entry in the Grades 7-12 Creative Expression Contest held by Tri-Town Against Racism is a colorful poster of Martin Luther King Jr. by Dylan Dubois, a junior at Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School.

            The composition features King’s image on the right looking ahead with the Washington Monument at the center and the words above, below and around: “I have a dream that all men are created equal.”

            “It was worked on very good,” said Owen, who is six years old and admitted surprise that he could be a judge.

            First, second and third-place winners were announced by Tri-Town Against Racism president Alison Noyce on Saturday at Mattapoisett Library. Also addressing the attendees to discuss the judging of the contest was John Excellent, Owen’s father. The contest theme for 2024 was “African Americans in the Arts.”

            Kaden Ludenai, a junior at Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School, won first place (and a $200 cash prize) for his pencil drawing of artist Henry Ossawa Tanner, noting his words, “I will preach with my brush.”

            Second place went to Mallory Henesey, an Old Rochester Regional High School junior, for her multimedia image of photographer Ming Smith with the quote, “I like catching the moment, catching the light, and the way it plays out.” Henesey won a $100 prize for taking second place.

            Taking third place (and $50) was Old Colony junior Logan Huang, whose striking union of photographs and animated images formed a platform for the words, “We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”

            Other African Americans in the Arts depicted among the 15 entries included some who are living and some from the past. Students celebrated singers Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, Whitney Houston and Tina Turner, President Obama, author Jacob Lawrence, rapper Kendrick Lamar, reggae icon Bob Marley, musician Louis Armstrong and actor Sidney Portier.

            Owen’s second choice was a colorful “Black Lives Matter” entry made by the youngest student in the young history of the contest, seventh grader Madelyn Sivil, a student at ORR Junior High School.

            “I like that it had a black peace sign and that it had hearts in the background,” said Owen, who voted ORR student Carly Mello’s Bob Marley poster as his third choice. “We listen to him at our house all day – a lot of time at my house.”

            Owen, who had Lunedai’s winning entry on artist Henry Ossawa Tanner as his fourth choice, does his own art projects in school. “Paper and markers and sometimes crayons, and no colored pencils – we don’t have those at my school,” he said.

            “Regardless of where the life raft takes us – you know, we always try to make space in our life raft to throw some things out – we’ll keep that as a fixture on your voyage, your art and your creativity,” said John Excellent, noting that President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976. “We discussed (the entrants’) stuff. We broke it down, we really talked about it and what feeling that gave us. That’s a powerful thing.”

            John Excellent encouraged listeners to fight the distractions and things that cut into one’s time and take away from the desire to express oneself through the arts.

            “It’s great that small communities like us get together and find ways to celebrate Black History Month,” he said.

            The other judges were Kendall Smiley, Frances-Feliz Kearns, Jenn Wong, and Jess Kimball-Veeder.

            Noyce addressed the gathering, citing her appreciation for some amazing artwork turned in, especially entries that helped her learn about artists she had not known of, but she also expressed a belief that much of the work of ending racism lies ahead.

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Black History Month

By Mick Colageo

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