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Seniors at New Tech Academy display 'anti-racist' art exhibit

Seniors at New Tech Academy capped off Black History Month with an anti-racism art exhibit, called ‘Say Their Names.’

The exhibit was on display at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School for students to come and see during their time between classes. While the display is now at the school, it’s not the first time students have done this project.

Last year, the art was on display at St. Francis University’s North Campus, but government and econ teacher Robert Haddad has been teaching about racial justice in his classes for a long time.

He said the project helps give students a reason to care about government and other perspectives.

“Where we’ve come from as a country and the constitution, and connecting some dots along the way – 13th Amendment, of course – and then to the era of mass incarceration that we’re still dealing with today," Haddad said.

For the project, students chose a person or event in Black history to research and create a piece of art around, using any medium they choose. This year, projects ranged from poster boards to sculptures. Two groups even chose to write an original song.

One group did their project on Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot and killed by a Cleveland Police Officer while playing with a toy gun in his local park.

'The Walking Gazebo.'
Ella Abbott
'The Walking Gazebo.'

The group called the project ‘The Walking Gazebo.’ After he was shot at the gazebo, his mother moved to Chicago and took the structure with her, placing it in a Chicago park in Tamir’s memory.

The group reconstructed the gazebo out of popsicle sticks, placing it on green construction paper to represent the grass. On the paper, they wrote Tamir Rice’s name over and over, along with the phrase ‘say his name.’

Samara Jones, one of the group members, said they did so to represent how the spot has been changed.

“It was a gazebo before and then after, everything changed, obviously," she said. "It’s always gonna be, now, something more than just a gazebo.”

Another group member, Noelia Gutierrez, said having students do the art exhibit every year is important for keeping both the students and those who might see the art informed on issues of racial injustice.

“I feel like knowledge is power," she said. "‘Cause anybody could go in their life not knowing who Tamir Rice is at all, but what’s that gonna change, you know? Knowing people’s names, knowing their stories is what brings an impact in the end.”

Other members of the group were Natalia Mondragon and Levi Pagan.

Haddad said knowing where we’ve come from can help engage students to care about where we’re going in the future, from both a government and equality standpoint.

“Yeah, we’ve come a long way," he said. "Each generation, though, has its own set of struggles in the constant walk towards equality and equity and civil rights.”

The song you’re hearing in the back of this story is called ‘Poetic Struggle’ by New Tech senior Jaysean Douglas.

Poetic Struggle by Jaysean Douglas
Senior at New Tech Academy Jaysean Douglas created an original song for the 'Say Their Names' exhibit.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.