Students find inspiration through art

Students in Sabrina Campbell's art classes at WPHS picked people who made a difference in black history and civil rights and civil expression and designed art that included portraits of their subjects and other elements to tell their story.
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

Civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr., and race relations come to life through art.

And a month-long art project at West Point High School provides inspiration to another generation.

"She didn't let her color stop her. She didn't let people tell her she couldn't do something or that she didn't have a chance," student artist Paige Dukes said of her portrait of Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, who was the first gymnast of African descent to win a gold medal in the women's individual all-around.

"It tells us anyone can do something if they want to and work hard at it," Dukes continued.

Students in Sabrina Campbell's art classes at WPHS picked people who made a difference in black history and civil rights and civil expression and designed art that included portraits of their subjects and other elements to tell their story.

For instance, Dukes wrapped a colorful ribbon and medals through her portrait of Douglas.

The projects, which were part of a bigger look at the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., are being finished up this week and will be displayed in Campbell's class and the hallway outside her room.
Interestingly, Dukes did not watch Douglas compete at the Olympics in 2012 or 2016, but rather learned of her accomplishments afterwards.

Likewise, Marqueshia Starks didn't know anything about Chester Arthur Burnett, who is better known as famed blues singer Howlin' Wolf, even though he grew up in the White Station community in northeastern Clay County.

"I think it's pretty interesting that he was from around here, that he made people aware of West Point through his music," Starks said of Burnett, who became a music legend, especially in the Chicago blues scene from the 1920s through the 1960s.

"I didn't know about him or the blues until now," continued Starks, who says she focuses more on her softball than music but now plans a trip to the Howlin' Wolf Museum in downtown West Point.
Art student Isaiah Baker's character is not a well-known name of the Civil Rights era, but his story illistrates just how divisive race relations could be.

Roman Ducksworth Jr. was a black military policeman with almost 10 years in the Army who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Taylorsville, Mississippi, in 1962. Ducksworth had ridden a bus from Maryland to his hometown to see his wife, who was pregnant with their sixth child.

The police officer claimed he was defending himself from Ducksworth. Two different stories have been told about what started the confrontation. One is that Ducksworth was told he had to sit at the back of the bus and objected. The other is the police officer mistook him for one of the Freedom Riders, who were disliked by many whites in the South because of their voter-registration efforts among blacks.
For Baker, the idea that one police officer would shoot another or a serviceman is striking.

"I couldn't fathom that today, it shocked me. I didn't think that just because of racial differences a police officer would shoot another police officer," Baker explained. "The story inspired me to look into how it could happen."

For Campbell, who has been teaching her students through these kinds of art expressions for several years, the projects offer their own kind of inspiration.

"I am just so proud of them. Every year, they surprise me and inspire me. It's amazing at what they learn and turn out," she said.

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