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Empathy and understanding

Krystle Wagner • Feb 22, 2018 at 10:00 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Vivid yellows, reds and blues make up portraits displayed at Spring Lake High School.

In recognition of Black History Month, students and classes have been invited to view the exhibit “Redefining Colored,” which is displayed in the high school’s media center.

Jennifer Gwinnup’s drawing and painting classes created the portraits of inspirational African-Americans. Gwinnup said the inspiration was to redefine the word “colored,” and look at why the word is offensive and how it holds power. Instead of being associated with someone’s skin, Gwinnup said “colored” means characteristics such as brave, strong and doing something that impacts culture and the world.

In creating their art, students also chose Adinkra (African symbols) that captures the essence of their inspirational person and were tasked with incorporating it into their work, Gwinnup said.

To develop awareness about the struggles people face and consider how they can support others, students involved in the Calling All Colors group read quotes from well-known African-Americans — such as Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King Jr. — when classes visited the exhibit. Students in Calling All Colors also selected videos for their classmates to watch, said Jessie Crawford, the school’s Calling All Colors adviser.

In addition to having artwork displayed, Calling All Colors invited fellow classmates to participate by entering their own work, said senior Maddy Windberg. Students can submit poetry, photography, art or song lyrics that they feel represents the ideas behind Black History Month. The entries will also be displayed in the media center.

The artwork has left a lasting impression on many students, and some have expressed an interest in entering their own submissions, Crawford said.

Seeing the artwork is inspiring and encourages people to be better versions of themselves, said Windberg, 18.

A message coming from fellow students with their artwork has more meaning than presentations from adults, said Laurie Draeger, a high school media specialist. By hosting the exhibit, Draeger said she hopes it increases awareness about the struggles people face.

“Giving people the ability to develop empathy and understanding for others can be life-changing,” she said.

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