15-Year-old Akilah Wows US With Her Google Doodle On Race Relations

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15-Year-old Akilah Wows US With Her Google Doodle On Race Relations

Akilah Johnson, at Eastern Senior High in the District of Columbia, poses with her winning Doodle.


Just last month, Akilah Johnson was "surprised and overwhelmed" when she learned that she was a national finalist in the "Doodle 4 Google" contest for grade-schoolers.
Imagine how she feels now.

Akilah, sophomore at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, has just been named Google's big winner in the national contest, topping the 53 state and territory champions, whose work had been culled from about 100,000 student entries.

Akilah is the contest's first winner from Washington, as, D.C. was not eligible to enter the states-only competition in past years. (The Washington Post's Comic Riffs blog joined the chorus of voices urging that the District of Columbia be included.)

This year's contest theme was: "What makes me. . .me." Akilah drew a box-braided Doodle titled "My Afrocentric Life," using color pencils, black crayons and Sharpie markers. The Doodle includes symbols of black power and signs representing the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Although it felt like forever making this picture, it only took me about two weeks," Akilah told us last month.

"I based this picture off my lifestyle and what has made into what I am today," she stated as part of her entry, which Monday is featured on Goggle's home page.

"As a child, I attended Roots [Public Charter School] and Roots [Activity Learning Center], so I was raised in the 'Afrocentric lifestyle,' "Akilah told The Post, referring to educational institutions in Northwest Washington that tout "culturally relevant curriculum" and the aim to serve "the specific needs of children of African heritage."

"One of my teachers from Roots, Baba Camera, is really what made me look at art in a different way," Johnson said. "As I grew older, I had realized that the black people that came before us has made us into what we are today, so of course I has to include them in some way."

Akilah's composition reflects bright childhood themes on the left, then moves into more serious reflections on society. "Just as we read from left to right, my goal was to make the picture turn heads from the color to the meaning," Akilah said last month. "I have a book that I use that's full [of] quotes, and the one I went by for this picture was: 'Be the type of person that's not only turns heads, but turns souls.' "

Besides seeing her work spotlighted on Google's home page, Akilah will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, and her high school will be awarded a $50,000 Google for Education grant "towards the establishment and improvement of a computer lab or technology program." She also will get to attend workshops with professional artists at Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

The celebrity judges included athletes Steph Curry and Alex Morgan; astronaut Yvonne Cagle; performers Julie Bowen and B.J. Novak; and animator Glen Keane ("Tangled").

Eastern High celebrated Akilah with an assembly last month, when she was announced as a finalist. "I'm very goofy, so I just started going around smiling and telling everyone, even the people I didn't know," Akilah said in February. "Before the assembly started, I was pretty nervous, but after a while, I warmed up and it felt great to have all of my peers support me."

Just imagine all the support she'll feel now.


 

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