Front Row Winners of the AFRO’s Community Heroes Contest: Amie Pannah, Lia Tejada, Laylah Smith, Julia Bital, Anthony Glen and Lanice Kear with Principal Dr. Otis Lee (Rear Middle) and Gregory Bell (Right). (Photo by Chante Wallace)

As part of the AFRO’s 19th Ceremony for Black History Month, a roomful of eight graders were brought to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, for recognition and celebration.

The eight graders all participated in an AFRO contest to depict their community heroes using whatever creative material they wanted. During Black History month the AFRO wrote about community heroes from the past and present.

The eighth graders, from the Benjamin Banneker Middle School in the Montgomery County, were recognized and awarded for their artwork submissions during the ceremony. The Director of Diversity Initiatives of Montgomery County, Dr. Gregory Bell and Principal of Benjamin Banneker Middle School, Dr. Otis Lee told the eighth graders to pursue their passions and have a vision for their futures.

Six finalists were chosen by the AFRO to receive special recognition. Each student was called up to the podium and said a few words to the audience about why they chose their community heroes. Below are excerpts from each students’ speech and a follow up interview.

Julia Vital

“I feel good. I’m proud of myself because I worked really hard and somebody liked it.”

Anthony Green

“It was just one of the ideas and I like putting things together. I don’t like doing collages, so I just did a scrapbook.”

Laylah Smith

“I chose to do a poem and painting because in art class we were doing acrylic painting and in English, we had to do community projects, so I just tied them both together.”

Lia Tejada

“My teacher is an art teacher. I knew a sculpture was a symbol for her art and how much she loves it. Also, I love art too. “

Amie Panneh

“I feel amazing that I was recognized for it. I feel special that they recognized my artwork.”

Lancie Kear 

“I feel very honored that someone would actually look at my artwork and find it very beautiful and inspiring.”