Drawing done by Coppin Academy student, Saiona Silver-El for the Student Fellowship Showcase held by the AFRO Charities and the Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center. (Courtesy of Saiona Silver-El)

By Kara Thompson,

In a special partnership with AFRO Charities and Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center, students of Coppin Academy have been exploring the rich history of Black Baltimore and the influence of African Americans on multiple genres of art. 

The program recently closed out their semester with the Student Fellowship Showcase, where Coppin Academy journalism and multimedia student fellows presented their work inspired by the AFRO Archives. 

This past spring semester, these 15 students had the chance to work with teaching artist Unique Robinson from the Leaders of Tomorrow’s Youth Center. They conducted research into the AFRO American Newspapers’ archives, and used what they found to create new works of their own in a variety of mediums, including written work, live performances, and visual art. 

The 15 students piloted the program, which they applied to be a part of, and all received a stipend for their participation. They met each month with Robinson to discuss a topic relating to Black history, used the AFRO archives to do some research, and then creatively expressed what they learned through video, art, poems, performances and more.

“I’ve learned that I truly have a potential in this world. I have a God given gift that I can really go far with,” said Saiona Silver-El, a 15-year-old student, about what her takeaways were from the program. She created both drawings and poems reflecting her new knowledge. 

Silver-El applied for the program because she thought it would help her in pursuing her dreams of becoming an animator. She says she will continue forward with all that she has learned through Robinson and the program. 

Gavin Thompson, 14,  also used his future career plans to inspire his work. He looked into Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to go to space, because he wants to be an astronaut one day. 

“ just started talking about what I want to be when I grow up, and some role models that I could use to guide that path,” said Thompson, who originally struggled to come up with a topic idea. He ended up creating an “I am” poem about Jemison during Women’s History Month.

Qamar Godwin, a 15-year-old freshman at Coppin Academy, found that learning about how extensive Black history is – especially in Baltimore– was the most interesting part of the program.

“To learn more about your Black history that may not be told in schools, and things that may be a little convoluted, and just being able to create my work of art is a really good opportunity,” said Godwin. “Not everybody has this type of opportunity to be able to do this, so for me to be able to express myself and for people to read it, it is wonderful.”

Godwin helped create a short film that was shown at the showcase. The film, which is about relationships and mental health features a poem he had written earlier in the semester for Women’s History Month.

The showcase took place on May 31 from 6-7:30pm at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center in Baltimore. 

AFRO Charities is now in the process of planning for the next cohort of students. 

Poem and drawing done by Saiona Silver-El. Photos courtesy of Saiona Silver-El. 

Otter links: 

Saiona Silver-El: https://otter.ai/u/wiEFU3OB-QuD3vjldMs6PbRL-2A

Gavin Thompson: https://otter.ai/u/QJlHMHNqwiERtzpU0eQywKPStU4

Qamar Godwin: https://otter.ai/u/iu3ykPtS-F74p9dE5gSbljo0650

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