03/22/2016

DC student's work wins Google national contest

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If you're one of the millions of Internet users who went looking for search help from Google this week, you saw a colorful, intricately detailed "doodle"—a term that doesn't do the work justice—by a Washington, D.C., public high school student.

Akilah Johnson's "Afrocentric life" was selected from more than 100,000 student entries as this year's winner of the "Doodle 4 Google" contest. Akilah, a sophomore at D.C.'s Eastern High School, where the teachers are members of the AFT, tackled this year's theme of "What makes me … me."

Akilah Johson's Google doodle"When I was younger, I attended Roots Public Charter School and Roots Activity Learning Center in Northwest Washington, D.C.," she writes in a Google blog. "These schools promote a strong connection to African heritage, and an Afrocentric lifestyle; we regularly celebrated important African American people and I learned a lot about my history as an African American. As I grew older, I realized that the black people that came before us have made us into what we are today. So of course I had to include them in my doodle."

Akilah, who credits her art teachers for their guidance and encouragement, is the first African-American student to win the annual competition. She explains that her work highlights six things: "the Symbol of Life (the ankh); the African continent, where everything began for me and my ancestors; the Eye of Horus; the word 'power' drawn in black; the woman's fist based on one of my favorite artist's works; and the D.C. flag—because I'm a Washingtonian at heart and I love my city with everything in me!"

"My goal with my art was to not only turn heads but souls as well—not only for someone to see it and be amazed by it but also to have them understand and connect with it," she says. The work was done with colored pencils, black crayons and Sharpie markers.

In addition to the amazing exposure on Google's home page—and an awards ceremony at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters—Akilah will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, and Eastern High School will get a $50,000 Google for Education grant to be used for a computer lab or technology program.

[Dan Gursky, Google]