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Students respond to shelter-in-place by expressing creativity

By Breanna Lu and Natalie Gao Nov. 15, 2020

Art and Photos Courtesy of Flare Journal and Leland Artists for BLM

With the COVID-19 pandemic mandating a shelter-in-place, many students have found more time to involve themselves in projects outside of school, whether it be writing, art or music. Students who are part of Leland Artists for Black Lives Matter (BLM), such as Senior Kaci Ngo, supported the movement through selling their artwork.

After George Floyd’s death, many students took to educating themselves on systemic racism and advocating for social justice. Wanting to express their support for the movement through selling artwork, Erica Fu, class of 2020, formed Leland Artists for BLM in May. Profits are donated to BLM and human rights-related organizations, including Black Trans Femmes in the Arts (BTFA), the Okra Project and the Roots Community Center. The organization essentially aims to educate and inform people about the BLM movement, while showing that teens can effectively partake in social activism.

Leland Artists for BLM features art depicting interpretations of the BLM movement, such as “Just Mercy” by Jingyi Cheng, class of 2020. Inspired by Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” Cheng depicted clasped black and white hands, silhouetted against unused handcuffs, to promote solidarity among different races in the face of police injustice. However, the art is not restricted to topics related to BLM. They can also be about everyday objects, nature, animals or people, such as “Brother” by Grace Lo, class of 2020, which illustrates a boy playing a guitar.

In order to publicize their platform, Ngo and her team created an Instagram and a website, in which they promote their artwork and post updates on when to buy art, where they are donating and how much they are donating. With the help of Ngo’s teammates and friends, Leland Artists for BLM gained popularity and more students started buying and contributing artwork.

“The organization inspired me to publicly advocate more about other issues I have strong beliefs in, such as improving the environment and promoting the use of sustainable products. In terms of the BLM movement, being able to work with others who had similar interests as me made speaking out a lot easier. Our organization really shows that you can promote a positive change by yourself or with a team. With the help of social media, teens can not only bring awareness to issues in the present, but also build a foundation for the future we will live in,” Ngo said.

As of right now, Leland Artists for BLM is currently not collecting or selling art. While they do not have any definite plans yet, Ngo explains that members are currently hoping to start the group back up for the holidays and Black History Month in February.

Similarly incorporating creativity into a project, Sophomore Michelle Qiao and Junior Manasi Moghe made Flare Journal in March, which publishes student art, writing and photography, online. According to Moghe, the journal was essentially developed to inspire writers and artists all around the world to express, connect and uplift each other. Distinguishing itself from many other literary journals, Flare Journal does not limit entries based on age, nationality or region.

The journal collects prose, poetry, art and photography submitted by people internationally and publishes on their website. So far, they have featured 268 submissions with both readers and participants coming from 25 countries and 39 states. In July, they published their first issue, which included art by Carly Chan, class of 2020, prose by Junior Cindy Zhao, and photographs by Junior Isha Dhandha. In September, Flare Journal published their second issue which featured prose by Junior Yong Ooi and photographs by Senior Quynh Vy Nguyen.

As an editor-in-chief, Moghe finds that participating in this project has allowed her to use her leadership skills in a project she is passionate about, and she believes that her enthusiasm for writing and art has helped strengthen Flare Journal’s success.

“Passion is the most important component needed for success. I love telling stories about my life and the challenges I have faced and writing about gender equality and culture. This passion is what drove me to join Flare Journal, allowing me to contribute to building our project to what it is today,” Moghe said.

Currently, Flare Journal plans to release a third issue and host competitions, with the prize being a donation to a charity or organization. They are also interested in holding workshops to encourage more people to create and write.

Despite the many challenges presented by the pandemic, students continue finding creative ways to not only express themselves but to also utilize their passions in bettering the community and the lives of others.


About the Contributors

Staff Writer

Breanna Lu is a freshman and a new staff writer. She enjoys binge watching sci-fi movies and her favorite book genre is murder mysteries/crime fiction. In her free time, you will most likely find her asleep or chatting with her friends.

Staff Writer

Natalie Gao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She likes playing Tetris and making mac and cheese in her free time.

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