This Black History Month, Amaris Marsh wanted to celebrate Black culture through art. So, she created and organized the Black History Month Art Showcase at the University of Maryland, amplifying the overarching theme: Black Joy.

The theme of the showcase — jointly hosted by the Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy office and Stamp Student Union — was particularly important to Marsh because of the events of the past year.

“I wanted to focus on the positive things about Black history, not just the negative things, and then considering the fact that we are Black history happening right now, so we can highlight ourselves as well,” said Marsh, a junior chemical engineering major. 

Students were able to submit their art pieces until Feb. 28, and other students could vote on their favorite pieces. About 209 students participated in the voting, Marsh said. 

Bree Douhitt, a graduate student studying human-computer interaction, won the showcase’s art section on Monday with her series “Shadows.” The series was inspired by stereotypes Black women face in society, which she represented with masks inspired by traditional West African masks. 

“As I was dealing with those own stereotypes, I was learning about other experiences from other Black women, and I tried to represent a lot of the things that they experience as well,” Douhitt said. 

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Curtis Williams, a senior aerospace engineering major, spent two weekends asking people what Black joy meant to them and created “Black Joy on the Black Board.”

“Black joy is loving your culture,” Williams said. “When you’re joyful, there’s not there’s not much that can sway you away from that feeling. You’re just in love, you’re just feeling yourself, you’re just like, this is me, and I appreciate myself. I appreciate who I am, and I appreciate my culture.”

Teni Faleti, a junior public health science major, created the art she submitted for the showcase, titled “PAINT4CHANGE” following George Floyd’s death. 

Faleti picked up painting as a quarantine hobby, but she wanted to put it to use while following the Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the summer. Faleti began selling her paintings, raising almost $700 for Black-owned organizations. 

“I never expected it to blow up like it did, but it made me so happy that I got so much support from my community … but also for the mission behind the project,” Faleti said.

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Faleti’s paintings feature many renditions of raised fists. One displays three fists of different skin tones with painted nails. Another highlights a fist with different skin tones in front of a LGBTQ pride flag.

The theme of Black joy was particularly important for Faleti because it lifted up the positivity and creativity of the Black community, she said. 

The art showcase gave “a chance to put our passions, our drives and our creative visions out there,” Faleti said. “It reminds me of my project and the reason I started it in the summer.”

Williams echoed the importance of Black joy. 

“It was necessary for us to have something that gets our minds off the negative things that 2020 has been throwing our way,” he said.

“It was a wonderful idea in order to get people together for this because we had been separated,” Williams said. “Having these different activities for people to still contribute and still interact with each other, I think it was helpful, really helpful, to refresh us as we’re trying to get through these difficult times.”