''Go Big or Go Home'': AGonza Speaks to Refugee Youth
AGonza Speaks to Refugee YouthMeet Hayle
Three weeks ago, the teens in our Refugee Youth Program attended a presentation by AGonza, a muralist and social activist from Providence. This was part of a series led by one of our volunteers designed to introduce the youth to local artists and encourage their creativity. AGonza showed slides of her paintings and talked about how she uses her art to celebrate people of color, to confront social and political injustice, and to raise money to support causes that matter to her.
She painted the image of Miss Rhode Island (below right) on a boarded-up window of a shop in downtown Providence that was damaged by rioting last June following a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration, responding to senseless violence with an image of beauty and power. She painted the raised fists (below left) to show defiance in the face of racism, but the butterflies, which are featured in nearly all her paintings, symbolize her belief in the transformative power of hope as well.
AGonza has experienced this same sense of hope in the face of challenging odds in her personal life. She shared with the youth that she grew up in a tough Providence housing project surrounded by violence. As a child, she kept a low profile and spent most of her time alone drawing. She was very quiet, she says, until Professor Bob Dilworth, a black art teacher at URI (her alma mater), helped her find her voice.
He singled her out in class one day, telling her, "Go big or go home! I know you've got talent, so stop being so shy." His words struck a chord and she's been speaking up ever since. Not only does she use her art to make strong statements, but she sees it as a way to help others as well. She donated the proceeds from one mural to the Providence Student Union to support artists of color attending the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). And she used the mural below in a fundraising campaign for the homeless that raised $3 million.
The teens listened attentively while AGonza spoke. And they asked great questions. She urged them to hold onto hope and to go big in their own ways. "It doesn't matter how you do it, just get it done." She says. "If you're into photography, use your cellphone. If you want to draw, use a pencil if that's all you have." When one youth confessed his love for drawing, she invited him to stay in touch, saying, "I'm always trying to collaborate with artists of color. There aren't enough of us out here in Providence."
Bienfait, Mauwa and Hayle (left to right) from Beautiful Day's Refugee Youth Program listen to AGonza talk about her art and her life on Zoom Coming Soon: Our 2020 Annual Report
In a few weeks, Beautiful Day will be publishing our 2020 Annual Report, which will feature some of the highlights of this incredibly challenging year. We are calling the report "NEW BEGINNINGS" because despite the tragedies and hardships, 2020 was a year of unexpected new possibilities for us. Read about how the crisis led us to create a brand new product, design a new website, hire new staff and more.
Click on short videos to hear trainees, board members and friends like you talk about how Beautiful Day transformed challenges into opportunities. Learn about how we fared financially and look for your name on the lists of those we acknowledge and thank for supporting us. It's going to be fun. It's going to be engaging. And it's going to be new!
One of our "New Beginnings"
At 16, Hayle is the youngest in our new cohort of youth trainees. He arrived in the US from Ethiopia when he was 2, so all his childhood memories are from right here. Still, history and culture are important to him and he continues to learn Kunama, an ancient indigenous language of Eritrea...Hayle’s been learning about civil rights and black history in School.
Despite his own family’s long journey to “The Land of the Free,” they have encountered police brutality and a fight for equality that they did not expect. At times they would like to return to Ethiopia.
But Hayle sees Providence as home... Stop Asian Hate
Beautiful Day stands in solidarity with the Asian American community against the recent racist attacks in Georgia and the series of hate crimes against Asian Americans in our country. Click on the image below for a brief message: