Art show inspires families to think about race, start dialogues at home

When Suzanne Ghee’s children saw the protests that swept the nation in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, her 9-year-old, Olivia, wanted to jump into action. She asked her mother to take her to the epicenter of local protests in Philadelphia.

Ghee said both she and her husband are community minded and have an affinity for helping people, so she wasn’t surprised those traits rubbed off on her daughter.

Good intentions aside, Ghee explained to her daughter that she was a bit too young for the large protests, so they got to talking about other ways they could help the Black Lives Matter movement. 

So, on Saturday, June 13, the family hosted an art show on their front lawn. The “Through the Eyes of Children” presentation encouraged local students to tackle the question: What does Black Lives Matter mean to you? Students were encouraged to submit art pieces answering the question and they were subsequently sold. The proceeds from all the sales are being donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Ghee said the family came up with the idea over dinner. They thought they could ask the children’s friends and neighboring Cherry Hill children to participate in an art show and put their pieces on display for the entire neighborhood to see. 

Together, they created a flyer and distributed it to her children’s classmates. Ghee said she was thoroughly surprised by how quickly the flyer spread, and soon enough, she was contacted by the administration at Woodcrest Elementary school for permission to share it with the whole school.

Not long after, parents began reaching out to Ghee to thank her, also telling her that they had wanted to discuss recent events and conversations about race with their children, but they weren’t sure how to broach the subject. 

Ghee said those responses connect directly to what she was trying to accomplish. The hope was that the art show would give families a way to process recent events and to have a “therapeutic conversation” about them. 

When families began dropping off pieces at their door, Ghee said she felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. 

“I can’t even begin to explain to you the chills it gave me,” she recalled.

The pieces ran the gamut. One student drew a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. in an array of rainbow colors. Others created portraits of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who also died at the hands of police. Ghee’s own daughter drew former first lady Michelle Obama with the words   “I am becoming” underneath, a reference to the Netflix documentary about Obama she had seen called “Becoming.”

On Saturday, attendees were encouraged to come masked and observe social distancing to view the show. By the time the sales were done two hours later, the family has raised around $2,000 for the NAACP fund.

Ghee said the entire experience was extremely moving, and her hope is that others keep the momentum going. She’s already been contacted by local teachers who expressed an interest in having students do a similar art show or project in their classes next school year.

“This art show by the children is something that could easily be replicated; communities could have it any time,” Ghee noted. “It’s not just a good idea by one neighborhood or family. Everybody has the ability to continue it.”