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Artist Showcase Contest Winners

Art has always been a key piece in the rich storytelling of the Black experience. This contest is a great opportunity to seek out and celebrate artistic expression during a time that’s been wrought with emotion and upheaval. It was against this backdrop that The Onward & Upward Artist Showcase was born.

We see this contest as a powerful way to celebrate Black heritage and culture…and to reach out to artists, aspiring or established, who have something important to say. The winning artists and their work are featured below along with some other stellar entries. Congratulations to one and all!


2024 Theme: Preserving Black Elegance & Excellence!

Concludes 10/31/2024


2023 Theme: Lift Every Voice!

2023 Ashro Excellence Award:
Joseph Randall from Chicago, IL

“A Joyful Noise”

This work was inspired by the powerful female voices of Mahalia Jackson, Shirley Caesar, Yolanda Adams, Tasha Cobb Leonard, Karen Clark Sheard, Erica Campbell and countless other inspirational voices.

“A Joyful Noise!” celebrates the joy of Gospel music and the joy it brings to the soul!

Meet Joseph – Our 3 Time Artist Showcase Winner!

My name is Joseph C. Randall…

I am a self-taught artist who works in mixed-media of colored pencils, pastel chalk and acrylic paints.

Mission: My mission is to interpret and paint the lifestyles of Black and Brown people of the African Diaspora, from the Caribbean and throughout the Americas.

My art is colorful, emotive, expressive and captures the intimacy of the human spirit. In my work, I try to revisit the insights, emotions and ideas of lived experiences, past and present.

My art challenges our consciousness of who we are, where we come from, where we are now, where we’re going and why.

Process: My senses of observation and spiritual guidance compel me to create the images I paint. Watching people of all walks display themselves, either, alone or within a crowd, renders their personae as ever present to me, whether they are known or unknown, famous or obscure.

My paintings, as stories, interweave the symbolic meanings of the subjects’ eyes, faces, hands, bodies, the ways they clothe themselves and the representational spaces in which I find them or imagine them to live.

Contemplation of these symbolic meanings enables me to capture their spiritual, emotional and experiential aspects which inform the story being told. In this way, each character I paint tells a story, much like an actor in a play, providing content, and evoking onlooker reflection and engagement.

2023 Pigment Impact Award:
Myrna M Hawkins from Killeen, Texas

“Breaking Out To Move Forward”

My daughter thought there were no black ballet dancers so I was on a hunt to find photos of some. Well, I ran across this black & white photo. This picture was so expressive, and you can feel the tension in the hands and feet. I was compelled to draw it. Then I couldn’t figure out what to call it, so I reached out on my social media platform for suggestions. I never thought I would get the response that I did. I used two different suggestions and put them together.

Meet Myrna

My name is Myrna M Hawkins…

I am a Native New Yorker, transplanted in Texas by way of the Military. A 10 year Veteran of the United States Army. A mother of 4 beautiful children, with ages ranging from 39 to 26.

I have been heavily influenced by African, Indian, and Mexican art.  I am fascinated with their shapes, use of colors, and complexity of design patterns. My art is meant to be thought provoking both visually and conceptually.

I believe that genuine art is about concepts, and disputably neither about medium or style, nor about the making.  Art is about your ideas and how you interpret and explore them.

2023 Young Adult Award:
Julia Ferguson from The Woodlands, Texas

“With Resilience”

My brother’s dedication to swimming inspired me to create this artwork. When I think of empowerment, of uplifting every voice, I think of my brother Julius, specifically when he is competitively swimming. He gets up early in the morning for swim practice, goes to school, trains in the afternoon, and then does it all over again the next day. His dedication to the sport is inspiring and leads me to believe that he is the perfect example of someone who deserves to be uplifted, one of many.

Meet Julia

Julia Ferguson is a senior at The Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, Texas. She has won numerous awards for her art, including a Scholastic Art Gold Key for artwork entitled “Death to the Heart” and an exemplary rating of four awarded at the VASE state art competition for “Falling Petals”.

Julia has been painting and drawing for as long as she can remember and plans to pursue art in college, where she aims to continue her journey in perfecting her craft. She is employed as an instructor with the Woodlands Academy of Art and, in her spare time, likes to watch childhood Disney shows and to post on social media.

Her Instagram (@juliafergusons_art) and TikTok(@juliafergusonsart) promote her passion to thousands of followers. The young artist also holds an Etsy store, selling prints and original art pieces. She hopes that her art may remind others of the beauty of the world today and points her success to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


2022 Theme: Imagine the Future: Black is Beautiful

2022 UMOJA Impact Award:
Joseph Randall from Chicago, IL

Black Female Tennis Players Artwork by Joseph Randall

The Magnificent 7″

Although Althea Gibson, Leslie Allen and Zina Garrison inspired this painting, it is the William sister’s revolutionary tennis court success that evolved a crop of fearless players that exemplify the spirit of Althea. So, this painting is a celebration to Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloan Stephens, Madison Keys, Naomi Osaka, Taylor Townsend and Coco Gauff…I call it, “Magnificent 7!”

Media: Acrylics
Dimensions: 25.5” X 39.5”
Date: June, 2021

Meet Joseph

My name is Joseph C. Randall…

I am a self-taught artist who works in mixed-media of colored pencils, pastel chalk and acrylic paints.

Mission: My mission is to interpret and paint the lifestyles of Black and Brown people of the African Diaspora, from the Caribbean and throughout the Americas.

My art is colorful, emotive, expressive and captures the intimacy of the human spirit. In my work, I try to revisit the insights, emotions and ideas of lived experiences, past and present.

My art challenges our consciousness of who we are, where we come from, where we are now, where we’re going and why.

Process: My senses of observation and spiritual guidance compel me to create the images I paint. Watching people of all walks display themselves, either, alone or within a crowd, renders their personae as ever present to me, whether they are known or unknown, famous or obscure.

My paintings, as stories, interweave the symbolic meanings of the subjects’ eyes, faces, hands, bodies, the ways they clothe themselves and the representational spaces in which I find them or imagine them to live.

Contemplation of these symbolic meanings enables me to capture their spiritual, emotional and experiential aspects which inform the story being told. In this way, each character I paint tells a story, much like an actor in a play, providing content, and evoking onlooker reflection and engagement.

2022 Ashro Excellence Award:
Linda Massey from Sun Prairie, WI

Artist Showcase Winner - Little Black Girl with Wings

Make Your Own Wings”

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL: Imagine family. Imagine friends. Imagine success. Imagine LOVE! Each of these bring beautiful colors into your life. Each of these colors will help you make your own wings and take flight!

“I think it REALLY says everything about the theme of Imagine the Future! A young girl sees herself in flight and the places she’ll go on wings of her own making!”


2021 Theme: The Black Experience: Empowerment and Gratitude.

2021 UMOJA Impact Award:
Sharon L. Bjyrd from Madison, WI

“Untitled. Brown #3”

This painting is third in a series entitled “Brown” that I’m working on. All of the pieces are monochromatic with different shades of our brown skin tone and feature a colorful head wrap representing our continued ties to African culture.

The UMOJA Impact Award winner received a computer tablet and UMOJA magazine subscription.

Meet Sharon

Sharon L. Bjyrd is best known for her vibrant portraits celebrating the beauty and diversity of the black experience. “I seek to honor the individuality of people of color and to depict the different ways we go about expressing our blackness.”

Sharon was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, moving to Madison in the early 90’s. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, studying Social Work and Afro American studies and went on to work in the domestic violence field and serving women in poverty at organizations like the YWCA of Madison and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Self-taught, with a few classes along the way, Sharon entered the art world as a second passion after a life slowdown due to Lupus and sickle cell disease created the space to re-discover her love of art in the form of painting. Her medium of choice is acrylic paint, though she’s known to dabble in mixed media. 

Sharon’s work has been featured: in the book “Let’s Talk About It, The Art, The Artists and The Racial Justice Movement on Madison’s State Street” 2021; as a mural at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art during the George Floyd riots 2020; “Bohemian Black” solo exhibit, Roberta Gallery, UW-Whitewater 2020; as an emerging artist at MMOCA ‘s Art Fair on the Square 2019; “Flowers in the Garden Exhibit” The South Side Community Art Center 2019, Chicago; Hatch Art House, Madison, WI and the Silver Room Block Party 100 Canvas Event in Chicago. She is currently one of four artists in the BridgeWork art accelerator program at Art Lit Lab in Madison.

2021 Ashro Excellence Award:
Joseph Randall from Chicago, IL

Voice To The Voiceless”

After the March On Washington in 1963. The Poor People’s March in 1965. The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King in 1968, it took me a while to embrace todays social movement that’s been stirring restlessly for the last six years to express itself under the banner of Black Live Matter (BLM). The murder of George Floyd by police triggered my instincts to become engaged and to create an image that gives voice to the voiceless. I painted people of all ages, gender and races together for a common purpose as a memorial to those whose lives were taken away senselessly, and whose voice would be heard endlessly! Media: Acrylic paint, colored pencils & pastel chalk Dimensions: 44” X 30” Date: April, 2021

The Ashro Excellence Award winner received a computer tablet and UMOJA magazine subscription.

Meet Joseph

My name is Joseph C. Randall…

I am a self-taught artist who works in mixed-media of colored pencils, pastel chalk and acrylic paints.

Mission: My mission is to interpret and paint the lifestyles of Black and Brown people of the African Diaspora, from the Caribbean and throughout the Americas.

My art is colorful, emotive, expressive and captures the intimacy of the human spirit. In my work, I try to revisit the insights, emotions and ideas of lived experiences, past and present.

My art challenges our consciousness of who we are, where we come from, where we are now, where we’re going and why.

Process: My senses of observation and spiritual guidance compel me to create the images I paint. Watching people of all walks display themselves, either, alone or within a crowd, renders their personae as ever present to me, whether they are known or unknown, famous or obscure.

My paintings, as stories, interweave the symbolic meanings of the subjects’ eyes, faces, hands, bodies, the ways they clothe themselves and the representational spaces in which I find them or imagine them to live.

Contemplation of these symbolic meanings enables me to capture their spiritual, emotional and experiential aspects which inform the story being told. In this way, each character I paint tells a story, much like an actor in a play, providing content, and evoking onlooker reflection and engagement.

2021 Young Adult Award Winner:
Lauren Mcgarry from Oakbrook, IL

Young Adult Award winning piece

“Be you”

The thing that inspired me was the lack of positivity in today society, I choose to take all the positive things and make them into something beautiful.

The Young Adult Award received a $1,000 college scholarship and UMOJA magazine subscription.

Meet Lauren

I’m currently a sophomore at Carthage College in Wisconsin. I’m a communications major with a history minor, but I have a huge passion for graphic design. I also hold one on-campus Job that helps me improve my communication skills and learn how to work well in a team. In my spare time, I enjoy playing around with the graphic design. I love seeing my ideas come to life in beautiful art pieces, and it’s super relaxing to me.


Other Stellar Entries from 2023, 2022 & 2021

Isissia Drake is from Chicago, Illinois

“We at the Lake”

Isissia Drake is a painter, instructor, and art therapist in Chicago. She received her Master’s of Art Therapy and Counseling from the School of the Art institute of Chicago. She has been a teaching artist for After School Matters and Marillac St Vincent social center. Her latest work captures elements of Marillac’s community garden. Her work seeks public and community art as a therapy tool for Chicago’s South Side. Through acrylic, oil, and illustrations; Drake broadens, celebrates, and reflects the humanness of blackness by dismantling stereotypical images seen in media.

“We at the Lake” is from a series A Chicago Story that focuses on real experiences of Chicagoans that reflect a more authentic view of life. This piece emphasizes peace, brotherhood, community, bonding all done on Chicago’s lake. Every time I visited another state, people would make negative comments about Chicago usually centering on violence. I wanted to highlight what may be over looked.

Justin Zackery is from Fort Savannah, Georgia

“BlackBoyJoy Collection”

My name is Justin Zackery and I am originally from Baltimore, MD. I relocated from Pennsylvania 8years ago down here to Savannah with my wife. We now run our in-home preschool together that our two daughters attend as well! I am the owner or JZackreations: Cuts and Canvas! I am a visual artist and mobile barber. I recently graduated barber school for my master Barber license from Uncut Barber Academy. I specialize in acrylic painting and animated artwork. Most of my inspiration comes from my day-to-day experiences as a black man, husband, & father! I feel like my style of art focuses more on an abstract and surreal perspective. My mission statement is, “My goal is to always produce relative and relatable forms of visual art. In addition, we also service the community thru barbering. Our services are affordable, convenient, and cultured. Every new client is a new canvas!”

This BlackBoyJoyCollection represents taking care of your mental health as a black male is todays society! Helping our young men learning that it is ok to FEEL and not just feel but show those emotions which creates growth, knowledge, & experience beyond belief!

Tasanee Durrett is from Altamonte Springs, Florida

“Fruits Of My Labor”

Tasanee Durrett (1994) is a visual artist, originally from Chicago, who lives and works in Orlando, Florida. Throughout her years of college at the University of Arizona (2017), she studied architecture where the Black human experience became influential. After escaping an abusive relationship of eight years, she began translating her architectural influences through painting. Durrett’s paintings became an outlet for releasing emotions and regaining strength. Her artistic journey began as a quest for personal freedom and breaking the psychological and emotional chains that held her back from embracing her true self. 

Durrett’s figurative paintings express vibrant narratives of the Black diaspora. A principal theme in her work is emotional healing, spiritual connectedness and space. Through abstraction, pointillism, and continuous contour line techniques, she takes an intricate and detailed approach to her work, capturing moments of connection to the Black inner-self and Black ancestral roots.

Her body of work has been exhibited at the Orlando Museum of Art, Gallery 1202 in California, Orlando City Hall, Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando, Lake County Museum of Art, the Ritz Theater and Museum, Kavanaugh Art Gallery in Illinois, and the Spectrum Art Show during Art Basel Miami (2022) among others. She was awarded the 2023 Timucua Artist Residency in Orlando, FL and the 2023-2024 TILA Gardens Fellowship in Atlanta, GA. Recent press includes Orlando Foundation for Architecture, 1919 Mag, and Blacque. Durrett invites viewers to explore emotions, healing, and celebration within the Black diaspora, showcasing the transformative power of overcoming challenges and finding happiness and prosperity.

While painting this piece, I was inspired by the representation of joy and celebration of Black culture. I aim to empower and elevate ethnic minorities with my artwork. This particular piece re-evaluates the societal “boundaries” that are placed on the notion of blackness through emotion and expression. I utilize art as a way to expose the truths of my Afro-Indigenous history and to celebrate the relevancy and vibrant stories of those that are a part of the past, present and future.

Cosaundra Chapple is from Fort Smith, Arkansas

“Black Girls Rock”

Hello My name is Cosaundra Chapple -I am a native of Cotton Plant, Arkansas but I reside in Fort Smith Arkansas .My hobbies includes doing crafts, painting and playwriting. I have written and produced 5 plays and working on my six play. I am a wife ,mother and grandmother. My husband is a minister he minister from the pulpit and I minister from the stage you never know how your message can change a person life. 

We as black people are always criticized by our hair.no matter how nappy we still rock .we are beautiful and we embrace our culture.

Laura Carson is from Greenville, North Carolina

“Bless Me Father”

Laura Carson is a retired wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. From her early childhood she took an interest in all kinds of art from drawing, painting, mosaics and textiles. She started her sculpting journey back in 2005 as a self taught artist. After sixteen years of mastering the art of porcelain doll making she decided to fulfill her desire to try her hand at sculpting from clay. This current piece is just one of many pieces, one of which she was awarded a blue ribbon. Today along with sculpting she delves in staff and cane making along side of her husband Bernard, and continues with her love of porcelain doll making.

“My love of God and the talents he has gifted me inspired to do this clay sculpture of my idea of Jacob after having wrestled with a heavenly being all night long.”

Juanita Leedy is from Cottonwood, California

“Ceramic Pointillism Landscape”

Juanita Leedy loves and follows Jesus. She is a great grandmother and has been an artist for many years specializing in acrylic pointillism on ceramics and canvas. She specially enjoys painting the beauties of God’s natural creation. Widowed after 46 years, she recently remarried the love of her life, a writer who had been widowed after 53 years. Together in their retirement they are enjoying supporting each other in the pursuit of their artistic crafts.

Her submission was inspired by her love of the outdoors and God’s beautiful creation.

James Lee is from Atlanta Georgia

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”

I began my painting after the news of Ahmaud Arbery’s death. My own son, a runner, was living near Atlanta at the time and I felt his innocence and vulnerability.  Other disturbing social justice events ensued up to the death of George Floyd.  I was attempting to process what was going on and I chose to do so through the lens of history and through the lyrics of the song, “Lift Every Voice And Sing”. Symbolically depicting the disparities, gaps, & injustices African Americans continue to face.

Alexzine Campbell is from Windsor Mill, MD

“Mothers of Earth…Awaiting Birth”

Color pencil, gel pen drawing .

After 7 strokes, I’ve been focused on the goodness of living. I will be 72 years old in December, and through life’s ups and downs, I am grateful! From “seed” to soul…I won’t end. I’ll be replanted!

Aleathia Brown is from Bronx, NY

“Haint Strength Freedom”

Using a blend of Adinkra and Underground Railroad Symbols to make codes visual stories and using Haint Blu the color of Protection Africans used in South Carolina where My Family is from also tells a story of a journey from pain to resilience. The painting is on fabric a cotton/nylon blend also past and future evolution in the journey of our story. “Haint Strength Freedom” the title and the images used.


Abstract strokes of color and figures both spirit and silhouette depict our presence

Terra Cobb is from Chicago, IL

I am a new artist who just enrolled in art school for Graphic design. I am passionate about African art and I desire to create positive messages for positive change in the black community. My mission is to develop a brand that will inspire others to learn about our true identity and create new positive narratives with natural and Holistic approaches for our well-being. My painting represents the transcendence of women. Yes we want to look good on the outside, but keep your inside just as beautiful

Beverly Whiteside is from Columbus, Ohio

“Miles Ahead”

I was inspired by the unique sounds and innovations of Miles Davis, He was one of the most iconic musicians of the 20th century He never stopped innovating and made major stylistic shifts through out four decades. Bebop, Cool Jazz(1950’s) The Avante-Garde (1960’s), Fusion (1970’s). .Miles started covering for Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper.. I was blown away with the simplistic, yet complex motifs offered in his visual art as well.

Brenda Dulan Moore is from Chicago, IL

“Joyful Noise”

FEELING OF JOYOUS INSPIRATION THROUGH BLACK VOICES

Shawn Bushnell is from Metairie, Louisiana

“Becoming”

It’s my journey through life as a black female and the obstacles I’ve overcome.

Tiyee Rodriguez from Reeseville, WI

My submission was inspired by my own experience with pregnancy and motherhood. It is a self portrait and image of self reflection and confusion with my present body and mind. Motherhood can effect us in many ways but for myself I felt trapped and embarrassed in my own skin. Letting go of our past self and showing our new self acceptance is something I’ve struggled with so portraying it on paper is part of my healing. Done in charcoal and graphite.

Jeffery Oliver Beckham Jr. from Chicago, IL

“The Bridges Ruby Crossed”

In 2020, while my mother was in surgery at Mayo clinic, I decided to honor the living social justice heroes through art. Ruby Nell Bridges Hall is an American civil rights activist. She was the first black child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960. I painted this to share her story. This piece that has shipped to the MET and is on display at Brown University.

Isaic Pulliam from Beloit, WI

“Fractured Emotions”

Expressing emotions have been a struggle of mine my whole life, being a black man in America I feel that being able to showcase not just my emotions that I have built up through all these unfortunate events in recent history, but also represent everyone else’s emotions around me too. Through the years many people including me and my father have battled with discrimination. Creating this piece was to help people understand that letting emotions out is nothing to be afraid of. “Fractured Emotions” is a 36×48” charcoal piece that’s made up of 20 different pieces of paper that are manipulated by rips, stitched together by black thread. I was inspired to do this piece because during Covid-19 there were many events that took place and caused many different emotions to go through my body, but I had no way of expressing them other than art. I wanted these emotions to impact viewers to relate to this piece, to understand that it’s okay to express emotions, and to see that everyone goes through them at some point but it never has to be alone.

Terra Cobb from Chicago, IL

This is a painting of me and my husband. It is his 50th birthday and I wanted to represent us as a powerful black couple. He is incarcerated but we are strong 💪

Teresa Senn-Frakes from Rockford, IL

“a peaceful walk”

Oil 8×10 canvas board Bio: 60 yr old retired nurse Self taught artist Facebook: Teresa Frakes

Terrin Sharp from Chicago, IL

“Cliff Joseph”

I’m currently in Grad School receiving my Masters in Art Therapy. I wanted to look up former Art therapist from my cultural background for encouragement and Inspiration. Cliff Joseph is definitely and example of Black Excellence!

Cosette Richard from Green Bay, WI

Harriet”

Cordelia Ellis from Oak Creek, WI

Rest Day”

Sunsets are many times very colorful—they can be connected to peace or relaxation. For enslaved people, specifically for Africans enslaved in US during the 17th-19th centuries this may have never been something experienced. I painted this piece of work as protest of the enslavement of African people who never had a “rest day” to lay in the field amongst the fruits of their labor and allow their body to rest. It can be viewed as what their heaven might be like.

Comments (7)

I’m Inspired and motivated, by your heartfelt work, depicting the African American plight. Your creativity comes from the expressions of our ancestors souls that yearned the freedom, to speak through us, displaying our G’od given talents.

However, I am novelist of 4 great books. I’ve directed a short film of my 1st novel ” Matriarch.” Naz we free, what do…I-do? wmohammad78.Com

My husband did a painting of me he is in London soon as he arrives I shall send it
Especially Maryjohnsom08@gmail.com

Great! We’re looking forward to seeing it 🤗

What about NEW JERSEY?? And are all artistic medium allowed to enter??

Hi Suzette, because we are partnering with UMOJA magazine to sponsor this event and they are headquartered in Madison, WI, we had to keep it a more regional based contest. Thank you.

Please let me know when the next Artist Showcase is . I am a Professional Artist in Arkansas!

Okay Daphyne! We will! :)

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