Back in February, Akilah Johnson was ”surprised and overwhelmed” when she found out that she was a national finalist in the “Doodle 4 Google” contest for elementary through high school students. Could you imagine how she feels now that she’s won?
Johnson, a sophomore at Eastern Senior High School in the Northeast quadrant of Washington DC, was named the big winner in the national contest which accepts entries from the 53 states and territories, pulling in approximately 100,000 student doodles.
“I was so excited, I started crying,” Akilah says. “I didn’t even look at anybody — I was just looking at the framed copy [of the Doodle] they gave me.”
Akilah is the first contest winner from Washington, because the District was not eligible to enter in the states-only competition in the past years.
The “Doodle 4 Google” contest follows a theme every year, and this year’s theme was “What makes me…me.” Johnson drew a box-braided Doodle and titled it “My Afrocentric Life” using color pencils, black crayons and Sharpie markers. The Doodle also includes symbols of black heritage and signs representing the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Although it felt like forever making this picture, it only took me about two weeks,” Johnson told the Washington Post. “I based this picture off my lifestyle. As a child, I attended Roots [Public Charter School] and Roots [Activity Learning Center], so I was raised in the ‘Afrocentric lifestyle.”
An art teacher, Zalika Perkins, urged Akilah to enter Google’s contest because she had faith that she’d do a good job.
Her only concern was that “I thought it was so culturally rich that I didn’t know if people would appreciate it.”
Besides being featured on Google’s home page, Akilah also receives a $30,000 college scholarship, and her high school witll be given a $50,000 Google for Education grant “towards the establishment and improvement of a computer lab or technology program.” She also gets the chance to meet with professional artists at Google’s headquarters. All she wants from her Doodle is for people to be inspired and “try to understand the picture as I want them to understand it.”
The contest’s celebrity judges included athletes Steph Curry and Alex Morgan, astronaut Yvonne Cagle, performers Julie Bowen and B.J. Novak, and animator Glen Keane who worked on Tangled.
Congratulations Akilah! We can’t wait to see what you do next.
(Photo Credit: Google / Akilah Johnson)