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Hunted Like Fair Game

Artist displays plight of Black young men

Diane Xavier | 8/23/2013, 7:15 a.m. | Updated on 8/26/2013, 12:25 a.m.

The Dallas Examiner

Like many African American mothers, Shanequa Gay was concerned about the not guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. But what concerned her more was the effect the case would have on the African American community, especially young Black males.

As a mother to a 13-year-old boy, Gay knew she had to do something. She is an Atlanta-based artist whose works have been shown all across the country. She decided to use her artwork to spark conversation about the plight of young African American males and their struggles.

Her artwork was recently featured as a hostess gift at the First Lady’s Luncheon held at the White House in May. It is currently being featured at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanoga, Tenn., until the end of August. Her art is part of private collections, such as that of actor Samuel L. Jackson and nationally celebrated event designer Preston Bailey.

As a female and a minority, Gay expressed that – despite her recent successes – her vocation as an artist can be challenging at times, but that will not bring her down.

“In art museums today, 10 to 15 percent of their collections are from minorities and women,” she stated. “Despite this, my gift as an artist is my gift and I love it. Art for me is speaking without saying anything. That’s the coolest thing ever is to speak to people without ever saying a word like a picture does. Use your voice and use your gifts to advocate change. My artwork is my footprint. There is nothing more beautiful than what you imagine come alive through art.”

Gay currently has two touring art exhibits: Gals, Grits and Glory, a tribute to Southern Black women and The Fair Game Project, which depicts the adversities of African American teenagers.

The Fair Game Project is probably her most passionate and thought-provoking work. The inspiration behind the artwork is her son, but also the violence in Chicago – in particular that of Black males, along with the deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida; Troy Davis, Bobby Tillman and Ariston Waiters in Georgia; and FAMU drum major Robert Champion, according to Gay.

“For me, I see where African American males are falling by the wayside or they’re kind of unseen,” Gay said. “I think we need to do something about it. I called it The Fair Game Project because I feel like African American males are being hunted like fair game – whether it be on themselves or society, through self-inflicted genocide and fatherless households. I just feel like they are kind of in this state of endangered species.”

Gay has also worked in the education field through AmeriCorps in South Atlanta High School in Georgia where she had an opportunity to work with several African American males who were considered at-risk youth.

“In doing that, I realized and became concerned with African American males and the struggles they went through,” she said. “But also because I am a mother of an African American male and just seeing that continuous headline news in what happens daily in the inner-city and with the prison system a lot of things began to concern me. And so two years ago I decided to step outside what I normally paint and bring awareness to my art piece and in my art on behalf of what I felt was important for me to speak on.”