Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
Upon viewing samples of her rendered portraits in acrylic – on her cell phone nonetheless – I was reminded of a class I taught at Malcolm X College in Chicago back in the day on Black Art History where the work of Harlem Renaissance artist Laura Wheeler Waring immediately came to mind.
Waring attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and exactly 100 years ago in 1914, she was awarded a scholarship to study for a year in Paris.
Her work reflects socially relevant rendering images of Black life as a primary artistic theme. Our YG&B talent this week mirrors in this writer’s view, a Waring “flair” as she cites on her resume a versioned objective to earn a degree in fine arts towards the goal of pursuing a career in visual merchandising. She is young, gifted and Black.
Saudia Simone Jones is a senior at Milwaukee High School of the Arts (MHSA) and already has created an impressive portfolio of her artistic skills.
In April of this year, Saudia won the regional ACT-SO Competition for painting thus qualifying her to compete on the national level.
In January of 2014, she won the Gold Key in the regional Scholastic Art and Writing Competition for painting.
The 16-year-old has additionally been frequently commissioned upon request from customers locally to sketch and paint family portraits. From February into July of 2013, she painted props and backgrounds for local plays, pageants and carnivals in her home town of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
Presently, she is a member of the MHSA’s mural club.
In this capacity, our youthful artist assist with art projects around the school and creates ideas for school wall decorations.
Her individual mural is proudly displayed on a second floor corridor wall installation.
Her favorite subjects are History, English, and Studio Art.
And in addition to reading, her favorite hobbies are, of course, drawing and painting.
“If I were to use one word to describe Saudia Jones, I don’t think I could,” says Susan Lamb, Saudia’s art teacher at MHSA.
In her class, Advanced Placement Studio Art, Lamb says of her student that she is, “creative, intelligent, personable, hardworking and an absolute pleasure to work with.”
The instructor adds that Saudia has a “passion” for her art and that she spends at least 3 hours in the art room each day.
“She has developed a beautiful style of painting with layers of vibrant colors and has already earned college credit twice through the Advance Placement Studio Art class by submitting a Drawing Portfolio and a 2D Portfolio. She is presently working on her 3D Portfolio.”
Lamb further submits that her talented student’s portfolios are “intense and rigorous” and to finish one portfolio in your high school career is great, but to do all three is rare,” she says.
The road to her senior year at MHSA was not a smooth path, however, but one challenged with family priorities and personal envisioned goals.
As of 2010, Saudia was living with her mom, dad, and brother in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
Her father is an anesthesiologist. And her mother, a secondary school teacher, had been stricken with diabetes and was in need of an organ transplant.
The family immediately placed her name on the waiting list at the transplant center which was located in Chicago.
So in order to be closer to the center, Saudia, her mom and brother moved to Milwaukee to stay with her grandmother with the father staying behind for his practice.
“The transition from St. Thomas to Wisconsin was drastic,” says the MHSA senior.
“My father had always been involved in my life, so all of a sudden, not to have him present was extremely difficult,” she adds.
Saudia further shares that her mother had always been the caretaker of her and her brother, “so to suddenly see her so weak and ill was also very difficult.”
Fortunately, the transplant process was successful and by the fall of 2011, her mother and brother were ready to move back to St. Thomas. Saudia, however, would not be returning with them.
“I was in the eighth grade at this time and if I was going to be living in Milwaukee, I needed to start applying to high schools,” she recalls.
“I have always been extremely interested in the visual arts, so I applied and auditioned to Milwaukee High School of the Arts and was very excited when I got accepted into the school.”
The then MHSA’s freshman to be was also excited with the news that her mom, brother and she would be moving back to St. Thomas in the fall of 2011 because she missed her dad and all of her close friends.
“But I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the opportunities that I would be missing out on by not attending this wonderful performing arts school where I would get to focus on my talent,” she says.
Upon speaking with her parents and explaining the reasons for wanting to stay in Milwaukee with her grandmother, they completely understood and in her words, “that it would be the best thing for me to do and they appreciated the fact that I took the initiative to apply to the school on my own.”
But the MHSA road traveled does not stop here. Saudia attended the Highland Avenue school for all of her freshman and just half of her sophomore year.
“I got extremely homesick and decided to move back to St. Thomas.
I was happy to be back living with my family.
But after spending a semester in St. Thomas at a regular high school, I realized that although I wanted to be in St. Thomas with my family, I needed to be at MHSA. So the summer of 2013, I moved back to Milwaukee and started back at MHSA.”
Milwaukee High School of the Arts principal Barry Applewhite says of Saudia that, “we are so happy to have her back here at MHSA.
Having made the sacrifices to return to Milwaukee from St. Thomas is above and beyond the normative reasons for selecting a school for your secondary level studies.”
Applewhite adds that she is a, “very quiet, deliberate and committed student who has made up her mind that she wanted to be a graduate of MHSA.
Her art work is just simply awesome and her second floor mural will stay on our walls for years to come.
We look forward to her future success and contributions in the field of the visual arts.”
Throughout her high school years, Saudia has maintained at 3.70 or higher GPA. And with her 23 cumulative ACT scoring, she was included on the listing of 27 area district seniors who qualified for this year’s annual Honors Student Reception (HSR) held in Chicago on Friday, October 10, 2014.
Sponsored by the Chicago Chapter of 100 Black Men, the HSR gathering is held yearly on the second Friday in October at the UIC Forum on the campus of the University of Illinois in conjunction with their public annual College Scholarship Fair the following Day.
This invitational is specifically designed for African American seniors who have a minimum grade point average of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale and a 23 or above cumulative scoring on the ACT exam. The purpose of this occasion is for seniors to explore opportunities to attract both college admission and scholarship prospects.
The 42 colleges and university representatives present are very much aware that on this Friday, they are speaking to top-of-the-line scholastically achieved African American students from the Chicago area.
Wisconsin is the only state outside of Illinois whose African American seniors are invited as a group to this exclusive event.
And it was through Saudia’s name on the district’s eligibility listing prepared by the MPS Team-Up College Access Center – North on West Fond Du Lac for this HSR occasion that YG&B was introduced to her talents.
As a result of our young artist joining ten other area seniors from such local schools as Ronald Reagan, Riverside University High School, the University School of Milwaukee, Milwaukee School of Languages, Divine Savior Holy Angeles and Nicolet High School, Saudia while at the HSR filled out an application to Hampton University and was accepted on the spot. Of the total eleven Milwaukee area students attending the October 10 HSR, nine of our seniors “on-the-spot” were accepted into Hampton; there were five who were awarded admissions into Tuskegee University, four into Monmouth College, four into Bennett College and one acceptance into Notre Dame.
“This experience was fantastic and I got a lot of information about different colleges and universities to which I am qualified to apply.
I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend this unique 100 Black Men sponsored invitational,” she says. Although she has been accepted into Bennett, Her sights, however, are on Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve always wanted to attend a HBCU and major in art and I have heard that Howard has an excellent Fine Arts program.”
And Saudia’s advice to other African American high school youth: “Take school seriously and develop a strong work ethic.
The habits that you form in your youthful high schools years, you may have with you forever.”