A Symphony of Colors and Community at North Shore Juneteenth Association’s Black History Paint Workshop

By Ryan Robinson

As you stepped into the vibrant halls of 25 Exchange Street on February 17, 2024, you were immediately enveloped in a cacophony of warm welcomes and offers of pizza slices. Right next to the age-old wooden staircase, the 5th Annual Black History Paint Workshop unfolded—a beacon of creativity and unity. This community paint night, brimming with paint sets, light-hearted conversations, and friendly faces, beckoned people from across Lynn to celebrate Black History Month by painting the Juneteenth flag, a potent symbol of freedom and community cohesion.

A Mosaic of Participants

The event was a microcosm of society itself, with teenagers donning “Aaliyah: Princess of RnB” shirts painting in contemplative silence, retirees eagerly participating, and young children weaving around their parents in the erratic dance unique to toddlers. Amidst this diversity, North Shore Juneteenth Association members, Erica Seals, Janey David, and Nicole McClain oversaw the bustling room, a testament to the event’s flawless organization and the support from entities like the Lynn Cultural Council.

Nicole McClain: A Spectrum of Influence

At the heart of the evening stood councilwoman Nicole McClain, a living mosaic of experiences as a veteran, councilwoman, and first and foremost, a mother. She addressed the gathered crowd, sharing the profound history of Juneteenth—a celebration of emancipation that came two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. In Nicole’s narrative, the past was a mirror reflecting her own battles for freedom and representation, her service in the military underscoring a commitment to community and advocacy.

Becoming the first black woman elected to Lynn’s council, Nicole personified black history. Her journey from the military to municipal governance illustrated the power of representation, setting a precedent for a new era in Lynn where diversity in leadership is not just seen but expected.

Beyond Titles: The Essence of Motherhood

But beneath her public roles, Nicole’s essence as a mother shone brightest. Her interactions, whether with parents, toddlers, or volunteers, radiated the inclusivity and care characteristic of maternal love. As she moved through the room, her half-eaten plate of food abandoned, her actions echoed the global narrative of women’s invaluable yet often unrecognized contributions to caregiving and community nurturing.

A United Front of Volunteers and Visionaries

Nicole’s mission to unite Lynn’s community was supported by a diverse coalition of volunteers, among them, special guest Ryan Robinson. An MIT alumnus with a groundbreaking background as the world’s first quantum engineer and one of the youngest professors in history at age 28, shared Nicole’s commitment to public service, Ryan shared insights into Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life, connecting the dots between art, science, and community. This narrative arc, from Nicole’s leadership to Ryan’s innovations and Basquiat’s artistic legacy, highlighted the multifaceted contributions of Black individuals to history and contemporary society.

Wendy Ekole: Crafting
Histories with Every Stroke

As the event wound down, paint instructor Wendy Ekole emerged as a conduit between past and present, guiding attendees in translating their reflections on history into vibrant artworks. Her presence reinforced the workshop’s core message: art is a powerful medium for exploring and expressing our shared histories.

Ebonique Stepney: A Voice for Wellness and Creativity

In a heartfelt finale, Ebonique Stepney, artist and Creative Art Director at Conduit, shared resources for mental wellness, emphasizing the role of creativity and positive affirmations in fostering community health. Her message, delivered amid the backdrop of a successful workshop, underscored the importance of mental health awareness and support within the fabric of community engagement as she outlined Conduit’s latest mental health app, Chummy, which supports users’ mental health by providing affirmations throughout the users’ days.

The Last Drop of Color

As the music faded and the vibrant echoes of our gathering began to quiet, the departure of each attendee, marked by smiles and mutual respect, painted a vivid tableau of unity in diversity. The slow procession of diverse skin tones and ethnic backgrounds into the Lynn night was a testament to the universal appeal of culture and heritage. It’s clear that the appreciation of black art, the acknowledgment of black scientists, politicians, and historical figures transcends racial and ethnic boundaries, enriching us all. The celebration of Black History at our workshop was a celebration of humanity itself—our art, curiosity, and expression.

The volunteers’ act of gathering the remnants of the day—the brown pizza boxes, the white cupcake liners, and the colorful candy wrappers—into black trash bags, mirrored the profound lesson of our workshop. Like the myriad colors blending into black, we saw how ‘black’ brought together the diverse spectrum of humanity. It wasn’t just about creating a rainbow of colors but about recognizing that, in unity, we discover a depth and richness akin to black—the sum of all. As the last person left and the volunteers waved goodbye, the Lynn Art building stood as a silent witness to the fact that celebrating Black History Month transcends celebrating a singular heritage; it is a celebration of all our heritages combined. Beneath the superficial layers of race lies a shared joy and laughter over warm pizza—a simple yet profound testament to universal love, the joy of creation, and the communal spirit of sharing a meal. Indeed, as the evening concluded, it was evident that our collective endeavor had made the world a more connected and understanding place.

In blending the vivid hues of diverse backgrounds, the Black History paint workshop in Lynn transcends mere artistic endeavor; it becomes a vibrant tapestry of community, education, and celebration. This event—now a cherished annual tradition—stands as a testament to Lynn’s commitment to fostering an inclusive community where every color, every story, and every brushstroke contributes to a richer, more unified whole

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