Akilah Johnson, a sophomore at Eastern Senior High School in Northeast Washington, was named Google’s big winner in the national contest, topping the 53 state and territory champions, culled from about 100,000 student entries.
This year’s contest theme was: “What makes me…me.”
Akilah drew a box-braided Doodle titled “My Afrocentric Life,” using color pencils, black crayons and Sharpie markers. The Doodle includes symbols of black heritage and signs representing the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Of all the things I chose to include,” Akilah writes on Google’s site, “the six most special to me are the Symbol of Life (the ankh), the African continent, where everything began for me and my ancestors, the Eye of Horus, the word ‘power’ drawn in black, the woman’s fist based on one of my favorite artist’s works, and the D.C. flag — because I’m a Washingtonian at heart and I love my city with everything in me!”
As a child, Akilah attended Roots Public Charter School and Roots Activity Learning Center in Northwest Washington which provides a culturally relevant curriculum with an aim to serve the specific needs of children with African Heritage.
Besides seeing her work spotlighted on Google’s home page, Akilah will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, and her high school will be awarded a $50,000 Google for Education grant “towards the establishment and improvement of a computer lab or technology program.” She also will get to meet with professional artists at Google’s headquarters.
Her inspiration for the doodle, she says, came from the quote: “Be the type of person that not only turns heads, but turns souls.”
And what does Akilah hope that the home page’s millions of viewers will take away from viewing her Doodle? “I hope they feel 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 (“Tangled”).