Baring narratives that elucidate the importance of African American history and civil rights has been a life passion for critically acclaimed, multicultural visual artist Synthia Saint James.
Whether revealing the story of the only hospital to treat Black patients during the 1800s or bringing awareness to the needs of children in Haiti, Saint James uses her craft to lend voice to unheeded disparities and to convey messages that evoke change.
Indeed, a change has come 50 years after the 1963 March on Washington when more than 250 thousand people marched for jobs, freedom and equality.
In honor of that pivotal day and Dr. King’s historic speech, Saint James completed what she says is one of her most important pieces of work to date – a painting titled “The Dream,” inspired by the words embedded in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech. Saint James says she drew most inspiration from Dr. King’s words that foretold how little children, both Black and White, would one day “walk together as sisters and brothers.”
Equally as motivating to Saint James were Dr. King’s words that signaled how men and women of different religions would unite for one cause and “sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last!”
Saint James acknowledges her initial intention was to include a choir director but that most people consider the director to be Dr. King.
“I’m going to leave it up to the people, because he could very well be directing the choir,” said Saint James. “It seems to me like a good emphasis is on song and rejoicing. So that’s why I thought it should feel and look a lot like a choir, and the children on the front coming toward you, is now in the future.”
In an interview with Saint James weeks before the 50th anniversary of the march, it inexplicably appeared that people were going about their daily lives, planning other activities as if the anniversary march was not taking place. What has happened to the spirit of a people who were once so passionate they were willing to risk their lives fighting for justice? Saint James is optimistic that her painting will make a difference.
“My hope is that this painting brings that together because I painted it for us all to celebrate,” said Saint James. “This is coming from the heart and I feel like this is one of my most important paintings because it’s celebrating that speech. I can so much remember the anxiousness and somewhat anxiety that I was feeling 50 years ago.”
The official unveiling of “The Dream” will be held before the California State Assembly at the State Capitol Building in Sacramento, California on August 29, 2013. California Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown arranged for Saint James’ work to be recognized.
“The Dream” is released as Limited Edition Prints and a Limited Edition Giclees on Canvas. This is Saint James’ first major effort to bring awareness to a single event. Until now she has been busy working on raising money for orphaned children of Haiti, in conjunction with the non-profit group Child of Haiti (www.childofhaiti.org).
Since 2012, she’s completed a series of 14 painting about Haitian life and culture, and plans to keep Haiti at the forefront of her fundraising efforts.
“My mission is to share the rich culture and beauty of the island and the people, which has been overshadowed by all the bad news that we only hear,” said Saint James.
Exemplifying Dr. King’s mantra on service to others through donations of her work, Saint James says she believes people will identify themselves in some way through “The Dream” and become reeducated on Dr. King’s contributions.
Synthia Saint James is a world renowned multicultural visual artist, an award winning author and or illustrator of 17 children’s books, and author of an autobiographical art marketing book, three poetry books, a book of affirmations and a cookbook. She is most celebrated for designing the first Kwanzaa stamp for the United States Postal Service in 1997, for which she received a History Maker Award, and for the international cover art for Terry McMillan’s book “Waiting to Exhale.” Her artwork has been featured internationally in several embassies in the Art in Embassies Program since the 1990s.