From UTEP for Black History Month: Resistance through Black joy


The Student and Engagement Leadership Center, Black Student Union, and Multi-Cultural Greek Council held “Call for Art!”, a showcase where African American/Black artists in the El Paso community submit art with the theme “Black joy.” Photo courtesy of Annel Mena

Elisha Nuñez, Staff Reporter

From drawings to sculptures to paintings, UTEP student organizations are ready to showcase the artistic talents of Black individuals in the community. A collaboration between the Student and Engagement Leadership Center, Black Student Union, and Multi-Cultural Greek Council, the event, “Call for Art!” is a showcase of art from African American/Black identifying artists not only at UTEP, but in El Paso community as well. 

“Something that we wanted to do throughout these months as a department is that we wanted to show(case) our students, not just academically, but also artistically, socially,” said Annel Mena, the coordinator of leadership, inclusion and advocacy at UTEP’s Student Engagement and Leadership Center. “We just wanted to offer various types of activities and organize programs throughout (Black History Month).  We just wanted to portray African American/Black identifying artists and give them that platform to display their art.” 

This year’s theme is also one that people may not be familiar with and highlights the positive details of being part of the Black community. 

The theme is using art to show off different forms of resistance through Black joy, which represents the unconditional love the Black community has for itself. “Black joy” emphasizes acts of joy that the Black community has and has not been able to express freely during social-political turmoil and dark times in our country’s history. It celebrates the achievements and identity of oneself, which can be honored by all people. 

“I find resistance specifically to be a really interesting word because, you know, resistance is not necessarily only a physical fight,” said Carolyne Ambrose, assistant to the director of the African American Studies Program at UTEP. “What I’ve come to realize is that it’s also a mental and spiritual fight. Resistance is a way also of paying homage to those who came before us. We have voices and they’re important, strong, powerful voices that must be heard. Some of the ways that we are heard is through painting, through sculpture, through poetry, through clothing, through hairstyles. That’s how I feel about the theme, this is just a way to be heard.” 

From paintings to puppets, many forms of art were submitted to the “Call for Art” and reflected the messages each artist was trying to convey.  

One such example is a patchwork puppet made by Anthony Stokes, an educator for the El Paso Independent School District. 

“Her name is Angeline. The message behind is that she’s the description of these remnants and memories and fragments of all of these ancestors who have been lost to us, and she’s like the remaining hope for them,” Stokes said. “That’s what she represents. She’s these patchwork pieces that are from different cultures, that are strongly inspired by a lot of African patchwork rag dolls. In a sense, it’s about what she collectively is together, all of these different aspects that make her unique.” 

The art pieces for this “Call for Art” will be exhibited at Union Gallery from Feb. 6 to Feb. 8. For more information visit Minetracker. 

Elisha Nunez may be reached at [email protected]