Gabrielle Faisal, 9, won first place in the White House Historical Association’s National Student Art Competition by telling the story of African-Americans in her drawing.
The Detroit native’s art piece features a pair of shackled Black hands holding the White House between their palms. The American flag is drawn in the background.
“I was inspired to paint this picture because of the history I read and learned from my father. The White House is a symbol of America that was built by enslaved African-Americans,” Gabrielle said.
“When I think about the large hands holding The White House, the hands are symbolic of our people, collectively, our history,” Rashid Faisal told Fox 2 Detroit. “And you have the background with the flag, and that is the unifying factor for all of us as Americans. Black history is not just for African-American people, it is for all people.”
Gabrielle was competing with more than 500 students in her age range across the country. Their work was judged on its originality, interpretation, and historical relevancy. A panel of professionals was responsible for judging their work, including renowned portrait artist Simmie Knox.
The family knew Gabrielle made the 10 top finalists, but didn’t realize she won until they watched the competition’s announcement online.
“The red stripes symbolize our struggle for freedom,” Gabrielle said. “The white stripes symbolize the purity of our struggle. Blue is the symbol of justice for all people, no matter what color. The stars represent the unity of all people coming together. The shackled hands are the hands of enslaved Africans who built the White House.”
The young artist will receive a $1,000 cash prize. All finalists will have their work displayed in The White House’s visitors center through Sept. 22. Gabrielle’s family will be headed to Washington, D.C., in a few weeks to see hers.