Why Today’s Google Doodle Is So Special
Arantza Peña Popo of Lithonia, Ga., is the winner of the National Doodle for Google contest, for her doodle titled, “Once You Get It, Give It Back.” It is as beautiful as it is inspiring.
In her words, the Doodle depicts “a framed picture of my mother carrying me as a baby (a real picture in my house) and below the picture is me, caring for her when she’s older in the future.” It was about honoring all that her mother did to make her life possible, she says. “She’s made too many sacrifices for me.”
The Georgia teen loves making art but had been feeling blocked of late. “I came up with the idea at the last minute, actually the day of the deadline,” she told CNET. “I looked at the photograph of my mother (the real version that inspired the drawing) and thought, ‘Hey, why don’t I reverse it?’ I wanted to focus more on a message of helping out my awesome mother more than anything else.”
While Google Doodles typically commemorate famous people or events, this year’s theme of “When I grow up, I hope…” evoked a different mood.
Popo’s win was announced on Jimmy Fallon’s show last night, and the host revealed he helped judge the award. “I loved yours—I looked [at] a lot of great doodles, I guess, but honestly it is just beautiful art,” he said.
He’s right, it is.
And now Popo and her cherished mom are the two most famous people from Lithonia, Ga., a majority-black community of about 2,400 people. They all seem to be stuck right in the middle of the middle class: Median income is $30,000 and growing a bit, and property values are $76,000 and declining a bit. Popo was this year’s valedictorian at Arabia Mountain High School in DeKalb County, the local magnet high school. Part of her prize includes a $50,000 tech grant for her school and a $30,000 scholarship for her. She plans to attend the University of Southern California next year.
With Popo’s win, she also joins a long line of women of color who have publicly declared that “giving it back” is not only their obligation but the key to a better world.
For most, it’s life and death work.
So, when she grows up, I hope that the mortality rate for black mothers in Georgia won’t be among the worst in the nation. When she grows up, I hope that financial institutions will have abandoned their redlining and discriminatory practices, which Reuters finds are particularly egregious in primarily black neighborhoods. When she grows up, I hope she will find that her vote is counted and her voice is welcome. When she grows up, I hope she is not just “a business case” for an employer with a spotty diversity record.
And when she grows up, I hope she can show her Doodle to a child she cares about and say, “This is how it started for me. Now imagine what you can do.”
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Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.
“I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.”
—Maya Angelou, from Mom & Me & Mom