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Why Today’s Google Doodle Is So Special

August 13, 2019, 7:18 PM UTC

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.”

On Point

Openly gay candidate runs for president in Tunisia It’s a first for the entire Arab world. Mounir Baatour is a lawyer at Tunisia’s highest court, and considers himself a champion for LGTBQ rights. But his candidacy is being met with mixed support; some 18 LGBTQ advocacy groups signed a petition stating that his participation in the election would pose a danger to them and their work. Baatour is a founder of a group that lobbies against Tunisia’s criminalization of gay sex, and has been jailed in the past on a sodomy charge, which he denies. "The fact that I'm gay doesn't change anything. It's a candidacy like all the others," Baatour told AFP. "I have an economic, social, cultural, and educational program for everything that affects Tunisians in their daily lives.” France24

Versace forced to apologize to China over t-shirt The t-shirt in question listed the names of cities and countries where the Versace brand lives, like Milan, Italy, or Beverly Hills, U.S. But Hong Kong was matched with Hong Kong, and Macau with Macao, when both are technically part of China. The outrage was immediate, forcing Versace to apologize, pull the shirts off the market, and destroy whatever was left in inventory. They also lost their brand ambassador, the actress Yang Mi. Click through to read their incredibly thorough note of apology. Quartz

Please put some respect on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s name My colleague Stacey Wilson Hunt correctly points out that in all the well-deserved praise for the Oscar-winning Moonlight, Tarell Alvin McCraney, the man who wrote the play that the film was based on, has gotten little limelight of his own. Until now. His new series, his first foray as a series creator, debuts on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on Aug 14. David Makes Man follows a 14-year-old prodigy from the South Florida projects named David, who attends a magnet school. In this wonderful interview, McCraney, who runs the Yale School of Drama’s playwriting program (oh yes he does), talks about the similarities between the show and Moonlight, and meeting Oprah when she buzzed by his pitch meeting at OWN. “I said, ‘Hello Miss Oprah’ and tried to shake her hand. She pushed my hand away and gave me a great big hug,” he tells FortuneFortune

Simone Biles to USA Gymnastics: 'You had one job' Biles is an athletic marvel, and videos of her tumbling through the air and breaking records never disappoint. But the four-time Olympic gold medalist showed her leadership chops recently, as she delivered a strong rebuke, through tears, to the USA Gymnastics organization at the 2019 U.S National Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City. The 22-year-old revealed in January that she had been abused by the team’s doctor, Larry Nasser, and now still feels uncomfortable getting the treatment she needs. "You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us," she said. "It’s hard coming here for an organization, having had them fail us so many times, we had one goal, we have done everything that they asked us for, even when we didn’t want to and they couldn’t do one damn job." Olympic Channel

On Background

Today’s must read: 'The Great Land Robbery' This extraordinary piece begins with the writer, Vann R. Newkirk, chopping cotton on a black-owned family farm outside Ruleville, in Mississippi’s Leflore County.  But the story quickly digs deeply into a shocking reality: The crimes of Jim Crow still live on in the real estate portfolios of Wall Street titans like TIAA. "A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98% of black agricultural landowners in America," he writes, some 12 million acres owned by a million black families in the last century. "Unlike their counterparts even two or three generations ago, black people living and working in the Delta today have been almost completely uprooted from the soil—as property owners, if not as laborers." The Atlantic

Stacey Abrams is fighting for the vote Abrams is a marvel: The nearly successful Georgia gubernatorial candidate is also a tax attorney, a romance novelist, a former state representative, and a personal finance advocate. But she also knows firsthand about the voter suppression tactics that continue to prevent growing numbers of citizens of color from getting their votes counted. In this extraordinary profile, you’ll learn exactly what you need to know to understand the unique entanglements of Georgia politics, but also what makes Abrams so extraordinary. She’s created not one but two voter expansion organizations and based her campaign on an unprecedented voter registration strategy. "I think where the Democratic Party has gotten into trouble is that we’ve created a binary, where it’s either the normative voter we remember fondly from 1960 or it’s the hodgepodge. The reality is that we are capable as a society of having multiple thoughts at the same time." The New Yorker

A gym where everyone feels welcome Imagine a gym for everybody: gender-neutral locker rooms, unintimidating work out spaces, sliding-scale membership fees, Spanish language instruction, subtle accommodations for people with physical limitations. This is the vision of Everybody, a gym in Los Angeles that aims to take the aggression out of fitness. “In most gyms, there is this nauseating sense of upper class, white, heterosexual energy that is not welcoming for a lot of people,” says co-founder Sam Rypinski. “We are hoping to be an antidote to that.” Allure

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