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Miami Proud: Award-Winning Artist, Coral Reef High School Senior Jalynn McDuffey Inspired By 'African American Life'

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Jalynn McDuffey, a senior at Coral Reef High School, is an award-winning mix-media artist who says she draws her inspiration from African American life, both past, and present.

McDuffey has been recognized as one of the 2021 Youngarts Award winners from across the country. She has also earned a coveted spot as a candidate in the United States Presidential Scholars Program.

McDuffey spoke exclusively to CBS4 about how her art centers on African American heritage, its history, and struggles.

"My work focuses on Black voices and Black stories of people who grew up in South Florida," she said.

She talked about where she finds inspiration for her art.

"In around 9th or 10th grade, we were given a project to paint a portrait of a family member. So, I asked my grandmother, 'do you have any pictures?' And she told me all the stories of growing up in Perrine and Richmond Heights since she was little, and how all the generations of the family were living in a house together," McDuffey added.

"I started really looking into the history of not only what my family and friends had gone through, but researching the significance of certain things, that we do every day, as Black people and the weight that comes from either from slavery or from Africa or just things that have built up over time."

McDuffey talked about what inspired her first piece.

"For my first piece, I printed out news articles on the Black Lives Matter movement and Black history, laid down glue, and slammed the pages on there around in a collage. Then, I covered it in white paint, and in the end, it just came together. It's representative of all young Black men across America who were killed due to police brutality."

She said that the process has been emotional and that it has helped her deal with turmoil.

"It's really emotionally revealing for me, especially because I don't see these people as just another lives lost. The contrast from the background in my portraits helps me deal with that emotion and the turmoil that comes with these different cases."

McDuffey talked about her most recent pieces. Everything from hair to slavery and boys in sports.

"One piece is called Dreadful. It's about reclaiming our natural hair, wearing braids, twists and afros, and just being proud of how our hair grows naturally out of our heads. Another is called Jordan. It's a history of the trauma of slavery and the slave trade. I put in text the history of cargo ships and how they were designed. Another piece is about young Black boys in sports."

The emerging artist talked about how the YoungArts Award and the Presidential Scholars opportunities came about.

"My art teacher this year decided to push us to apply for the young arts program. It's a scholarship and art program. I feel very proud to be chosen for this amazing accomplishment. I never really saw myself as an artist or really anyone that really stood out. So, to be chosen out of nowhere to be chosen as a finalist for Presidential Scholar just shows me how much potential and how much more that I can do."

Finally, McDuffey talked about what she wants her art to convey.

"I want the viewer to really see that Black people aren't just a skin type or anything you see on the news on TV. That no matter how we are portrayed in the media, we are real living people with family and histories and loved ones."

"Our history and everything we have gone through is only a piece of who we are. It's a very important piece and it needs to be acknowledged."

You can follow Jalynn's work on Instagram @jalynnmcart

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