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Why The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival Poster Is Not Racist

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Point Park chapter.

In the news right now there is a huge controversy going on about a poster that advertises the 44th annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival in Louisiana.

The poster was painted by artist Kalle’ Siekkinen, who is known for his portrayal of African-Americans. To be completely honest, I originally refused to click on the news story on Facebook, mainly because I didn’t want to be disgusted by someone showing their racism to the world. But I am so glad that I did, because the only artwork I saw was that of a beautiful portrayal of two African-American children. Two little children holding strawberries, the little girl in a white dress with a pink ribbon on it and a red ribbon in her hair. The little boy in an all-white outfit. How is this racist?

The NAACP made it a point to get the poster banned from the festival, but why? As an African-American and Puerto Rican woman I find this art to be beautiful, not racist. Is it because the artist is a white man? Isn’t art supposed to be what inspires you? Siekkine was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, isn’t he just paying homage to the people who live there, the people he encounters? Isn’t he just showing his creativity? Isn’t he just showing beauty that doesn’t get knowledge in the mainstream art world?

This painting reminds me of these figurines my grandmother had in her living room. They were African-Americans in pretty dresses and I would play with these and admire the beauty of my culture. Is it wrong for another race to admire the beauty of the African-American culture? No. We should expect this from more people, we should encourage this from more people.

We live in a world that is so full of hate and racism, that when beauty comes in our lives we can’t see it because we are tarnished by the hate we see every day. I would love to own this piece of art, and I would be honored to have it in my home. We have to stop looking for bad things, those come to us anyway. We have to start not seeing hate, but seeing love and beauty.