As the last week of Black History Month wraps up, one Twitter user is using this opportunity to highlight the best Black artists from around the world.
Annabell Hayford, whose preferred name is Abelle, is a first-generation Ghanian American studying animation and illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art. On Thursday, they resurfaced the hashtag #DrawingWhileBlack.
Hi everyone! I’m abelle🌟 and I’m an illustrator and lead organizer of #drawingwhileblack ! Thank you guys so much for support this hashtag and movement #BlackHistoryMonth ✌🏿 pic.twitter.com/vBBCxKpNcY— Abelle✨ (@abellehayford) February 27, 2020
The hashtag, which has become a driving force to bringing exposure to Black artists on social media, became popular back in 2017. The agender artist and Virginia Beach native tweeted a series of pictures showcasing their talent while encouraging others to do the same.
"Starting a hashtag event to celebrate and appreciate Black artists this weekend," the 21-year-old tweeted.
A Twitter account was subsequently created, providing a space for Black artists alike to show up and show out.
Art Thread ✨ Reply to this tweet with the art piece you’re most proud of! 🎨💗— DrawingWhileBlack (@theblackartists) October 3, 2017
Black artists immediately began to reply to the original tweet with examples of their work.
Now, artists have since taken the relaunch of the hashtag as an opportunity to tweet out their work.
#drawingwhileblack— 💖 Space gay-Unit 23 💖 (@Petalromance) February 27, 2020
Hello my name is Dominique!
I’m an illustrator and comics artist in Atlanta. All of my work focuses on queer POC and their stories wether it be drama, romance or adventure https://t.co/baeS3uC9Pnhttps://t.co/NCqNnP4PST pic.twitter.com/zCf8fpJARG
Hey!! #DrawingWhileBlack— ♡umaimah♡ (@ColouredBraids) February 27, 2020
I’m an animation student with a love for colors, character and prop design! 🌸🌸I’m graduating in August 2020 and would love to start working in the industry🌸🌸
Portfolio- https://t.co/c3hUXOjwno pic.twitter.com/N3RwGNZSBJ
Hey #drawingwhileblack! 🤠✨— VΛYΣ 🏳️🌈 (@Mudavaye) February 27, 2020
I’m Mudavaye, an animation student from the UK, and I draw/animate my characters a LOT
✦ Animation Blog: https://t.co/0AXtN9mRrb
✦ https://t.co/yqKqCNsKiU pic.twitter.com/eQ4SqkCWoi
hey hi #drawingwhileblack— 🦔💨✨ (@btrcp_) February 27, 2020
im buttercup 🌼 // DMV area illustrator & sequential artist // author of #umcomic // MCU supernerd // sonic superfan // member of @theartdivinity // open for commissions & freelance work
🔗 https://t.co/SCOkusHfAX pic.twitter.com/SxTDdTRVwi
hiya #drawingwhileblack ! 🤙🏽⚘✨— céli 💕 (@pianta_) February 27, 2020 February 27, 2020
im céli ⭐ im a dutch/afro-caribbean illustrator, character designer & graphic design graduate - available for work! im inspired by things that are kind and soft 💕
💌 email@example.com pic.twitter.com/wNTi360Tmu
With the return of the hashtag, Hayford hopes to ignite other Black artists into showcasing and promoting their artwork.
"We just need visibility and recognition for our skills. That why I started #DrawingWhileBlack in 2017, to highlight and boost the amazing Black artists I saw on social media. I also wanted to help build a community with other Black artists and celebrate and share resources with each other!" Hayford told Blavity on Thursday.
"There are so many talented Black artists not just in the United States but around the world that are finally being recognized for their amazing abilities thanks to social media," they continued.
Hayford said their biggest struggle growing up was finding Black representation in the art world and that digital media has now prompted the rising of a "digital Black renaissance."
Despite their genuine efforts to bring recognition to Black artists, critics said Hayford's efforts were discriminatory.
"Of course there was backlash from others who felt that race has nothing to do with art," they said back in 2017. "But those people need to realize that art isn't in a vacuum. Your experiences affect your work and career, and that includes race."
Hayford's efforts continue to expand with a #DrawingWhileBlack directory for artists to add their information and portfolios for networking purposes. They said the document is a great resource to connect talented artists to people looking to hire someone in the areas of animation, graphic and game design, painting and fine arts.
"We finally are able to have a platform because we have the tools to build one for ourselves. I hope #DrawingWhileBlack continue to encourage the Black artists and community to make incredible works!" Hayford said.
The artist, who primarily focuses on lifestyle illustration, specifically Black fashion and culture, said they also enjoy exploring more personal topics like mental health, nostalgia and self-acceptance in their work.
After graduation, Hayford plans to relocate to Los Angeles, California, to chase her dreams of being an animation artist and continue to inspire others.
"My biggest goal with my art is of course to inspire others in any possible way! I want to create stories and characters that resonate with others, especially those who are often marginalized or feel unrepresented. I also want to make my family proud and show them that they made the right decision in supporting me pursuing a career in art," they said.