LARRY PONCHO BROWN
Ghana is a beautiful country but like most African countries you have 10% of the population that are rich and the rest struggle to make it. In the Ashanti Region you have many people living here from other regions. Most of these people came here for better opportunities, however, they find themselves living in sub-standard conditions with no running water, sanitation facilities, and no access to basic resources. In fact, their lives are not that much different from living in the rural villages, but they have hope. The public kindergarten to senior high schools is free, where the government provide and pay for the teachers and sporadically provide books. Most of the school buildings are falling apart since they haven’t been maintained since colonial days.
Bridge-To-Africa Connection, Inc. focuses on chang ing the lives of women and children. We partner with Africans and Blacks in the diaspora to work with groups and individuals to help the children have a better future. We have adopted 8 villages/towns in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. To date we have built a community clinic; a 10 block classroom for the New Kokobiriko Primary school; renovated two Primary Schools in Kwabre Heman; donated over 1,000 double and single seated desks; built and furnished two librar ies in Atasemanso and New Kokobiriko. We provide scholarships and funding to help 290+ children in the Ashanti Region. We focus on the academic and social well-being of the children, so at times we find ourselves supporting the entire family just to ensure that the child can go to school.
The children we serve are ages from 2-17 years. We will send our third set of 18 teenagers to senior high school this year, which is a major milestone because it would not happen without financial and emotional support. Most of the parents/guardians are hand laborers, petty
traders and hawkers making less than $2 per day. These students only hope for a better life is to get an educa tion. However, if you don't have nutritious meals or proper hygiene you cannot do well in school.
Its disheartening to see that some of these children have only one toothbrush per family; no feminine products to take care of themselves during their monthly cycle; no running water and toilet facilities. It’s quite shocking to see the lack of the items to take care of the basic needs. At first, we took these basic needs for granted but when you see that children are missing school due to lack of basic hygiene and sani tary products; we have to step in and help. In addition to school supplies, we build libraries, pay school levies, host breakfast programs, buy lunch for those who don’t have a school feeding program, and at times we find ourselves taking care of the whole person because during emergencies like Covid-19 we give food to the entire family.
The basic cost to help a child stay in school is the equivalent of $100 for the year which includes 3 school semesters. The fund usage is mostly as follows: Purchase uniforms for regular school, Friday wear and PE. Purchase textbooks and exercise books. Sometimes we have to purchase school desks to avoid the children sitting on the floor to learn. At times children need transportation, food, school shoes school supplies, hygiene products and other items as the need arise.
The needs of these economically poor children are many, but they are grateful and whatever amount our donors can donate is appreciated. No amount is too small and any amount you give will go directly to sup port the children. The children in Ghana are happy and loving and your support will not be in vain!-Madam Adwoa Dawn Sutherland
Iwas invited to Kumasi, Ghana for an artist residency by Madam Adwoa Dawn Sutherland, who transplanted from Los Angeles to Ghana after her retirement in May of 2015. She started a non-profit organization by the name of Bridge-ToAfrica Connection, Inc., which was dedicated to empowering women and children through education. Since her involvement with this nonprofit, she assures that around 290+ children have school fees and supplies available to them to continue their education. She is a real advocate for social change through education in Kumasi. Moreover, she's an advocate for changing the trajectory of the expectation of women, specifically young women, and girls in African society. I was invited with another artist Carren Clarke, to stimulate and revive the visual art scene in Kumasi. Ms. Sutherland invited us to participate in a five-week residency where we got to stay on her compound, which gave us an opportunity to interact with some of the children in her program. I also was also charged with the task of working with a group of young artists at the Ghana National Cultural Center, which I dedicated most of my five weeks to while in the process, adopting them for future support. My inspiration for these portraits came when I experienced firsthand the influence Ms. Sutherland had over these girls and the pride, she was instilling in them.
I wanted to capture what I saw was an aspect of pride that I had not seen in many African children. I began taking photographs with my iPad of some of the children with the intention of later doing sketches or some other art project with them when I returned to the states. Taking advantage of technology, I took a few photos of them with my iPad which gave them an immediate chance to see themselves. I was surprised by the reaction to seeing themselves on the screen of my large iPad and wondered what it would be like if I
was able to transfer those images into actual works of art. I began creating digital paintings using a program called Procreate, which allowed me to transform their photographs into digital illustrations. This process was a quicker method for me to show the children another version of themselves that I may not have been able to do with regular drawing within the same timeframe.
And just as their expressions exploded when seeing themselves in a photograph on my iPad, there was yet another level of excitement to see a fully rendered image of themselves. Many of them were speechless, but all of them had smiles on their faces when they saw the image of them. In most cases, this was probably the first time any of them have actually seen a rendering of them in their lifetime.
My role and goal of working with these children was to number one, talk more about African pride. To talk more about our African traditions in history, explain the African American experience versus their experience and remind them of their genius and beauty. My life was changed forever because it was the first time, I utilized current technology to assist me with expressing something with immediacy, which I could share with the children. And I think the byproduct of that was a level of pride that I don't think any of these children will ever forget.
Initially, I had no goal for creating these images, but I did have the motivation/inspiration to do as many renderings as I could. I never imagined that I would amass 40+ images of these children, but in the process, I was also able to create 40 sets of individual expressions of pride. I believe these children will have an open opportunity to progress and prosper. Evolution is taking place all over the world and I believe that the lessons these young ladies receive will forever govern their path with future decisions.-Larry Poncho Brown
"Sometimes we might not know what impact we have on the lives of our young people but knowing that we touch
"Poncho’s art of the children uplifted the visions of Black Beauty to show the spirits of the children where, when they saw themselves in photos, their confidence soared."
- Dawn Sutherland
Larry Poncho Brown is a native of Baltimore, MD. Poncho received his Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in graphic design and photography from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD. His art, both fine and commercial, has been published nationally in Upscale, Ebony, Ebony Man, Essence, and Jet magazines. His art is featured in the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History book entitled “Wrapped In Pride” and “Connecting People With Art”. His popular works have been prominently featured on several TV shows including “A Different World”, “In The House”, “The Wire”, “The Carmichael Show”, “Star”, and “Greenleaf”. Movies featuring his art include “Avalon”, “He Said, She Said”, and “Soulfood”.
His work adorns the walls of the likes of Bill Cosby, Dick Gregory, Anita Baker, Susan Taylor, Ed Gordon and Bernard Bronner just to name a few. His original works are in the corporate and institutional collections of Coppin State University, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the District of Columbia Superior Courts, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Yale New Haven Health Park Avenue Medical Center.
He was one of many artists often referenced as “The Popular Artists” who gained national recognition during “The Cosby Show” era, and found commercial success between 1985-2000 during a period known as “The Golden Age of African American Art”, by making their art accessible to the masses through
direct participation in community art and cultural festivals, foregoing the traditional artist arrangement of artist representation, gallery representation, and art publisher distribution. At the height of this era his works were sold in 3000 galleries across the country, and on the walls of nearly 500,000 homes.
His art, both fine and commercial, has been published nationally in Art Trends, U.S. Art Gallery, Images, Upscale, Ebony, Ebony Man, Essence, and Jet Magazines.
In pursuing his philanthropic goals, he founded “Raising The Arts” which provides fundraising opportunities for non-profit organizations. He has created over 70 images for such organizations over the past three decades. Poncho was awarded “Artist of the Year” by the African American Visual Arts Association in 2000, the “Heritage Arts Festival Palette Award” in 2003, and the “Save the Arts Award” as Museum’s Choice in 2010, and “The Jan Spivey Gilchrist Visual Arts Award” in 2013.
“The African American art realm has been pressing onward because of the positive images that have become a narrative of our perseverance. My works attempt to capture SOUL while purposely depicting positive representations of African American culture. Art and imagery are the strongest forms to challenge the perceptions of African Americans in our society.”— Larry Poncho Brown