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Students, UAB artists collaborate on shoe designs for Growing Kings fundraiser

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Yeldray Perkins works on her design for Chucks & Tux. Perkins said her design inspiration was Africa. Both of her parents are from West Africa. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Yeldray Perkins works on her design for Chucks & Tux. Perkins said her design inspiration was Africa. Both of her parents are from West Africa. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)
Yeldray Perkins works on her design for Chucks & Tux. Perkins said her design inspiration was Africa. Both of her parents are from West Africa. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

Shea Washington, a senior at Birmingham’s Jackson Olin High School, is the kind of talent the UAB Department of Art and Art History had in mind when helping students bring their one-of-a-kind designs to life during two recent workshops.

Washington and seven other students spent two days in design workshops with University of Alabama at Birmingham professional and student artists to create unique pairs of Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.

The student-designed shoes will be auctioned off during the Growing Kings’ second annual fundraising gala—Chucks & Tux — Saturday, April 29. Growing Kings is a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring services to at-risk male youth in the Birmingham City School System.

Washington’s winning design skillfully combined Growing Kings with the Lion King, the Disney animated epic musical film.

“I was watching it and the scene when Mufasa and Simba were sitting and talking inspired me,” Washington said. “It was the theme of a king and a prince. It was cool because Growing Kings is a mentoring program for young boys, and that scene was like the mentor and the student connecting. It’s also like a father-son thing.”

Participating high school students were, in addition to Washington, Kalvin Bowe, Yeldray Perkins, Ezekiel Bibb and Jeremiah Wesley of Huffman; and Abdiel Gomez and Katana Soberano of Carver.

The students’ designs were chosen from more than 60 entries for the #GKChucks Student Design Competition.

Bibb said, “I learned basically how to make my own shoes. I was shocked because I didn’t think I would” be selected.

Soberano said she wanted her shoes to have meaning.

“My design featured (Greek mythology creature) Medusa,” she said. “I used a Martin Luther King quote to go with Medusa. I wanted to inspire equality.”

Soberano, who attends Carver High School, said she got her inspiration from a spoken word contest she entered.

“The metaphor [in the poem] I used was medusa. I thought the shoe would be a good metaphor. Medusa went through a bitter time because in the Greek mythology, bad things happened to her and she didn’t do what she was supposed to do, so she was punished and there was a lot of hardship. She was a symbol that bad things can happen to you but it’s not your fault, and you can withstand and push through this.”

Perkins found the interaction with other students inspiring.

“Katana and I share similar goals for art. She’s in this program where they’re collecting young artists and they are trying to make something similar like the art walk, and we talked about it,” said Perkins. “It was awesome talking about ideas and learning from them. It was interactive and fun. If you put more time and effort into something you can get something different and great. if you put time and patience into something you started it can be a bigger outcome.”

UAB News contributed to this article.