Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

The Art of Justice: Stories of Black Cultural Expression

High school students visited the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center to hear how art and the law are complementary. Three accomplished Ohio artists spoke to the students about how individual expression can be used to advance justice.

Visual artist Duarte Brown, poet Chiquita Mullins Lee, and storyteller Lyn Ford shared their backgrounds and the sources of inspiration for their works and careers with over one hundred high school students interested in history and art during the Supreme Court of Ohio Black History Month Celebration. This year’s program titled The Art of Justice: Stories of Black Cultural Expression aligned with the National Black History Month theme of African Americans and the Arts.

“When we engage in the arts, we come together. We express truth and provide inspiration,” said Mullins Lee, the program’s emcee.

The annual event recognizes notable Black Ohioans and their contributions to the judiciary and the law, government and public service, the arts and architecture.  

In addressing the students, Chief Justice Sharon L. Kennedy reminded them of the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer’s words when he led the restoration of the courthouse twenty years ago. He wanted them to know that the building belongs to the people of Ohio and demonstrates that art and the law complement each other. He said artists and lawyers share similar attributes for challenging the conventional, having an eye for details, and a vision for society.

Lee, Browne, and Ford talked about people and events that shaped their lives to students from Whitehall High School and the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio. Whether it was experiencing desegregation, listening to stories about slavery, or the discrimination they endured, they used their respective outlets to articulate thoughts and feelings and to preserve history.

“We'll always have art because that's who we are. We have to make art. It's in everything. Look in this room. Look at the history,” said Brown, referring to the murals in main courtroom of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center that illustrate famous moments in Ohio’s founding and development.

The artists are also teachers with decades of experience mentoring youth and channeling a student’s creativity and individuality. Ford learned those traits from her father, a Tuskegee airman, who passed stories of history on to her from the time she was a child. She harnessed storytelling and now she educates the next generation through the spoken word.

“Know who you are, take pride in who you are, because you are a treasure,” Ford said. “Find that joy in you that you can share with others because it will make a big difference in the world.”

“The event was about more than art. It showed us that we can use our skills and interests in different ways,” said Bisrat Alabachew, a student at Whitehall High School.

“I don’t have to be lawyer or judge, but I can still express how I feel and what I believe is right through justice,” said Whitehall High School student Deborah Diaz.