NEWARK, NJ – Longtime Newarker and artist Suliman Onque may have been hired to create a variety of community-inspired works over the years. His latest piece, however, has weighted significance in that there is only a week left before Election Day for the Newark School Board of Education.
Inspired by Newark students’ journey to normalcy in uncertain times as they learn both in person and remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Onque created a digital illustration to symbolize what is at stake for voters when they cast their votes in the April 20th election.
“Voting is very important and a way for us to make change in the community,” Onque, a resident of the Central Ward, told TAPinto Newark. “I’ve done logos and murals before, but that’s a little different I think.”
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Led by Project Ready, a Newark-based social justice organization, the group hired the local artist to create a piece for the Don’t Stop Voting Now campaign. The campaign aims to engage voters across the city who posted record numbers in 2020 and encourage them to vote in key local elections like the upcoming Newark School Board race.
To date, Project Ready has made 26,000 calls, sent 7,000 text messages, sent multiple mail pieces, and directed a digital campaign to a network of Newark voters. As part of that effort, the group reached out to Onque to create artwork for the campaign’s latest mailpiece.
The play shows a young black brother and a young black sister holding hands as they walk down a street to school. “Black Lives Matter” is written in bold, yellow letters. Around them, storefronts advertise pandemic-related issues that students face, such as: B. Access to personal protective equipment, vaccines, food and lack of digital devices. On the way to school, the boy leads his sister through the surrounding obstacles in the hope of a better future.
“A lot of people have gone through serious situations, so it is really important for us as adults to get our children back to a comfortable way of life,” said the artist.
Prior to his latest piece for Project Ready, Onque worked on various art projects in and around Newark. In 2020 he made the joint mural “Phoenix Rise” at the main entrance of the University High School and worked on the street scene “ABOLISH WHITE SUPREMACY”.
He also paid homage to the late Marsha P. Johnson with a mural in Elizabeth, created art for the Hope Box project events in Newark, worked on the UNITY mural in town, and completed a four mural installation at the Turning Point Community Services Shelter in Irvington with his mother Yvonne.
After spending most of his life in Newark, Onque’s murals have been placed across the city over the years. He noted, however, that Project Ready’s approval of his new play will not only help bring his work further into the community, but will also allow residents to learn more about him.
“Often times you might be doing a job or a commission and you might not be that involved. You might just get a little bit of credit here, but Project Ready got me out in a way that honored me as an artist, ”he said. “In order for the people in my own church to see this and have letters with me in the package they receive, they will know that I am an artist because some people may not know that about me. It drives me crazy to see this … I feel humble and very important to be a part of it. ”
Project Ready chief of staff, Nayibe Capellan, wanted to introduce Onque’s work for a potentially important school council election this spring, explaining that mail pieces like Onque can inspire more people to vote.
“Newark is a culturally rich city, and art can be an important form of expression, especially that of its citizens,” said Capellan. “Part of Project Ready’s mission is to amplify voices, and what better way to do that than amplify the voice of a local artist in a city that is deeply rooted in cultural values and pride?”
As of Sunday, Onque will be one of 16 artists working on a new street scene called “Black Lives Matter” in the Manufacturers Village in East Orange.
On April 22nd, his work will also be shown in an exhibition “It Takes a Village” and another exhibition in Baltimore, “Two Suns and a Star”, on May 5th with his group 3 The Art Way: His mother, Yvonne and his brother Samad.