Jadakess Neal “Young black child, how do you grow? With no sunshine. Only hope.” and “Hold on tight and don’t let go.”


About the work:

Young black child, how do you grow? With no sunshine. Only hope. Over 6 million African Americans began to relocate from the rural South to the North in search for one thing, hope. The yellow background represents exactly that, hope: hope for a new home, hope for new jobs, and hope for a better future. Prejudice and racism were still widespread in the North. The pain is shown in the young Black child’s face. African Americans were still viewed as nothing less than ‘jigaboos’ in society. Parents were denied housing in predominantly white neighborhoods. Children of the Great Migration experienced social annihilation, poverty, and educational disadvantages. There wasn’t a lot of room for identity… all they had was hope.

Hold on tight and don’t let go. The intention of this painting is to depict the racial violence and emotional unrest that many African Americans endured. In addition to suffering from legal and political injustices, thousands of African Americans were tortured, burned to death, shot to death, hanged, mutilated, and castrated by white mobs who were never prosecuted for their crimes. Although this hostility is what caused many African Americans to leave the South and migrate North, this racial violence erupted everywhere. Cross burning, which has been used as a form of intimidation against African Americans, was often used by Ku Klux Klan members while they were in the process of lynching a Black man.

African Americans often turned to each other for safety and comfort, which is represented by the two brown hands clasping each other. Religion was also a safe haven; African Americans during this time often felt as if they were going through a modern-day crucifixion (hence, the cross again) sacrificing their lives for a better future life


Jadakess Neal is an Illinois native from Streamwood, IL. She is currently attending Northern Illinois University and majoring in Art Administration, with an emphasis in both naturalism and abstract painting. Her goal is to open a gallery one day. Visit the artist’s website.

Young black child, how do you grow? With no sunshine. Only hope.
12 x 16 in, 2021

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