Google doodle winner explores her 'Afrocentric life'

A 10th grader from Washington DC is the national winner in Google's annual contest for her artistic conception of "What makes me...me."

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
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The winning entry in the 2016 Doodle 4 Google contest.

Google/Akilah Johnson

Google has awarded the top prize in this year's doodle contest to a teen whose artwork conveys her "Afrocentric life."

Akilah Johnson, a 10th grader from Washington DC, beat out 100,000 contenders from the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and her hometown. The annual Doodle 4 Google contest asks students from kindergarten through 12th grade to create art that incorporates the Google logo. This year's theme was "What makes me...me."

Describing the genesis of her doodle in a Google blog post on Monday, Johnson said her drawing conveys both her childhood and her reflections on our society:

Everything surrounding the word "Google" depicts my characteristics. Of all the things I chose to include, the six most special to me are the Symbol of Life (the ankh), the African continent, where everything began for me and my ancestors, the Eye of Horus, the word "power" drawn in black, the woman's fist based on one of my favorite artist's works, and the D.C. flag -- because I'm a Washingtonian at heart and I love my city with everything in me!

One of the most powerful companies in the technology industry, Google also has a sense of whimsy. Search results can turn up so-called Easter eggs. For instance, searching for the phrase "do a barrel roll" spins the page around. And watch out for tricks on April Fools' Day.

Google Doodles, meanwhile, are a daily feature that display images on the Google home page commemorating a prominent person, event or theme. Today's home page features Johnson's image.

The Doodle 4 Google contest offers more than a day's worth of fame. The winner gets a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 Google for Education grant for his or her school, and a visit with professional artists at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

"I think it's going to propel her and open more doors for her," Zalika Perkins, Johnson's art teacher, told USA Today. "She did a great job of communicating who she is, her history and her culture. She has a gift for this."

Google chooses winners from each state, the two territories and Washington DC and picks five finalists before narrowing the selection to one national winner. A Google page displays all the winning doodles.

"Participating in Doodle 4 Google gave me an understanding of why art matters and why MY art matters -- because it speaks to people," Johnson said. "No matter our differences, everyone is touched by art in some way. Winning this competition opened my eyes to the many types of art and the many ways it can resonate with people."