WSSU senior selected to showcase artwork at NBA HBCU Classic weekend
The Winston-Salem State University Rams men’s basketball team won’t be the only ones showcased on a national stage at the third annual NBA HBCU Classic. Senior Sasha Williams has been selected to participate in its Student Art Design Showcase.
Williams is one of six HBCU students participating in the NBA’s Creative Services group’s 4th Annual Student Art Showcase, which aims to inspire the next generation of emerging artists and designers through mentorship, increased visibility and professional opportunities.
Williams’ art will be featured throughout the NBA All-Star venues including during the game between WSSU and Virginia Union on Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., which will also be simulcast on TNT, NBA TV and ESPN2.
She had only days to create an art piece after learning she was selected. But she was up for the challenge, pouring her heart, soul and spirit into a painting that captures the essence of her HBCU experience.
It was early January when the NBA reached out to Dr. Lisandra Estevez, chair of the WSSU Department of Art and Visual Studies, seeking submissions from students in the studio art program. Williams said she routinely checks her email for scholarship opportunities that Estevez typically sends out when she came across the message about the art showcase.
“I decided I would step out on faith and try it,” she said. The submission required a bio, resume and five pieces of artwork. She included a mural she completed as well. Three days later, she got the news that she was selected.
“I was in the café when I found out and I said, ‘there’s no way,’” she said. “I could have cried. This is life-changing and humbling.”
Shortly afterward, she found herself on a Zoom call with NBA officials and the other five artists. She selected as her subject focus, “HBCU Experience and Pride,” from among five eligible themes that consisted of sports, academic excellence and campus life.
With only a week to complete her painting, she spent her free time in the mornings, between classes and after band practice with the Red Sea of Sound working on her submission, which was mailed to the NBA on Feb. 5.
Williams’ painting features a version of her younger self from Pre-K looking up at her current self as a college senior, who is about to graduate in May. There is a banner that drapes across the sky with the words from the Scripture of Psalms 37:23-26, which is one her grandmother used to recite to her often. Across her graduation stole are the names of ascended family members followed by the names of friends who were killed due to gang violence or because of envious behavior from others.
Alex, Christina, Trevor, Malik and Kaylen were all killed during her collegiate journey, she recalls emotionally. Justice has been served for some of them, she said. This isn’t the first time she’s created a piece in their memory. She commissioned a piece called Justice of Love.
“The emotion in my piece comes from my passion and love of music, art, family and God,” she said. “I would not be here if it were not for God. I know where I get my strength from, and I want to uplift those not here as well as myself.”
Williams was also featured in a “PBS Girl Power” video, where she talks about being bullied and how art gave her confidence and a voice. She was also a former mentor at a Boys and Girls Club in Raleigh.
“Sasha means helper of mankind, and I have a helpful spirit,” she said, which is why it’s no surprise she aspires to be an art educator after getting her master’s degree in fine arts.
Williams is anxious and excited about showcasing her artwork on a national stage. But unlike the other artists, having her campus family there will be calming.
“I’m so glad my Ramily will be there with me, so I won’t be nervous,” she said. “This is a celebration for Winston-Salem State, my family and God.”
About Winston-Salem State University: Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region, and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.