White Blood : Inspired by John Dowell’s Cotton

By Kayla Johnson

Open until January 21, 2019, the African American Museum in Philadelphia features a thought-provoking exhibit titled, Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past.

“The Healing Table,” 2016. Photographed by John Dowell. On view at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
“The Healing Table,” 2016. Photographed by John Dowell. On view at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

On view in the exhibit are 35 digital and multimedia photographs created by Philly-native John Dowell. Dowell reimagines the seemingly simplistic cotton plant and does a fine job of projecting his inspiration for the collection: a story and a dream.

As a child, his grandmother would tell him of a recurring dream she had, a dream in which she got lost in a field of cotton that loomed over her like a maze with no exits. The photographs depict cotton as a component of modern, urban landscapes, one portion dedicated to the landscape of Seneca Village. Seneca Village was a community founded by free black Americans on what is now known as the western edge of Central Park. The community was stolen and destroyed so that we can now recognize it by such a name. Visitors to this exhibit are also given the opportunity to experience firsthand the tedious work of picking seeds from bols of cotton. Two bowls of cotton bols rest before a cotton plant monument where visitors are called to rest, reflect, and leave photographs of their ancestors to be honored as well.

Photo gallery of cotton in Seneca Village, courtesy of AAMP
Photo gallery of cotton in Seneca Village, courtesy of AAMP

A plaque in the exhibit reads, “Cotton As a Symbol. This is a memorial to those who died right out there in the fields and were buried in unmarked graves, and it’s a warning to us not to forget what came before.”

The entire collection spoke to me, with a redundant message screaming that history repeats itself and we are presently living on the battlefields of those that have come before us, battles both victorious and consumed by defeat. However, one particular photograph and its title caught my eye. The Healing Table. The photo depicts a modern black man stretched out on a black bench amidst a field of cotton.

With this inspiration, I fashioned a poem, the documentation of my perspective on the “cotton” that litters the realities of black Americans to this day.

Be sure to visit the African American Museum in Philadelphia to interpret, be inspired, and, best of all, imagine just how many other “ghosts” of years past exist still within our current society.


White Blood

our streets have been scrubbed into forms unrecognized by those that paved them
but their blood cannot be erased
the dank, deep stains cannot be washed away, though attempts are still made
to rename the days
of blood
blood faded to the shades of white
images burnt behind the whites of swollen, anguished eyes
so please don’t walk here
please take another route
please show some respect and take your shoes off at the door of this nation
my mothers are trying to rest
and my sons are making their bed

Kayla Johnson is a junior at Masterman High School, as well as a member of the STAMP Teen Council. She represents the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the National Museum of American Jewish History. She has a strong interest in the many mediums of storytelling, especially those of filmmaking and poetry.

5 Tips to Tackle College Application Stress

by Jasmine Brooks

Girl holding books and wearing a bookbag walking
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The college application process can be incredibly time-consuming and stressful. But like with any intense time, there are ways to alleviate that stress. Here are some tips to help you tackle the application process.

1: Organization

Organization is key when dealing with the stress of the college application process. It is easy to get overwhelmed during this time, so making sure things are where they need to be will take care of the stress of not being able to find anything.

If you’d find it helpful, use a calendar to make sure you’re on track with your tasks. Use an old-school wall calendar or the one on your phone.

2: Take Breaks

Make sure you take time for yourself, whether to hang out with friends or just have a little you time. Research shows that there is in fact a connection between social interaction and stress. The more time you spend with friends, the more likely you are to thrive. A good break can also be walking away from the computer for a few minutes to reset your mind to ensure that you’re giving your all when applying.

3: If You Need Help, Ask!

You are not alone in the college application process. There are many people who are willing and happy to help you. Counselors, family, teachers and beyond are a good source of support and may have some ways that could be useful on your journey to college. From figuring out what schools to apply to, writing your college essay and figuring out what happens after acceptance, don’t take the whole process on yourself.

4: Patience

Applying to college is time-consuming yet rewarding. Remember, colleges have thousands of applications to review so don’t stress yourself out by checking the status of your application every second of the day. Waiting makes that acceptance letter premail that much more exciting when you receive it. It can feel like forever but its not–the key is being patient and trusting the process.

5: Cherish your last year of high school

This is your last year of high school, so don’t spend it only focusing on college applications. Make it a year to remember: participate in after-school clubs, go on class trips, and maybe even prom. There are so many good things to look forward to and you won’t be as excited if you’re worrying about college applications.

Jasmine Brooks is a senior at Freire Charter High School and the Multimedia Intern at STAMP. She’s always found art, of any kind, to be cathartic.

Inside the Penn Museum’s Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials

by Sabirah Mahmud

Items at the Penn Museum's Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials
Items at the Penn Museum’s Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials

The Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials, also known as CAAM is a joint endeavor between the Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). Now as a teen student in the city of Philadelphia, you may be wondering why would a classroom for undergraduates and graduate students at an Ivy League school interest you? Well, a few weeks ago, the Teen Ambassadors at the Penn Museums visited these classrooms to find out!

Along with providing many classes for their undergraduate and graduate students at the university, CAAM has many cool research projects they share with the world. They also have some teen internships you all may be interested in.

Teens taking notes at the Penn Museum
Sabirah and her friends taking notes while visiting CAAM

The Zoology department was incredibly cool. Have you ever looked at any archaeological specimen and wondered what it was? What it’s purpose is?In this lab, they can determine just by the bones if the animal was a pet or not. They have many exciting programs at the Penn Museum and even many opportunities for high school students to intern for them! Check out their website for more information.

The next lab that I visited was their Ceramics Lab. In this lab, they determine many things such as the geology of these artifacts that many scientists and archaeologists excavate from cites all around the globe. When mentioning geology, this refers to from where, when, and what type of climate. To determine these answers they make thin sections to match the minerals of the piece of ceramics to match the ones of the land. This all helps them determine whether or not the ceramics piece was actually from the place that they found it from. Once they get these thin sections, they put them into a microscope to help them further their hypotheses. On display was a thin section of a cooking pot from Syria 1,000 years ago. With this lab, if you’re interested in geology or mineralogy, I would suggest to check CAAM’s Ceramics Lab!

The Penn Museum also has a Wet Lab at CAAM. There, they inspect stone carvings as well as other projects. They get to see different types of metals and get to inspect the many processes they undergo to change their form. Through their research, they can conduct the production of this ancient metal, process, as well as how they made daggers back then. Their research has even helped them trace gold in the agricultural times.

Another interesting lab they have is their multi-purpose lab. In this lab, they are working on Digital Archaeology to collect data in order to share. Through their research in which they scan areas that they excavate and through this scan, on a computer they can reconstruct the area to another era. This is done through the help of GPS printing which is way stronger than the ones we have on our phones as it is way more precise. Though many could think why does this matter? The reason it does is because architecture at times is hard to find as these places can have their inhabitants removed, however, this technology allows them to inspect these structures even if they have been removed. Soon they hope to develop technology to create this into virtual reality so those who aren’t able to go to these areas, can still visit them from their own homes.

After visiting the Penn Museum labs, I encourage you to check out CAAM. Take the time out of your day and get involved with the amazing studies they are conducting in their labs through internship opportunities and more!

Sabirah Mahmud is a sophomore at the Academy At Palumbo as well as a Teen Ambassador for Philly STAMP and the Penn Museum. She enjoys doing Congressional Debate at her school as well as playing the Oboe and Clarinet in her spare time.

Berthe Morisot: Impressionist and Feminist Art at the Barnes Foundation

by Abby Leedy

There’s a new special exhibit at the Barnes Foundation! Open until late January 2019, the exhibit is called Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist and offers a fascinating look at the life and work of one of the only successful woman impressionists of the 19th century.

Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist
Berthe Morisot:
Woman Impressionist (courtesy of the Barnes Foundation)

The exhibit features a number of written panels that are super helpful for understanding the historical context of Morisot’s work, as well as all the cool (and revolutionary!) painting techniques she used.

Morisot was a impressionist, which means that her painting style was slightly more “abstract”. The works feature obvious brushstrokes and lose interpretations of figures than her realist counterparts.

In the exhibit, her work his separated into rooms with broad themes. Some rooms feature paintings that were left purposefully “unfinished”, while others feature primarily paintings of parks and other outdoor spaces. Many paintings feature women going about everyday life in the late nineteenth century, including many portraits of women in their rooms or getting ready for the day.

What I found most interesting about the exhibit was the feminist lens through which the work could be viewed. The vast majority of the paintings were of women or young girls, and the exhibit features many quotes and anecdotes from Morisot about what it was like to be a woman artist during the time period. Leaving the exhibit, I felt empowered and inspired by all she had accomplished and created.

While the exhibit is very informative, and her space in art history important, the exhibit is also worth visiting merely because of how beautiful the paintings are. Even her “unfinished” paintings are striking, and all her work features wonderful colors and intriguing subjects (and they would also make really pretty Instagram posts!)

Another super exciting thing happening at the Barnes is their art classes! Some exciting classes include “She Persisted: Pioneering Women Artists Since 1900” and “Spirituals, Integration, and Social Justice: Black American Culture and Albert Barnes”. More information can be found on the Barnes Foundation website, and students can apply for full scholarships for classes at https://barnesfoundation.wufoo.com/forms/barnesde-mazia-scholarship-application/. Make sure to mention you are a STAMP pass holder in your application! Applications are due by January 6th for Spring classes.