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The National AIDS Memorial announced on February 22 that Bobbi-Angelica Morris, a privategraduate student, and Joseph Taylor, at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, are the most recent recipients of the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award. Now in its fourth year, the Award honors the life of Mary Bowman, the poet, advocate, author, and singer who passed away from AIDS in early 2019 at the age of 30. 

Funded through a multi-year grant from ViiV Healthcare, the only pharmaceutical company solely focused on HIV, the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award offers support to artist-activists who, through their creative practice, inspire individuals and communities, and make a positive impact in the fight against HIV/AIDS while advancing social justice. The awardees receive $5,000 each.

Bobbi-Angelica Morris

According to a National AIDS Memorial news release, 鈥淭he Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award recognizes the power of the arts to dismantle stigma and isolation, and bring people together in our shared humanity. Mary Bowman, an icon of hope and resilience, was born with HIV and lived out her experiences of growing up with HIV 鈥 and losing a mother to AIDS 鈥 through her art. As a young out woman of color, she was a dynamic, vital voice for the next generation of individuals living with HIV, willing and proud to speak of her own challenges beyond HIV. She was also a fierce advocate for other young people with HIV. The arts gave Bowman the platform and voice to channel her creative energy, her passion, her truth. She performed at the 2018 ViiV Healthcare Youth and Community Summit, inspiring leaders across the movement. This was one of many examples of how Mary used her voice and her art to build bridges and make a difference.鈥

鈥淒uring Black History Month, we are especially pleased to support poet and spoken word performer Bobbi-Angelica Morris and painter Joseph Taylor with our most recent Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Awards,鈥 said John Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer of the National AIDS Memorial. 鈥淏obbi-Angelica鈥檚 poetry and commitment is creating space for marginalized voices and intersectional identities to express themselves freely and creatively. Joseph Taylor uses his artistic talent to uplift the voices within the Black community by visually amplifying their challenges and struggles while simultaneously illustrating their grace, heroism and power. Both outstanding art activists honor the life, and the creative and changemaking spirit of Mary Bowman.鈥

Bobbi-Angelica Morris identifies as a Black, nonbinary, queer abolitionist artist. Their modes of art include drawing/painting, poetry, and photography. They are a first-year student in the Master of Social Work program in the School of Civic Leadership, Business, and Social Change. Their focus is on community development through an abolitionist and agricultural perspective. They are interning at Covenant House in Southeast Washington as a project manager, responsible for establishing a garden/greenhouse space at their resource center. According to Morris, 鈥淭his space will allow youth experiencing homelessness at Covenant House to learn agricultural skills to heal and sustain themselves and their communities in this continuous age of poverty and food insecurity.鈥

Morris is also an officer for Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI), a student organization whose focus is on educating students and faculty about the impact of police systems on Deaf people. They also were recently hired as a project manager for Visionaries of the Creative Arts (VOCA), where they will be working closely with the Gallaudet community through youth summer camps and performance shows, among other activities.

On being selected for the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award, Morris said, 鈥淭he life and legacy of Mary Bowman have inspired me to stay true to the identities鈥hat make me who I am today. As a form of expression and activism, my spoken word poetry often references different forms of oppression or traumas. I see this same mindset in Mary鈥檚 story, as she shared her artwork about personal experiences, inspiring others to live their truth.鈥

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