Meet Black History Month artist Mamaa Yorke

Mamaa Yorke, junior at UW-Madison and student graphic designer for the 2023 Black History Month materials.
Mamaa Yorke, junior

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month at UW–Madison, we introduce the student artist behind this year’s theme, “Black Arts: Multiple Mediums, One Story,” junior Mamaa Yorke. The theme highlights Black experiences portrayed through art, and events throughout the month are putting her original art into action. Yorke is an information science and communication arts major within science & rhetorical studies. She spoke with us about her experience as lead designer for Black History Month materials.

Q: How did it feel to find out you were the designer? What was your process for creating the 2023 design?

Yorke: This is actually my second year as the Graphic Designer. The first time was during the 2021- 2022 planning year. The first time it was a little shocking because I didn’t have much graphic design history, so it made me really anxious, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. But it was a good experience. I was able to bring in my own ideas, but also improve them with the ideas of the planning committee to create something we could all be proud of. The main graphic for the month contains artwork and artists who inspire me and the planning committee and it’s a great visual on how diverse and colorful Black arts is.

Q: How does it feel to see your designs on campus?

Yorke: It’s a little bit surreal to see it going from my computer screen to posters across campus. It’s just a little unbelievable each time I see them. I keep finding them in random spaces, so it makes me proud that I’ve created something that is seen by so many people and gathered such a positive response. I’ve had a lot of people literally look at the posters and get excited about the events which makes me pleased that I’ve been able to make something that excites people when they see it.

Q: What do you do in your free time when you’re not studying or creating art? What’s your favorite study spot on campus?

Yorke: I watch an unnecessary amount of TV. I’m probably juggling at least five separate shows at any given time. I think TV shows give me a good break from the stress of life by distracting me with other people’s lives. My favorite study spot is the Black Cultural Center (BCC). There’s usually other people in there so it’s not too quiet/loud and it’s close to food with the Memorial Union next door.

Q: What does the theme, “Black Arts: Multiple Mediums, One Story,” mean to you?

Yorke: For me the theme means that Black history is diverse and different in each person’s story, but united in our shared experience of being Black. This experience changes the way that we create and exchange art through different styles and mediums like visual arts, performing arts, etc. It means highlighting how art can represent and embody the Black experience.

Q: As a universal language, how does art bring people together?

Yorke: I think it brings people together because art is so subjective it makes people share the way they view the world. Art is made by people sharing themselves with the world and gives us a chance to see something completely new or something familiar in a new way. I think even in a simple example like an art museum, it is a shared experience that enriches our minds and inspires us to think about the world around us.

Q: What should other students do to enjoy/recognize Black History Month on campus?

Mamaa Yorke, junior at UW-Madison and student graphic designer for the 2023 Black History Month materials.
Mamaa Yorke, junior

Yorke: They should attend and spread the word about all the great events everyone put time and effort into creating. I’m always in favor of wishing each other a happy Black History Month and putting in extra effort to make sure we’re all recognizing and uplifting Black voices and experiences.

Q: Anything else you’d like us to know about you?

Yorke: I want everyone to love and honor Black history because it encourages me not to settle for the bare minimum and to keep striving for better. I get reminded of all the Black excellence in the world and I like being a part of something bigger than me, which is something I think we all can benefit from. Sadly, the month is ending, but there are still great events going on with Piece by Peace this Thursday in the Multicultural Student Center (MSC), and Miss Angelica Ross Live!, so don’t miss out!

Special thanks to the Black History Month Planning Committee and Black Cultural Center (BCC) within the MSC, who planned both fun and educational events during Black History Month to celebrate Black students and art on campus.