One Florida art teacher is celebrating Black History Month with her students on a viral level. Meet Chanique Davis, the Florida woman inspiring her students and beyond.
LAKE ALFRED — Lake Alfred Elementary School art teacher Chanique Davis is an internet sensation, with a photo of her classroom door, decorated for Black History Month, shared more than 40,000 times including on several popular Instagram pages.
“It's been viewed by millions of people,” Davis said Wednesday. “People have reached out to me.”
The photo shows Davis' door — decorated by her and her art club students — as a black woman with dreadlocks, dressed in a colorful, traditional African kente cloth robe and wearing a queen's crown. Two notable shares were from Baller Alert, with 4.8 million followers on Instagram, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has 2.1 million followers.
“Jennifer Labit is the owner of a children's clothing company — she reposted and she created an Amazon wish list,” Davis said. “She has 80,000 followers.”
Labit wrote on her shared page that she researched Davis and Lake Alfred Elementary School and saw that the Title I school, with a high population of students receiving free or reduced price breakfast and lunch, could use “some love” with school supplies.
“I'm personally sending this teacher some of that love today in the form of school supplies that she can decide how to share in her school,” Labit wrote. “I would love to have you join me. It would be nice to have Lake Alfred Elementary School not have to think about where their markers, crayons, paper towels, tissues, reward stickers, or other school supplies are going to come from for the rest of this year.”
In addition, Speedy X Warranty, a marketing company out of Maryland, is giving her students a free pizza party, along with a chance for Davis to win a $1,000 Teacher's Scholarship at the end of the school year.
Davis said she wanted to depict a black woman with dreadlocks to show appreciation for that style.
“I wanted to show kids who have that style that it's OK to be different and it's OK to have locks — just to show appreciation for that part of our culture,” Davis said.
Braelyn Freeman, 11, is a fifth-grader in the art club at Lake Alfred Elementary who helped work on the door.
“We had the black paper and we ripped it up into small little rectangles and then twisted it to make a dreadlock,” Braelyn said. “It inspires me because it shows even little kids can do stuff — kids in general can do what they want to do involving art and really anything.”
This is not Davis' first brush with fame. As a Lake Gibson High School student in the mid-2000s, she was a Ledger Silver Garland winner in the foreign language category. She also was homeless for three years during high school, living in empty houses, in the family car, at local shelters and in the woods.
“A family member messed up some things for us financially,” Davis said about how they lost their apartment. “And I still made straight A's all through high school. I persevered through all that and graduated with a 4.0 (grade-point average).”
She was in the news again in 2017 for creating a program for homeless people to participate in art therapy, setting up canvases in downtown Lakeland's Munn Park for them to draw and paint on.
“I wanted to offer therapeutic art for homeless people ... they have outlets through other things but art is therapeutic,” Davis said. “We want to give back with our artistic gifts.”
Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.