INDEPENDENCE, Mo — Evelyn Neal is a young Black artist based out of Independence, Missouri, and she wants to use her talent to keep the stories of Black historical figures alive.

“I feel like, over the past years, a lot of people don’t know some of our black icons, or forget about them,” Neal said.  

Neal said she wasn’t always passionate about art, and she didn’t choose the drawing life — the art of drawing chose her. She now uses just a pen, pencil and paper to draw figures like Michelle Obama, Kobe Bryant and Sandra Bland.

“I sketch them out with pencil, then I crisscross each one with pen,” she said.

Since then, Neal’s work has become a hit among her close-knit Independence community and stars alike, with celebrities such as Lauren London and Ice Cube praising her work on social media.

One of her proudest moments is having her art showcased at the first ever Black Excellence Exhibit in Independence at the Community Services League’s BlendWell Café until the end of the month.

She said she draws each portrait with a mission: “To speak to whoever happens to see it, whether it could portray a specific event or even a song.”

“You are looking directly in their eyes, you can almost see what they are trying to tell you,” she said.

Nearly 50 of her intricate portraits are now shining bright at the showcase gallery. She said it took her just 24 hours to finish them all, start to finish.

Organizers of the exhibit said there’s a lot of Black talent to uncover in Independence and some of it can be discovered at the exhibit.

“We want to tell the story of the artist we have here, the excellence we have here, but also share the history many of us don’t know,” said Jennifer Manuleleua of the Community Services League.

Neal said even though she can finish a portrait in what some may call lighting speed, the impact of Black history took years to grow, and it’s her responsibility to tell their stories.

“I will continue to speak for the Black community,” she said. “Whether it is through art, community service, anything, I’m big on my community and will continue to share the history of many people.”

To view more of Evelyn Neal’s work, visit her Facebook page.

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