Students Select: Jalen Burbage ‘23 on Samuel Levi Jones’ “Agency”

March 21, 2022 12:00PM

I recently toured the exhibition Young, Gifted and Black at Lehigh University Art Galleries with Visiting Professor Deirdre Murphy.  We took a deep dive into what each painting signified and what the audience could take away from the art. There were a lot of great paintings, but there was one specifically that stood out to me:  Agency created by artist Samuel Levi Jones.

The canvas is covered in football pad coverings. The coverings speak volumes in many ways, but the first thing that came to my mind were the colors:  red, black, green and yellow. When you see pictures of African flags the first colors you see are red, black and green (and occasionally yellow). I believe the artist was saying that football is a sport predominantly played by African American kids. Yes, it’s a sport played by everybody but statistics show that 57.5% of the NFL is made up of Black men and the next closest race is white men at 24.9%. I believe that artist Samuel Levi Jones created this canvas to make a connection that football is a lifestyle for Black men around the world, and how important it is for American Americans.

I feel as if I can relate to this art because, like I mentioned, football is a lifestyle for Black men. There are a lot of stories of Black men using it as a way to escape reality and hardships they face in everyday life. I grew up in a healthy household with both parents, but I had some days where I felt stressed or even anxious. Stepping on the field was a great way to clear my mind during those days. Now imagine all the kids who didn’t get the luxurious lifestyle I was blessed with growing up. The only thing they had to express themselves was a football and some cleats, which is why I find this piece of art so beautiful. There might have not been a football or cleats shown on the canvas, but a football pad covering definitely got the point across. There was an underlying message in the artist’s work which I found interesting and something I could relate to. I’m glad I could visit LUAG because it gave me the opportunity to see this art and connect with the piece. It made me feel as if there are others who feel the same way as me.


ARTnews, The Editors of. “Samuel Levi Jones at Patron Gallery, Chicago.”,, 18 Nov. 2019,

Buckner, Candace. “Black Football Agents Face Another Hurdle: Convincing White Players to Sign with Them.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 Apr. 2021,

Jalen Burbage '23 is a junior at Lehigh, majoring in architecture, and is a Wide Receiver on Lehigh’s football team.






Image: Samuel Levi Jones; Agency, 2018, Football tacking pad covers on canvas