Monthly Archives: November 2013

Black Friday or Black Eye


I’m not a shopper. I’m a buyer. There is a difference. A shopper is like a fisherman, looking for the best place to cast the net…the shallows…near the rocks…wherever the best yield may be. Buyers are like the big cats in the wilderness. The goal is to catch the unsuspecting zebra or antelope. Once in the sights, it goes straight for it…pounces…then brings it back to the lair. That’s me. If my kids want a videogame, I ask them which one and then go get it. I’m not distracted by the latest gaming system as I walk by. That’s not what I’m there for. Which is why I am not participating in Black Friday.

Oh, Black Friday. A marketing creation from the 1970’s. One of the last vestiges of those days: Goodbye disco, bellbottoms, and Koogle Peanut Butter. Black Friday is the official start of the holiday sales season…but mos

t importantly, for businesses, it is the day to get the money right before the end of the fiscal year. Black Friday is very important in our capitalist system. There are an estimated 97 million shoppers ready to plunk down some exceptionally hard-earned money and they are in the brawl for it all to get a piece.

Now I am not opposed to shopping, getting gifts, or even better, great deals on overpriced products. I just don’t want to end up being tazed while grabbing Lego blocks for my nephew or drop-kicked just for standing next to a Tablet. It’s 2:30 in the morning folks. If I’m going to be fighting it’s because the club is just letting out and everyone is a bit tipsy.I don’t think it is about shopping at all.  Consumer’s Reports (not the magazine, just consumers) it is about survival. If you watched the news this morning you were inundated with stories of mayhem and incivility all in the name of getting hands on the latest this or the greatest that. It is kind of ironic that just a couple of hours earlier many of us were being thankful for what we had (if that doesn’t bring a tear to Tiny Tim’s eyes). I guess we didn’t quite articulate that would also be thankful for all of the things we are about to jam into our shopping carts.

I think we have it all wrong.  Like the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, normally reasonable folk are herded en masse through slowly opening automatic doors into aisles barely big enough for two shopping carts to pass, to product stacked like the Jenga game. To add to the frenzy, people have stood outside for several hours, in some cases, in 32 degree weather, so they’re trying to shop and defrost at the same time. It is hard to hold the latest Barbie if your fingers don’t wrap around it. Further, the store plays the catch the mouse game by intermittently announcing just above Bing Crosby’s Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas that there’s a sale item on the other side of the store. You have to run…not because you want the item…you run because the announcer said there was a sale item on the other side of the store.

We’ve got it all wrong people! Don’t you understand? The stores need us. They need our money. They need our lack of civility, our unnecessary sense of desperation, our abandonment of our humanity. While many of us are racing toward the 48” television for $279, the stores are in a race against each other to get your dough. Right now, we’re acting like the person who is playing Blackjack for the first time. He’s trying to beat the person sitting next to him when he should be concentrating on beating the dealer. Walmart is the house. BestBuy is the house. Macy’s is the house. They have set the game and we’re the little roulette ball waiting to fall and bounce around on the wheel.

In 2012, consumers spent approximately 59.1 billion (yes, that’s a capital B). Look around your house at the broken toys, the appliances never used, and the clothes still in the packaging. That’s a lot of money. News media outlets will call it consumer buying power but we need to see it as consumer power. Just like when your partner withholds…well you know what…one starts to respond just a little better. The same can happen to the marketplace. We can demand better wages for workers. We can demand that companies stay in the United States to employ our citizens. We can demand better products for those in low-income areas. We can demand better prices all year long and not just on Black Friday.

Well, Black Friday has come and is about to go. Somebody, somewhere in this great land of ours, is nursing a swollen ankle, is applying a balm to their back where they were trampled, is trying to re-stitch their torn weave. Is Black Friday worth the Black Eye? I don’t know. I’ll ask the broken Say It Ain’t So Barbie that’s underneath the bed.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little and crime novella, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.

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I don’t know if it is the perpetual commentary of the digi-verse that there are no African American or Black comic book heroes in existence or having songstress Phyllis Hyman playing in the background but wherever the muse is rising from I have to address that opaque point of view.

I just read the article on the blogsite Black Like Moi titled Netflix to Bring Us A Black Superhero: It’s About Time.  It took me a while to get through the body of the article as the title alone stymied my desire to continue.  As the haunting melodies of Ms. Hyman rose and fell in the background, my mind began to spin as I could only imagine the corporate heads of Netflix making the conscious decisions to bring a heroic image to their African American consumers because they have heard their cries over (lo) these many years. The vote was taken in the boardroom, and the Chairman announced, It’s about time!  The title of the article conjures the iconic image many have come to know as the Benevolent Master. The one who holds you in bondage, racking your body and soul with pain day in and day out but perhaps on Sunday or Christmas, drops you a warm piece of cornbread with a lil’ honey. It’s about time?  What makes this term apropos is that the title sends a strong message that someone other than ourselves will deliver to us cultural icons of heroism as we are either incapable of developing our own or the mythos of strength and courage from our perspectives do not exist.  Enough about the title, you get the point.

I took a deep breath and launched into the article.  The next mental roadblock came after the description of the hero du jour–Sweet Christmas–Luke Cage (insert your commentary here).  The following statement made me wish for a little Patti LaBelle to hold me together.  “Luke Cage is a Black superhero, one of the very few Black superheroes around in the comic world.”  I would have given the author a pass if I had interpreted his statement to only include Black superheroes in mainstream comic magazines (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse…you know the gang).  If that were so, the author would be preachin’ the choir! (Halle Berry!…oops…I meant hallelujah!)  It is no secret that Heroes of the darker-hue, minus those from strange distant worlds, are extremely limited.  My challenge to the author is the use of the phraseology: in the comic world.  Once the world became the landscape, it would be a case of negligence if I didn’t blow away the clouds of the uninformed and illuminate a number of the multitude of Black heroes which exist…all over the world (if one can claim geographical domination, I can too).

As presented in Sociology 101, we first have to come to an operational definition or simply put, get on the same (comic book) page.  Understand this, because something isn’t popular or not mainstreamed, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Brotherman has been around since 1989.  I know because I wrote it and my brother Dawud Anyabwile drew it.  And why do I start with Brotherman…it’s what I know best.  Now if we go further, the works of ­­ Nightjak by Eric Battle, Blokhedz by Street Legends Ink, the Artesia series by Mark Smylie, Miranda Mercury by Brandon Thomas, and how about Jaycen Wise by Richard Tyler.  There are many more, but I guarantee I would do a disservice in leaving somebody out.  So, I would ask the author and those who constantly repeat the tired and well-worn wording of no Black heroes to contact (or better yet) attend events such as the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC), converse with the Black Science Fiction Society, check out the Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention, or make a date for the Onyxcon.  There are so many more of those as well…so gas up the hooptie and hit the road.

By the third paragraph, I realized I was a victim of bait and switch as the article moved away faster than a speeding bullet from Luke Cage and landed safely to discuss Marvel, Disney and the promotion of the usual suspects of Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, and others.  Honestly, I am not as hopeful as this author in that it’s about time but in truth, again, it’s a case of not this time.

As the music gets slower and slower in the background, I am going to wrap this up.  I can only say that not only should we stop waiting for Netflix or Disney or Nickelodeon or some other major media outlet to give, give, give us our images, we have to stop (as Mars said in She Gotta Have It) crying please-baby-baby-please, show us our heroes…show us ourselves.  We are at a point in time where as a people here in this great land of ours in 2015 we will have an estimated annual buying power of 1.1 trillion dollars (with a T).  That’s a lot of potential societal and cultural impact.  Additionally, the tools to create, display, and promote our images sit literally in our laps; they’re in our backpacks, they’re in our school’s computer labs, heck, they’re on our handheld devices (that’s smartphones for the uninformed).  They’re out there, and we have access to them.  There was a day we wished our celebrities and superstars would fund the projects that would bring pride and meaning to our lives, to our children, and to our future.  Well, we can still use them, but we have to be ready to move without them. Have you checked YouTube lately?

Truth is there have been thousands of Superman and Superman related books, shows, movies, and other materials since 1938.  The same goes for Batman.  Running a close second are the Iron Mans, Spidermans, Avengers, etc.  You can’t turn on the television, stop in a bookstore, or go to the theaters and not experience the mainstream image of hyper-masculinity, heroism, and goodliness.  In essence (and I don’t mean the magazine for today’s Black woman), there’s nothing wrong with that or those images.  The pitiful pathology comes in sitting back and waiting ever so patiently for someone to bring a Black Panther to the screen in his full right and glory, or the Falcon, or a Black Green Lantern (oh, he is Black? My bad–must’ve seen the wrong movie) to the public.  If you decide you still want to wait you’d better have a good seat cushion.  (Note: Look out hipster, Black Panther’s gonna get ya!)

Let’s stop waiting for (fill in the blank) to bring us a Black superhero…or just a hero…or even just an image our children would want to emulate in school or dress up as for Halloween or present their words of wisdom at wedding toasts.  It’s about time that we create, develop, distribute, and critically examine our images.  It’s okay that the author of the article didn’t know what else was out there, but a couple of search engine clicks will bring the world to him (or her)…but allow me to help out.  Here’s the link to the site.  It’s like a free museum…come on in and enjoy.  It’s about time!

Guy A. Sims is the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation, and the novella crime series, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim, and the author of the novel Living Just A Little.

Tweet me tonight – @guysims6