Tag Archives: African American

Take A Movie and a Knee: The Sequel

Rosa Parks on a bus.  Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the Olympics.  North Carolina A&T students at the Woolworth’s counter.  So many before but now we have football players in stadiums.  The act of peaceful protest is a major fiber in the tapestry that American history.  Unfortunately, some people have forgotten that.  There are many people who are vexed, angered, offended, and incensed by the quiet and focused actions giving rise to the issue and spotlight to the issue of police brutality and the African American community.

Ask any middle school scholar and they’ll tell you that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution secures the individual’s freedom of speech.  Freedom of Speech.  The term is thrown around like a–pardon the pun–a football but what does it mean?  According to the U.S. courts, Freedom of Speech includes but not limited to:

  • The right to be quiet (not to salute the flag) – WV Board of Education v. Barnett (1943);
  • Students wearing black armbands to protest the war – Tinker v. Des Moines (1969);
  • Contribute money to political campaigns – Buckley v. Valeo (1976).

Oh…there’s another one.  To engage in symbolic speech like flag burning and taking a knee (1990).

Perhaps the challenge for those who jeer and curse those who participate in silent protest is that they have a problem with the word protest.  Rather than send the message of football players protesting would there be more opportunities for understanding if the text was men, who play football, stand up for what they believe is right?  This is America.  Standing up for what we believe is right is what we do.  That’s why we argue with umpires.  That’s why we send letters to the editor.  That’s why we go to our children’s school to meet with the principal when we believe they are not receiving the proper education.

Loud, boisterous, and brash rhetoric amplify the notion that protesting the status quo is an assault on all we hold dear as a nation.  When contemporary dissidents stand up, speak out, sit-in, or kneel, the referenced targets of their discontent are our servicemen and women, Old Glory, or the very constitutional verbiage that invites such action.  But this can’t be true.  Our society, by the very nature of its capitalistic undergirding, demonstrates that we laud, celebrate, and embrace protest, standing up to the machine, stickin’ it to the man.  As it is said, people vote with their dollars and the cinema is our unofficial voting booth.  It is proven almost every weekend at the movies.  Yes…the movies.  There are many, many films which present in realistic and interpretive forms the American value of standing up for what is right no matter the odds. The message is always: Do the Right Thing, Stand and Deliver, Walk the Line with Pride, and to Never Back Down.

From seated positions in darkened spaces with others from all walks of life, clad only with hope and a box of popcorn, we applaud and cheer the images and stories of those who find themselves oppressed, disenfranchised, under-dogged, or under siege from the more powerful and more resourceful.  We sit on the edge of our seats as protagonists band together, form alliances, or even, go it alone to face pestilential Philistines whose mantras are summed up in the words of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV: I must break you!

Here are a few reminders that we as Americans really do love, respect, and cherish our First Amendment: speaking up, standing up, and fighting for what’s right. The film Braveheart tells the story of the legendary thirteenth-century Scottish hero named William Wallace who rallies the Scottish against the English monarch. The film grossed 210 million dollars.  Five high school students from different walks of life, in The Breakfast Club, endure a Saturday detention under a power-hungry principal (90 million).  Rocky tells the ultimate underdog tale of a small-time boxer from working-class Philadelphia, arbitrarily chosen to take on the reigning world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (117 million).  Finally, grossing 253 million, the film Erin Brockovich tells of an American legal clerk and environmental activist, who, despite her lack of formal education in the law, was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993.

The box office reflects the hope and admiration for those who risk it all and face the odds in the name of justice, self-determination, and freedom.  Collective cheers and ticket sales are the evidence that the underdog and the rag-tag group are who we are, who we aspire to be, and are to be celebrated.  Let a Saturday afternoon remind us of that.

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

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One Look at the Black Comicbook Consumer

 

By Guy A.Sims

After reading two very interesting pieces in Bleeding Cool and supplementary comments from artists, writers, and fans alike, I would be remiss if I didn’t add my voice and commentary to the topic of the disconnection or misconnection of the African-American (Referred to from now on as Black for this piece) comic book consumer and the Black comic book creator.  It is an interesting dynamic that for some time has intrigued me.

First things first.  While the big two, Marvel and DC, are part of the equation, as well as some similar media outlets, they do not represent the entirety of this cultural and economic question.  Marvel and DC have done an outstanding job of creating, promoting, and maintaining images and mythos for more than eighty years.  Kudos for their efforts. They should be lauded, and the blueprint for their success should be studied.  Let’s be clear, there’s not hate or shade being thrown in their direction.  Now, to the question at hand.

The two articles in question which continue to circulate among artists of color are the September 27, 2015, article, Larry Stroman On When Black Fans Avoid Black Creators at Comic Con and Asking Why Black Fans Avoid Black Creators At Comic Cons- The Pros Speak (both September 29, 2015).  Both articles are insightful, probing, and not afraid to challenge notions of race, imagery, ownership, and cultural inclusion.  Interestingly, the questions presented in these articles, although almost a year ago, continue to be raised at the many comic cons and comic festivals today, but more apropos to the discussion, has been the experience since our creation of the comic book hero, Brotherman, back in 1990.

Before going further, it is important to note that across the United States, only about 1% of the population reads comic books (watching comic based films and TV shows don’t count), which is roughly 3,000,000+ people (US Census, 2015).  Blacks represent approximately 40 million in the United States.  For the sake of the conversation, if the same percentage of Blacks as the general population are comic book readers, the number of that demographic sits at about 400,000—not a lot of Black comic reading customers.

I added the above to, as identified in sociological circles, present an operational definition or simply, an understanding of the commerce environment in which Black comic artists find themselves.  So, to the question, why do many Blacks avoid Black artists at comic conventions?  Before one can delve into that question, it is important to understand that the vast majority of Black comic book creators and sellers do not travel within the mainstream comic-con circuit.  As independent artists and entrepreneurs, the cost to attend many of those events is financially prohibitive.  Many, if not most, attend neighborhood-based festivals or smaller-sized comic-cons, HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) vendor days, or sell at local barber and beauty shops, etc.  Unfortunately, the question remains the same, even among predominantly Black shopping populations.

Here are my thoughts on the challenges we as an artistic community face and must overcome.

  1. Reality Based Exposure and Experiences

When my brothers and I first brought Brotherman to the market at the New York BlackExpo in 1990, we received a strong and positive reception from a diverse consumer population who found our book to be both refreshing and needed in the pantheon of traditional comic books.  This is not to say that everyone felt this way.  We also experienced a segment of the population who felt challenged by an image and presentation that was counter to what they were accustomed.

The first comment that left me scratching my head came from a woman, who after leafingbroterman-face quickly through the book, told me without hesitation, “This isn’t real. I’ve never seen a black man in a suit.” (Not a costume mind you, a suit) Caught off guard, I asked her to repeat herself which she did. My only retort was to ask her if she had ever been to a wedding or a funeral? Other questions put to us included: Does he fight drug dealers? Does he help the community? Our kids need role models; does he do that?  These and other similar exchanges helped me to realize that there is a segment of the Black culture challenged to see themselves in presentations that are not based in reality.  Case in point, in 2013, the themes of the top ten films targeted toward the black demographic, six of the films were either based on historical events or historical personalities, three were contemporary comedies or dramas, and one was social satire (in a contemporary setting).  It is a similar landscape for 2015 and so far for 2016. The themes of books of fiction directed toward Black readers tend to be the same. Take a look.  An interesting observation of mine, when asked to name a fantasy film targeted towards the black demographic, the response is the same, The Wiz.

Clearly, there is a dearth of stories of Blacks adventuring in space (by themselves), adventuring in the jungles of wherever looking for treasure, time traveling.  We still question, where are the tales of creating artificial intelligence (eventually going berserk), communicating with alien life, encountering new dimensions, living in lands of dragons and swords, or being the administrators, teachers, and studying in schools of magic?

  1. The Monolith Myth

The Black comic buyer is like a box of chocolates—a box of assorted chocolates with different interests, different tastes, looking for a product that appeals to different bcafsensibilities.  Like their Caucasian counterparts, some look for traditional/mainstream heroes, others anime; even others seek out indie productions.  Some favor images that reflect their culture while others submerge themselves in worlds of dragons, talking dogs, faeries, or whatever.  This poses a marketing challenge for black comic creators.  A decision must be made as to understanding and reaching the customer that will help them achieve success.  This does not mean changing your stories or adapting your characters.  To the contrary, the artist should stay true to themselves while concurrently working to expand the circle of interested parties.

I have attended a major mainstream comic convention, a major Black comic convention, and a swell of neighborhood and local festivals.  The reaction has been the same.  There are some Black patrons who walk right on by, others who take a glance at the art and keep going without missing a beat, those who glance at the art and come over, and those who make a beeline to our table because we are what they want.  That is just consumerism.  While we may not be able to capture the ones who walk right on by (for now), those who come with curiosity may walk away a little more familiar or as a new fan.

  1. Mainstream Validation

Another challenge producers of Black comics have to contend with is mainstream validation. In short, many Black comic book characters are not as well-known as those from companies like Marvel and DC. (Note to self: Even those characters may not be as well known as I thought. Check this video: Name 3 Black Superheroes.  I was pulling for the guy in the Star Wars shirt)

 

Therefore, Black consumers (like many general DDconsumers) need to draw a comparison to what is already out in the market.  Is this like a Black Batman?  That question was asked of us for years as we continued to introduce and re-introduce Brotherman to people. Without a major marketing firm to constantly promote our images and stories, it fell to us on a daily basis to work to get our character to stand on his own.  It can be frustrating for independent artists to respond to questions like, especially with their personal connection to their creations. Unfortunately, that is the nature of things that are new and different.

  1. Brand Value

Related to #3, many consumers, even Black ones, may consider “Black” products to be inferior to mainstream products, even similar indie products.  That kind of culturally-ingrained bias is not new.  It affects and impacts all kinds of markets: food, clothing, services, etc.  The original series of Brotherman was in black and white, clearly the best bmancopsfinancial option for us.  Many Black consumers looked at our book and questioned why was the book presented this way. Their early and uninformed comments implied a cheapness or lack of quality while our mainstream counterpart’s b/w books were looked upon as artistic or avant-garde.

 

 

This piece is not designed to discourage but to encourage Black writers and artists to seek out strategies to reach audiences beyond the usual demographics.  You can remain true to yourself, your culture, your opinions, ideas, and your dreams while connecting with others who do not share your experiences or perspectives.  If your works are engaging, exciting, dramatic, or humorous, you will connect with the world on a human level—on your terms.

The battle for the market share continues.  It is one that is daunting, relentless, long on hours, and often, short on rewards.  But to the committed, to the dedicated, and to those focused on the bigger picture, the goal of creating and delivering to the universal cultural repository of ideas will find a success unmeasured.

DON’T BE DISCOURAGED!  KEEP ON DOIN’ YOUR THING!

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

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Good Cops: Come out…Wherever you are!

copsLet’s get one thing straight!

This piece is not about bashing police officers. It is about looking for solutions to problems that continues to plague Black and Brown communities of the United States.  It’s about raising the expectation of protection and to service.  It’s about commitment to ensuring the words spoken by every police officer are true, alive, and made real in all interactions

Law Enforcement Oath

On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.

This piece is a call to the good, faithful, responsible, and committed police officers who are dutifully referenced after deaths of unarmed victims such as Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, and others whose names and stories haven’t risen to prominence.  This piece is for the officers who fall into the group, “This does not represent all police officers”, those who are not part of the “few bad apples”, and the fraternity of “the good cops out there”.

We need you!  Good police officers and administrators, we need you! WE NEED YOU!

The change that protesters, parents, friends, family, and community members are calling for has to start with you.  It is more than the extensive training you receive on firearms, tactics, and self-defense. It is going to take more than an overcrowded justice system, arrest quotas, and neighborhood sweeps.  It is going to take more than empty legislation, and oppressive laws designed to maintain the status quo.

The change begins with good police officers stepping forward, calling out, holding accountable, and removing from their ranks the officers whose behaviors, ideologies, and actions are counter to betraying the badge and the eroding the public trust. The good officers create the change so desperately needed by all communities is by raising the ethics bar for new recruits.  The Law Enforcement Oath will be best exemplified when good officers don’t go straight home after their shift. They take the time to evaluate and “check” the ones who run counter to the tenants of to protect and serve.

Unless good officers take a stand, a strong stance on protecting the dignity of the badge, I have nothing less than to expect another unarmed corpse, a crying family member, a protest, dropped charges, and then…nothing.

You know who you are!  Come out!  We need you!

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

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Aunt Sadie’s Angel: Book Review

Aunt Sadie’s Angel: A Review

Author: Lisa-Jane Erwin

Illustrator: Lauren A. Brown

Copyright 2015

220 pages

 

Whatever you learned about Heaven in Sunday School…forget it!  Aunt Sadie’s Angel re-imagines the heavenly kingdom as a celestial organization, complete with bureaucracy, professional challenges, political jockeying, miscommunication, and the stresses of doing an eternity of good work.  Author Lisa-Jane Erwin presents the story of having to put aside a lifetime of differences in order to provide care for a young girl.

Elderly Aunt Sadie, only weeks away from being spirited to the Pearly Gates, is throwing paradise into confusion.  The head wing-maAngelsker is not prepared, there is the uncertainty of who her guardian angel is, and worst of all, when Aunt Sadie’s mortality expires, and the granddaughter she is caring for will be left alone.  Angels are scrambling to figure out who her father is and what angelic side of the family will watch over her. Rivalries and responsibilities are called into question, all under the watchful eye of the Most High.

Lisa-Jane Erwin’s writing is clear and direct, painting a heavenly landscape as a place divided by occupations, importance, and activities.  The story reads like a tale told around the fireplace on a Saturday evening, inviting the audience to be spellbound and asking for more.  It requires the reader to suspend preconceived notions of Heaven and the behavior of angels.  Some may find it refreshing to find heavenly residents to continue to have the same human foibles as they did on Earthly plane.

Suitable for younger readers, complete with strong messages of faith, responsibility, and a commitment to serving a higher power.  A common read for a youth group or a summer reading selection.

You can get your copy of Aunt Sadie’s Angel at Amazon.com and lisajaneerwin.com.

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

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When I Was Your Girlfriend: Book Review

When I Was Your Girlfriend: Book Review

Author: Nikki Harmon

Mt. Airy Girl Press, 2015

 

It is better to have loved and lost…WIWYG Cover

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s quote is pure b.s. in Dee’s world.  A talented midwife and sometime-y single, Dee finds herself pushing through the revolving door of relationships or flirting in dark-cornered trysts as the cavernous hole in her heart aches to be filled with a love yet to be discovered and cherished.  When a familiar name is mentioned at her office, Dee ponders one of life’s perennial questions, can you relive or recapture the feelings of the past?  This is Dee’s dilemma and her soul-searching sojourn in Nikki Harmon’s novel, When I Was Your Girlfriend.

Harmon tells both the coming of age and coming to terms story of Deidre “Dee” Armstrong, a confident, competent, and casually content Philly-based midwife, balancing the delivering of babies with the one and off relationship with the beautiful women she encounters.  When she hears the name she hadn’t heard in years, an emotional and torrential flood sweeps her headfirst into the forgotten recesses of her past and the aching desire to find her first love.

Harmon’s writing is crisp, humorous, insightful, and unabashed.  Through Dee, she grabs readers by the waist and escorts them into one woman’s jaunt through short-lived romantic relationships and the emotional racking of longing for a love that may not have ever really existed.  Readers are challenged to search their hearts and minds to conclude if long-lost loves should remain in the past…or…like the Phoenix, have the opportunity to rise from the ashes of time and distance to live again.

When I Was Your Girlfriend is a clear pick for the summer.  A perfect read for the beach, book club, or with a glass of wine after leafing longingly through your high school yearbook.

Expect more insightful, inspiring, and intriguing works from Nikki Harmon in the future.

You can get your copy of When I Was Your Girlfriend here, Amazon, or whereever good books are sold.

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

 

 

 

 

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Replay: A Cupboard Full of Coats – A Review

THE JOURNEY TO TRUTH IS OFTEN LONG AND OPAQUE.

Reviewed by Guy A. Sims

CFC New

The is the new cover for the U.S. market…it is “Yankee” tight!

Sometimes we have the pain of which we cease to feel…or perhaps refuse to feel. Jinx is a distant mother, mortician, an ex-wife, and responsible for her mother’s death. She’s a ball of pain, pressure, and questions which cannot be quelled by either isolation or destinationless running. For fourteen years she has held the guilt of jealousy, hatred, and loss until a familiar stranger knocks at her door.

A Cupboard Full of Coats, the maiden voyage novel of Yvvette Edwards (note the double Vs in her name…that’s how the sisters do it in London), is an intimate journey of unresolved pain, misunderstood understanding, restrained loss, and unresolved love. Drawn in close quarters, Edward’s protagonist, Jinx, has lived a life walled by her guilt of causing the death of her mother; manifesting her guilt through the disconnection of her son and estrangement with her husband. Edwards crafts an environment which gets more and more emotionally claustrophobic as Jinx’s life is illustrated as one confined to both the home and her memories.

The tension rises like a pot of boiling ox-tail stew with the sudden appearance of a long-time family friend, Lemon. Though with reluctance, she invites both him, memories, and truth to come sweeping into her self-made prison. Through the Caribbean delicacies prepared by Lemon, memories conjured by the wine, and unfolded mysteries disguised as casual conversation, Jinx is pushed down Memory Lane to a place of confrontation and truth. The journey is suspenseful, funny, painful, and sensual. Suspense is the ingredient which brings the final satisfaction to the reader’s intellectual palate. Issues of jealousy, abuse, abandonment, and desire fill the rooms of Jinx’s home with a cupboard full of coats as the conduit for what was and what could have been.

Edwards brings to her readers across the pond a snapshot of the unfamiliar Black life in London. She illustrates the confluence of American and Caribbean culture with an East End vibe. Her passion, humor, and exposition brings to readers an understanding of her world beyond the Hollywood and tabloid descriptions of London.

Yvvette Edwards has lived in London all her life. She grew up in Hackney and is of Montserratian-British origin. Yvvette continues to live in the East End and is married with three children.

Listen to Yvvette discuss her book right here.

Publisher: Amistad, 2012

Pages: 275

Click here to secure your copy of A Cupboard full of Coats

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

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Jenga: Mizzou Version

jengaRemember the classic block stacking game Jenga?  Players are faced with a tower of wooden blocks, taking turns removing them one at a time, replacing pieces onto the top, until it becomes unstable and falls?   For those who are patient, committed, and “in the game”, it is exciting to watch a once solid structure become wobbly…and when the right piece is removed, the exhilaration of the crash signifying a victory.

The events taking place currently at the University of Missouri are reminiscent of the game Jenga.   Students have been sharing their experiences of racism, racist behavior, and other instances counter to the institution’s Statement of Values, specifically Respect and Responsibility…just like Jenga game pieces.  Removing them from the long-standing foundation of campus culture and placing them on top for all to view…and waiting to see what happens.  And like the game, even though pieces are removed, the strength of the culture allows for the structure to remain in place.  But unlike your rainy Saturday afternoon game of Jenga, the real-life version has players that come and go, semester after semester, year after year…with the game being reset…no true resolution.Mizzou

This week, a major piece of the University of Missouri version of Jenga has been extracted.  Yes, graduate student Jonathan L. Butler (Blue Phi) was steadfast on nearly two weeks of a hunger strike after seeing a swastika drawn in human feces (now you know that’s straight nasty).  One piece removed.  Yes, the #ConcernedStudents1950 student group had a loud, profound, and viral protest.  Another piece removed.  But the power play of the day was the members of the football team, along with their coaches, issuing their statement of solidarity with their own champion-style strike, refusing to play anymore games until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed from his office.  With millions of dollars on the line, a public relations nightmare…oh yeah…and the duty to do what is right, the University of Missouri Board of Curators announced Dr. Wolfe’s resignation.

Tim Wolfe

Pres. Tim Wolfe

The tower falls! Or does it?

One thing about Jenga, after the structure collapses there is a mess all over the table.  Mom and Dad aren’t going to let you just walk away and get a snack…it has to be cleaned up.  The tower is rebuilt and ready for a new game.  This is the challenge for the Mizzou community.  When this tower is put back together, serious discussions on what will be different has to take place.  One person may be gone but the culture remains.  That is what has to be addressed or the same old game will be played over and over and over.

This is an academic and cultural watershed moment that should not be squandered.  It is a chance to fully involve everyone (because everyone is impacted) in the resolution of what the community can and will be.  In fact, it should be exciting.  Reinvention is the hallmark of progression.  It can be done, the time is right, and the University of Missouri is the place.

Wishing the best for you…Mizzou.

Oh, by the way, did you know that Jenga is a Swahili word meaning, to build.  Now is the time for the community of the University of Missouri…to Jenga.block

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

 

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REDEFINING FAILURE by Guy A. Sims

I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process. ~ Oprah Winfrey

Thank you Oprah!  The above quote is a great way to start.  I’m writing in response to a blogpost by a very intelligent and talented young man (I’m classified as an old head so I can say this) named Roye Okupe.  I’ve never met him but I have read his works and several articles on his interesting journey.  In his latest entry, Creating An AfricanSuperhero: Don’t be afraid to fail, Okupe shares trials many creative artists and individuals have experienced when reflecting on where they are in their artistry.  After reading his perspectives, I found myself in agreement, saying my man is right, as he described personal revelations on his comic character and the market.  If I had his phone number I would haveI would have texted him a quick been there-done that just to let him know he’s

Printed with permission by artist.

Printed with permission by artist.

not alone.  I concurred with what he expressed but what bothered made me really sit back and ponder was the use of the word fail (or failure).  Don’t get me wrong.  Okupe used the word correctly, appropriately, and with clear and concise impact.  Even his closing sentence, “I will always do my best not to allow fear dictate my future, because I would rather fail while chasing my dreams than look at myself as a failure 20 years down the road because I didn’t try”.  I knew exactly what he was saying.  I just think it is important for artists, especially those of color who desire to further their culture, to think differently about what failing means in relationship to their artistry.

One of the greatest challenges we have as artists is to realize that failure and success are concepts that have no authority over our work.  To put it like this, failure is an artistic impossibility and success is an uncharted and unreachable destination.  Our minds have been trained to respond to the extremes; winning, losing…failure, success…fame, obscurity.  If we stay locked into these concepts we’ll continue to measure our work with incongruent scales.  For example, if one team scores more than another, you have concrete values to work with. On the other hand, works of creativity are often judged by a standard defined by a momentary marketing-based appraisal.

Printed with permission by artist.

Printed with permission by artist.

This is not to say one should dismiss criticism, opinions, or sage advice.  The acceptance of constructive criticism as a means to build on skill should be part of the tool kit of any artist.  To deny your work and label it a failed effort based on someone else’s assessment is to deny your very essence.

 

 

When my brothers (Dawud Anyabwile and Jason Sims) and I developed Brotherman, many people told us straight to our faces: How y’all gonna make a black superhero and They’re not going to let you sell those in comic book storesBman3 or (one of my favorites) If it’s not blessed by Marvel or DC then it’s not going to make it.  There were more statements, everything from how Brotherman looked, to being drawn in black and white, to having an all-black cast, to the size of the book.  It would have been easy for us to give it up and go back to doing whatever we were doing back in ’89. Fortunately, our spirits and persistence was fortified by lessons taught by our parents.  We stood firm in the knowledge that we had something to give to the world, not simply individuals or niche groups.  We had something inside of us that needed to be expressed.  Most of all, we knew that everything we did connected to the next link in the chain.  Because of Brotherman we have met so many talented artists, new friends, and fans.  We have had opportunities come our way unrelated to comic books.  We work, not from the framework of success or failure, but through growth, impact, and the knowledge we can do more.

I really appreciated the part in Okupe’s piece where he shared how someone called his animation, not only rubbish but complete rubbish.  Undaunted, he took the animation and used it to serve as the foundation which brought his book to fruition.  Check it out here.

As artists, we have to believe that everything has its time and place…and we don’t have control over that.  The book you produce that sells ten copies may one day find itself in the hands of someone you do not even know.  They get inspired and one day they reference you as their motivation.  Perhaps that’s what your book was supposed to do all along.

We are preparing to launch out latest work, the Brotherman: Revelation graphic novel.

No one can show how it will be received or how many will sell.  What we do know is that once it is fully realized we will have impacted the world…a fact that transcends failure or success.

I am thoroughly impressed by the work of Bro. Okupe.  I read his book, E.X.O: The Legend of Wale Williams with my youngest son who now has picked up pencils and paper to draw what’s on his heart and mind.  I look forward to one day sitting down with Bro. Okupe to discuss the kinds of things that further what we are trying to do.  From there, both of our universes will be expanded.

To me, that is the scale to measure our artistry by.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

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Riot or Revolution? by Guy A. Sims

Bmore

A friend of mine posed this question as he watched the events of today in Baltimore, Md. Is there a difference between revolution and rioting?  Today is the day of the funeral of Mr. Freddie Gray, the 25 year old man who died in police custody after being arrested on weapons charges.  He succumbed to spinal cord injuries which ignited outrage toward the Baltimore Police Department; An all-too-familiar ending to and all-too familiar tale of high profile deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

On this, supposed to be a Day of Mourning, civil unrest, for a better use of wording, has taken to the streets of West Baltimore; A CVS looted and burned, a liquor store looted, cars damaged and/burned—all this with no end in sight as the sun goes down and the weather accommodating enough for people to continue to be outside.  On this Day of Mourning, a day asked by Fredrika Gray, to be peaceful, to be free of violence, in her brother’s name, stated clearly and emphatically, “Freddie would not want this”.  This sentiment is echoed by Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, two women from different stations in life–with the same message.

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So the question, revolution or riot—what is the line?  Is it looking for justice or for a case of liquor?  Is it to converge on the City Hall or to purge the local mall?  Is it to turn the injustices of the pathos in policing or simply to turn and burn police vehicles?  Is it to raise awareness of social injustices or is it to raze the local business?  Is it to ignite the call to stand up and demand more or to ignite a church into another destroyed institution?

The challenge is that our young do not know the difference between revolution and rioting.  Both can be borne out of anger.  Both can come from seeds of frustration and discontent but there is still a fundamental difference.  Rioting has no direction.  It moves like fanned flames, destroying everything in its path. Revolution knows what it wants; change, power shift, and justice.  Rioting seeks to satisfy the immediate without regard for anyone.  Revolution seeks to make the greatest difference for the greater society.  When the fires of rioting burn down, only embers of waste and destruction remain.  For revolution, it seeks a new day, new thinking, and new ways to engage.

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In the morning in West Baltimore, what will people see?  Burnt out cars, storefronts, and buildings.  The smell of misguided folly will still linger in the air.  Worst of all, the conversations around the revolutionary ideas justice, of better policing, building neighborhoods, and working for a brighter future will be overshadowed in the media and minds by actions that served to move nothing.

Rioting or Revolution?  Which will be your answer?

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

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The Case for White History Month by Guy A. Sims

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Note: This has been updated as things haven’t changed.

It’s almost February 2016 and I didn’t have to wait long.  Every year inevitably there is a post or a tweet or blog asking the question, “So when is White History Month?”  Grant me the leeway to be naive and receive this inquiry at face value. I will even go as far as to set aside the response that Every month is White History Month for the sake of argument.  I strongly believe that each and every one of us have the inalienable right to have our interests, culture, and perspectives heard and recognized. That is what makes this country, the United States of America, great.  In addition, to Black History Month there are Women’s History Month, Hispanic-Latino Awareness Month, Asian-Pacific Month, and other cultural recognitions.  We also have Irish-American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, and Italian-American Heritage and Cultural Month.  To add more dates to recognize on the calendar there is a veritable cornucopia of days highlighting everything from popcorn to dentists to grandparents to encouraging smoking cessation.  If we have room on the calendar to celebrate all of these, why not a White History Month?

 A White History Month could be a wonderful compliment to the diverse ingredients that make up the Great American Melting Pot.  Of course, it goes without saying, White History Month has to be more than a collection of trivial facts and happenings but a comprehensive look at the history and the impact on history through the Caucasian/white lens.  The time should be set aside to recognize trailblazers, those who sacrificed in the face of adversity as they worked to move the culture forward, as well as events serving as milestones of pride and motivation.

 My recommendation for the formulation of a White History Month is to draw from the Black History Month blueprint.  In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week as a reaction to the lack of recognition of Negro history and accomplishments in most of the textbooks at that time.  Dr. Woodson promoted the idea of Negro History Week which quickly caught on and was soon celebrated around the United States.  Fast forward, the year 1976 was central to the advancement of this body of cultural knowledge.  The country was celebrating its bicentennial and it was the 50th anniversary of Negro History Week.  It was decided that Negro History Week was to be expanded to Black History Month.  I don’t propose to begin with a White History Week although it might be a good place to start–as a way for it to catch on.  A new cultural recognition often takes time to gain popularity–consider Kwanzaa as an example.  It’s still a hard sell for some African Americans.

 The month of February was selected by Dr. Woodson because two important men in Negro history were born during that month: Frederick Douglas (Feb. 14) and President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12). It would be important to identify the month with individuals who best represent the lives, culture, and philosophies of White Americans.  My recommendation would be the month of October.  October is the birth month of President John Adams (Oct. 3) and Bill Gates (Oct. 28).  President Adams was a statesman, diplomat, and a leading advocate advancing independence from Great Britain.  Adams was also opposed to slavery and never owned any (he gets a vote from me).  Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, not only changed the world technologically, he also represents the philosophy of Corporate Social Responsibility with his Millennial Scholarship (another vote from me) and his world-wide philanthropies.  These two individual could serve as the anchors for this period of recognition.

One of the most challenging but equally important aspects of White History Month will be the programs and activities highlighting the month. These programs should be designed to uncover and highlight the trials, the accomplishments, the trailblazers, and unsung heroes and heroines of the struggle.  This is an opportune time to bolster pride in children who feel they have not been recognized, negatively portrayed, or simply absent in history, literature, the sciences, the arts, politics, or merely as citizens.  It is a time to invite dynamic speakers to articulate the connection between the hardships of the past with contemporary issues and the hope for the future.  Moreover, while there may not be a White National Anthem it would be appropriate to conclude your activities with a song while crossing arms (right over left) and holding hands with your neighbor to visually exemplify the struggle, perseverance, and the cultural connection.  As you select the song please remember that the National Anthem belongs to everyone and (for the few who might suggest) Dixie was written by black men from Ohio.  One additional programming note: dismiss the feeling that your programs are not successful if people from outside your culture do not attend or it feels like you’re preaching to the choir.  Remember, others may feel uncomfortable, may not have a white friend to go with, or may not feel the program has anything to do with them.  It’s okay.  Have the program and know there’s more food on the reception table to go around.  You can even wrap some up and take it home (just an insider’s tip).

 Need more of a reason for an attempt at a legitimate White History Month?  A recent tweet gave President George Washington credit for significant work with peanuts, not George Washington Carver.  This is such a slight for all that George Washington has done for the United States.  A White History Month would serve well to provide opportunities to learn so that historical faux pas such as this can be avoided.

I look forward to participating in White History Month activities with my friends who get it and learn an interesting thing or two by the month’s end.

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

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