Archive: How To “Counter” Racism

 

 

The view of downtown from the museum’s second floor. 

 

 

Originally Posted: 6/23/10

The following was my account after visiting the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, located in Greensboro, NC. Reposted for Black History Month. Greensboro is the home of the very first     Sit-In, an act that still holds significance in American History. If I had learned anything from this tour and observing the artifacts, it’s that racism extended to the smallest, pettiest details of everyday life. Details that are often left out of movies or books, for lack of generational knowledge. Once you see that, it doesn’t seem unusual that racists will pitch a feral shit-fit if a black person sits in the “white section” of the lunch counter or pour acid in a pool. Humans are the most hair-pulling creatures ever.

I would know, wouldn’t I?

Forgive the poor editing. I was new to blogging. Any updated thoughts will be in bold.

“This week was the first week of the International Civil Rights Museum. Located in the original Woolworth store where four North Carolina A&T students started a sit-in, it was the museum’s first week after its grand opening. One of my mother’s fellow church members works there and invited us on the weekend tour.  The tour began as most would: A guide introducing what was going one in the world at the time and showing us a transparent American flag that revealed jim-crow artifacts.

Among the artifacts was a Klanman outfit. I can’t mention any faster how much of a historical gold mine this suit is. Think about it: how many people are willing to donate a piece of their racist pasts? [I’ve since seen the Klan robe at the Smithsonian Museum of the African American] After ogling the sheet, the group moved onto the next room, collaged with images of church bombing victims, MLK Jr., and other marching photos. One of the photos on the walls depicted a victim from a Birmingham church bombing [Sarah Collins]. If you looked at her out of context you would ‘ve thought the picture was taken in a war-torn African country. She was laid in a hospital bed with the sheet bundled up to her shoulders. Her burned eyes covered with square bandages. As the group moved on, the guide began telling the story of the four students from A&T.

Using a room that held some of the original Dorm furniture from the time, the group was treated to a projected reinstatement film courtesy of the contemporary A&T Drama Club. The first detail that caught my attention was her mention of their ages in college: 17. My mother was the same age her freshman year and that started my mind working. What was going on back then that had 17-year-olds in college? What was wrong with the educational system today that 17-year-old high school seniors were now rarer? I came back to my thought about the students’ ages in college, I asked my mother why so many kids were younger than 18 by the time they were college freshmen. According to my mother, such an occurrence was typical but eventually, some students were found to be emotionally unprepared so policies were put in place that set a 6-month line requirement, before. I knew they did that for kindergarteners with late birthdays but this was a revelation for me. [Since then, I learned more about the old junior high school structure and have since met a few 17-year-old college freshmen in the 2000s.]

By the time my mind left that thought for the moment, the group had moved to the preserved Woolworth’s food counter where the students made their sit-in. Not having seen a genuine counter establishment, I expected something smaller or more in tune with the counters of a Silver Diner. However, this counter stretched from one wall to the next connecting wall and covered what I think were 25 stools. As for those stools, We saw green and salmon covers, which weren’t originally there. The guide told us they were replaced after the original black covers began to wear. Two of the intact seats are in the Smithsonian [With two more at the Newseum in Washington, DC and a few more at the MLK Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta]. After the counter display, we moved on to another section, which was again more or less historical items that represented Jim Crow and Black achievements during said time. There were some artifacts that leaned towards the absurd side of white supremacy, like a double-sided Coca-Cola Machine. One side had a 5 cent label while the other side had a 10 cent label covering a 6 cent label. Guess which side was for “Coloreds”? [Don’t get me started on the prohibition of vanilla ice cream for blacks. Just don’t]. Across from that Machine was an old Plaque from one of the department stores. According to its information, the restroom for colored men and colored women were on the lower level with the White men’s restroom. What was peculiar was the white women’s restroom which was all the way on the way on the second floor. After thinking about it for a while I theorized that they planned this so that white women could stay as far away from black patrons as possible while the white male patrons could keep an eye on them. Once again, racism is a strange thing. [This speculation was based on the confirmed knowledge that blackface actors were placed in scenes featuring white actresses in Birth of a Nation to avoid having them act with real black males. Watch the film closely. It’s true. As for the plaque, still speculation that holds weight.]

I should point out by now that through the collages on the wall, Jesse Jackson’s picture would show up more than one could ignore. Well, he’s there because he attended A&T like the four sit-in guys [but there was no other reason for the Jesse overexposure other than a shameless effort to boast a famous A&T alumnus on part of the museum, but I digress]. As a matter of fact, the displays included people who either attended A&T or were from Greensboro. I mean this IS a local museum, but they kept a lot of focus on national history, even ending the tour on a display about other groups throughout the world who fight the same injustices. [Of course, the struggles of the civil rights movement was just one of many human rights struggles that were and continue to be fought globally]. After the tour, my mom and I went down the street for lunch. At a Diner. At their lunch counter.” [The diner in question, Fincastle’s, has since closed permanently. It will be missed.]

 

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The cafeteria at the Smithsonian Museum of the African American

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Hey, Jude!

Screenshot of JudeMaris YouTube Page

Screenshot from JudeMaris’ YouTube Page

Forensic reconstruction has been on my mind lately. Not only is it used to bring faces back to the faceless, but reality to images long idealized. You’ve probably seen them somewhere on social media: age progressions of celebrities and missing children. But how about icons who died before their time? Or those who sacrifice their appearances in battle? Those are the subjects that capture my attention. 

     Ever since graduating (finally!) I’ve taken advantage of my free time to explore my growing interest with facial reconstructions. While it has taken me to some pretty dark places (unidentified murder victims and suspects) it has taken me to more pleasant .

     This guy/gal (?) doesn’t just reconstruct Egyptian mummies, but other members of the expansive club we call history. While most of his/her(?) subjects are Egyptian Fayum portraits (adjusted for accurate eye and skull proportions), the most compelling images in my opinion include a hypothetical age progression of Charles Lindbergh Jr. and the restoration of a civil war soldier facially deformed from battle. If you want to take a peek into alternative history, check out this JudeMaris’  page.

     While you’re at it, here are two more pages with age progressed (and regressed) images of historical figures and recovered missing kids:

http://sketchcop.com/commissioned-historical-age-progression/
https://www.bizarrepedia.com/age-progression-reliability/

Come On To My “House”

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I return from a long hiatus to bring good news. By now most of you already know that my hometown of  Charlotte has been the latest city to see protests erupt in response to a questionable police-related death. Once violence erupted, many businesses within the vicinity of the chaos (mostly hotels) were vandalized on the first night. Since that night, many buildings were flanked by plywood where windows once stood. A lot of reservations were cancelled, losing the hotels a good amount of money. However, one guy had a great idea.

Matt Allen, general manager for the Hyatt House hotel, invited every artist in the Charlotte area to enhance the plywood with their talents. Being an artist as well, yours truly  could not resist the opportunity to be part of wonderful, project. From the locals such as the Charlotte Art League and my fellow SketchCharlotte member Mike Wirth and his art students pitched in with a variety of art mediums.

Naturally, media arrived to follow up on this wonderful movement.  The day I arrived, Fox News, international news agency CCTV, and local affiliates WSOC and WCCB came down to check out our work. Liz Foster of WSOC-tv interviewed me and representatives of the Charlotte Art League. (Link below. May have to sign onto facebook)


It took 8 hours to complete my work. By the end, my legs hurt from standing all day and I was running low on energy. However, it was an energy well spent. Matt and the staff of the Hyatt House were the most gracious people, helping us out with any supplies we needed. When they let us use their restrooms to clean our brushes, I actually felt hesitant to dirty up the hotel’s gorgeous bathrooms with my messy supplies and make more work for the custodial staff. I offered to use the bar’s back kitchen but everyone said the lobby restrooms were just fine. These people were affected the most by the vandalism. Reduced business always effects those below the corporate level most. I felt compelled to help bring business back to the city, but of course I wasn’t the only one.

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(left) Work in Progress. (right) Design by Mike Wirth

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Charlotte: where everybody knows your name….

It was a wonderful experience. I made new friends, ran into old friends who happened to be walking down the street, and if anything else, helped bring Charlotte’s art scene to the mainstream. What am I talking about? When I first moved here back in 2012, I had to go out of my way to find the local art communities. Due to the upscale nature of uptown, a tourist will only have access to more formal institutions like the Bechtler, the Mint or Foundation for the Carolinas. Unless they catch an artPOP billboard or ride a tour bus that will stop in the North Davidson area, visitors will not be exposed much any local art.  By having an exhibit right where visitors can pass by and see what the other side has to offer, they may have just one more reason to come back.

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Queen Corgi says “hi”

The “Phantom” Predescessor

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You may not have read this comic but if you grew up in the US before 2000, I bet you’ve come across it while looking for Garfield in the newspaper. Lee Falk’s The Phantom predates Superman by 3 years and set the standards for many tropes we associate with the Man of Steel.

I would provide a full retrospect but YouTuber Midnight’s Edge has that covered.

 

Pencils and Pixels

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This week, my comics group, SketchCharlotte, held a gallery opening for comics, comics – related art and all alternative art. If interested, it’s still running now through February 12, 2016 at the Max L. Jackson Gallery, in the Watkins Building at Queens University.  Come see original works by me and many of Charlotte’s great local artists. And bring money, for alot of our stuff is for sale!

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Date and location Information about the Gallery.

For More Information, check out the Facebook page from BigDogStudio:
https://www.facebook.com/events/171807783177261/ik

George RR Martin: A Game of Writing

A month has passed since I attended ConCarolinas in Charlotte this year. I’ve had a lot of life changing decisions, paperwork to mail and illnesses to recover from in the interim, but it’s allowed me time to reflect and get my thoughts together about meeting this year’s special guest: George RR Martin.

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When I arrived to the panel room, I noticed a few in the audience members dressed as Game of Thrones characters: Danaerys, Jeoffrey,……that’s about all I know. George RR Martin was at the other end of the room, a moderator at his side. As one would expect, he did discuss things related to Game of Thrones, but expanded on his other works and collaborations like Fevre Dream, the Wild Cards series, Hunter’s Run and his time working on television projects such as Beauty and the Beast, Max Headroom and the 1980s Twilight Zone.

Martin discussed his life as a writer, such as his writing routine, and his well known usage of a 40 year old DOS system. Around this time a microphone was being passed around to audience members with questions, the first inquiring whether it was better for novice writers to find their niche with short stories or a novel. “Short stories are better to take a risk on.” He recommended. Martin wrote a few before he began A Song of Fire and Ice. The short stories earned him three nominations and one award which provided excellent PR by the time he released his first novel. His career has given him many opportunities to work on projects outside of literature, including an invitation from Neil Gaiman for his Sandman project, which Martin admitted to stupidly turning down.

As he further discussed his experience with comics, Martin provided a perspective similar to what I briefly touched upon in an earlier posting: that which one had when Marvel comics first came about. Like television, the telephone and even internet, those who grew up with the innovation develop the idea that life has always functioned with said innovation integrated. What my generation sees as “old hat” comic tropes was revolutionary for Martin’s generation—in his words, the world of DC Comics was “static”—once Batman and Superman saved the day, they returned to their homes, jobs and loved ones. He was right, it took 60 years for superman to marry Lois Lane, and 50 for Dick Grayson to move out of the bat cave and on with his life. The Marvel universe changed all that—Spiderman lost Gwen Stacy, went off and on with Mary Jane, graduated college, and life changed for Peter Parker—all in the first 40 years. All I can say is thank god for trade publications, or us new gens would never be able to keep up with any prime marvel story.
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Editor’s notes can only catch you up so far.

Others may differ on this issue, but I’d rather have a story I’d need to keep up with than see the characters and settings remain in arrested development after a decade. The portion of people who get agitated by the emotional swerves and sudden deaths of characters forget one thing—the same things happens in real life. The creators of Sesame Street and Guiding Light, and Gasoline Alley understood this as much George RR Martin. Yes, the media scale is that wide in terms of understanding this fact.

In this age of trade paperbacks and Netflix, we more access than we know to catch up on episodic stories. If soap operas managed to gain new viewers with an ongoing storyline and long established characters long before the digital age, why must the rest of television have to stick to the 20th century sitcom formula in it? The only reason left for a person to complain about changes in a story is if they themselves cannot come to terms with change in real life. Of course Mr. Martin had a story for that, to which he explained the difference between “escape fiction” and “comfort fiction”. He reminded the audience that his books are not for everyone. In my opinion, the woman who wrote to complain about his book probably should’ve picked up the latter at her local bookstore.

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“Nobody Lies. Nobody Dies. All is well in the land of Westeros”

After all that, you couldn’t call me too surprised when he admitted hating comic reboots like Marvel’s “Ultimate” series and DC’s “New 52”. In response he decided to write Who the Fuck was Jetboy? For the Wild Cards series, in which newer generations could revisit older heroes. By now it was pretty clear how much his perspective on comics ( especially Marvel) influenced the way he wrote as much as history.

I was not the only one to expect mostly Game of Thrones topics, because many of the cosplayers suddenly had to leave the room. It gave me the opportunity to take one of their closer vacant seats. My writer’s mind was still on, so I stayed and listened. After all this was a writer who got to work in other media and had his own series adapted into a runaway hit TV show. I wanted to learn what he did to get to that point, so I listened.

Another issue Martin brought up was the tension that often came when two writers collaborated on a shared fictional world. What is that? Readers of any medium would notice when a new writer comes in and changes things the previous writer established, the former will react to this change by killing off as many of their characters so that no other writers can use them. I think TV Tropes calls this “Torch the Franchise and Run.” Martin explained a compromise he set up (which I keep secret out of respect for the guy), so that both parties could benefit from a shared world. This is a part of the writing world I never even considered, and to hear about this was information is well valued.

The last question raised regarded his notorious habit of killing off characters. Close followers of his career would notice this trademark extends beyond Game of Thrones. For example, not long after being hired as writer for Beauty and the Beast, he kills off the eponymous “Beauty”. All he could say was this: his books were about human nature. Again, I agree.

People do die without warning, in car accidents or unforeseen heart attacks. It’s why we have life insurance. Friendships end, lives are upended, and people make decisions that make sense to them yet boggle others’ minds. We begin the day in one place and condition and end it in another. As Martin insisted with comics, humans and the world they live in are not static.

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I assure you they’ll be dressed as another character next year. That’s life.

Writing this reminds me why I like attending panels like this—you get to learn about the person behind the pop cultural phenomenon and a little a bit about yourself as your take in what you hear. If only one thing has proven static is that Martin’s experience has reminded me that literary works are always the springboard for writing projects in other media. Dorothy Parker and F. Scott Fitzgerald had their own experiences as hollywood scriptwriters. Unlike the latter two writers, Martin was being part of that generation who grew up with television and comics; he could transition himself between the different media. Now he’s in Parker and Fitzgerald’s shoes, adjusting late to the new medium of Twitter. My generation has the digital world now and the one growing up now will think of it as “old hat”, so let’s see what we can do with that and whatever comes later.

 

Charlotte Comicon 2012

Today, I headed out to the Marriott Executive Park to Charlotte Comicon to try and network a bit while I educate myself further on the Convention scene as well as get some good deals!
Joker and Kingpin. And no, they didn’t have to tell me either.

It was pretty much a small affair, only filling up one ballroom in the Marriott, though it was still just as lively and crowded as you’d expect the San Diego Con to be. Every vendor from Southern Virginia to northern South Carolina showed up. Even the guys of Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find from the annual Heroes Convention were there. See you in July, guys!
Jessica Rabbit. Maybe she’ll be there. ^_^

This was predominantly a superhero/scifi (as the cosplayers suggest) but I knew there would be a few nuggets of my usual niche within.

And I did! Got the first 3 volumes of the Dark Horse publication of Astro Boy. Also met a fellow Charlotte resident John Hartness vending his own gun-toting-vampire-slayer novel, The Black Knight Chronicles.

Plus when I arrived, little did I know that the survey I filled qualified me a raffle for a prize!

So far I exchanged 3 business cards and three zines, so I think I did a pretty good job for my first time convention networking.