The 6th Annual Black Comic Festival took place on Friday January 12, and Saturday January 13th at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The Festival was originally organized by graphic artists Jerry Craft, Jonathan Gayles, and John Jennings. The Black Comic Book Festival started in Harlem at Hue-Man bookstore in 2012. The event moved to the Schomburg in 2013 after Hue-Man bookstore closed. The festival has grown in popularity over the past six years. The number of visitors at this years festival easily topped the 1,500 figure of the previous year. By mid afternoon the line of people waiting to enter the Schomburg stretched two city blocks.With the upcoming release of the Black Panther movie there is a greater awareness of the power of diversity and inclusion within this medium. Black Panther sold more advance tickets that any other Marvel movie to date. Parents were there with their children, and there were school sponsored trips on the festivals first day.
The festival hosted special events, panel discussions, film screenings, and exhibitors offering graphic novels and merchandise. In addition there were Cosplayers paying homage to their favorite comic book heroes. The artists and writers presenting their work represented many cultures of the diaspora. Black and Latino artists from the Caribbean, South America, the United States, and parts of Africa were all present. What these artists have in common is the desire to reflect the culture of people of color.
Posh attend one of the many panel discussions during the two day festival. A panel discussion titled: Black Panther: A Hero and A Movement was moderated by Kevin Young. Schomburg Director Kevin Young, Florence Kasumba (Black Panther movie, Ayo), Professor Jonathan Gayles (“White Scripts and Black Supermen”), Professor Kinitra Brooks (“Searching for Sycorax: Black Women in Contemporary Horror”), Illustrator Alitha Martinez (“World of Wakanda”).
The theme of the panel focused on exploring the context, impact, and legacy of Black Panther as a ground-breaking character and a social-political movement. The panel was insightful and presented an interesting exchange of ideas. Following the panel there was a Q&A with the audience. Florence Kasumba gave some really interesting insights on what it was like working on the film, and the rigorous training involved.
The black graphic novel industry is growing in visibility and importance in the America, and the Caribbean. There is a growing community of graphic artists in Barbados, Puerto Rico, and other islands that are bringing their stories to the world at Large. We are proud to introduce you to four artists we had the opportunity to talk so. We are pleased to present the work of Yorli Huff (Chicago), Shawn Alleyne (Barbados) Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez (La Borinquena) David Heredia (Domincan Republic)
David Herradia Uniting Nations Through Art
P: Hi David, lets begin with where you’re from.
DH: I’m from the Dominican republic, I’m based in L.A now
P: What is the inspiration behind your work?
DH: My main focus in my work is multi cultural awareness. one of my series is called “Uniting Nations through Art” The prints represent 45 different nations in the world. The Caribbean is also represented in many of these designs.
P: What has been the reaction to the series?
DH: I have showcased the series at several comic festivals in San Diego, and in Florida. It’s a series that has really started to get a lot of attention primarily from different museums and galleries
P : What possibilities do you see for a series like this?
DH: One of my goals is to get this series into the United Nations. The United Nations is supposed to be a representative of our society My other project is a series called Heroes of “Color.” The goal of that series is to tell the accomplishments of people of color. These would be three minute episodes, to date I’ve won six film festival awards.
P: Do you anticipate it being as well received as your previous series?
D: It’s picking up a lot of steam, I was able to give a presentation here at the Schomburg Center. I spoke to a bunch of kids and adults. It was a successful screening, and an amazing experience.
P: Thanks you David, how can people find out more about your work?
DH: My pleasure, all of my designs are available on my websites. Please visit – heroesofcolor.com, and herediadesigns.com
Yorli Huff – Super Hero Huff
P: Hi, lets start with your introduction
YH: My Name is Yorli Huff a real live superhero. I’m CEO and creator of Super Hero Huff and engendering strength is my corporation. I have a comic book and carton enterprise based on my true life story.
P: How did your life experiences inspire your comic ?
YH: I’m a former undercover drug agent from Chicago. I was discriminated against, and I got evidence against my employer. I filed complaint internally and in return they threatened to kill me. I had to go to the FBI to get my charges approved with EEOC, and after an 11 year legal battle I won. After I won the case I wrote my autobiography titled the “Veil of Victory”. I pitched for a movie deal, and from that I created a four book comic series titled Super Hero Huff. Since then I’ve turned it into an entire enterprise with gear and merchandise
P: How did you translate your life experience into this story, who is Super Hero Huff?
YH: Super Hero Huff is me animated, and she is an undercover drug agent with supernatural powers. She can teleport, transform, telecommute, transport, and read minds. The elders are waiting to turn over to her more powers and an entire universe once she realizes the powers she has are for service to others
P: What audience has been most receptive to Super Hero Huff?
YH: Super Hero Huff has resonated throughout all racial boundaries, age groups, and sexes. When people look at the images they see that shes very voluptuous and sexy, but she’s clothed. Shes not over exaggerated as some of the traditional comic book women. Shes a true representative of black women, strong black women and she doesn’t have to exploit her sexual prowess to do it.
P: Thanks so much Yorli, all the best with your venture. Where can our readers get more info on your comics and merchandise?
La Borinqjuena – The Art of Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez
ER: My name is Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez I’m a graphic novelist and also an art director of my own art studio Somos Arte under the studio I’ve been publishing and producing graphic novels for the last five years. I’ve been running my own studio for close to 20 years now.
P: What was the inspiration for your comic?
ER: Recently I decided to produce my own original project La Borinquena dedicated to my heritage on the island of Puerto Rico. Especially since last year was the 100th anniversary of the Jones Act . The Jones Act imposed U.S. citizenship on the 3.5 million Americans presently living in Puerto Rico. Being treated as second class citizens for decades I felt it was important to give the island, my people, and others an icon that represented patriotism. An icon that represented pride, an icon that represented what I’ve always known about being Puerto Rican. It’s our resilience, and given that we’ve been hit with hurricane Irma, and hurricane Maria; now more than ever it’s important to give the world and Puerto Rico a message of empowerment.
P: How have you introduced the character to the public?
ER: With my comic book I’ve been touring nationally and visiting museums, universities, and libraries about these issues not just about this comic book but about these real world issues. With that not only serving as an activist and advocate for the island and the diaspora of Puerto Rico but also fundraising.
P: A comic book might not be the first thing people think about in terms of fundraising. Has your comic helped raise awareness of the need to support the charities helping Puerto Rico?
ER: I’ve been able to raise thousands of dollars for Charitable organization in Loiza in Puerto Rico. It’s One of the most historically rich towns in Puerto Rico of African descendants. Ive been giving them my support through fundraising efforts to help them help others in need. particularly over the last 120 days that Puerto Rico continues to experience a black out. It’s the longest running black out in the history of the United States.That’s why I’m here at the Black Comic Book Festival. The Schomburg named after Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. He was one of the very first Afro Borinquas in the United States, he actually y coined the term; Afro Puertoriqueno. For me its an honor for me to be here representing my heritage and my project. Also Arturo Alfonso Schomburg is also from my home town of Saturce,
P: tell us about La Borinquena, and what are her super powers?
ER: La Borinquena is a superhero, she’s a senior at Columbia university an Earth and environmental sciences student. Upon arrival in Puerto Rico she finds these ancient artifacts that serve as a conduit to connect her to her heritage. It also connects her to deities on the island. La Borinquena can fly, she has super strength, and control over the elements. The original name of the island was Borinquen that’s what the Taino’s the original inhabitants of Puerto Rico called it. They had a belief system, a mythology that included goddesses and gods using that I was able to create and origin story for her that kind of taps into some traditional story telling of comic books but instead of looking at Eurocentric influences I actually tapped into my own heritage.
For more information please visit – SomosArte.com
SA: My name is Shawn Alleyne I’m a Barbadian born artist living in West Philadelphia since I was 16. I’ve been drawing all my life, I went full time freelance 10 years ago. drawing was organic I’ve been drawing forever. I never thought that there would be money made in comic books. For me it was just fun, it was for the love. At some point I decided I wanted to turn my love into a profession, and it’s been going good ever since.
SA: When I create something it’s got to be rooted in Nubian ancestry “black.” It has to tie in to my culture,and heritage. Going all the way back to African as well as Barbadian Caribbean influences. That’s what I try to reflect, people who look like me.
SA: I have to credit the brothers in Barbados for putting me on that path. Growing up in Barbados, a good thing about is that we’re not surrounded by some of the prejudice that exists in America. I grew up seeing faces that look like mine, the government look like me. Coming to America I met artists who told me; “Shawn your art is good but where are the black people.”?
SA: Because I was drawing what I grew up seeing which was nothing but Asian and Caucasian characters I thought that’s how comics were supposed to look like.These guys were like; ” Shawn where’s the black characters, and it hit me like a rock. I said to myself where are the black characters. It changed my whole way of thinking. In 2012 when I went back to Barbados for the first time since 93, I met Barbadian artists who were drawing stories that reflected Caribbean culture Meeting those guys Omar Kennedy, Mathew Clarke, Tristan Roach made me want to incorporate that into my art, and into my life. It’s almost like a matter of pride it’s not just drawing these characters for the sake of it there’s this huge diaspora out there, lets expose people to this wide world that is available.
SA: I want people to be able to enjoy my characters. I want to put out more characters, more product reflecting Nubian themes, and Caribbean imagery. I want it to be just as accepted as anything from Marvel or DC and the Caucasian characters. You go to a movie like Justice League. You see seven white people; then they sprinkle in Cyborg and we supposed to be happy about that. Now we have Black Panther coming out with a mainly Nubian cast. It can be done, and there have been a lot of people doing it. I want to create more products and put it in the face of people to say we are here this is what it is, accept it for what it is.
For more info please visit – FB- pyroglyphics studio, @pyroglyphicstudio
The Black Comic Book Festival continues to gain momentum,and grow in popularity. The Release of Black Panther in February reaffirms the importance of diversity in this genre. The Schomburg Center is to be commended for providing a platform to these innovative artists of color.
More from the Festival: