schomburg center

Black Comic Book Festival

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Whenever you might be reading this post, welcome!

Over this weekend on Friday and Saturday January the13th and 14th was the Fifth Annual Black Comic Book Festival held at the Schomburg for Research in Black Culture.

Admittedly, this was my first visit to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. However, it will most definitely not be my last. Something I do plan on rectifying in the near future, a  point made more poignant as I write this on the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. (Not only as a historian but as an inquisitive Black person living in NYC)

A short history: The Black Comic Book Festival is a convention held yearly at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. Co-founded in 2012 by Deirdre Hollman, Jerry Craft, Jerry Craft, John Jennings and Jonathan Gayles. Black Comic Book Fest celebrates Black artists and writes in the comic book industry.

The Black Comic Book Festival was pretty dope, and very fulfilling! As an expanded effort on my part to attend more conventions other than Comic Con it’s nice to go check out other Conventions as they grow and expand. Not to mention have the time to speak to writers and artists in a more casual (not to mention less stressful) environment. A sentiment I think many a fellow nerd can identify with when attending heavily crowded and populated events/conventions.

Earlier last year, I took the opportunity to check out the Women in Comics Convention (WinCon) held at the New York Public Library’s Bronx Library Center, founded by Regine Sawyer (author of Eating Vampires) through her organization Women in Comics. Which will be coming up soon on March 25th if interested in going. Take the time to check it out if you have the chance!

I spoke to Regine Sawyer briefly, much to my surprise she remembered me from Women in Comics Con last year. Which in and of itself was delightful and refreshing I might add.

Maia Crown Williams was also in attendance representing MECCA Con (Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Art) and Bronx Heroes as well!

A major shout-out to many of the artists and writers as well as teams that put out some spectacular work in the last couple years now: BLACK (Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith, Jamal Igle), Tuskegee Heirs (Marcus Williams, Greg Burnham), E.X.O. (Roye Okupe), Ajala (Robert Garrett, N. Steven Harris), Brother Man (Dawud Anyabwile, Guy A. Sims, Brian McGee), Shaft (David F. Walker).

Overall, Black Comic Book Fest was a blast and thoroughly enjoyable. If you’ve read down to this point or just skipped down for a TL;DR I’d definitely suggest checking it out next year. If you have the time on March 25th, check out Women in Comics as well.

First day of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity). To strive for a principled & harmonious togetherness in the family, community, and world Afro-Community #kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday (Dec 26th-31st) created in 1966 to unite people in study of African philosophies and traditions, and offer a cultural counterpart to the political goals of the time. Kwanzaa was the vision of Dr. Maulana Karenga (current chair of the Africana Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach), and he describes it as “an ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice.” It was first celebrated among members of the burgeoning Black Power movement and initially contended that Christianity was a White religion that Blacks should shun, but has since evolved into a cultural holiday rather than a religious one. The name derives from the Swahili phrase, “first fruits of harvest,” highlighting the Pan-African focus on the East African language of Swahili (despite the fact that East Africa was not involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade). Kwanzaa is based on Seven Principles (the Nguzo Saba): Umoja (unity); Kujichagulia (self-determination); Ujima (collective responsibility); Ujamaa (cooperative economics); Nia (purpose); Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). According to Dr. Karenga, it “brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.”

Just digitized: the Schomburg’s collection of WPA Photographs. This includes stills from  Federal Theatre Project productions (such as Macbeth, The Swing Mikado, and Haiti), artists and their work under the auspices of the Federal Art Project, and children’s and adults’ music classes under the Federal Music Project, among others.

What is the legacy of Jim Crow? On April 15, a trio of leading social-justice activists discuss the laws in conjunction with the exhibition One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North. The event features Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Sherrilyn Ifill, President, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Cornell Brooks, President and CEO, NAACP. 

[Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series. 1940-41. Panel 22: “Another of the social causes of the migrants’ leaving was that at times they did not feel safe, or it was not the best thing to be found on the streets late at night. They were arrested on the slightest provocation.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12″ (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY]

Conversations about black people and elections did not begin in 1870, with the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They did not end in 1965, with Congress’s passage of the Voting Rights Act. These two pieces of American legislation do not serve as the boundaries for examining the disenfranchising of people of color. Voter suppression continued in the form of mandatory literacy tests, voter ID laws, and gerrymandering. While more than half a century separates us from these recordings, their messages could not be more relevant.

July 13: Arva R. Rice of the New York Urban League​ and Dr. Khalil Muhammad of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture discuss how artist Jacob Lawrence worked with civil rights organizations and cultural institutions to portray and address social inequalities.

[The New York Urban League. Image courtesy the NYUL]

On November 4, the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple who inspired the landmark 1967 civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, which challenged laws prohibiting interracial marriages, will be told on the big screen in the new movie Loving. Before its release, it’s important to understand the world in which they lived. What was it like to marry interracially in a state where it was illegal? Read more.

Title: Jogar Capoëra, ou danse de la guerre.

Description: Lithograph of Afro-Brazilians performing capoeira dance*. From the Schomburg Photographs and Prints Division (Print Collection - South America - Brazil).

Reference: SCPR 07.23.067

Source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

Note: danse de la guerre literally translates (from French) as “war dance”.

* This is incorrect. Capoeira is not a dance. It is a martial art that was carefully developed and designed specifically to look like a dance because it was illegal for slaves to learn how to fight. 

In true embodiment of the Brazilian spirit, slaves (as I’ve explained before) crafted a fighting style that uses music and in which students do not make contact with each other (except for advanced acrobatic moves that require using another person as a springboard or something of the sort) in order to learn how to fight without getting in trouble.


Watch: Civil rights leaders from Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the NAACP discuss how Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, currently on view at MoMA, relates to events today. 

Langston Hughes flanked by Zora Neale Hurston (right) and Jessie Redmon Fauset in at the grave of Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute in 1927. Mr. Hughes and Ms. Hurston ran into Ms. Fauset, who was invited to speak at a Wednesday speakers series at Tuskegee and together, they made the trip to Mr. Washington’s grave site. It was also during this trip that Mr. Hughes and Ms. Hurston discussed the possibility of doing a certain folk opera together. Photo: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.