The last few posts were portraits I made in New York, and now I have a couple from San Francisco. I was walking down one of streets on the edge of SOMA and I saw this man sitting on the benches outside the Honey Bistro Restaurant. The backpack, fake fur hat, and fake fur coat posed an interesting challenge, in that I wasn’t sure I could easily capture their texture in a simple line drawing. I contemplated using comic dots or cross-hatching, and then I realized I’d prefer to keep the figure simple and monochrome.
I wish I could remember this guy’s name. He was really nice, and he had a great smile. Also, he was friends with my partner’s friend, T-Mark, and so I knew he had to be a great person. We ran into the two of them at an art exhibit I was participating in at SOMArts, in San Francisco. It was a very pleasant surprise. I don’t know T-Mark terribly well, and he’s more my partner’s friend than mine; but he’s one of those people who always has a warm smile and kind words to share. When I think about the public perception of Black men as tough guys who’s emotion range extends from stoicism to rage, I feel sad for those people in the majority–actually, I feel sad for all those people outside of Blackness–whose negative stereotypes of African American manhood will prevent them from ever having the benefit of the warmth, love, and friendship of a guy like T-Mark or the friendly smile of a guy like his friend.
I waited a while to do this drawing, because I was hoping I’d find the email address of the man in the picture. This guy came to the 1001 Black Men panel discussion at CIIS (in September of 2013). He had really nice things to say about my drawings, and I’ve never forgotten him, mostly for the way his compliments put me at ease prior to the panel discussion event.
Why can’t the brothers at the comic book and zine conventions get a little media love? We’ve got the NFL Network, the NBA Network, the Summer Olympics, Baseball Season, the evening news, and reality television shows. But where’s the Black dungeon masters network? If we have the Summer Olympics, then why not the Black cosplayers Olympics? Baseball season? How about comic book convention season? And if you think reality shows like Cops and Love and Hip Hop are entertaining, then you’ll love the drama that unfolds among the hardcore fans who camp out all night at Comic-Con, just to get into Big Bang Theory panel.
Until programming like this becomes a little more commonplace, I hope these portraits from the 2014 comic convention season will help fill the gap.
I’m a little backlogged on drawings, and this represents my continuing effort to catch up. I still have another drawing or two from October’s Alternative Press Expo, but I have also continued to create current drawings, most of which I’ve already posted here.
This guy caught my attention because of his facial symmetry, his amazing cheekbones, his impressively full and well-groomed beard, and his unusual height and muscularity. This Alternative Press Expo shopper was, from the looks of the items in his hands, really interested in indie super hero zines and comics. He must have had about 20 different publications in his clear plastic backpack.
The aspect of nerd culture that I love most is its contradiction, and this guy was a perfect example. He had the body of an athlete and, in fact, he did play Division III football in college; but he had the passions of a geek, the focus of a nerd, and (truth be told) the social awkwardness of a total dork.
Movies like Revenge of the Nerds, aside, nerd/geek/dork culture doesn’t have a single specific look. It’s more a feeling that’s mapped out in the subtleties of body movement, facial express, and the places where we gather. Those of us who are real, true nerds/geeks/dorks can recognize our brethren and sistren when we see them. Outsiders are distracted by things like beauty, fashion, athleticism, and physical size. True insiders know that, just as nerdiness and geekiness and dorkiness have no color, they also have no sexual orientation, no gender, no body type, and no single style or fashion aesthetic. We are everywhere, and we do everything. Nerds, geeks, and dorks cannot be placed in a box. We are bigger, broader, and more diverse than our collective stereotypes. We are everything you’d expect we are and nothing you could imagine. (But almost all of us love Star Trek, so that stereotype is kind of correct.)
There are many ways of wearing dreadlocks. This brother prefers the free and easy, low-maintenance way. The roots are kind of fuzzy, and the locks he wears are wildly different thicknesses, but the effect is still fabulously, fiercely, unrepentantly, and proudly Black.
Everybody would say “of course all lives matter”. Our philosophical, religious and moral sensibilities would all say that, but in fact, many people don’t matter. When we say “black lives matter”, it’s a hashtag. It’s a movement. Die-ins are happening all over the country, protest movements around that phrase “black lives matter” because young black men haven’t mattered in the country and the criminal justice system has treated them very differently than my young white sons.
Unfortunately, the patterns that we’ve been seeing recently are consistent: The police don’t show as much care when they are handling incidents that involve young black men and women, and so they do shoot and kill … And then for whatever reason, juries and prosecutor’s offices are much less likely to indict or convict.
–Professor Delores Jones-Brown, Director of the Center on Race, Crime, and Statistics at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and a former assistant prosecutor in Monmouth County, New Jersey, from “Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?” by Jaeah Lee
[Y]ou know what they had in their minds that made them act out and beat a black suspect unwarrentedly? They had fear. They were afraid of black men. I know a lot of white cops who have told me. And I interviewed over 900 police officers in 18 months and they started talking to me. It was almost like a therapy session for them.
They would say things like, “Ms. Rice I’m scared of black men. Black men terrify me. I’m really scared of them. Ms. Rice, you know black men who come out of prison, they’ve got great hulk strength and I’m afraid they’re going to kill me. Ms. Rice, can you teach me how not to be afraid of black men.” I mean these [are] cops who are 6’4″. You know, the cop in Ferguson was 6’4″ talking about he was terrified. But when cops are scared, they kill and they do things that don’t make sense to you and me.