Gene Yang is one of my heroes. Read this, y’all.
Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala
From the Washington Post, article here.
GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:
Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.
I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”
Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.
I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.
In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.
The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).
By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.
All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”
Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.
Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.
In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.
Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.
We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.
But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.
This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.
I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.
We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.
Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.
Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.
And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.
Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.
Gene is the best dude.
This one’s a snuggler.
Lion Country Safari, a leader in Giraffe breeding programs in North America with over 60 Giraffe births, just welcomed its first giraffe calf of 2014. The baby, named Nafari, which means “first-born” in Swahili, was born June 24th. He was born weighing 141.5 pounds (64.3 kg) and measured 70 inches (1.78 m) tall.
Learn more at Zooborns.
Reblogging giraffes for my mom, who loves them.
I love that cat
Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist, was invited to a GOP rally in Atlanta, but State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens demanded that she (and not other, more friendly press) stop recording his speech; when she refused, he summoned a deputy who violently arrested her and then charged her with felony obstruction after she elbowed him while he was bending her over and pressing his groin into her buttocks.
Alright, i’m gonna sit down and basically explain the situation in this ask so everyone of my followers knows why i’m so pissed.
Michael Brown, a 17 - 18 year old african american boy was unlawfully shot (8-10 times supposedly) by police in St Louis, Missouri on saturday, august 9th, 2014. He was unarmed, and had done nothing to attract suspicion other than the fact that he was black. His body was left in the street for 4 hours. (beware: somewhat graphic image linked)
There are several claims from witnesses (see: Dorian Johnson’s account and video [HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING UP ON HIS ACCOUNT, ITS VERY SPECIFIC] — Brown’s friend who experienced the situation first hand, La’Toya Cash and Phillip Walker— Ferguson residents nearby the incident), that fall together in generally close claims. However, the only one who’s claim seems out of place is the police officer’s who shot Brown. Who, by the way, is put off on paid administrative leave AND who’s name remained under anonymity for his safety (However, attorney Benjamin Crump is looking for a way to force release his name). He claims that Brown began to wrestle the officer for his gun and tried attacking him after he told Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson (22) to “get the f*ck on the sidewalk”.
According to Johnson, after a minor confrontation on the officer’s part where he grabbed Brown by the neck and then by the shirt, the officer pulled his gun on Brown and shot him at point blank range on the right side of his body. Brown and Johnson were able to get away briefly and started running. However, Brown was shot in the back, supposedly disabling him from getting very far. He turned around with his arms in the air and said “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” By this point, Brown and the officer were face to face as the cop shot him several times in the face and chest until he was finally dead. Johnson ran to his apartment and by the sound of his account, seemingly had some sort of panic attack. Later he emerged from his home to see Brown still laying in the streets. People were gathered with their cellphones, screaming at the police.
According to msnbc, the police refuse to interview Johnson at all, despite his amazing courage to come forward. They didn’t wanna hear it. They only listened to the cop’s account of it all and were vague with the media on what they thought happened. They’ve also refused to commit to a timeline in releasing autopsy results and other investigation information.
Numerous rumors are sweeping around such as Brown stealing candy from a QuickTrip, the store he emerged from calling the cops on him, Brown reaching for a gun, Brown attacking the cop first, ect. But these have all been debunked. (I know a lot of these have been debunked, but im having a hard time finding sources. if anyone could help out and link some legit ones id be SO grateful)
The event in and of itself was terrible, but now it has escalated beyond belief. Around 100 or more people, mostly black, went to the police station to protest peacefully. Things quickly turned bad as martial law got involved and authorities were bringing in K9s, tanks, heavy artillery, ect. The heavy police presence only made things worse as riots began to break out and looting and vandalism started. [ x ] [ x ] [ x ]
Now, as of very recently, the media has been banned from Ferguson. There is also a No-Fly zone above Ferguson for the reason of “ TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES ” as said on the Federal Aviation Commission’s website. Cop cars are lined up on the borders to prevent people from entering/leaving. Media outlets are being threatened with arrest. It completely violates our amendments and everything.
It’s becoming increasingly scary and difficult to find out whats going on over there. I’m afraid this is all the information I have, though. If anybody else knows anything about the situation, please feel free to add on or correct any mistakes i’ve made as i’m no expert on writing these things.
And as a personal favor, i’d really appreciate anyone to give this a reblog in order to spread the word. I think it’s a shame that this is going on in our own country yet so few people know about it. Help me make this topic huge and get this as much attention as possible.