Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Changing Image of Blacks in Comics

In 1966, Marvel introduced Black Panther, the first African-American superhero dedicated to upholding justice and equality for all.

African-American comic book characters have become more prevalent since then.

Whether it’s Storm from “The X-Men,” Nick Fury from “The Avengers,” or Spawn from Image Comics, black characters have gone from being a marginalized minority to becoming significant players in every major comic company’s currently running series.

“Changing Image of Blacks in Comics,” an exhibition by comic book historian Dr. William H. Foster III, attempts to encapsulate nearly 50 years of African-American characters in comics.

Perceiving a lack of widespread knowledge about black comic book heroes, Foster created the project in the mid-1990s. Housed in Denver’s Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library throughout February, the exhibition details the rise and struggle of African-Americans to get fair and equal representation in the medium.

Blacks in Comics

“Changing Image of Blacks in Comics,” an exhibition by comic book historian Dr. William H. Foster III, attempts to encapsulate nearly 50 years of African-American characters in comics. (Photo: Courtesy of Dr. William H. Foster III by Hadiya Evans)

“People will gain a better knowledge of the many different comics with black characters that appeared since the early 1940s,” Foster says of the exhibition. “I hope everyone who visits the exhibit will begin their own journey of exploration into this valuable part of American history.”

The growth of black comic book characters stems back to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Real-life heroic figures like Malcolm X and Rosa Parks inspired the comics industry to bring more ethnic variety to their pages.

Yet despite the growing prevalence of African-American heroes in comics, they have yet to make a big splash on the big screen.

We’ve already seen several cinematic comic book adaptations featuring black characters in non-starring roles, such as War Machine in the three “Iron Man” movies.

Yet at a time when superhero movies are enjoying big box office success, the fact that we’ve yet to see an African-American character take center stage says there is still ground to be gained.

One or two interesting projects are currently in the works to redress the balance.

Don Cheadle has been tapped to star as War Machine -- originally a supporting superhero in Marvel Comics’ “Iron Man” series -- in a standalone “War Machine” film. Marvel is also actively developing a “Black Panther” movie.

But there still remains a question as to whether either of these characters will appeal to mass-market movie audiences to the same degree they have in comics.

Some comic industry professionals claim that a multicultural sensibility is still missing from comics in general, thanks to a paucity of black writers in the industry. This lack might be keeping a high-profile African-American superhero from making the same successful leap onto the big screen.

“The comic industry certainly owns no sort of exclusivity when it comes to the lack of opportunity or attention afforded black writers in entertainment,” Joseph Hughes, editor-in-chief of the comic book commentary website Comics Alliance, says. “Characters like Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man are some of the most recognizable and endearing this country has ever produced, and to continually have their stories told by members of the same increasingly shrinking demographic borders on irresponsible.”

An absence of black writing talent isn’t the only issue keeping African-American heroes from multiplex audiences. Finding a way to create and market enough minority characters so that they don’t have to represent an entire race is another challenge facing the industry.

“If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren't just that character," Dwayne McDuffie, a former editor at Marvel Comics and the founder of Milestone Media, a publishing company dedicated to balancing out minorities’ representation in comics, says. "They represent that race or that sex, and they can't be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people”

In charting how African-American superheroes have grown from being temporary sidekicks to full-fledged, complex heroes, the “Changing Image of Blacks in Comics” exhibition points towards a future in which film audiences might champion a black superhero.

By Alexander Lumans Alexander Lumans is a writer, college instructor, and teacher at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Naugatuck Valley Community College 750 Chase Parkway, Waterbury, CT 06708 (203) 575-8040

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Florida Memorial University (FMU) has announced the appointment of Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis as the University’s 13th President

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – The Board of Trustees of Florida Memorial University (FMU) has announced the appointment of Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis as the University’s 13th President, effective immediately. This historic appointment is unprecedented and Dr. Artis has made history by becoming the first woman President of the 135-year-old higher education institution.

After serving as Interim President since July 15, 2013, Dr. Artis has performed admirably during her six months in the position and has been embraced throughout the student body, the faculty and staff and the entire south Florida community.

“I am impressed with her adept administrative and people skills,” says Charles George, Chairman of the FMU Board of Trustees. “She has hit the ground running and brings superb qualifications and leadership skills to FMU.”

Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis

Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis

Dr. Artis is a Trustee Scholar graduate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she earned her Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from West Virginia University College of Law in Morgantown, West Virginia, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from West Virginia State College Institute in West Virginia.

Dr. Artis is delighted to be in her new role, and shared that “I am honored to have been chosen by the Board of Trustees to lead Florida Memorial University at such a critical point in its history. This University has been a key component of Florida’s educational system for 135 years. The University has provided access to a quality education for generations of students, many of whom would not have had the opportunity were it not for FMU. Its history is indeed rich and its future is bright. I am confident that the best is yet to come!”

Since arriving to FMU, Dr. Artis has provided immeasurable leadership and direction to the University family at all levels. She has become well-acclimated to the South Florida community, and has been appointed to multiple community and corporate boards and associations increasing involvement and exposure of the University.

On campus, Dr. Artis has spearheaded a series of new and innovative programs for students and is diligently striving to improve corporate and community relations and endowment initiatives for the institution. “We have assembled a knowledgeable, experienced and highly competent administrative team to work with our strong faculty and committed staff to create an environment that prepares our special young people with a well-rounded, holistic, educational experience. Florida Memorial University is well positioned for the future,” says Dr. Artis.

Throughout her career, Dr. Artis’ extensive academic experience and accomplishments have been widely accepted and highly successful. For nearly a decade, she served in numerous roles at Mountain State University; including faculty member, Senior Academic Officer, Vice President for Advancement, Chief Academic Officer, and the University’s Provost. Her interests have included student retention, particularly as it relates to adult and non-traditional students, academic and co-curricular support structures in alternative learning modalities, strategic planning, institutional effectiveness and student learning outcomes assessment.

In addition, she has also served as a partner at Assessment by Design, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in the development and implementation of comprehensive assessment strategies for academic and co-curricular programs in higher education; an attorney at the Wooton Law Firm, an adjunct professor at The College of West Virginia, and an associate attorney at Brown & Levicoff PLLC, among other notable positions.

“Dr. Artis has completed or made significant progress on the goals the board set for her,” states Chairman George. “She is an asset to our students, faculty and administration and the South Florida communities.”

About Florida Memorial University

Located in the City of Miami Gardens, Florida Memorial University is a private, historically Black institution offering 41 undergraduate degree programs and four graduate degree programs to a culturally diverse student body. Since its inception in 1879, the University has upheld a commitment to providing a solid foundation for thousands of young people and opening doors to educational opportunities that may have otherwise been closed to them.

As South Florida’s only Historically Black College or University (HBCU), it is widely recognized for being the birthplace of the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and the home of Barrington Irving, Jr., the first and youngest pilot of African descent to fly solo around the world. Florida Memorial University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). For more information about FMU, visit www.fmuniv.edu.

For more information on the appointment of Dr. Artis, contact Bernadette Morris of Sonshine Communications at (305) 948-8063, ext. 201.