Friday, February 3, 2012

Black History Month Day 3: A Milestone.

Dwayne McDuffie (Feb. 20 1962- Feb. 21 2011)
  I was pretty upset last year when Dwayne McDuffie died. A part of it being that Static has to be my favorite character from any medium. However what hit me the hardest had to be the fact that literally minutes before the news broke of his death I had just finished watching All Star Superman and I didn't have the most positive of words for it. (That's an understatement.) But Justice League: Doom- his final work is coming out on the 28th and it looks pretty good. (You're such a nerd KJ.) I know right. Anyway if you have no idea what I'm talking about; allow me introduce you to the late Dwayne McDuffie. 
 Dwayne McDuffie was a comic-book and television writer who in 1989, was an editor at Marvel Comics. While at the company he jokingly pitched a series concept entitled "Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers"(That's just an urban legend right?) Actually no, you see the proposal poked fun at the fact that most comics aimed at "Urban Youth" during that time period involved colored people who rode skateboards, spoke in slang and relied on White characters to, for lack of a better phrase, "keep them in line". After his brief tenure at Marvel he became a freelance writer working on a long list of comics for DC, Marvel and Harvey comics. In 1993, feeling that minorities were underrepresented in mainstream comics, McDuffie along with a number of other Black writers and artists created Milestone Media which has been described as "the greatest minority owned and operated comic-book company of that time". It gave us the likes of Icon, Blood Syndicate, and of course Static. Unfortunately in 1997, Milestone Media ended it's comic division and today is primarily involved in licensing. Since 2008 the Milestone characters have been a part of the DC Universe and you can still find some of the older comics around the interwebs.  He later went on to television, writing for The Emmy Nominated Static Shock, Teen Titans, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited and Ben 10: Alien Force. He's also worked on a number of Direct to Video DC films my favorite being Justice League a Crisis on Two Earths so go ahead and check that out. I highly recommend it. 
 I've been a fan of his for just about as long as I've been into comics and superheroes. What I loved most about this guy's work had to be the fact that unlike a lot of comic or T.V writers, even some of the more famous ones, he really showed the diversity we human beings have that transcends our skin tone. There's more than just two types of Black people (Gangsta and Comic relief). All gays aren't flamboyant promiscuous creatures and women are more than just things you have sex with. He said it best: 
"If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren't just that character. 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. You know, Superman isn't all white people and neither is Lex Luthor... We had to present a view of the world that's wider than the world we've seen before."
 Well I have a headache, I think I'm going to watch some Justice League or something. Catch you later. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Black History Month Day 2: The Autobiography Of a Slave

Olaudah Equiano

  Now usually when I ask people to name a Black writer from the Slavery era they usually, almost exclusively even, say Phillis Wheatley. I don't really find anything wrong with that because I have a vague understanding of why this is. You see I remember reading about Phillis Wheatley in just about every history and English class I ever taken because of the way she ties in with the Revolutionary War and the fact she never really wrote about her existence as a slave but more about the way colonists felt about the British. This essentially means that she is a lot more 'acceptable' for those in Texas who produce most of our nation's textbooks. Before I get even more off track let's look at Olaudah Equiano.

  Back when I was in High School I read an excerpt from his autobiography (which you can get free here ) it was just a great read and I'll probably remember his story forever. (Didn't you have to Google his name earlier?) Shh. I encourage you to read it but summarize his work, Equiano describes him and his sister being kidnapped in Africa. He becomes the slave for a few different Africans before he is sold to Europeans and brought to the 'New World'. After being taught to read and write by his third European slave master, a Quaker from Philadelphia, he is able to buy his freedom. Shortly after that he moved to England where he became a member of the England abolitionist movement and published his book which exposed the conditions Africans had to go through while on the slave ships and while in America. It wasn't the first book of it's kind but it had the most impact, leading to a growing abolitionist movement in 18th century Europe.

  I think the most interesting aspect of his Autobiography has to be the way he contrasts being owned by Africans with being owned by Europeans. I think that if you ever run into someone who tries the whole "Well, Blacks owned slaves in Africa, Why focus on White people?!!" thing, you recommend this book to them. It could really open their eyes to see that while Slavery was not just White guys running around throwing nets and kidnapping Black people (even though that did happen) the Europeans displayed a level of cruelty and dehumanization that was unheard of. Anyway,  I hope you check out his works and I'll see you tomorrow.

Quickie "New Birth Crowns Eddie Long as King"

Excuse my French but this is pretty fucked up. What the flying fuck is this? I'm not trying to bash religion at all but there comes a point where rational Christians should just stand up and say enough is enough.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Black History Month Day 1: Virginia's First Black Mayor

Hermanze Edwin Fauntleroy Jr.

  So I was on twitter last night and happen to see this. I thought it was an interesting idea and I decided to try it out. All day I've been kind of torn on who I wanted to really focus on first. Then I thought "maybe I should go local" and well, it probably doesn't get any closer than this. You see for the first decade or so of my life Mr.Fauntleroy was our neighbor and landlord and sadly all I remember is that he was always a nice old man who would give us back our balls that occasionally flew over his fence. It kind of makes me sad that I had no idea who he really was until I saw his obituary in late 2010. Some people reading might not even think it's that big of a deal but to me it's just this feeling of "wow, I lived next to a hero." You know? 
 "Fauntleroy was the city's first black mayor and the first black mayor in the state according to the Virginia Historical Society.The historic achievement was featured in a July 1973 Jet Magazine. The article noted that the vote for Fauntleroy as mayor was a unanimous one by the seven-member council, of which only four members were black.

Florence Farley, who served on that council with Fauntleroy, recalled him as a "beautiful person." She went on to say that he was the perfect gentleman - equal parts gentleness and strength when dealing with issues.

"He was dedicated to this city," Farley said.

Farley and Fauntleroy had known each other even before their time on City Council together. She said that she first met Fauntleroy while working at Virginia State University, then known as Virginia State College.

Fauntleroy was a 1954 graduate of of VSU but his father had worked there as well. Farley and Fauntleroy had a passion for civic duty and worked together with a group called Petersburg Voter Education Committee. Around the same time, Fauntleroy began to teach at Peabody High School in career and technical education.

Farley said that when the city annexed part of Prince George and Dinwiddie counties, the group went to the then five-member Petersburg City Council and asked for more black representation.

"We felt as though the black vote had been diluted," Farley said.

The group eventually pursued the case to the Surpreme Court which determined that the ward system needed to be implemented in the city. It wasn't long after that before Fauntleroy ran for office. When he was elected to City Council though he was fired from his job as a teacher. "He gave up his career for this city," Farley said. "He gave up his profession for this community." A Sept. 15, 1966, issue of Jet magazine features an article about Fauntleroy being forced to resign his position in the city's public schools or give up his elected council seat.

Farley said that when Fauntleroy was fired from his job, he didn't hang his head even knowing that he had a wife and three daughters to support. The president of Virginia State College hired him on as the director of the Alumni Association according to Farley. He also worked for a period of time at Titmus Optical before finally opening a hardware store on Sycamore Street. Farley said that was even a first.

"He was the first black businessman on Sycamore Street," Farley said. It was around that time that many businesses were also moving from downtown to the newly opened Walnut Mall. Farley said eventually Fauntleroy's business failed but that he remained dedicated to the community going on to work for an education representation.

In 1973 City Council finally had a black majority with four of seven members. It was at that time that anticipation began to fill the air that Fauntleroy would be named the new mayor. An article in the July 3, 1973, edition of The Progress-Index noted that Fauntleroy as an already experienced councilman would likely be picked as Mayor. At the re-organizational meeting, he was selected as mayor and in the July 5, 1973, edition of The Progress-Index, the decision was revealed from the council meeting - Fauntleroy was elected as mayor.

Several of the decisions made that night hold true to the current city council meeting format, including a 30 minute public comment period and allowing public comment on any action item before city council. Both of those changes were noted as being put forward by Fauntleroy shortly after becoming mayor.

Fauntleroy would only serve as mayor for a brief period of time, before being replaced, but it wasn't long before he was once again named mayor this time for four consecutive years from 1976 to 1980.

Fauntleroy continued to remain active in the community serving on boards, commissions and other special projects through 2009 when he resigned from the Planning Commission.

In 2007, he even helped lead a project to record the oral histories of other civil rights leaders in the city. "If we don't do something like the oral history project, we're afraid we'll lose the opportunity to talk to those who were around during the civil rights movement," Fauntleroy said in 2006 about the Petersburg 2007 Civil Rights Oral History Project.

Friday Fauntleroy even voiced his opinions in a letter to the editor regarding the current race for the Ward 5 seat on City Council.

"I had the opportunity to serve as mayor and as a member of the Petersburg City Council some 24 years ago," Fauntleroy said in his letter. "At that time the city was not what it is today in terms of growth and what has taken place in relationship to expansion in the city as it relates to the citizens having much of what we didn't have at that particular time. We need to be sure that we continue the effort to bring about the kind of growth that we need in Petersburg. And that includes human growth as well as business growth."