”This is for ones like us, that had big hopes and dreams but didn’t make it.” — Lea Ibragimova, Shanae Bennett, and Valentina Vidal Ortega from Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies
There’s nothing like seeing Hamilton the Musical with a crowd of high school juniors. They laugh at the sex jokes, they get squirmy about death, and they echo the chorus of “ohhhh” at every diss in the show. Having seen Hamilton three times now (yes, I’m bragging a little — you would too), it was absolutely the best audience to see the show with. But it wasn’t the centerpiece of the day.
As a long-term comic head, I have become enamored of every type of comic book. I have horror, Classics Illustrated, science fiction, traditional superhero, and tons of international comics in more long boxes than I can count. The one comic lane I could never get in to: educational comics. I love the old Civil Rights, How Toons, and history comic books. What I could not stand were the ‘this is how the digestive tract works’ or ‘let’s wind our way through the eyeball’ offerings. This would seem to be in direct opposition of my cheerleading the use of comics in educational settings. Hey, I’m complex. As a parent, my dislike has curdled to disdain.
At a time of great unease and injustice, those of us who are parents of children have a challenge ahead of us. Most of our kids will be exposed to the happenings of the world, and well they should. At the same time, what books can we read to them that will help them understand, and provide tools they will need to survive, thrive, and engage? We reached out to several Minnesota writers with children to compile this list of suggestions. This is by no means definitive, nor complete.
This list was compiled by Kurtis Scaletta, Shannon Gibney, Lana Barkawi, Kathryn Savage, Molly Beth Griffin, Sarah Park Dahlen, Bao Phi, and Lorena Duarte Armstrong.
A little over two weeks ago, I had the honor of leading a comics workshop with my SIUniverse partner Jerry Ma at the world renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Part of their annual Lunar New Year festival, Jerry and I helped small children and their families use inspiration from the museum’s rooms of Asian art to create their own superhero characters.
I received a few emails and messages from people who wanted to support the AfroGeeks Unite! summer camp, but didn’t want to wear a shirt with a raygun on it. I completely understand. We’re living in interesting times and the raygun (with the RBG colors) design could be interpreted in a variety of ways… ways some folks may not be comfortable with.
This has been a dispiriting couple of weeks. We are facing a new political reality and now, I feel, there is an increased social, political, and creative urgency — something I’ve never felt before. To address this, me and a few local Bay Area creators have decided to launch AfroGeeks Unite! It is a small initiative that aims to get more POC youth (particularly black youth) involved in the speculative fiction (used as a catchall for SF, comics, horror, etc.) community.
Amongst my friends and family, it is no secret that the only holiday I care about is Halloween. No, it isn’t just because the candy is free and flowing — although this is a huge bonus. What I love the most about he holiday is that there is this unbridled demonstration of ingenuity, creativity, and imagination. People get to step a little outside of their mundane lives and step into the realm of the fantastic.
Another thing I love are the costumes. I don’t think I’m alone in this, especially amongst my fellow NOC. While many of us were too busy to dress up, we made sure that our children did.
I would like to present to you the NOC Parade of Costumes: Our Children’s Addition.
Several weeks ago I had the singular pleasure of substitute teaching for a course in the California College of Arts M.F.A. in Comics program. Yes, you read that correctly. There is an M.F.A. in comics. Where was this X number of years ago when I was on my Higher Ed journey?
As a parent of color it is very difficult to find children’s books that reflect how diverse our world actually is. When we do find books, many of them are about historical figures, historical events, or rooted in surviving tragedies. This is what makes El Primer Corte de Mesita de Furqan (Furqan’s First Flat Top) such a wonderful addition to the POC children’s book canon.
It is such a privilege to be at this year’s Portland State University Multicultural Graduation — I look forward to this graduation every day, to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our students of color. I am so honored to be the keynote speaker, and to have been chosen by the student leaders to do so. Yall know the Cultural Resource Center student leaders are phenomenal, so this is definitely an honor!
This is such an incredibly important time for each of us here — students obviously, but also parents, friends, family, faculty, and staff. It makes me so happy to see so many brilliant students I’ve had the opportunity to get to know graduating here today. This is a time to celebrate the immense amount of work and sacrifice and dedication that got each of you graduating here.
I’m sure that by now you’ve seen the video in which young Jathan Muhar answers the perennial graduation-time question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with an answer to warm any NOC’s heart. He wanted to be Batman. [Ed.note:I guess kindergarteners are a superstitious, cowardly lot. Also, somebody should warn the kid’s parents to never walk down any dark alleys at night. Just sayin’.]
In one short day, it’s been everywhere from Break.com to Gawker to The Huffington Post to the Facebook page of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. But I saw it before it went viral — I saw it live because my 5-year-old daughter was a classmate of his, graduating with him this past Wednesday.
I took my 9- and 5-year-old daughters to see The LEGO Movie on the second day it was out, and all three of us loved it. It is a true family film, one that can be enjoyed by different age groups at different levels — kids will love the humor, the action, that song they won’t stop singing once they get home, and, hey, it’s LEGO, while their parents will appreciate all the references to the kits and playsets of their childhoods, the inside jokes (ones that stick in my mind include the bearded fantasy wizard confusion, needy Green Lantern, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson playing parodies of their archetypal screen personas, and, of course, Batman and his song), and the amazingly detailed art and animation. It is also more subversive and heartwarming than you’d expect an hour-and-a-half-long corporate toy commercial could ever be.
As a parent, you remember the first time you took your #NOCsintraining to see their first movie. Isabella’s was Kung Fu Panda. Giselle’s was Kung Fu Panda 2. Well, it was their little brother’s turn, and we were honestly apprehensive about the situation. Santi cannot sit still for more than 20 minutes, so we needed to find something that would boost his interest.
The Disney film Mater’s Tall Tales was a huge hit in our household, especially with Santiago, our 2-year-old. So when we found the short film at the end of Cars 2 about “Air Mater” all that Santiago could say for weeks was “Again! Please!”
With that in mind, we settled on Planes to watch. The nerd in me, researched characters and plot before we went to see it. Everyone was excited because this was supposed to be the next in the Cars series, but I was intrigued with one character, El Chupacabra.
If you walk into our house, then head up the stairs, take a right at the top and walk through the door, you will find yourself in the lair of our #NOCsintraining (aka my girls’ room). From a quick glance around, you will deduce that there are Star Wars and Avengers bed sheets. Further examination of the room will reveal that LEGOs are also in abundance. And if you inspect their bookshelf, you will find comic books mostly from the Marvel Universe with a focus on the Avengers.
So yes, LEGO and Marvel nerds, we are. But my girls seem to take most interest in building LEGOs these days. Which I enjoy, too. So it was to our delight when we found out that Marvel and Lego decided to put out a series of, well, Marvel LEGO Super Heroes and titled it Maximum Overload. Since it was a Saturday evening, and it was on Netflix, and I had made popcorn, we watched it.
For four years and fifty issues, DC Comics published what should be considered, in my opinion, one of the best kid-friendly comics in the history of the medium: Tiny Titans. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. The series was nominated for multiple Eisners, and actually took home the award on two separate occasions — in 2009 and 2011 — for Best Series for Kids. And while DC no longer publishes (for now) the adventures of Robin, Kid Flash, Beast Boy, Raven, and the rest of the gang at Sidekick Elementary School, Art Baltazar and Franco’s creation has left an indelible mark on how good “comics for kids” can truly be. Plus, my daughter loves these books. So much.
Fun fact: I can sing the entire theme song of Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers by heart. Why? Because Rescue Rangers is freakin’ awesome.
Vitals:Rescue Rangers was a Disney Channel TV show that ran for 65 22-minute episodes between 1989 and 1990. And, it didn’t matter how old you were, if you were a kid in the 80s, you were watching Rescue Rangers.
In honor of The Nerds of Color’s first Halloween, this week’s School of Hard NOCs features our own little NOCs in Training in Halloween costumes past and present. We’ll forgo any identifying information to protect the innocent (inasmuch as we can do so while acknowledging that we are both dressing our children in geeky costumes and posting their pictures in said costumes online), but astute readers can probably figure out which younglings belong to which NOC.
To whet your appetite, we wanted share our favorite Halloween-themed commercial that proves the old adage that the NOC family that dresses in themed costumes and trick-or-treats together stays awesome together; click on the “more” link below that to see our own kids (both human and non-) in costume. From our families to yours, Happy Halloween!
As the father of two daughters of color, finding reading material and other media that both reflect back at them and reflect the wider, diverse world of which they are a part is important to me. The discussion around what kind of stories get told about what kind of characters and who gets to tell them is, sadly, not relegated to the realm of speculative fiction literature or literary fiction. The dismal state of affairs in the world of children’s literature was recently put in stark relief by the good people at Lee and Low Books, whose tagline is “About Everyone. For Everyone.”
This is the story of a man that wears a steel pot for a hat, mumbles gibberish, and has zombies invading his garden. Your Job is to use plants to prevent the zombies from… ummm… eating your brains!
If this just seems too extreme for a movie plot, well it probably is. But it’s better suited to one of the best Tower Defense titles that has hit the mobile phone market. We are referring to the game Plants vs Zombies.
Its original release was a PC version by PopCap in 2005, but it made a splash on to the iPhone in 2010, and damn it, it is one of the most addicting things in my life at the moment — next to avocado sandwiches.
Vitals:X-Men #1-3 are the first three issues of the re-launched X-Men title, and serve as a natural jumping on point for anyone who hasn’t been reading. It made national news earlier this year for featuring the first ever all-female X-Men line-up.
Plot: We rejoin the X-Men to find that most of them are now teachers at the Jean Grey Institute for Gifted Children. Jubilation Lee, code-named Jubilee, has resurfaced as the caretaker of an adorable little baby boy and is seeking refuge in the home of her old teammates. Little does she know that she has unintentionally led one of the X-Men’s foremost foes — the sentient bacteria John Sublime who is capable of taking control of any organic being — right to the X-Men’s doorstep. It turns out that Sublime is also seeking help from the X-Men, this time to confront a long-lost evil twin, the sentient technoorganic bacteria Arkea who is capable of controlling all things technological. How does a bacteria do that? It’s a sentient bacterial cell, people. Let’s just go with it, okay?
As of a father of three NOCs in training, we’ve had the experience in cycling through kids TV shows. Everyone goes through Dora and Diego phases before moving on to Backyardigans and graduating to Yo Gabba Gabba! and so on.
But in our NOC household the one TV show that all three of the kids have enjoyed thoroughly — and at times the older siblings still make ahemexcuses to watch with their little brother — is Disney’s Little Einsteins.
Little Einsteins is a show where four friends — Annie, Leo, June, Quincy and a very special rocketship named Rocket (yea I know, original but bare with me) — launch into missions that are filled with classical music and historically well known artwork to engage young kids with art and music.