Comic Review: Black #1 by Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith 3

Black by Kwanza Osajyefo, asks “In a world that already fears and hates them – what if only black people had superpowers”?

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Kareem Jenkins, a young teen is walking down the street with his friends. Meanwhile, a call comes in through dispatch, a robbery by gunpoint, the suspects: on foot black males, 20’s, in basketball shorts and t-shirts. As officer Ellen Waters points out, to no one but herself, “that description–could be anybody around there… and to some cops, it is everybody…”

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Kareem and his friends are surrounded by police; three squad cars and six aimed guns block the boy’s paths to safety. Fear seeps from the pages as one of Kareem’s friends, knowing what comes next, tries to make a run for it.

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Amadou Diallo. Manuel Loggins Jr. Ronald Madison. Kendra James. Sean Bell. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Alton Sterling. Tamir Rice. Philando Castile.

According to data collected by The Washington Post, 523 people have been killed and shot by police in 2017. 230 were white, 120 were black, 88 were latino. 178 of them were under the age of 30. Mental illness played a role in a quarter of incidents.

For full data, please visit
https://github.com/washingtonpost/data-police-shootings/blob/master/fatal-police-shootings-data.csv

Harvard Professor, MacArthur “Genius” and John Bates Clark medal recipient, Roland G. Fryer, sought to collect data on police violence. Professor Fryer and a handful of student researchers “spent about 3,000 hours assembling detailed data from police reports in Houston; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and four other counties in Florida” (NY Times, Bui and Cox, 2016). They found that despite media coverage and civilian beliefs that police shootings were not influenced by racial bias. However, they did find that in all other enforcement practices, black men and women WERE treated differently. Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 6.18.21 PM.png

The data collected from 10 cities and counties, doesn’t give us the full data on police violence in the states, and while it suggests no racial bias in shootings, 523 dead people should be enough for concern. With only 5 1/2 months left in the year, one must wonder if we will come close or surpass the 963 deaths that occurred in 2016.

Additionally, even if the data doesn’t suggest racial bias, it’s important to note that the stories that surround the deaths of black men and women are almost always characterized by public perception. Brown skin is viewed as criminal in this country and the media does all it can to perpetuate the idea of “super predators”, “thugs”, and “gangsters”. More often than not, brown skin and hoodies are misidentified by police, “that description–could be anybody around there… and to some cops, it is everybody…”

Kareem Jenkins jolts awake in the ambulance, he jumps out the back and into an abandoned building. There he finds a mysterious man, who offers Kareem an escape while the man’s “team” takes care of the officers.

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Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 6.01.54 PM.pngKareem is taken to Chicago where he learns that he is made of hexaquarks. Meaning, Kareem is a superhero. Having just experienced, a death like experience via being riddled with bullet holes, Kareem is unsure about joining the “job corps for freaks”. But a profound statement made by the mysterious man changes Kareem’s mind, and in the end, Kareem agrees to join the project.

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With gorgeous illustrations and impeccable linework, I was hooked by the first page; the writing is fast paced but continually creates a story of oppression and a steady rise to power.  It doesn’t make light of the very serious topic of police shootings and it doesn’t beat around the bush. Even more importantly, this isn’t a story of police brutality, but of personal discovery. It’s refreshing to see a story where all superheroes are black when the majority are white, and even the ones that aren’t white get whitewashed. This world needs stories of #BlackBoyJoy and #BlackGirlMagic. We need superheroes that truly fight for the oppressed.

I’ve already added the #2-5 to my ComiXology cart and am looking ready to #6 out for preorder now.

Please join me next week, for my review of Bone Machine by Diego Cortés and Nikolas Brondo.

R

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