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Barbara Brandon-Croft: A Cartoon Legacy – Learning Black History Year-Round

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Historically, Black cartoonists have never enjoyed the same representation as their white counterparts. This barrier is slowly being demolished, specifically by Black female artists. Their works are being recognized; their commentary, heard; and social issues, addressed.

Among these women stands Barbara Brandon-Croft (born 1958), creator of  “Where I’m Coming From,” a comic strip described as having “reclaimed the funnies as a space where Black women’s voices could be represented and amplified.” It was published in more than 60 newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada from 1986 to 2005.

The characters took on tough social issues such as sexism and racism.

Brandon-Croft is the first and only African American woman to have her work nationally syndicated in mainstream press.

Born in Brooklyn, Barbara was 10 years old when she started her career (although she says she “didn’t know it at the time”). As a way to earn money for her allowance, she assisted her father, the pioneer syndicated cartoonist Brumsic Brandon, Jr. (1927–2014), creator of the comic strip “Luther,” which ran from 1969–1986.

“My dad worked in the house … initially his studio was in the dining room,” she said during an interview with ABC’s “Here and Now.”

“I had a brother and a sister and he gave each of us a drawing pen. I seemed to be the one that got that ‘gene.’ I was enlisted to do some work on his strips, like coloring in the silhouettes … even one time doing the lettering. I was trained, but I had no idea I was being trained.”

Later, Brandon-Croft would attend Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Her ambitions were broad, including fashion illustrator. “But I still didn’t know,” she said about her career path. It wasn’t until she interviewed for a position at a magazine that an opportunity to draw came about.

“The [interviewer] said, ‘You brought your portfolio,’ and I said I’d do anything. She said, ‘Well, you have a sense of humor, can you do a comic strip?’ I said, ‘I think I can.’ But had my dad been a bus driver, I wouldn’t have thought that.”

Today, both artists remain the only father-daughter lineage in comic syndication history.

What became Brandon-Croft’s big break was the publishing of “Where I’m Coming From” in the Detroit Free Press (1989). Two years later, she would sign a contract with Universal Press Syndicate. Her characters would be known by readers in over 100 US cities as well as in publications in Jamaica and South Africa.

Through “Where I’m Coming From,” Brandon-Croft wanted white readers to “fully grasp the struggles of Black Americans as people in their own right, not just characters that happened to be brown-skinned.”

During a 1992 interview with the New York Times she said: “If mainstream folk understood the Black perspective better, they wouldn’t be surprised at the rage we’re holding. We know white people because we’re exposed to them, but they don’t know us. If we’re going to have a peaceful existence, they have to understand our perspective.”

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Brandon-Croft

https://inthetrove.com/barbara-brandoncroft

Image:  https://inthetrove.com/barbara-brandoncroft

 

About Tamara Shiloh

Tamara Shiloh has published the first two books in her historical fiction chapter book series, Just Imagine…What If There Were No Black People in the World is about African American inventors, scientists and other notable Black people in history. The two books are Jaxon’s Magical Adventure with Black Inventors and Scientists and Jaxon and Kevin’s Black History Trip Downtown. Tamara Shiloh has also written a book a picture book for Scholastic, Cameron Teaches Black History, that will be available in June, 2022. Tamara Shiloh’s other writing experiences include: writing the Black History column for the Post Newspaper in the Bay area, Creator and Instruction of the black History Class for Educators a professional development class for teachers and her non-profit offers a free Black History literacy/STEM/Podcast class for kids 3d – 8th grade which also includes the Let’s Go Learn Reading and Essence and tutorial program.   She is also the owner of the Multicultural Bookstore and Gifts, in Richmond, California, Previously in her early life she was the /Editor-in-Chief of Desert Diamonds Magazine, highlighting the accomplishments of minority women in Nevada; assisting with the creation, design and writing of a Los Angeles-based, herbal magazine entitled Herbal Essence; editorial contribution to Homes of Color; Editor-in-Chief of Black Insight Magazine, the first digital, interactive magazine for African Americans; profile creations for sports figures on the now defunct PublicFigure.com; newsletters for various businesses and organizations; and her own Las Vegas community newsletter, Tween Time News, a monthly publication highlighting music entertainment in the various venues of Las Vegas. She is a member of:
  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
  • Richmond Chamber of Commerce
  • Point Richmond Business Association
  • National Association of Professional Women (NAPW)
  • Independent Book Publishers Association (IPBA)
  • California Writers Club-Berkeley & Marin
  • Richmond CA Kiwanis
  • Richmond CA Rotary
  • Bay Area Girls Club
Tamara Shiloh, a native of Northern California, has two adult children, one grandson and four great-grand sons. She resides in Point Richmond, CA with her husband, Ernest. www.multiculturalbookstore.com

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Art

Richmond Art Center Announces Trio of Winter Exhibitions

Community members can check out Art of the African Diaspora Jan. 18 through March 18 in the RAC’s Main Gallery, with the opening reception being held Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The exhibition will spotlight the work of more than 120 artists of African descent “through representation, professional development and building a creative community,” per the RAC.

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The Remembrance Project (left). Caption 2: Amanda Ayala Ancestor Wheel 2020 (center). Fulfillment by Cynthia Brannvall, 2021 (right). Images courtesy of the Richmond Art Center.
The Remembrance Project (left). Caption 2: Amanda Ayala Ancestor Wheel 2020 (center). Fulfillment by Cynthia Brannvall, 2021 (right). Images courtesy of the Richmond Art Center.

 

By Kathy Chouteau | Richmond Standard

The Richmond Art Center (RAC) has announced its lineup of three winter exhibitions, including Art of the African DiasporaConnected Always and The Remembrance Project, on display at its galleries Jan. 18 through March 18, 2023.

Community members can check out Art of the African Diaspora Jan. 18 through March 18 in the RAC’s Main Gallery, with the opening reception being held Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The exhibition will spotlight the work of more than 120 artists of African descent “through representation, professional development and building a creative community,” per the RAC.

Artists Derrick Bell, Cynthia Brannvall, and Pryce Jones will be featured in the exhibition and community members can find the Art of the African Diaspora print catalog at the center for info about open studios and satellite exhibitions off-shooting from the RAC event. Learn more about the exhibition https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/art-of-the-african-diaspora-2023

Amanda Ayala’s exhibition, Connected Always, will take place in the RAC’s South Gallery Jan. 20 through March 11, 2023. An opening reception is set for Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m., while a free Ancestor Wheel Workshop and artist talk open to everyone will be held by the artist Saturday, Feb. 18, 12 – 2 p.m.

Connected Always will see Ayala — who identifies as a Xicana indigenous visual artist — explore our ancestral connections through her latest works. The interdisciplinary Santa Rosa artist runs workshops “that combine artist liberation and social justice for people of all ages,” per the RAC, and will have one as part of her continuing Ancestor Wheel project during her RAC exhibition. Find out more about Ayala’s exhibition at: https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/connected-always/.

The third winter exhibition, The Remembrance Project, will be shown in the Community Gallery Jan. 18 to March 18, with the opening reception being hosted Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The Remembrance Project Workshop will be held Saturday, Jan. 28 from 2-4 p.m. and a book talk with Sara Trail will happen on Saturday, March 4, from 1-2:30 p.m.

The Remembrance Project is not only “a cloth memorial of activist art banners commemorating the many people who have lost their lives to systems of inequity and racist structures,” per the RAC, but also two special events for community members — the aforementioned workshop and book talk.

The Social Justice Sewing Academy is presenting the cloth memorial, which has been created by volunteers nationwide “to help educate and inform communities about the human impact of systemic violence,” said the RAC.

The community can coalesce with others fighting for social justice and remember those lost to violence, while also learning about the academy’s work, through two related special events. A workshop on Saturday, Jan. 28 will blend craft, art and activism, while the founder of the academy, Sara Trail, will give a talk and book signing of her work Stitching Stolen Lives on Saturday, March 4. The events are free and available to community members of all ages. Learn more about The Remembrance Project at https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/the-remembrance-project

The RAC is located at 2540 Barrett Ave. in Richmond. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the exhibitions and events are free and open to the community.

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Activism

What Took So Long? Statue of Henrietta Lacks Will Replace Robert E. Lee Monument

In a video of a December 19 press conference posted on the city’s Facebook page, it was announced that a statue honoring Henrietta Lacks will be unveiled in fall of 2023 in the very place that once held a monument dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The new statue’s permanent home, which was once named Lee Plaza, was renamed Lacks Plaza in Henrietta’s honor.

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Henrietta Lacks / City of Roanoke Facebook page.
Henrietta Lacks / City of Roanoke Facebook page.

The Black woman whose cells have helped advance medical research will be honored in her hometown

By Angela Johnson

The city of Roanoke, Va., is honoring a Black woman who made tremendous contributions to modern medical research without her knowledge or consent.

In a video of a December 19 press conference posted on the city’s Facebook page, it was announced that a statue honoring Henrietta Lacks will be unveiled in fall of 2023 in the very place that once held a monument dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The new statue’s permanent home, which was once named Lee Plaza, was renamed Lacks Plaza in Henrietta’s honor.

Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump, who was on hand for the press conference, said the new Lacks statue is a step toward healing some of the racial divisions of the past. “In the past, we commemorated a lot of men with statues that divided us,” he said. “Here in Roanoke, Va., we will have a statue of a Black woman who brings us all together.”

Fundraisers collected over $160,000 for the project. Roanoke artist Bryce Cobbs created the sketch for the 400-pound bronze sculpture based on two photographs.

And Larry Bechtel, a Blacksburg, Virginia, artist, will sculpt the statue of Lacks who was a Roanoke native.

“I really wanted to have a distinguished, powerful pose. And I wanted her looking up. I always remember, like, looking up as being something like a feeling of proudness and of having that confidence in yourself and the strength in who you are,” Cobbs told NPR.

Henrietta Lacks was undergoing treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951 when doctors sent portions of her cancerous tissue to another laboratory without her consent. Lacks passed away in October of that year at age 31.

Researchers used her tissue to harvest a line of living cells known as HeLa cells that are still used in medical research today.

According to Johns Hopkins, the HeLa cells have contributed to several major medical developments over the past several decades, such as the development of polio and COVID-19 vaccines and the study of leukemia and AIDS.

Johns Hopkins says they have never sold or profited from the HeLa cells and have shared them freely for other scientific research.

That is little consolation to the Lacks’ family, who is still seeking justice on Henrietta’s behalf.

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Arts and Culture

IN MEMORIAM: Thom Bell, Co-Creator of the Sound of Philadelphia, Dead at 79

“Thom Bell left an indelible and everlasting mark on the history of popular music, but even more so, he will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind and loving friend and family man. The music world has truly lost one of the greats,” his attorney wrote in a statement published in Billboard magazine.

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Thom Bell. Sarkari Library.
Thom Bell. Sarkari Library.

By Post Staff

Songwriter Thom Bell, a classically trained instrumentalist who wrote songs for 1970s singing groups Delfonics, Spinners and Stylistics, passed away at his home Bellingham, Wash., on December 22. He was 79.

With Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Bell gained renown in creating what became known as the “Sound of Philadelphia,” writing, arranging and producing songs for those soul groups as well as the O’Jays, Temptations, Little Anthony and the Imperials and individual artists including Phyllis Hyman, Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Johnny Mathis, Dionne Warwick, The Temptations, Phyllis Hyman, Dee Dee Bridgwater, Elton John, Fatboy Slim, Dusty Springfield, David Byrne, Joss Stone and more.

“Thom Bell left an indelible and everlasting mark on the history of popular music, but even more so, he will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind and loving friend and family man. The music world has truly lost one of the greats,” his attorney wrote in a statement published in Billboard magazine.

Born in 1943 and raised in West Philadelphia, Bell showed early talent as a musician and went on the road with Chubby Checker as a touring conductor in his early 20s. His familiarity with classical and global instruments like bassoons, oboe and sitars made his productions lush and full, influencing Soul music for some time afterwards.

His first production gig was in with the Delfonics, producing the hits “La-La Means I Love You,” and “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time” in 1969. In 1972, he produced The Stylistics self-titled first album and later helped The Spinners achieve hits with “I’ll Be Around” and “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.”

His 11-year partnership with fellow songwriter Linda Creed, yielded several more hits, among them “People Make the World Go Round,” and “You Are Everything.”

In 1975, Bell became the first winner in the Grammy category ‘Best Producer of the Year.’ He worked in the 1990s with James Ingram, David Byrne, Angela Winbush and Josh Stone. In 2006, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and won the Grammy Trustees Award in 2016.

Bell is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and children Royal, Troy, Tia, Mark, Cybell, and Christopher.

Vibe, Yahoo, The Songwriters Hall of Fame, The Seattle Times and Wikipedia were the sources for this report.

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