I’m thrilled to see the world of comics expand to graphic novels. Comics, in general, hold a special place in my heart. Comic books were one of the few ways that my older brother, Bryant, and I connected. Now that he’s no longer with me, I still hold the memories of the box full of comics like Spiderman, The Hulk, Richie Rich and Archie.
Graphic novels aren’t new, of course. The lack of diversity in graphic novels and comics aren’t new, either. Several years ago, a friend told me how her sons were frustrated with this genre. “They aren’t any black superheroes.” I hate how generations of children read books and comics, but hardly see a reflection of themselves represented. These children feel invisible and unimportant. Even my high school daughter recently had this debate with her friends. She attends a predominantly white private school and thus her friends are representative of the culture.
Friends: They’re plenty of blacks in comics…Iron War Machine and Nick Fury.
Daughter: And who else.
Friends: I can’t think of them right now.
Daughter: What about black females.
Their take was that there was an adequate amount of Blacks or POC (people of color) represented. This thought reflects the tone that POC face daily. “You’re represented enough! One or two characters is enough!” If the shoe was on the other foot … well, you know.
Okay, so I’m totally thrilled about MARCH: BOOK ONE. It’s a graphic novel with Black heroes. They may not be able to shoot webs or fly over sky scrapers. They might not have bulging biceps or wear capes. But they’re real life heroes who wore a shield of courage.
The story takes shape with John Lewis going through his day. At his office, a lady with her two sons enter the scene as tourists. John Lewis shares his life story, beginning at his childhood on the farm. He shares how he was determined to go to school by skipping out on working alongside his dad, which most Black kids had to do in order for families to survive economically. He mentions the effect of Emmett Till’s death with the defendants being found NOT GUILTY by their peers, and later confessing to the murder in LOOK magazine. (Oh Lord, how things never change.)
Without giving away all of the story, the pace picks up with the movement to desegregate lunch counters. College students, allies to POC, and etc. were hurled racist insults and beaten. This makes me wonder about HATE and the intensity of it. Where does this HATE come from? Surely, these people can’t claim to be good believers or Christians to allow so much hate to exist. Why was (and is) hate released with one’s quest to be treated as a mere human? Why the racial slurs and beatings to those only requesting to be treated as human. Or, treated like you would want to be treated?
Does this type of hate come from FEAR? Then where does this fear originate?
MARCH: BOOK ONE shows how the boycott of the lunch counters hit businesses hard. Just like the bus boycott. (I’ve heard that consumers had power, I wish that we could remember to tap into that now to combat some of these racist attitudes.) Imagine how the movement and boycott was successful even without Facebook and Twitter. That was when black churches took a stand against racial inequality…those were the good old days. When protestors were arrested, they refused to leave the jails even when bail was reduced. Why? BUY THE BOOK AND READ IT. I can’t tell you everything. Anyway, the city wanted, or rather needed, to revise their rules of “not serving niggers.”
Literally, this graphic novel has many discussion points in it. And, the narrative is told by John Lewis himself. Children need to learn history from credible people who lived the experiences. You already know how slavery is represented in text books, ugh! I love that John Lewis decided on graphics. It’s a new language to reach a different, younger, and savvier audience. It’s so needed since many injustices mentioned in the novel parallels what is happening today.
A graphic novel with Blacks as heroes! Yay!