I have a story to tell. This past October, I attended the Alternative Press Expo –APE for short- as a small part of my weekend vacation back to San Francisco, CA. Trekking the convention’s floor was rather fun after obtaining my day pass. There were many tables to go to, art prints to be splurged on and seemingly interesting people to converse with about life and the passion of art! The excitement should’ve been flowing through my veins to stay for at least five hours… It wasn’t. By the end of the first hour, I was exhausted. I had only walked past twenty out of one hundred plus tables, and there was only so many Marvel/ Disney/ Breaking Bad/ My Little Pony mash ups I could take without seeing much that was at LEAST original.
The content on the
show floor wasn’t my main concern, however.
Before reaching my
exhaustion peak by my third and final hour there, I walked by a table set up by
a woman in her late thirties from Oakland whose recent project on display was
an illustrated reflection of the many types of black men she has encountered in
the Bay Area for the past year. The project was enough to get us into a
friendly ten minute discussion about our present and future endeavors. Before
handing her my business and promo cards, she wanted a picture of me to draw. I
asked her if that will that used for continuing her project. And the answer was
startling at first.
“Well, it’s great
to see a long, tan guy like you makin’ moves so early! You have a book on your
own material out, from New York and you’re down to earth. That’s a rarity
nowadays. I mean, just look at most of this floor. How many of these guys look
This woman hit on
something. While walking to the nearest bus stop to take a quick nap away from the convention, one
nagging fact started to swirl around my mind: The amount of diversity in any entertainment field is a sliver. Yet for
some reason, I feel that many afraid to make mention of it.
Having gone to
college for an art degree twice was pretty telling enough for me to see the
harsh reality of things. When you’re told by a handful of professors that they
see you as nothing more than a ‘C minus Student’ despite what they called your
improvements throughout a semester, something has to give. For me, it started
by looking around the classrooms and auditoriums. It wasn’t just my artistry
that was supposedly holding me back when you are the one dark dot in a vanilla
flavored custard cream pie. Believe it or not, the entertainment field is
dominated by white and Jewish males who allow the most caricaturish and
cartoonish views of people of color, women and homosexuals to be seen as the
only way they feel the world wants them to see it. This ‘profit over dignity’
motto the higher-ups uphold to results in a growing infestation of ignorance passed
down to generations and cultures that can’t be tamed.
I have heard too
many disturbing testimonies from multiple groups of people that prove my
concern. Imagine being a woman in a video game design class and while you pitch
your ideas, the entire room -3/4ths male, by the way- are growing disinterested
and inadvertently shallow towards your existence because your main character
doesn’t have sandy pale skin with a crew cut and equipped with a .38 Special.
What do you tell to the aspiring Latino animator who wishes to create an
animated film based on a known Mexican holiday outside of ‘No one will care’?
Even worse, walk into a session with one of your peers being harshly criticized
because of their lead characters having tan or dark skin where the posting
outside of the film department reading ‘White Males Only.’
2014 is not 1964.
It’s too easy to
assume that many of us, let alone those closest to us, live in homogenized vacuums
with this world being heavily populated with too many viewpoints to count on
both hands and feet. If you think your peers with tales like the above are
exaggerating the truth or are ‘crazy’ and ‘looking too deep’, then you simply
do not understand. You have never opened a history textbook. You barely pay
attention to historical documentaries or current events. You have yet to walk a
day in New York City outside of Times Square. And furthermore, you refuse to open your eyes
to the ever- growing demographics of the United States of America. It’s deeper
Personally, I feel
that it starts and ends with Hollywood, the music industry and any visual/
performing arts sector lending something called mutual support. People are
embracing a modern world where progress can be made and artistic creativity knows
no limits, where all it takes is for brave and different voices to be heard and
embraced. There has to be trailblazer with a relatable counterpoint and it has
to be empathized. And as long as there are helpless students and entertainment
pundits disguised as bounty hunters sucking the nectar of their well respected
yet horribly misinformed superiors, we’re getting nowhere.
But hey, what do I
know! I’m just a slim fit cartoonist from Brooklyn, NY who has a donut
munching, lime green sugar glider as a mascot.