Why don't you talk Black?
Finding myself before Blerd culture
Being born in the late '80s and growing up in the '90s meant that black looked, sounded, and acted a certain way that I didn't always quite live up to. I sucked at basketball, wore button ups and payless shoes, and wasn’t allowed to listen to my first rap album until the age of 17 solely because the artist had a song called "Jesus Walks;” only to have it quickly taken away because my Dad didn't want me listening to such a "lost young man."
Learning to fake passion for topics I knew little about (or was simply uninterested in) became an art of mine, or so I thought, as my attempts to "talk more black" and fill my walk with a little more swag were meat with anxious looks by family and friends who really knew me, telling me that I should just be myself.
But, how could I? "Myself" didn't have a place in the world I lived in.
My passion was for off planet worlds in galaxies far away, Norse gods not made popular until I was almost an adult who fought for honor and justice, and little boys whose parents were killed at an early age (just like my birth mom was) who dedicated the rest of their lives to making sure it didn't happen to anyone else.
There was no one in the black crowd for me to connect with on this topic as it was perceived as too corny, and I stood out in a way that felt uncomfortable in the white crowd. All hope was lost, even in an art school where I majored in animation, being 1 of only 4 black kids on campus (in an all-black neighborhood at that) until a fateful day over a colleague’s house.
Jerome. I remember him till this day. He was a black comic creator who gave me some of my first experiences in the industry inking his work. Through him, I attended my first Comic-con (as a creator) and even sold my first pieces of work at said event, boosting my confidence in a field that I would learn was all too competitive.
“Have you ever heard of Dwayne Mcduffie?”
“No,” I said half listening, expecting to hear another one of his elaborate stories about times past.
“Dwayne is the man, you know he created and wrote half of the shows you watch on TV right?”
“That’s cool” I said to myself. Catching my lack of interest in the subject which I apparently did a poor job at hiding, he pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of him.
“Here.” Passing me his phone, I saw someone that looked like my dad, and the rest of my life would forever be changed.
Creator of such shows as Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited, and Ben 10, not to mention his involvement in a black owned comic book company, Milestone comics (created by a group of young black men who just like me wanted to see themselves in the media they grew up loving to read), the existence of a black man not only actively working in but creating and being responsible for writing several episodes in the Justice League Unlimited series was probably one of the most profound moments in my creative life.
Though I would have loved to meet him, to pick his brain and tell him how much of an impact he had in my life he died February 21, 2011, five days before my birthday. Despite this fact, his legacy is one that has left a huge impact on both me, and countless black creators that he may never know he touched. He represented all of us. Rest in heaven Dwayne McDuffie, and know, that your legacy is something that continues to inspire till this day.