Inspired By: Matt Baker And Jackie Ormes

I grew up reading DC and Marvel, watching animated series about Batman and the X-Men,  and rushing to the theater for each new incarnation of my favorite heroes. I’ve even gone as far as cosplaying with my family at the San Diego Comic Con (which was a blast)! There’s an air of encouragement that comes along with reading about heroes and in many ways they are our modern mythologies; each time they succeed, I feel challenged to find ways to be the heroine of my own story, or to push myself beyond my limits.

The 91st Academy Awards aired last night, and I was elated to see comic book films were able to claim trophies  in several categories, with wins in Best Animated Feature (Into the Spider-Verse), as well as Costume Design/Production Design and Best Original Score (Black Panther). The women who won for Black Panther – Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler –  were the first Black women to win in their categories, and Peter Ramsey – one of the directors of Spider-Verse – was the first Black director to win in the category.

In honor of the historic wins last night, and of the books I love so much, today I want to honor two people who broke barriers in the field. Enjoy!

Jackie Ormes

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Jackie Ormes was the first Black woman to become a comic illustrator. Born in 1911 as Zelda Mavin Jackson, Ormes would become famous for creating the Torchy Brown comic strip and Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger. Jackie initially worked as a journalist for the Black-owned Pittsburgh Courier newspaper before making the transition to comic illustrator and writer in 1937 with the Torchy comic. Jackie was prolific artist, who worked until retirement in 1956.

What I love about Jackie is her dedication to confronting racism, sexuality, and environmental issues. She became so outspoken that she was eventually investigated by the FBI. In 2014, Jackie Ormes was posthumously inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Industry Hall of Fame in 2018.

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Matt Baker

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Matt Baker is known today as the first Black man to become a comic book illustrator. He was born ten years after Jackie, in 1921, and eventually moved to her stomping ground of Pittsburgh as well. Baker was sought out and hired for his beautiful drawings of buxom women, who were heroines and adventurers.  He is most widely known, however, for Phantom Lady.  I love that Baker drew her, and other women, as strong, brave and formidable, within a realm that usually presented women as solely sexual objects.

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Additionally, Baker is credited with the creation of the first Black hero in the comic realm, known as Voodah.

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A Perfectly Odd September Mood Board

When I prepare a mood board it’s usually done with the intention of reflecting what months, or various times of year, mean to me. December is a time for holiday imagery, October is solely for pumpkins, and that has worked great for me in the past. But what happens when you come to a month that has no easily assigned imagery? What are we supposed to look forward to without the road map of cultural practices to guide us? Better yet, what do we look forward to when the page of the mind is blank?

I’ve run into this conundrum with September. In my culture – black, American, raised Methodist – there’s really nothing. There are events that have been solidified into the mind like Labor Day and 9/11, but I couldn’t put a finger on what the month of September was besides the period of time before Halloween. Being a professional over-thinker, I started to explore what I wanted this time of year to symbolize for me. To start, I listed off all the things that have happened to me in September: I was married last September, ten years ago I survived a suicide attempt and recovered in September, and I love the fashion spreads that hit the shelves in September.

From there I looked a bit deeper, in the hopes of pushing away the words to get to the feeling in my heart when I thought of those things. The words that came to mind were love, strength, beauty, and freedom. Love kept me alive long enough to meet my soulmate, strength got me out of bed and out into the world to try life again. The beauty of the world, and creativity of its inhabitants, keeps me excited and enthralled in life. Last, but never least, I discovered that every day can be an opportunity to free myself from the darkness of my past, and that I am no less amazing from the days I might fail. Now it seems September might be the most important month of them all.

So, in honor of those truths, those lovely feelings in my heart, I want to share my September mood board with you. Enjoy!

Tessa Thompson for The Cut by Awol Erizku
Tessa Thompson for The Cut by Awol Erizku

Via Into The Gloss

 

Media Prep

Every Friday we will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out. Please share your suggestions below!

We’ve been granted another weekend to celebrate, so let’s do it! This week we’ve rounded up some of the best pieces of music, literature, and commentary for you to explore, as well as the movies hitting the scene. From Scarlett Johansson to mermaids, this list is a doozy. Enjoy!

Movies

Sorry to Bother You premiers this week and we can’t wait to see it. The film debut of musician Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You has been highly anticipated since it was first screened at Sundance in January. Lakeith Stanfield leads a cast of Danny Glover, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews and Armie Hammer in a look at race, wealth, identity and perception through the lens of a young black man. If nothing else this film is definitely timely.

Ant Man and the Wasp

This is the 8 millionth Marvel movie to hit the cinemas in their 10 year dominiation streak, but we can’t stop running to the theaters to check out the films. Ant Man and the Wasp is the sequel to Ant Man (2015), which followed thief Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) as he teamed with Hank Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) to save the day by shrinking to the size of an insect. Sounds crazy, but was so good! The sequel promises just as much of a fun ride, so you should check it out with the rest of us nerds.

Music

High as Hope by Florence + The Machine

This is the band’s fourth album and it arguably goes deeper than ever before. Florence Welch has opened up about her struggles with alcoholism, disordered eating, family relationships, and aging. Her voice soars and swells, stripped down to the essentials to deliver something beautiful. You can catch videos of the band’s recent performance here .

Books

The Seas by Samantha Hunt

Samantha Hunt’s novel is being reissued , and we highly recommend giving it a look if you’re interested in thinking about the nature of reality and identity through the eyes of a young girl. Narrated by a young girl who doesn’t reveal her name, the story explores her isolation with her mother in a small town and her belief she is a mermaid. We suspect the novel will stick with you long after you’ve put it down.

Articles

It was recently announced that Scarlett Johansson would be playing a trans man in her upcoming flick “Rub and Tug”. Writing for Slate, Evan Urquhart explains why it’s not only inappropriate, but downright offensive.  If you’re struggling to understand what all the commotion is about, Evan makes it quite clear. At a time when there is push back from marginalized groups about who gets to tell their stories, this misstep is particularly frustrating. Read Evan’s article here.

(If you already knew about Scarlett’s nonsense and just want to laugh at the burns she received, go here.)

In not so great news, the Trump administration is working to undo an Obama-era protection for diversity on college campuses, essentially creating a timeline for the revocation of Affirmative Action. You can read more about the process here.

Finally, in news that gives us hope for the future: on the 4th of July activist Therese Patricia Okoumou climbed the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of children from their parents by I.C.E and the administration’s treatment of immigrants in general. Upon her release she had this to say,

“Michelle Obama, our beloved First Lady that I care about so much, said when they go low, we go high. And I went as high as I could.”

Please have that printed on a shirt for me IMMEDIATELY.

You can read more about Therese and view her press conference here.

That’s all for this week, folks! Take care of yourself out there!