Next Saturday, January 16, Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture will host the 4th annual Black Comic Book Festival.
At noon John Jennings will moderate a panel on “Comics and Matters of Social Justice and Activism” with Julie Smith, writer of Hafrocentric, Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing, and Julian Voloj, author of “Ghetto Brother”.
If you are in New York, don’t miss this event.
When? Saturday, 1/16/16 — 12 PM – 1:15 PM
Where? Schomburg Center, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th Street
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Benjamin Melendez with his family at the opening of Julian Voloj’s photo exhibition “If you live in New York…”, 2011
December 8 marks the anniversary of the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting, the iconic gathering that not only inspired the movie “The Warriors” but also ended for a period of time a spiral of violence in the Bronx. When I met Benjy Melendez back in 2010, the events were widely forgotten.
Initially I was only planning to include Benjy’s portrait in a photography series on Jewish diversity. We became friends and he continued to tell me his story. I knew I wanted to tell it, and one thing let to another. Claudia and I started working on the graphic novel in early 2011. The year marked the 40th anniversary of the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting, but no events were planned. So I approached Benjy with the idea to organize a reunion. Claudia and I had maybe 10 pages ready and were not sure where our journey would lead to. That December, dozens of former activists came together re-telling stories from back-in-the-day. It was the first time in decades that many of these people had seen each other.
Five years later, “Ghetto Brother” has not only been published with NBM, but also in France, Germany, and Spain (a Brazilian edition is planned for next spring), the Ghetto Brothers album “Fuerza” has been re-released and the documentary “Rubble Kings” brought the events to a wider audience. No doubt that the 40th anniversary reunion played a small part in bringing Benjy’s story to a wider audience.
Next week, we’ll mark the anniversary of the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting with two special events, and you can be part of it. The first one is in the Manhattan’s Lower East Side: On Wednesday, December 9th, I will discuss “Ghetto Brother” with Tamid’s Jewish Book Club The following day, Benjy and I will be on the Upper West Side, speaking at Barnes and Noble at 82nd Street and Broadway at 7 PM.
If you are in New York, don’t miss this opportunity!
On Saturday, the Edgar Allan Poe Visitors Center will host “Women in Comics”, a group exhibition curated by Ray Felix (Bronx Heroes) and Regine Sawyer (Lockett Down Productions). The exhibition will also feature artwork from “Ghetto Brother” illustrated by Claudia Ahlering (see photo).
When? Saturday, August 1, 2015, 1 PM
Where? Poe Park Visitor Center, 2640 Grand Concourse, The Bronx
Who? The Women in Comics Collective began in May, 2012. It’s mission is to educate about the role and merit of women working in the comic book industries by highlighting their artistic endeavors. The collective has over 50 members and organizes art exhibitions and a panel series that has been hosted at venues such as the Schomburg Center for Black Culture and Research, the Bronx Museum, the Bronx Library Center, and most recently at Comic Con in San Diego.
For more information about the exhibition and related events, please visit their Facebook page.
If you read “Ghetto Brother” you know that after the gang truce came the music. The Ghetto Brothers were one of the first gangs to invite others to their turf to peacefully party together.
A year after the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting, also thanks to the media attention the GBs were getting back then, Benjy and his brothers recorded an album, “Fuerza/Power” — listen to the sampler here.
This Saturday, Benjy will be honored in the Bronx — and the Ghetto Brothers will give a free concert! If you’re in New York, you don’t want to miss this (and yes, we’ll be selling copies of the graphic novel there as well).
Benjy and I had a great time at the Book Con. So many people came over and wanted to hear Benjy’s story and get their copy of Ghetto Brother signed (for pictures from the event, visit our Facebook page.) A “nice young lady” (Benjy’s words) introduced herself as Sara and said she wanted to get a copy signed for her friend John. Well, John, that was John Leguizamo, known for “Ghetto Klown” (on HBO, on Broadway, and soon as a graphic novel) — and Sara was the great comedian Sara Benincasa.
So Benjy and I had a brief conversation with John — and guess what, he not only loved the book, but he also heard about the story of the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting before. We can only say, thank you, Sara.
Yesterday I got the terrible news that Seth Kushner has died. He was a inspiring photographer, creative comic book writer, and most importantly, a very kind person. There are hundreds of beautiful tributes on this Facebook page, and elsewhere like here or here.
I met Seth and Christopher Irving when they were working on Leaping Tall Buildings, a beautiful coffee table book about comic book creators. “It’s funny, but Seth’s immortalizing all of these creators in photo form helped immortalize him in our hearts, minds, and the greater scope of comics history,” Chris writes here.
Like so many others, we went from strangers to friends. Seth was someone you could feel close to easily.
When I think of Seth, I think of the artistic legacy he leaves behind. Being a parent, I also think about his wife and son. His final Facebook post is a reminder of what is really important.
If you can, make a donation to Kushner’s family through GoFundMe to help.
Tomorrow is the first of May. That means Ghetto Brother is finally going to be released in the United States and Canada. Go to your local bookstore and pick up your copy. And if you are in New York or Toronto, you can even get it signed.
The following appearances are planned:
May 2: Bronx Library Center, 310 E Kingsbridge Rd, Bronx, NY 10458, 1:30-4 more info here.
May 6, Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456, 5:30-7:30 more info here.
May 7, COBA Collective Of Black Artists, Daniels Spectrum 585 Dundas St E, Suite 130, Toronto, 7:30-9:30 more info here.
May 9, TCAF, 789 Yonge Street, Toronto, 3-4, more info here.