Archives for category: Community

johnandpat

Most of us dwell on the future in January, but February is a time to incorporate our past into our present challenges and future aspirations. This coming Tuesday, Wonder Root Community Arts Center will host U.S. Civil Rights pioneer Attorney John D. Due, Jr. for a discussion about why Black History is important to people of all ethnic backgrounds. I’d like to use this space to explain why Black History is important to me.

I like Black History Month and have felt compelled to celebrate it as long as I can remember. Full disclouse: I’m not black and I am an historian. From that statement, let’s look at two questions:

1) Why am I an historian? I first recognized my love of history- or to put in more Flash-like terms “my connection to the Past Force”- in fifth grade studying the U.S. War of Independence. The primary school introduction of those who founded the United States stirred a certain sympathy in me- they wanted to be free from the tyranny of King George and I wanted to be free from the tyranny of childhood. In middle school, I identified similarly with the Russian revolutionaries I learned about in my World History course at about the time their revolution was proving to fail. Like my most children in middle school, I had figured out that life would be a constant struggle to live peacefully among my peers. It is around this time that I began to take my own class consciousness seriously, placing it high among the tools with which I would understand the world. It was very popular among both black and white students to wear clothing adorned with large Xs, referring to Malcolm X, and I read Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X in an attempt to understand this pop culture figure; I distinctly remember being challenged by white students for reading the book and feeling pretty surprised. It has taken much of my life to realize how polarizing historical figures like Malcolm X are in the U.S. historical discourse. Similarly many students wore t-shirts with the Red Hot Chili Peppers logo on them, so I read a biography about them too and for those of you unfamiliar with their early years, the story of the Chili Peppers is largely one of racial harmony and cooperation. Other pop culture icons that my generation was following were Nirvana and Pearl Jam, both very vocal about women’s issues, particularly rape and access to abortion. I entered high school expecting a much more liberal world than I actually encountered. How was I so naive? Well, I didn’t belong and that brings us to question 2.

2) Why am I not black and if I’m not black, what am I? Born in New York into a family that nearly all lived in New England, my family had contributed very little to local history and in turn, had very little influence on how society existed in Georgia and the U.S. South generally. My heritage did not line up with the collectively understood narrative of history. Though Jewish by blood, I had not connection to the Jewish community. I didn’t partake of the big Jewish rituals and my Jewish ancestors came to the U.S. before the Holocaust. Though raised Christian and living in an unbearably Christian society, seeds of doubt were sown early on and I felt almost no kinship to that community. My ancestors had nearly all arrived in this country after slavery had been abolished and I felt little personal guilt for the heinous crime that was the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Raised by the moderately left-wing, the worldview I’d inherited did not always match that of my peers. My “segregation consciousness” really came alive in high school as students were separated by academic performance. I’d been part of special education programs for the gifted since primary school, but the cultures of the academically advanced and the other become much more distinct from one another in high school. While I embraced a culture of learning, I felt very suspicious of this group I had been herded into and saw it as little more than another institutionalized form of tyranny with an inherent and systemic character dependent on the alienation of my ideas. I kept getting shoved into White cultures that I either felt no affinity for, had no connection to, or stood in direct conflict with my understanding of the world. My experiences in college and graduate school reinforced many of my aversions to White cultures, but more importantly helped me accept my place in a much larger historical context and realize that many of the faults that I find in the world are the products of awkward compromises made between people trying to hold onto whatever power they have and people trying to obtain greater power. Heroes, villains, victors, vanquished- people are selfish and the bounds of their selfishness have the potential to expand and become more sophisticated. By this I mean, people take care of themselves and take care of their families, but social and spiritual progress hinges on recognizing that our families are not solely defined by blood.

It’s a great paradox, achieving a sense of community depends on the achieving a sense of self. While I’m not black, my sense of self is largely understood by the forces of history and those forces have been heavily informed by the Black experience. Growing up in Georgia and living in Atlanta again, daily life is informed heavily by the experiences and contributions of black people. If I have any hope to understand my place as a citizen of Atlanta, I must actively pursue Black History as local history cannot be separated it; additionally, I feel firm in the argument that the conditions of globalization make it impossible to separate Black History and specifically the experience of blacks in the U.S. from any local history around the world. While I’m not black, My History is recklessly incomplete without Black History; since I fully believe that My History informs My Identity, My Identity is recklessly incomplete without Blackness. How I respond to and incorporate Blackness into my life responsibly is a challenge that cannot and should not be ignored.

As I finished my final requirements for my MA at Georgia State, I applied to join the US Peace Corps, intent on serving somewhere in Africa. Like most applicants to the Peace Corps, my primary motivation was self-discovery through service and I believed pursuing Blackness to be crucial to revealing truths about myself. The winds of fate and the bureaucratic pen of the Peace Corps determined that my self-discovery plans were not ambitious enough and I found myself serving in China. Let me clarify for the geographically challenged out there, China is not located in Africa and no matter what Gogol tells you, it is also a completely different country than Spain. There aren’t a lot of black people in China, especially compared to Africa.  Barely coming anywhere close to reconciling the role Blackness has played and continues to play in my life, I found myself confronted with a whole new set of challenges that would prove to further sophisticate my worldview if I had any hope of surviving in my new home. While I had studied some Chinese History, it had certainly felt more foreign than studying Black History, but now that History was becoming much less foreign not only for me personally, but for every citizen around the world- pretty exciting time to be China and sharing in the experiences of the Chinese people during that time has had irreversible effects on my worldview. As an historian, I’ve come to appreciate how different cultures approach history. The historical tradition of the Chinese corresponds in many ways with the historical tradition I’ve inherited from the Judeo-Christian tradition, the European Age of Enlightenment, and new methodologies popularized in 20th century academia such as social and economic history. My training in Marx, Hegel, Lenin, and other historically minded Western intellectuals that China has embraced also prepared me for discussions with Chinese historians as did my familiarity with opponents and critics of European and U.S. imperialism.

Upon entering China, I had no doubt that better understanding Chinese History would bring about in me a better understanding of World History. When my wife and I joined our families in marriage in 2009, we also joined our personal histories so that rather my family and its history expanded in very concrete terms as opposed to the philosophical exercise of embracing all history as essential to your own. My family had now become Chinese and though the Chinese people make it pretty clear that a 外国人 will never be 中国人, I cannot separate the history of the Chinese people with that of my family and certainly not that of my children, should my wife and I choose to reproduce. Since moving to the United States in 2012, my wife has realized that her historical understanding is incomplete without a better understanding of Black History. She’s currently reading The Black Holocaust for Beginners and is rarely shy to ask questions of people she meets. I’m regularly surprised by some of her insights into the racial dynamic of our city, the US, and the world at large as her revelations are informed by her experiences as a Chinese woman. For example, she understands the civic-minded Black Panthers much more than religious leaders such as the SCLC’s Martin Luther King, Jr. and NOI’s Malcolm X. Growing up in a society that largely views religion as dangerous superstition, the more pragmatic approach of providing clinics, food programs, and self-defense classes by the Black Panthers is much more reasonable to her than singing in a church, invoking the holy spirit, or pursuing salvation in the afterlife.

Black History is important to me because without a practical appreciation for it, I could not navigate my way in this world. Some Black History angers me, some inspires me, and some bores me terribly, but the study and discussion of it never weakens my understanding of the world and my place in it nor does it wholly satisfy me. I encourage you to explore Black History, share it with the people you know, and make it a part of your life all year round.

You are all invited to join us for a discussion about the importance of Black History on Feb. 25, 2014 at 6:30 pm at Wonder Root Community Arts Center, located at 982 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta, GA. The event is free and John D. Due, Jr. played a pretty amazing role in the U.S. Civil Rights movement as both an activist and an attorney.

attherojohndue

Advertisements

merrychristmasshyguy

As the last moments of 2013 are sucked up into the vortex of history, I thought I could share a few items that I feel really articulate the Christmas Spirit of Wayne Xiaolong, the World’s Second Greatest Detective.

Firstly, craft plays a huge role in what makes this site tick. One of the things that separates Wayne Xiaolong from other comic book sites is the ambition of this site to produce content rather than review or report on the content of others. This holiday season I’ve made a number of crafts and I’d like to share some of them here.

baby-nightsoil-lighters

I made a significant quantity of lighters as holiday gifts this year. I haven’t given them all out, so I’m only posting pictures of ones that have already been claimed. Making these lighters was really simple. If you want to make some yourself, you’ll need a few things: cigarette lighter(s), decoupage, paint brush, and some images. I created my images using Photoshop. I cropped pictures from the internet and pasted a gold frame to keep it classy. You don’t need to print pictures though. You can cut images out of magazines, comics, instruction manuals, etc. I would recommend thinner paper over thicker paper, so no encyclopedias except maybe Wikipedia. Then you paint a little decoupage on the lighter and the back of the picture. Place the picture on the lighter. Paint a little decoupage on the top of the picture and let it dry. Repeat that last step a few times and viola! You have a fun and inexpensive gift. Many of the lighters are made were tailored to the recipient, but the ones in the above photograph were chosen as more generic crowd-pleasers because who doesn’t love Earth Kitt, Li Xiao Long, Linda Carter, and Zhang Man Yu?

____

Secondly, Wayne Xiaolong exists in response to the exciting stuff going on in comic books and the Atlanta art world. The work that I do with artists and arts organizations here in Atlanta gives me a very real sense of community while the current generation of comics creators provides me with a different sense of community as I find myself identifying with and finding inspiration from the incredible work being produced right now. WXL proudly wears its branding as an outpost for the eccentricities of the Green Lantern narrative. The last decade of Green Lantern work opened my eyes to the renaissance taking place in comics while the new crop of talent working on the title have been very supportive of this site. Now is a great time to be a Green Lantern fan and I encourage all of you to check out the independent titles that helped Vendetti, Soule, Jordan, and Jensen catch the attention of DC Comics. Anyway, last night I received a gift from Van Jensen, a GL writer who has made Atlanta his home, that I wanted to share with you. It’s a magnet featuring two classic GLs from the Silver Age, Tomar-Re and B’dg.

tomarrebdgmagnet

wherewekeepthefood

Thirdly, a desire to bring light into this dark world is fundamental to the philosophy of this site. Some of the most frequent visitors to this site come in search of ESL crossword puzzle and clozes related to superheroes. Having taught a university course on the history of superheroes to Chinese (i.e. ESL) students in Dalian, I have the unique experience and expertise in using superheroes as tools for teaching English language and Western culture to people from the East. For the past year, I’ve been creating these crosswords for the family from Myanmar that I tutor. They’re a really fantastic family from the Chin state of Myanmar- mom, dad, and two lovely little boys. The two boys often greet me with one of three battle cries: “Superhero!” “Batman!” and “Go Go Power Rangers!” They’re pretty young (2 & 4) and English is their 2nd (maybe 3rd/4th) language, but my goal is get at least the older boy to be able to recite the full GL oath (In brightest day, in blackest night; no evil shall escape my sight; let those who worship evil’s might; beware my power- Green Lantern’s light!) .  Here’s a picture of the two boys as pandas that I created last year. Like most children their age, they’ve been growing at a phenomenal rate.

pandakids

I often bring them sweets and small toys. After Free Comic Book Day, I brought them a big stack of nearly age-appropriate comics. Their joy is some of the most rewarding joy to witness and they provided what I believe will be the highlight of my holiday season. This past Wednesday I brought them their Christmas present.

Christmas gift with candies taped to it

I wrapped the gift and adorned it with candy canes, gingerbread Twix, caramel apple Milky Way bites, and a Godiva truffle. These kids love chocolate and superheroes, so we have a lot in common. When they opened the gift to find the world’s greatest heroes, their excitement could not be contained. Jumping up and down, shaking their fists, shrieking- these kids seemed to be in total awe that the seven major members  of the Justice League were now part of their toy army. In a pleasant coincidence, Young Justice was playing on the TV, which made it very easy to explain to them who Cyborg is.

The Treasure

Finally, the World’s Second Greatest Detective would like to wish a safe and happy holiday season to everyone who reads, supports, and inspires this site. Let’s all pledge to work towards a more cooperative world in 2014, to turn hope into action, and to celebrate the contributions and potential in others and ourselves. I have a feeling we can look forward to some great comics too.

troyabedpm

Last night the season finale of NBC’s greatest accomplishment Community aired. Sadly it might also have been the series finale. The show has teetered on extinction pretty much since its inception much like the beloved panda. This season Abed wore two panda shirts, so I can only imagine he would think my homage is cool cool cool cool cool.

While I really hope the show doesn’t get cancelled, the last several episodes of this season brought several elements of the show together and wrapped things pretty nicely. If the show ends, I hope everyone in the cast and crew find other outlets for their genius and have the opportunity to work together again. If you haven’t been watching it, give it a try.

%d bloggers like this: