Clearly, I am OBSESSED with Okoye!
So, for those of you who might not be connected to the outside world or live in Bikini Bottom, February was Black History Month and was also the birth month of Marvel and Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther." I won't be dropping any spoilers here in case any of you haven't yet seen it, but it was a visual and storytelling delight for me. It was a celebration of African culture and Black identity globally in a way that hasn't been done. It delved into a lot of the conversations that exist within the Black American community especially, but it was an overall love letter to people of African descent. I left the theater in utter and complete shock at the glorious-ness that I'd just witnessed and went home feeling full.
While this meant a quantum leap forward in representation in Hollywood, this also represented to me as an artist a grand opportunity. With the release of this film and its clearly bankable cast and story line, the floodgates have and will open for more quality films about people of all backgrounds. This change will most likely be incredibly rapid as Hollywood scrambles to get over its dusty and antiquated racism and bias and allow for stories that not only are entertaining but profitable. As someone with big dreams of my own regarding the entertainment industry, this excites me and makes me want to take advantage of this large but potentially swiftly closing window. Only time will tell what this film means for minority lead films and animated features, but it's an exciting time to say the very least.
It's inspired me to continue fierecely with my own work, and you can check out what the past month has brought below!
I had my first day of a 10 week workshop/seminar class with the students of John Witherspoon Middle School in Princeton, and I'm feeling good!
I thankfully have a really lively and engaged group to work with, teaching them to work through: character development, world building, and visual storytelling! By the end of the workshop, theyll have an anthology of short stories in a softcover book that they'll read and perform. So excited to get to week 10! '
Thanks again to Taneshia Nash Laird and Maria Evans, I had the opportunity to share and run a really fun workshop on character design and superheroes at the Arts Council of Princeton!
I'd never run a workshop for 4 hours straight, so this was definitely a new experience. Keeping children entertained and focused for that length of time was definitely a learning experience in classroom management, and by the end of the class the students were having so much fun they didn't want to leave. :) One of the teaching members of the staff said it sounded so fun from outside that she wanted me to do an adult class so she could join in. 😂😂 There were so many drawings that weren't pictured here, but it was definitely a full day. Definitely hoping to do more with the Council soon!
Also, the big tapestry is a large comic of all of the characters they designed interacting in panels and telling a story
I had an incredibly fun time with Digital Divide run by Miles Wellstar Rand this month too! I ran my "Superhero, Like Me!" workshop, and the students got really into their creations and the time. They were an energetic and creative group, and I'm so thankful for that opportunity to share and work with them.
A little backstory on Miles Wellstar Rand too. I met Miles Wellstar Rand thanks to my book signing appearance at Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. run by the ever incredible Ariell R. Johnson, and he asked back then if I ran any workshops or classes. I told him I did, and he told me about his awesome S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) group for kids. It's something he does for the local community, engaging and educating local boys and girls through his and the other organizers' efforts, and it's really beautiful. I walked in this weekend to see drones flying around and really cool pieces of architecture placed all around the room, students very obviously passionate and engaged in this work. What he does is so important, and I was very glad to be a part of it! His son also is excitedly waiting for Book 2 of Carefree, Like Me! as well.
Back to work it is. :)
And last but CERTAINLY not least...
I'm apparently going to be teaching a week-long summer class for kids about cartooning and character design at Rutgers University! o_O
A year to the day of starting my business, I questioned if I was on the right path due to some difficulties. The universe immediately came in with a hard "YES" to the face. Several amazing emails came within days of each other.
The Zimmerli museum just happened to be looking for a new artist to teach their popular summer class, and thanks to Taneshia Nash Laird providing me an opportunity to offer a workshop at the amazing Arts Council of Princeton, they found me! This is nuts, particularly because I had applied to the Mason Gross Arts School after HS and was denied, yet several years later here I am coming back to teach kids. So crazy.
I also received the most touching email from a local, Greek mom who within the last few years moved to the U.S.A. with her family. Her 20 year old, however, is struggling. He's an artist, but he is struggling to feel passionate about his dreams and his direction in general. She resonated with my website, saying that my struggles mirrored her son's, and she wanted me to be a mentor to him or even provide private classes. I'm having coffee with her tomorrow to see how I can help. :)
Stepping into my own truth has been richly rewarding for me, but to see the potential impact that it is having on others is incredible and is the best part about doing what I love.
Thanks so much for tuning in again folks, and I look forward to sharing all of the craziness of next month. MY BIRTH MONTH!
Lots of love,
Rashad Malik Davis