Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Changing Image of Blacks in Comics

In 1966, Marvel introduced Black Panther, the first African-American superhero dedicated to upholding justice and equality for all.

African-American comic book characters have become more prevalent since then.

Whether it’s Storm from “The X-Men,” Nick Fury from “The Avengers,” or Spawn from Image Comics, black characters have gone from being a marginalized minority to becoming significant players in every major comic company’s currently running series.

“Changing Image of Blacks in Comics,” an exhibition by comic book historian Dr. William H. Foster III, attempts to encapsulate nearly 50 years of African-American characters in comics.

Perceiving a lack of widespread knowledge about black comic book heroes, Foster created the project in the mid-1990s. Housed in Denver’s Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library throughout February, the exhibition details the rise and struggle of African-Americans to get fair and equal representation in the medium.

Blacks in Comics

“Changing Image of Blacks in Comics,” an exhibition by comic book historian Dr. William H. Foster III, attempts to encapsulate nearly 50 years of African-American characters in comics. (Photo: Courtesy of Dr. William H. Foster III by Hadiya Evans)

“People will gain a better knowledge of the many different comics with black characters that appeared since the early 1940s,” Foster says of the exhibition. “I hope everyone who visits the exhibit will begin their own journey of exploration into this valuable part of American history.”

The growth of black comic book characters stems back to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Real-life heroic figures like Malcolm X and Rosa Parks inspired the comics industry to bring more ethnic variety to their pages.

Yet despite the growing prevalence of African-American heroes in comics, they have yet to make a big splash on the big screen.

We’ve already seen several cinematic comic book adaptations featuring black characters in non-starring roles, such as War Machine in the three “Iron Man” movies.

Yet at a time when superhero movies are enjoying big box office success, the fact that we’ve yet to see an African-American character take center stage says there is still ground to be gained.

One or two interesting projects are currently in the works to redress the balance.

Don Cheadle has been tapped to star as War Machine -- originally a supporting superhero in Marvel Comics’ “Iron Man” series -- in a standalone “War Machine” film. Marvel is also actively developing a “Black Panther” movie.

But there still remains a question as to whether either of these characters will appeal to mass-market movie audiences to the same degree they have in comics.

Some comic industry professionals claim that a multicultural sensibility is still missing from comics in general, thanks to a paucity of black writers in the industry. This lack might be keeping a high-profile African-American superhero from making the same successful leap onto the big screen.

“The comic industry certainly owns no sort of exclusivity when it comes to the lack of opportunity or attention afforded black writers in entertainment,” Joseph Hughes, editor-in-chief of the comic book commentary website Comics Alliance, says. “Characters like Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man are some of the most recognizable and endearing this country has ever produced, and to continually have their stories told by members of the same increasingly shrinking demographic borders on irresponsible.”

An absence of black writing talent isn’t the only issue keeping African-American heroes from multiplex audiences. Finding a way to create and market enough minority characters so that they don’t have to represent an entire race is another challenge facing the industry.

“If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren't just that character," Dwayne McDuffie, a former editor at Marvel Comics and the founder of Milestone Media, a publishing company dedicated to balancing out minorities’ representation in comics, says. "They represent that race or that sex, and they can't be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people”

In charting how African-American superheroes have grown from being temporary sidekicks to full-fledged, complex heroes, the “Changing Image of Blacks in Comics” exhibition points towards a future in which film audiences might champion a black superhero.

By Alexander Lumans Alexander Lumans is a writer, college instructor, and teacher at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Naugatuck Valley Community College 750 Chase Parkway, Waterbury, CT 06708 (203) 575-8040

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Florida Memorial University (FMU) has announced the appointment of Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis as the University’s 13th President

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – The Board of Trustees of Florida Memorial University (FMU) has announced the appointment of Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis as the University’s 13th President, effective immediately. This historic appointment is unprecedented and Dr. Artis has made history by becoming the first woman President of the 135-year-old higher education institution.

After serving as Interim President since July 15, 2013, Dr. Artis has performed admirably during her six months in the position and has been embraced throughout the student body, the faculty and staff and the entire south Florida community.

“I am impressed with her adept administrative and people skills,” says Charles George, Chairman of the FMU Board of Trustees. “She has hit the ground running and brings superb qualifications and leadership skills to FMU.”

Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis

Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis

Dr. Artis is a Trustee Scholar graduate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she earned her Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from West Virginia University College of Law in Morgantown, West Virginia, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from West Virginia State College Institute in West Virginia.

Dr. Artis is delighted to be in her new role, and shared that “I am honored to have been chosen by the Board of Trustees to lead Florida Memorial University at such a critical point in its history. This University has been a key component of Florida’s educational system for 135 years. The University has provided access to a quality education for generations of students, many of whom would not have had the opportunity were it not for FMU. Its history is indeed rich and its future is bright. I am confident that the best is yet to come!”

Since arriving to FMU, Dr. Artis has provided immeasurable leadership and direction to the University family at all levels. She has become well-acclimated to the South Florida community, and has been appointed to multiple community and corporate boards and associations increasing involvement and exposure of the University.

On campus, Dr. Artis has spearheaded a series of new and innovative programs for students and is diligently striving to improve corporate and community relations and endowment initiatives for the institution. “We have assembled a knowledgeable, experienced and highly competent administrative team to work with our strong faculty and committed staff to create an environment that prepares our special young people with a well-rounded, holistic, educational experience. Florida Memorial University is well positioned for the future,” says Dr. Artis.

Throughout her career, Dr. Artis’ extensive academic experience and accomplishments have been widely accepted and highly successful. For nearly a decade, she served in numerous roles at Mountain State University; including faculty member, Senior Academic Officer, Vice President for Advancement, Chief Academic Officer, and the University’s Provost. Her interests have included student retention, particularly as it relates to adult and non-traditional students, academic and co-curricular support structures in alternative learning modalities, strategic planning, institutional effectiveness and student learning outcomes assessment.

In addition, she has also served as a partner at Assessment by Design, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in the development and implementation of comprehensive assessment strategies for academic and co-curricular programs in higher education; an attorney at the Wooton Law Firm, an adjunct professor at The College of West Virginia, and an associate attorney at Brown & Levicoff PLLC, among other notable positions.

“Dr. Artis has completed or made significant progress on the goals the board set for her,” states Chairman George. “She is an asset to our students, faculty and administration and the South Florida communities.”

About Florida Memorial University

Located in the City of Miami Gardens, Florida Memorial University is a private, historically Black institution offering 41 undergraduate degree programs and four graduate degree programs to a culturally diverse student body. Since its inception in 1879, the University has upheld a commitment to providing a solid foundation for thousands of young people and opening doors to educational opportunities that may have otherwise been closed to them.

As South Florida’s only Historically Black College or University (HBCU), it is widely recognized for being the birthplace of the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and the home of Barrington Irving, Jr., the first and youngest pilot of African descent to fly solo around the world. Florida Memorial University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). For more information about FMU, visit www.fmuniv.edu.

For more information on the appointment of Dr. Artis, contact Bernadette Morris of Sonshine Communications at (305) 948-8063, ext. 201.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Discrimination, Racial Bias, and Telomere Length in African-American Men

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A new University of Maryland-led study reveals that racism may impact aging at the cellular level. Researchers found signs of accelerated aging in African American men who reported high levels of racial discrimination and who had internalized anti-Black attitudes. Findings from the study, which is the first to link racism-related factors and biological aging, are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Racial disparities in health are well-documented, with African Americans having shorter life expectancy, and a greater likelihood of suffering from aging-related illnesses at younger ages compared to whites. Accelerated aging at the biological level may be one mechanism linking racism and disease risk.

“We examined a biomarker of systemic aging, known as leukocyte telomere length,” explained Dr. David H. Chae, assistant professor of epidemiology at UMD's School of Public Health and the study’s lead investigator. Shorter telomere length is associated with increased risk of premature death and chronic disease such as diabetes, dementia, stroke and heart disease. Discrimination, Racial Bias, and Telomere Length in African-American Men. Racism May Accelerate Aging in African American Men. “We found that the African American men who experienced greater racial discrimination and who displayed a stronger bias against their own racial group had the shortest telomeres of those studied,” Chae explained.

Telomeres repetitive sequences of DNA

Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA capping the ends of chromosomes. Shorter telomere length is associated with increased risk of premature death and chronic disease such as diabetes, dementia, stroke and heart disease.

Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA capping the ends of chromosomes, which shorten progressively over time – at a rate of approximately 50-100 base pairs annually. Telomere length is variable, shortening more rapidly under conditions of high psychosocial and physiological stress. “Telomere length may be a better indicator of biological age, which can give us insight into variations in the cumulative ‘wear and tear’ of the organism net of chronological age,” said Chae. Among African American men with stronger anti-black attitudes, investigators found that average telomere length was 140 base pairs shorter in those reporting high vs. low levels of racial discrimination; this difference may equate to 1.4 to 2.8 years chronologically.

Participants in the study were 92 African American men between 30-50 years of age. Investigators asked them about their experiences of discrimination in different domains, including work and housing, as well as in getting service at stores or restaurants, from the police, and in other public settings. They also measured racial bias using the Black-White Implicit Association Test. This test gauges unconscious attitudes and beliefs about race groups that people may be unaware of or unwilling to report.

Even after adjusting for participants’ chronological age, socioeconomic factors, and health-related characteristics, investigators found that the combination of high racial discrimination and anti-black bias was associated with shorter telomeres. On the other hand, the data revealed that racial discrimination had little relationship with telomere length among those holding pro-black attitudes. “African American men who have more positive views of their racial group may be buffered from the negative impact of racial discrimination,” explained Chae. “In contrast, those who have internalized an anti-black bias may be less able to cope with racist experiences, which may result in greater stress and shorter telomeres.”

The findings from this study are timely in light of regular media reports of racism facing African American men. “Stop-and-frisk policies, and other forms of criminal profiling such as ‘driving or shopping while black’ are inherently stressful and have a real impact on the health of African Americans,” said Chae. Researchers found that racial discrimination by police was most commonly reported by participants in the study, followed by discrimination in employment. In addition, African American men are more routinely treated with less courtesy or respect, and experience other daily hassles related to racism.

Chae indicated the need for additional research to replicate findings, including larger studies that follow participants over time. “Despite the limitations of our study, we contribute to a growing body of research showing that social toxins disproportionately impacting African American men are harmful to health,” Chae explained. “Our findings suggest that racism literally makes people old.”

“Discrimination, Racial Bias, and Telomere Length in African-American Men” was written by David H. Chae (University of Maryland, College Park); Amani M. Nuru-Jeter ( University of California, Berkeley); Nancy E. Adler, Jue Lin, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, and Elissa S. Epel ( University of California, San Francisco); and Gene H. Brody (Emory University) and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging, the University of California, and Emory University.

For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow. Contacts: Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

Monday, January 20, 2014

Black (African-American) History Month: February 2014

To commemorate and celebrate the contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week. The first celebration occurred on Feb. 12, 1926. For many years, the second week of February was set aside for this celebration to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist/editor Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month. Each year, U.S. presidents proclaim February as National African-American History Month.

Note: The reference to the black population in this publication is to single-race blacks ("black alone") except in the first section on "Population." In that section the reference is to black alone or in combination with other races; a reference to respondents who said they were one race (black) or more than one race (black plus other races).


44.5 million

The number of blacks, either alone or in combination with one or more other races, on July 1, 2012, up 1.0 percent from July 1, 2011.
Source: Population Estimates

77.4 million

The projected black, either alone or in combination, population of the United States (including those of more than one race) for July 1, 2060. On that date, according to the projection, blacks would constitute 18.4 percent of the nation's total population.
Source: Population projections Table 4 and 5

3.7 million

The black population in New York, which led all states as of July 1, 2012. Texas had the largest numeric increase since 2011 (87,000). The District of Columbia had the highest percentage of blacks (51.6 percent), followed by Mississippi (38.0 percent).
Source: Population Estimates

1.3 million

Cook County, Ill. (Chicago) had the largest black population of any county in 2012 (1.3 million), and Harris, Texas (Houston) had the largest numeric increase since 2011 (20,000). Holmes, Miss., was the county with the highest percentage of blacks in the nation (83.1 percent).
Source: Population Estimates

Serving Our Nation

2.4 million

Number of black military veterans in the United States in 2012.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey



The percentage of blacks 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher in 2012.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey


The percentage of blacks 25 and older who had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2012.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey

1.6 million

Among blacks 25 and older, the number who had an advanced degree in 2012.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey

3.7 million

Number of blacks enrolled in college in 2012 compared with 2.9 million in 2007, a 28 percent increase.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey


17.8 million

The number of blacks who voted in the 2012 presidential election. In comparison to the 2008 election, about 1.7 million additional black voters reported going to the polls in 2012.
Source: The Diversifying Electorate — Voting Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin 2012


Percent of blacks who voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites who did so. This marks the first time that blacks have voted at a higher rate than whites since the Census Bureau started publishing statistics on voting by the eligible citizen population in 1996.
Source: The Diversifying Electorate — Voting Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin 2012

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance


The annual median income of black households in 2012, compared with the nation at $51,017.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, P60-245 Table 1


Poverty rate in 2012 for blacks, while nationally it was 15.0 percent.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012


Percentage of blacks that were covered by health insurance during all or part of 2012. Nationally, 84.6 percent of all races were covered by health insurance.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012

Families and Children


Among households with a black householder, the percentage that contained a family in 2013. There were 9.8 million black family households.
Source: 2013 Current Population Survey, Families and Living Arrangements, Table HH-1 and F1


Among families with black householders, the percentage that were married couples in 2013.
Source: 2013 Current Population Survey, Families and Living Arrangements, Table F1

1.3 million

Number of black grandparents who lived with their own grandchildren younger than 18 in 2012. Of this number, 47.6 percent were also responsible for their care.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey



The percentage of civilian employed blacks 16 and older who worked in management, business, science and arts occupations, while 36.1 percent of the total population worked in these occupations.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey

Editor’s note: The preceding data were collected from a variety of sources and may be subject to sampling variability and other sources of error. Facts for Features are customarily released about two months before an observance in order to accommodate magazine production timelines. Questions or comments should be directed to the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office: telephone: 301-763-3030; fax: 301-763-3762; or e-mail: <PIO@census.gov>.