Black comic book superheroes launch Black History Month 2017 at Florham

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Above: Black comic book superheroes designed by students are revealed during Black History Month 2017 at the John and Joan Monninger Center for Learning and Research on the Florham Campus. Superheroes above designed by Courtney Soden and Rebecca Chester.

Story and photos by Madinah Muhammad

“Are superheroes relevant in today’s world? If so, what would they look like now as the struggle continues?” That is the question RAsheda Young, director of the African-American studies minor, asked students in a newly developed course, The New Jim Crow. This is a new African-American studies course available to students on the Florham Campus.

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus kicked off the celebration of Black History Month 2017 on Wednesday, Feb. 1, with an exhibition of dynamic and visually powerful black comic book superheroes designed, created and inspired by students. Black History Month is an annual celebration during February that recognizes the achievements and contributions by black Americans in U.S. history.

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Above: RAsheda Young, college writing lecturer and Black History Month committee chair, gives an opening speech, welcoming a room full of students, faculty and staff to the exhibit.

The theme of Black History Month 2017 is “The Struggle Continues.” The significance of this theme was “born out of the current political climate that many non-white and marginalized Americans are experiencing” says Young. While acknowledging the progress made by many notable black civil rights leaders and activists, Young says, “the struggle still exists and understanding what that means to individuals whether social, political or personal warrants discussion.”

Continuing that theme, student artists in associate professor Janet O’Neil’s Illustrator Graphics and Design course created black superheroes by reconstructing an existing character or inventing a new character, and highlighting their superpowers. In response, students created visual depictions of black superheroes in the process of combating bias, breaking chains and overcoming barriers. Creative collaboration sparked when the superhero designs were shared with Youngs’ students. The student writers wrote interpretations of the graphic designs.

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Above (L to R): Student artist Brittany Avent discusses the inspiration behind her depiction of the black edition of Catwoman breaking chains. African-American studies student Loretta Amaning reads to the audience “Love Still Lives Here: The Fight Still Continues," her reflection of the superhero designed by student Taylor Humienny.  

The black comic book superhero artwork will be on display in the Writing and Visual Expression (WaVE) exhibition space in the College Writing office suite in the Monninger Center until the end of February. Black History Month continues at Florham Campus with a screening of the movie “13th” in Twombly Lounge on Feb.13 from 5-7 p.m., followed by an open mic event for students and faculty at Bottle Hill Pub on Feb. 22 from 8-9 p.m., and a Hot Topics panel discussion at Lenfell Hall on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.

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Above: Students view artwork and written reflections. Superheroes designed by (L to R) Evan Ericson and Jahne Liszewski.