BY ARIAMA LONG
Comics, hip-hop and community leaders came together at the Hall of Fame Multi-Media Studios on Feb. 28 when the 103rd Precinct and the Queens Borough Public Library in Jamaica hosted a book signing to celebrate the publication of Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels’ self-titled graphic novel.
Sergeant Khadija Faison, the precinct’s community affairs officer, said she saw the event, which was called a “Celebration of Superheroes and Black Excellence,” as a fresh way to reach the youth in the community during Black History Month. Kim McNeil-Capers, director of community engagement for Queens Library, also worked in tandem with the precinct to organize the event from the library’s existing hip-hop and comics programs for children and incarcerated individuals.
It was a three-day event that taught over 450 black and brown youths, ranging in age from first-graders to third-graders. The children attended the classes on how to create their own comics, a temporary museum set up in the gallery space dedicated to black superheroes, and the comic book signing.
“We’re trying to reach out to the community in a fun way,” Faison said. “The kids come in and we ask them what’s different about these heroes. And they say, ‘They look like us.’”
Colorful, full-sized cutouts of the black superheroes provided a vibrant contrast against the Hall of Fame’s white gallery walls. A storage drum filled with DMC comic books sat in the middle of the room. Prominent local artists like Faison, DJ Chuck Chill Out and Fred ‘Bugsy’ Buggs circulated through the crowd of about 70 to 80 people. Several of the officers in attendance not only provided security but brought their kids as well.
Faison pointed out the image of the female superhero Misty Knight, identifiable by her large afro, trademark red outfit and mechanical right arm. The character, created by Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones, is a former police officer who lost her arm in an explosion and Faison said Knight’s determination to continue to help others inspired her when she was growing up and that she hopes it will do the same for the kids in her precinct.
Everyone in the room, from the youngest child gripping a signed comic to the oldest photographers snapping shots, had a similar story.
“I wasn’t that major into comics, but I do remember them being pretty impactful,” said Paul Nichols, deputy chief of staff in Senator Leroy Comrie’s office. “Which is why we’re here supporting this kind of event. It’s important.”
McDaniels, casually dressed in a black AC-DC T-shirt, shared his story, too. “All I did as a kid was read, draw and collect comic books,” he said. “I could relate to Peter Parker. Why do you think on every record I had to let you all know I was from Queens?” He paused briefly for dramatic effect before answering his own question.
“Because Peter Parker is from Queens!” he shouted.
Sasha Kimiatek is freelance illustrator and works with the Queens Library comics program. She leads the kids through sessions of storyboarding and sketching out ideas for comics.
“The guest speakers, the artists. I was really excited to see the police there at the event because it’s important for the kids to see that,” Kimiatek said. “That there’s cops who acknowledge the children and are actively trying to make it better.”
“It’s just amazing, I was so impressed with the tremendous effort everyone put into this program,” she said as the event came to a close.