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Why a graphic novelist is speaking about history at a comic convention
Andrew Aydin, a New York Times bestselling author and former staffer to the late Congressman John Lewis, tells Supercreator that comics are becoming the front line of history.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Even before last year when local and state politicians intensified the conservative movement’s culture war on history books, school systems were in search of innovative ways to connect students to the nation’s past.
Andrew Aydin, a New York Times bestselling author of multiple graphic novels, is among a group of creators organizations like the New York City Department of Education have partnered with to produce original comics that make civics and historical concepts accessible to young people.
Aydin this Thursday will be speaking at New York Comic Con on a panel about this work and why teaching the civil rights movement in schools is critical — and how comics can support this mission.
“We’re at an incredibly important moment in history of the medium of comics. For the first time, you’re seeing widespread adoption in school curriculum and that means that creators have an important responsibility in treating the stories they tell with a seriousness of purpose because these comics are becoming the front line of history,” Aydin, who co-authored multiple graphic novels with the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, told me on Tuesday morning. “The reason we keep making these comics is so students understand our history and feel inspired and motivated to address these tremendous challenges that we have in our society right now.”
Aydin said that what sets his work apart from other projects in the comics space is that he approaches his research through the lens of a congressional staffer, a role he served in Rep. Lewis’s office until the congressman died in 2020. He and the team that helps him make books like March, which tells the story of the late congressman and the civil rights movement and is first-year common reading at multiple universities and taught in both middle and high schools in more than 40 states, bring a level of seriousness in the way they approach what can be considered a casual format.
“We’re not using accounts in a fictionalized way. We’re using primary sources, we’re using oral histories, we’re using sources straight from the moment to create the most accurate, vivid picture that we can,” Aydin said. When I started making March, it wasn’t like I had a guide for how to do it. There weren’t too many books, too many comics in particular, that were pure nonfiction.”
So Aydin used the scholarly research he discovered on different aspects of the voting rights movement to bring in-the-moment accounts into his comics to make them feel immediate as if readers were viewing a documentary.
“But we’re not restricted by the camera,” he said. “We can move the camera how we want.”
Aydin took inspiration from advice his mom gave him: “Write for that young man I once was who needed these comics. And I think that’s how we approach every book that we make,” he said. “It’s about writing for that young person I was who loved the comic community but didn’t always see stories that fed that hunger for information.”
The panel comes during National Arts And Humanities Month and days after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to reestablish the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. (Former President Donald Trump allowed the order to expire after 16 of the 17 committee members resigned in protest after Trump’s infamous “good people on both sides” response to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which President Biden said inspired him to run for president.)
The White House pointed to its hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in the National Endowments for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities and an additional billion more in American Rescue Plan funds to help keep open creative beacons like museums, libraries, theaters, concert halls, and other venues during the pandemic. The administration has also worked to make high-speed internet access for low-income households to close the digital divide that deprives underprivileged students of expressing their creativity like Aydin and the panelists he’ll be speaking with later this week.
Aydin told me he and his team are working on two new series. The first is about the unsung heroes of the LGBTQ movement and the other explores different aspects of voting history.
“I hope that people see the transformative power of comics in education and how it helps us reach the broadest possible swath of students. And I hope that they also understand that there’s this long history of using comics in the civil rights movement to inspire some of the earliest acts of civil disobedience, to educate people on the positions that they’re voting for, to educate people on the roles and responsibilities of elected officials,” he said. “There’s a long history of this and we’re just trying to continue that legacy and keep bringing these important histories as well as this essential knowledge for civics to this next generation of students.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Today is Tuesday, October 4. Welcome to Supercreator, your guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping how creative professionals work and live in the new economy. Forgive me for sending today’s newsletter so late — lots of technical difficulties over here. Anyway, send me tips, comments and questions — or say hi: email@example.com.
TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning received his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Kamala Harris, whom he also had lunch with later in the day. Biden and Harris then attended and spoke at the second meeting of the administration’s reproductive rights task force. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Arati Prabhakar attended the event as well.
Vice President Harris also spoke at the Freedman’s Bank Forum before her lunch with the president. The conference is designed to highlight the administration’s work to increase economic opportunity and growth for communities of color and address the racial wealth gap.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff spoke at the Energy Department’s 45th Anniversary celebration.
The House and Senate are out.
Here’s what else you need to know:
The Education Department released guidance for universities reiterating the law that institutions are prohibited from discriminating against students on the basis of pregnancy, including pregnancy termination. The announcement was one of the actions the administration discussed at its reproductive rights task force meeting to mark the 100-day mark since the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Related: The Health and Human Services Department announced more than $6 million in new grants to expand access to family planning services and other preventative health care like birth control. The White House has requested from Congress $400 million for the next fiscal year to sustain this program. Read the full announcement
Also: Former Meta (aka Facebook) COO Sheryl Sandberg donated $3 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to advance the ACLU’s work on reproductive justice. The donation is the biggest in ACLU’s history. (Sandberg is worth $1.5 billion, according to Forbes.) Read the announcement
The Defense Department announced $625 million in additional security assistance for Ukraine. The package includes 4 HIMARS, an advanced US artillery system the White House says the Ukrainian armed forces have effectively used to defend their territory. Read a breakdown of the full package
Related: President Biden spoke with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine to share the details of the latest round of security assistance. “President Biden noted the ongoing efforts of the United States to rally the world behind Ukraine’s efforts to defend its freedom and democracy, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter,” the White House said. Read the full readout
US Marine Corps fighters joined Japan’s air self-defense fighters in a show of force over the sea of Japan in response to North Korea launching a long-range ballistic missile over Japan. It’s North Korea’s fifth launch this week and the latest in a record number this year. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on what the administration believes is behind the spike in dangerous nuclear tests.
Related: President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan to reinforce the United States’s commitment to Japan’s defense. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also held calls with their Japanese counterparts. Read the readouts of the calls: Biden, Blinken, Sullivan
The child poverty rate was 16.9 percent in 2021, while poverty for those ages 65 and over was 10.3 percent, according to the Census Bureau. The national poverty rate was 12.8 percent, which means child poverty is over four percentage points higher than the national rate while it dropped for the nation’s oldest population. See the data
The Treasury Department announced the inaugural members of a new committee on racial equity. The first-of-its-kind committee will provide advice and recommendations to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo on how to advance racial equity in the economy and address acute disparities for communities of color. Read the announcement
The Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to federal agencies to allocate 12 percent of the funds the government uses to get the goods and services they need for their work next fiscal year to go to small disadvantaged businesses. This is up from a goal of 11 percent last fiscal year and a required goal of five percent. Read the fact sheet
Micron, an American semiconductor company, announced it would invest $20 billion this decade to build a semiconductor manufacturing campus in upstate New York. The investment is the first of a 20-year project worth an estimated $100 billion and will create 9,000 new jobs with an average annual salary of over $100,000. Read the announcement … Read Biden’s statement
Conservative TikTok influencer Christian Walker continued to come for his dad, Georgia Republican Senate nominee Hershel Walker, after news broke that Hershel paid an ex-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009. Hershel is against abortion, including in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the pregnant person is in danger, and allegedly told his family he would come clean about his past at the start of his campaign (he denies the abortion claims, btw). Watch Christian’s videos … Read the story
Related: 86 percent of Black men in Georgia, a key Senate swing state, oppose Roe being overturned and 79 percent oppose Georgia’s abortion ban, according to new polling released by NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia and Planned Parenthood Southeast. The poll also reports that 92 percent of Georgia voters do not believe abortion should be illegal. Read the polling
The Social Security Administration established an Office of Native American Partnerships to enhance the agency’s relationship with tribes. Read the announcement
President Biden announced his intent to nominate Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as US representative on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization. Dr. Murthy would continue to serve as the nation’s chief public health officer. Read the announcement
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told late-night host Stephen Colbert the story of how she asked her youngest daughter’s blessing to run for congress over 30 years ago. “Mother, get a life,” her daughter said. See the video
President Biden wished an easy easy and meaningful fast to all who are observing Yom Kippur in the US, Israel, and around the world. Yom Kippur is the most solemn religious fast of the Jewish year. Read the full statement
Substack, the company that provides the technology for this newsletter, launched its Android app. The iOS app launched earlier this year. Download the Android app
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