I’ve been working on a comic strip for a really long time and finally gained the courage recently to publish it. As an Afro-Latina who grew up in the Bay Area and as someone who has had access to some privileged circles, I’ve been in a very unique position to talk about race, gender, and class here. As one education activist recently put it during a workshop I attended, the Bay Area is really good at pretending to not have a race issue. I couldn’t agree more. And my superpower is using humor to highlight those inconsistencies (I guess I have some drawing talent too).
As is also my tendency (and another superpower, if you ask me) is that I overthink just about everything all of the time. That’s why a stack of journals sits next to my bed. I wouldn’t sleep otherwise. So I thought really long about how this comic would be different and how it would encompass my passion for ensuring everyone has access to a quality college education.
And with that, I thought about entry points. When anyone goes into education, the first and sometimes only thing one hears, is about the achievement gap, where Black and Brown students underperform White and Asian students. The wealth of research in this area is astounding as people dissect everything from assessments and standardized testing to unbiased curriculum and classroom management to school-to-prison pipelines and other larger systemic outcomes and even the minutiae of character-building early on. It’s all quite fascinating. And I call each of these entry points. Meaning, if we were to draw a straight line from birth to college graduation, there would be spots along the way where systems either strengthen or weaken that line, or in some cases, completely rupture that line.
I work in and with schools on a few entry points. As a teacher, I am trying to make sure students leave with the skills to make their own decisions about what they would like to be able to do later in life. I have a huge pet peeve as a teacher. I don’t think it is up to me to determine what the student will be doing in life so I teach like they are all going to Harvard. I talk openly about college life and college admissions just to make it seem super normal, as it should feel. I get them to a point where they are writing college-level essays and end with “see how easy that was?” So at the end of the day when they are making decisions, they are not counting themselves out because of something I did or didn’t do. The other goal here is get the school community on the same page, so I ask questions of the school administrators and put myself on committees that seem to be good entry points.
I work hard in college access because nothing sucks more than to get a kid to think about college as normal and possible, and see them get caught up in a glitch or some application nuance that could be fixed easily. Sometimes that hiccup is misinformation or lack of access to a computer or some aspect of the admissions process that only a privileged few are made aware. A lot of this work happens way earlier so that students have access to the courses where the teachers normalize college. Unfortunately we know that in public schools, not everyone has access to the same information, especially in regards to college attendance. So while I work with schools to make that more equitable, on the other end I work with students to ensure they get to the part of the school that is providing that access.
And that’s where the comic has its entry point. Some of the comic holds lessons in History and Sociology. Truth is one of the main characters who takes the time to educate herself in Black history including the Diaspora. Her parents try to minimize what they feel is her acting out through her revolutionary tendencies, making it more difficult for them to integrate into elite circles in wealthy parts of the Bay. So Truth speaks rarely but carries an unplugged microphone for instances when she feels she has to interject teachings of Marcus Garvey, Assata Shakur, or Beyonce. When she raises her mic, you better be listening. As an audience, you have the opportunity to have some empathy for her through humor and listen and click on the link that drops some knowledge.
The rest of the comic is a commentary of the times we are living in, discussing why we are in the situations we are in. La Rica is a homegirl from the Mission but has since been gentrified and now lives in Fruitvale. She still dresses like she would have if she was around during those low-rider days, leading people to make assumptions about her intentions as she does community work especially in fair housing. I know a lot of folks whose story is identical to La Rica, doing work to ensure one of those entry points very early on in the process keeps young people on track to go to college and return to do work in their communities.
There are a few more main characters and I’ll introduce you to them soon. In the meantime, keep checking back here or here for more information about the comic. And hop on over to here to check out a few products.