In collaboration with the NC Dream Team and The Ella Baker Women's Center for Leadership and Community Activism, local visual artist Luis Franco and poet and writer Kane Smego organized a project with African American, Latino, and multiracial youth to discuss racial identity and issues of racism through the expressive medium of the graphic novel or comic book.
In the spring of 2013, during a series of twelve Saturday morning workshops at the Street Scene Teen Center (and additional outside work), the teens developed their characters by writing poems about themselves and their own experiences with racism. They then crafted story lines, storyboards and plot sequences, and drew and colored the various frames to bring their superheroes to life on the pages of their very own comics. The teens' artwork and poetry debuted in an exhibition at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro in May of 2013. Copies of the comic were sold at local comic stores, and currently framed pages and artwork from the project are on display in the teen room of the Chapel Hill Public Library.
“Comics Speak!” grew out of a response to a community need for expression, discussion, and collaboration. The goal was to empower youth of color to use the arts to confront the obstacles they and their communities face on a regular basis, as well as celebrate the vibrant cultural identities they possess. The project provided space and instruction for these youth to connect and identify these issues, by using both visual art and spoken word as a means of communicating with the community at large. The project was an extension of two earlier community workshops conducted by Chapel Hill’s Sacrificial Poets that identified a desire for an artistic means of expression for the teens that was positive and identity-affirming.