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Comic Book Series Based on Coming of Age in the South End Launches

by Ari Robin McKenna

Three years ago on Orcas Island during the first-annual African American Males Weekend — while pretending to be asleep on one of the Camp Orkila bunk beds — Chukundi Salisbury overheard the innocent chatter of his son’s bunkmates take a turn as they thought their cabin leader had fallen asleep. Though he knew all the boys’ parents, he was troubled by the eleven- and twelve-year-olds’ need to stretch the truth in order to seem reckless, and by the way that they all fell in line with whoever stretched the truth farthest. Even his own son, Chukundi Jr, said things that seemed out of character to his dad.

Salisbury eventually dozed off feeling like the boys in his cabin needed representation, they needed … to see themselves in stories that deal with the complexity of their lives. The next day, while almost 200 Black boys mingled around a bonfire, Salisbury could imagine them reading high-interest texts or comics in their cabins, then coming out to the amphitheater bonfire to share their reactions and to sort through tough issues together. He tried to imagine the same thing happening in their classrooms. He tried to imagine Black boys reading stories written with them in mind, in classrooms where they feel appreciated, being comfortable sharing their actual feelings in front of others. But he knew that this is rarely the case.

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