In case you missed it, the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection created and recently published the graphic novel, Black Lives Always Mattered! (BLAM!), which was made possible by a grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.
BLAM! has been in the making since 2016. The project’s curator and art director Eric Battle illustrated three of the stories himself and selected and coordinated with other artists for the rest. Dr. Sheena Howard joined the project as the writer. In all, the novel features stories and illustrations of 14 prominent African American Philadelphians from the 20th century.
Recently, the Blockson Collection donated 5,000 copies of BLAM! to the School District of Philadelphia. Eventually, the public will have access to the graphic novel as well. Find out more about how the novel will be part of the curriculum in Philadelphia from the Philadelphia Tribune article published in February.
It’s no surprise that this project has generated buzz in the media. Below is a roundup of just a few news stories to catch you up on the project:
“A new graphic novel brings African American history in Philadelphia to life,” March 2020, Temple News
“’Black Lives Always Mattered!’ invites all to see Philadelphia history in living color,” January 2022, Temple News
“Temple’s Blockson collection publishes graphic novel to encourage youth,” February 2022, The Philadelphia Tribune
“Philly district will get 5,000 copies of a book celebrating Black Philadelphians,” February 2022, Chalkbeat Philadelphia
“After 30 years, African American Children’s Book Fair expands to the Convention Center,” February 2022, WHYY
BLAM! exhibits and programs
Through the process of creating the graphic novel, the Blockson Collection spearheaded an in-person exhibit that was on view first at Charles Library and then at the Blockson Collection from March 2020–August 2021 and an accompanying virtual exhibit still available to viewers.
We also offered a series of freely available virtual programs, a few of which we’ll highlight and link to the recordings below.
In September 2020, BLAM! curators, historians, artists, web designers, and others involved in the project spoke about the creative process, sharing details about how the project evolved.
A month later, in October 2020, Eric Battle led a conversation with amazing fellow illustrators Micheline Hess, Jamar Nicholas, Dwayne Turner and Christine Kerrick. They discussed their visions and artistic processes while creating the illustrated stories for the novel.
Fast forward to April 2021, we unveiled the novel cover along with some of the illustration profiles. Dr. Diane D. Turner, curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection and Dr. Carol D. Lee, assessment and learning consultant to the project, discussed plans for the graphic novel.
We’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project:
Blockson Collection staff
Dr. Diane D. Turner, project director
Aslaku Berhanu, associate director
Leslie Willis Lowry, archivist
Serkaddis Alemayehu, instructional design and technology specialist
Project curator/art director
Sheena C. Howard
Stay tuned for announcements on when the graphic novel will be available to the public!