My comment on Ferguson

It’s easy to blame Darren Wilson for the death of an unarmed black man named Michael Brown – because it happened.

What seems to be more difficult for everyone – from the media to the violent demonstrators – is to hold Michael Brown accountable for his own death. As stated in last night’s decision, evidence shows (and a jury agreed) that Michael Brown had committed a crime prior to his encounter with Darren Wilson. Brown is also believed to have assaulted Wilson upon their initial encounter.

This is not a case of an unarmed black man being shot because he wouldn’t move out of the road – as was an early media narrative. Nor is this a case of an innocent black man’s death. Michael Brown is not the victim of a hate crime – nor is he the face an equality movement deserves.

Certainly, my opinion will be unpopular – but how much commentary have we seen about “the age of entitlement?” Apply that to this situation. Michael Brown doesn’t get a pass because he was black and the officer is white. He committed a robbery and assaulted a police officer. Those two criminal acts have nothing to do with the color of his skin. He is responsible for his poor decision-making prior to – and during – his death. He is not a martyr and might still be alive today if he’d thought about his actions.

The media, whom I believe have acted irresponsibly, have fed people a sympathetic narrative. They’ve run front-page stories about racial disparities in law enforcement (in predominantly black communities) and have provided editorial upon editorial about Michael Brown and what it means to be black in the United States. The media – and many people on social media – have spent too much time being politically correct instead of accurate.

For example, when the St. Louis Post Dispatch ran the front-page story about racial disparities in law enforcement, they highlighted the percentages of the forces that were black and white. One predominantly black community’s police force was 93% white and 7% black. Instead of investigating the story further – the Post ran with it, in timely fashion. As a reader, I found that article frustrating because, yes, it says there is a huge disparity in that force, but it never explores why. I want to know what percentage of applicants were black and what percentage of black applicants were hired (relative to whites). I want a complete story – not a propaganda piece.

In fact, I’m sure there could be a discussion of the media’s influence in the Michael Brown narrative since August. A sympathetic attitude has evolved in the media, yet people seem split on the issue – and the only community that will suffer is the black community. Time and time again, we’ve seen “peaceful” protests – but on the next page, or in the next clip, we see footage or read stories of burning buildings and cars, shot officers and looting.

Such violent demonstration will not advance the cause – it will only further the divide. From these incidents, stereotypes will be reinforced and new racists will emerge – from both communities (white and black).

I was reading an article in the Post Dispatch yesterday (from Nov. 22) titled, “Coffee, reality TV and Michael Brown.” In the article, entrepreneur Jason Wilson discusses his failed attempt to open a coffee shop (Chronicle Coffee) in a black community and the cancelation of a reality TV show by Lifetime. Wilson said he “envisioned a space for civil discourse and community engagement.”

Wilson also stated that had the coffee shop remained open, he could have hosted forums discussing Michael Brown – and had the reality TV series not been cancelled, he could have had a national platform to discuss the issue. I found these notions frustrating. To think that an entrepreneur, like the media and many of the violent demonstrators, would use Michael Brown’s name to boost a business – a TV program – or a message. Where’s the outrage for that? There’s outrage because Michael Brown is dead; but not because people want to profit from his death?

In that same article, Jason Wilson said he had plans to re-open Chronicle Coffee, closer to St. Louis University (a predominantly white university) because, “The reality is we need white people for this to be a success.”

This was frustrating because that statement alone presents a double-standard. Is race not what the past three months have been about? Is it not why people are being killed and businesses being burned down? Why is it acceptable for a black entrepreneur to “realize” he needs white people? For a business to operate successfully, you need people. Stop thinking in terms of if you’re going to serve whites or blacks – and start thinking in terms of people in general.

If we did this more often, this race discussion would eventually become obsolete.

For some reason though, we don’t – and this Michael Brown case is one of many reasons why we don’t. When we look at this case, over and over we see that a white cop shot an unarmed black teenager. That’s the face value of it – and that superficiality is used to justify violent demonstration.

Following the Grand Jury’s decision last night I read reports of – and saw images of – domestic terrorism. I condemn these actions – in fact, did we, as a nation, not involve ourselves in a decade-long war in the Middle East because of similar actions? We did. Yet, where was this loud outcry for the innocent men, women and children who died then? Where was the outcry for the discrimination against Muslims and Arab-Americans? This is no different. Burning buildings and cars – the destruction of life and property. Terror is running rampant in and around Ferguson. People are being shot and dying. Livelihood is being taken away. This is not progress.

Again, Michael Brown is not the face an equality movement deserves. He is not a civil rights leader or activist that belongs in a discussion with names like Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. He was not persecuted because of his skin color – that’s something that’s evolved to be the issue for this case.

I’m frustrated – because this situation’s being presented as black against white – not as a situation of people. Jason Wilson was right in his assertion that “we need white people.” I believe that. I believe that for racial disparities to disappear blacks need whites and whites need blacks. We need to stop seeing color – and start seeing people. It’s never been totally white against black – look to the abolitionists in the 1700-1800s – or to the activists of the 1950-1960s – we accomplish more together.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

#ThanksMichelleObama: Why it’s a stupid trend.

I wasn’t going to bother writing something people probably weren’t going to read anyway – that’s how it goes with political opinions or comments – but I just couldn’t resist.

For two days, I’ve noticed the trending hashtag “#ThanksMichelleObama.” Behind the hashtag are pictures, of school lunches that look less than appetizing, backed by sarcastic commentary about Michelle Obama championing healthier school lunches. To those of you posting your pictures and “thanking” Michelle Obama, I ask you the following questions:

1. Is it better to have food – or no food at all?

2. If you’re unhappy with what’s being served (is there not a lunch menu?), then can’t you pack a lunch from home?

3. What does the First Lady’s effort/push for healthier food have to do with the food’s preparation and presentation?

These are three very basic questions that come to mind when I see this type of complaining. I won’t even touch the “Just wait until 2016″ commentary either. As if a school lunch should be the basis of your voting two years from now. Then again, it goes without saying – if you’re basing your ballot on smashed peas or a bad picture, then …

Perhaps you (or your kids if you’re a parent reading this), in this age of ultra-criticism and entitlement, would rather eat a highly processed frozen disc called a cheeseburger – or maybe you’ll settle for some frozen “chicken strips.” Obviously you would, otherwise food chains like McDonald’s wouldn’t be raking in billions of dollars. Then again, maybe you would like something that looks appetizing – and is nutritious. That’s more than fine. I understand that point – when I cook/bake, I make it point to present (after all, that’s half of eating!).

Though, if the schools spent time presenting food for hundreds of teenagers – it’d go largely unnoticed and be met with no gratitude. Well, it might end up on Instagram, facebook or twitter and get the #FoodPorn hashtag instead.

Are you getting this (and agreeing with me) – or are you reading this wanting to slap me because you’re stupid?

We live in a world with millions of hungry people. There are places where people are dying from starvation – hell, it’s happening in/around our neighborhoods everyday – and all you can do is sit on your privileged asses and post sarcastic remarks “thanking” the First Lady for your “disgusting” food. It’s food! It’s a first-world problem – and at the end of the day, you have the choice to not eat it.

Many people don’t have that choice. Remember that the next time you say “Thanks Michelle Obama.” Bon appetit!



New Art: Endanger Cancer, not Elephants

I created this piece, Endanger Cancer, not Elephants, because I love and am passionate about saving elephants – and because I know several breast cancer survivors. I want this to be a symbol of hope for them. On the surface, elephant poaching and cancer may seem like vastly different issues – and you’d be right to say they are, but there exists a commonality between the two: Poaching, like cancer, steals the lives of thousands – and affects many more – each year. Mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, wives and companions die in great numbers – but they don’t have to. At least in an ideal future they don’t.

So, I hope.

I hope for a day when the group of women I know – a group comprised of family, friends and public figures I admire – doesn’t have to live in fear, or with the constant reminders of an aggressive disease. I hope for the healing of their emotional scars – and for their joy in life. With some of these women, I’ve created lasting memories that cannot be destroyed by cancer, or death. But, these are women, and stories, I could miss every day there isn’t a cure.

So, I cling to hope.

Statistics estimate that breast cancer will steal the lives of approximately 40,000 women in the United States (per year). Similarly, in the past four years, over 100,000 elephants have been victims of poaching. Their ivory was stolen. Elephants, a keystone species, are a necessity to their ecosystem – and it’s entirely possible that their ecosystem houses the cure for cancer. The reality is, we’ve identified [some] causes, we’ve evaluated the emotional and monetary impacts and we still work to end these devastating losses – but we don’t know the cure.

But still, I hope.

I hope you view this piece as a symbol and bridge between two very devastating issues. Yes, the face value of what I’m proposing may be a reach, but we can’t afford to stand idly by while a species and ecosystem vanishes. Our inaction could see the disappearance of a cure before it’s even discovered. So I’m taking a step to “Endanger Cancer, not Elephants,” by making equal donations to Susan G. Komen – in honor of those I know – and to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – for elephants.

I invite you to join me and use the hashtag – #EndangerCancerNotElephants – to say you will. This is my hope. Now, I present:

Endanger Cancer, not Elephants

view more of my art here

(c) 2014. Bobby James.

(c) 2014. Bobby James.

A Media Comment: Animated Feature ≠ “Kid’s Movie”

"Hiccup" from DreamWorks' How To Train Your Dragon 2

“Hiccup” from DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon 2

Have you seen DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2 yet? If not, do so – it’s a fantastic animated feature that, in a roundabout way, is the basis for this post.  While I was surfing Facebook, I saw Moviepilot Animation’s article:  So Let’s Talk About How To Train Your Dragon’s Gay Character.  Upon completing the article, I read through a few of the responses, but the top rated response said:

“He is not gay…my god its. A kids movie..people are such idiots trying to make something out of nothing…get a hobby!”

While those of you who know me may think this will focus on the emergence of openly gay characters in animated movies, it won’t.  Trust me, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a research article analyzing gay characters in animated movies.  That project looks more like a go every day.  Instead, I’m going to comment on why ANIMATED FEATURE does not equal KID’S MOVIE.

This is something that’s bothered me immensely over the years, leaving me curious to know:  Why do so many people say animated movies are just for kids? Is it the bright and bold color, the catchy musical numbers (ahem, Frozen - I know, I should just “Let It Go”), or is it simply because it’s animated? A cartoon.  I can’t figure it out.

Now, if you’re like me, you love animated features – and you like to go to the theater while schools are in session, so that you may enjoy them without all the chatterbox-children around.  But doesn’t it just so happen that kids are almost always on break when the animated features flood the box office? It does. Then, you go to the theater not thinking much of it and surprise! A million kids.  The kids aren’t the problem though, it’s their chaperoning adult(s), right?

I generally make it a point to see every animated feature that comes out.  I’ve loved them since I was a child – and since the emergence of Pixar, the ante’s been upped!  Many more animated features are sophisticated and contain social commentaries (ex. openly gay characters emerging in animated features), subtle humor and storylines for adults.  The [mostly] breathtaking animation is still there, but that’s for the enjoyment of everyone right? So I can’t figure out why when I walk into a theater full of kids I’m shot a dirty look from time to time.  Am I not allowed to see an animated feature in theaters if I don’t have children?  Because I’m seeing the movie alone, am I weird? …or worse, a suspected pedophile?

On countless occasions, I’ve had friends tell me they wanted to see whatever the newest animated feature was, but they can’t go alone because “it’d be weird.” Why is it weird? Why can grown men or women not go see an animated movie alone? Who says and what authority do they have? Then I think, it all comes back to this idea that animated features are “Kids’ Movies.”

Newsflash: They’re not.

Animated features, like all other Hollywood productions are rated in accordance with the MPAA.  Generally, these movies are rated G or PG (you can explore all that who, how, etc. here), but that alone doesn’t mean the movie is strictly for kids. When I envision kid-centric entertainment, I think of programming like Baby Einstein, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, just to list some obvious (TV) examples.

Carl and Ellie from Disney-Pixar's Up

Carl and Ellie from Disney-Pixar’s Up

Have you seen the Shrek or Ice Age franchises? I don’t think I need to elaborate on all of that adult humor.  What about more subtle movies like Disney-Pixar’s Up?  The entire Carl-Ellie relationship is adult-oriented, as is the “Married Life” montage.  Sure, it’s brightly colored and full of wondrous imagination and imagery, but Up‘s core (its heart) appeals to both children and adults.  My point is, these animated features are made for the enjoyment of everyone.

By design, animated features resonate with each of us differently.  They could inspire a child to become an animator.  They are proponents of imagination (children may want to be ruling princesses or explorers imagining great adventures of their own).  In the same way kids are inspired, adults may find humor, they may reminisce of days gone by, or they may be inspired themselves.  An adult may write that book or screenplay they always wanted to write, or to take the adventure they’d always imagined (I went to New Orleans in 2012 because of The Princess and the Frog), or just to laugh and love as much as the animated feature suggests.  Through the lens of adulthood we “see” and take away more from animated features, we understand their souls and not just the pretty pictures.

Now please, don’t think my last statement discredits a child’s ability to understand a movie (or any piece of media or art).  I’m the last person that would do that.  In fact, in my own endeavors, I find myself fighting for the kids, saying they deserve complexity, subtlety and perfection in the media they may consume.  What I am saying, is that adults have a greater understanding (sometimes) and that just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s not for them too.

Call it a Family Movie or better yet, just call it what it is – an animated feature or an animated movie – but unless it’s directly stated to be so, don’t call it a “Kid’s Movie.”  Recognize they’re made for the enjoyment of everyone – take away the weirdness and the odd looks.  Give everyone the chance to be inspired, just because you’re grown doesn’t mean you don’t need it.   Go watch any one of your childhood favorites now, and as Beauty and The Beast suggests:

“There may be something there that wasn’t there before.”

I’d like to know, is there a movie you feel bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood?  What are some of your favorite animated moments or quotes?  How about your favorite animated characters and why? What themes do you see in animated features that appeal to adults?  Let’s talk in the comments section!

New Art: Nina, Mya and Queen Isis

Last week, there was a bit of a clown craze.  This week, I’m tackling sexy.  The three pieces I present here, Mya, Nina, and Queen Isis, all began with an idea for hair.

Nina was first in this group.  On my wall there’s a Marilyn Monroe poster.  I looked at that to draw inspiration, but didn’t want to simply duplicate something in existence – so I exaggerated some features (eyes, lips) to create a lusty Russian-esque woman.  I’m satisfied to present:


(c) 2014, Bobby James


Nina. (c) 2014. Bobby James. Pencil/Marker

Next, I wanted to create a desirable, perhaps exotic American girl.  That’s Mya.  She’s got flowing black hair, a dark tan complexion and an innocent face.  She’s that diamond you may find in small-town, Midwestern or Southern America.  Here’s:


(c) 2014, Bobby James


Mya. (c) 2014. Bobby James. Pencil/Marker.

Finally, the most recent creation (6/15) is Queen Isis.  Knowing I wanted to create a strong black female with a ‘fro, for whatever reason, I kept thinking of Beyoncé’s character “Foxy Cleopatra” from whatever Austin Powers movie that was.  I knew I wanted Queen Isis to command attention and to fill the page.  She’s strong, she’s beautiful, she’s powerful and she’s … ready to disco?  I’m really satisfied with the final result, I think the “Queen” turned out exactly how I’d envisioned her – with beauty, power, attitude, and bold color! All hail:

Queen Isis

(c) 2014, Bobby James

Queen Isis. (c) 2014. Bobby James. Marker/Pencil.

Queen Isis. (c) 2014. Bobby James. Marker/Pencil.

There they are, the latest additions to my 2014 art collection:  View more of My Art here and use the comments section to express your likes/dislikes about the work.  Thanks for looking!

New Art: Enter the Circus!

I’m on a clown craze lately! I’m beginning to think I’m designing creepy clowns to overcome my fear of them?  I have to prepare for the upcoming Freakshow season of American Horror Story, after all.

That said, there are a few pieces to introduce to the new (organically so) collection!

First I’ll begin with Burlesque.  Recently I was told that my art – and all of the skinny subjects – were perpetuating stereotypes and reinforcing current ideas of body image.  I considered this thought.  Was there a point?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps the images I present are what is necessary for the piece as I’ve envisioned it.  Either way, I created Burlesque with a woman named ShowMe Charlotte (Charlotte Sumtimes, etc.) in mind.  She was the first burlesque performer I’d ever seen, and I loved how completely comfortable and beautiful she is.  She’s also seductive and knows how to own her stage.  Currently in the mindset for clowns, though, I gave this image a twist and created a very colorful, curvaceous burlesque woman, the first of her kind – I present:

View More of My Art Here


(c) 2014, Bobby James

Burlesque. (c) 2014. Bobby James

Burlesque. (c) 2014. Bobby James

The next piece, Sin & Lust is intended to not only be homoerotic (you can thank National LGBT Pride Month for the current excess of homoerotic art being produced), but to be an idealized vision of a dark, twisted circus act.  The two, as you can see are co-stars and suggestively lovers (as intended by the similar tattoos).  Sin & Lust are intertwined – linked together by fate and the circus.  (note:  I really, really want to find a way to have this circus-themed underwear produced! Anyone know how to sew? Haha).  Here are:

Sin & Lust

(c) 2014, Bobby James.

Sin & Lust (c) 2014. Bobby James.

Sin & Lust (c) 2014. Bobby James.

Thirdly, I present The Recruitment.  For this piece, I have a white man and black woman (the circus power couple) recruiting a new clown to the circus.  Her offer is a balloon, his offer is her.  Controversial?  Maybe, maybe not – that depends on your reaction.  Will he or won’t he accept the offers and join this group? Is the circus all he’s being recruited for? Here I decided to play a bit more with hair – and the concept of hats and wigs.  The black male clown features a wig I created separately and applied to the picture later.  I present:

The Recruitment

(c) 2014, Bobby James.

The Recruitment (c) 2014. Bobby James.

The Recruitment (c) 2014. Bobby James.

Finally, I give you Circus FreakCircus Freak is intended to be dark and unsettling.  He’s peering over his shoulder – he’s coming for you.  For this image, I wanted to try my hand at circus lettering, which I worked in as a tattoo prominently featured between the clown’s shoulders.  Here is:

Circus Freak

(c) 2014, Bobby James.

Circus Freak (c) 2014. Bobby James.

Circus Freak (c) 2014. Bobby James.

I hope you’ve enjoyed all the pieces.  Feedback is not only always welcomed, but encouraged.  What do these images make you think? I’m dying to know!