Visiting Artists-Scholars to Focus on Afrofuturism

comic page with a microphone and three speech bubbles surrounding a man in the middle wearing a crown

The College of Arts & Letters will welcome artist-scholars John Jennings and Stacey Robinson to campus September 23-27 to engage students and faculty in conversations about race, gender, and power in Afrofuturism.

Thanks to the College of Arts & Letters’ Engaged Pedagogy Grant, during their four-day visit, Jennings and Robinson will host workshops, give public talks, and visit classrooms to explore the intersection between art, literature, and design under the moniker Black Kirby. As Black Kirby, Jennings and Robinson re-imagine comic and science fiction imaginary to broaden our understanding of the past and the future.”I’m looking forward to meeting with the students and having discussions about how they see the future emerging,” said Stacey Robinson. “I also look forward to meeting with some of the faculty who have been long time friends.” 

Black Kirby functions as a rhetorical tool by appropriating comic legend Jack Kirby’s bold forms and energetic ideas combined with themes centered around Afrofuturism, social justice, representation, and magical realism.

“As truly interdisciplinary scholars, John Jennings and Stacey Robinson closely align with the English Department’s emphasis on close reading and theoretical understanding for literary studies,” said Julian Chambliss, Professor in the Department of English. “The surrounding community will gain a better understanding of the dynamic range of issues that shape how minorities understand and seek to reshape visual culture linked to comics, horror, and science fiction.”

More About the Artists

John Jennings

headshot of a man with a black beard wearing a gray and white plaid blazer and a black shirt
Artist-scholar, John Jennings

Jennings is a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies and a Cooperating Faculty Member in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. His work centers around intersectional narratives regarding identity politics and popular media.

Jennings is co-editor of the Eisner Award-winning essay collection, The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art and co-founder/organizer of the Schomburg Center’s Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem, the MLK NorCal’s Black Comix Arts Festival in San Francisco, and SOL-CON: The Brown and Black Comix Expo at The Ohio State University.

Stacey Robinson

Headshot of a man wearing a tan hat, black turtleneck and red and blue plaid button up
Artist-scholar, Stacey Robinson

Robinson is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a former Arthur Schomburg Fellow, he completed his Masters of Fine Art at the University at Buffalo, New York.

Robinson’s art speculates futures where Black people are free from colonial influences. He directed Unveiling Visions: the Alchemy of the Black Imagination for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. He also was part of the exhibition Invisible Ink: Black Independent Comix at the University of Tennessee and the Beyond the Frame: African American Comic Book Artists presentation at the Flint Institute of Arts.

Black Kirby Events

All the following events are free and open to the public:

Tuesday, September 24

  • Reception, 5:30-6:30 p.m., MSU Library Green Room
  • Public Lecture: Presenting Black Kirby Now: Collaboration, Remix, and the Critical Black Imagination, 7 p.m., MSU Union Lake Huron Room

Friday, September 27

  • Unveiling “Black Kirby” Reception, 12 p.m., MSU Museum

Sponsored by
The Department of English
The Department of Art, Art History, and Design
Center for Interdisciplinarity 
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH)
Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities (GSAH)

Written by Annie Dubois