Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Harrisburg pioneer and abolitionist; Portrayal of blacks in pop culture

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Feb 17, 2015 3:29 PM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, February 18, 2015:

You may not have heard of William Howard Day, but if one examines his life and accomplishments, you probably should have.

As part of Black History Month, Smart Talk focuses on Day's work in the abolition movement during the mid-1850s and as the nation's first African-American school board president when he was elected to lead the Harrisburg School Board in 1891.

Day also was the first African-American employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Todd Mealy, a Modern American History teacher at Penn Manor High School and author of the book Aliened American: A Biography of William Howard Day, 1825-1900, appears on Wednesday's Smart Talk.

Also, African-Americans have been portrayed in a variety of ways in popular culture throughout American history -- most of them were negative or even racist. 

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Jim Siburt and Shayna Watson

Shayna Watson of the Lancaster branch of the NAACP and Prof Jim Siburt of Eastern Mennonite University joins us on Smart Talk to discuss their presentation "From Black Face to Black Panther: The Evolution of the Depiction of People of Color in Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and Film."

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-02-18 10:00

    Manuel writes:

    While T’challa was the first appearance of a black superhero in 1966 Fantastic Four #52, the first mainstream actual superhero is Falcon from 1969 appearing in Captain America #117. Soon after followed Luke Cage, Storm, and from DC, Tyroc, Black Lightning and GL John Stewart.

    • Jim Siburt img 2015-02-18 11:42

      Manuel,
      Excellent list. Another character, although not technically a super hero, but the first black character in Marvel Comics was Gabriel Jones. He was a member of Sgt. Fury's Howling Commandos and debuted in 1963. In Episode 5 of Marvel's Agent Carter the Howling Commandos show up, but it is a character called Happy Sam Sawyer not Gabriel Jones, who is the black member of the fighting unit. Thank you so much for your email this morning during the show. I wish there would have been more time to expand the conversation.

    • Shayna Watson img 2015-02-19 11:09

      Hello Manuel, I'm so glad that you mentioned Storm. Although Jim mentioned Jadah Pinkett Smith's character, we did not have time to go into depth about the depiction of women of color. Thank you for naming Storm!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-02-18 10:01

    Scot writes:

    My daughter is taking a film class at a high school in Lancaster County. One of the films was Birth of a Nation. however the teacher told the class if he showed Boyz In The Hood he would be fired. thoughts from your guests?

    • Jim Siburt img 2015-02-18 11:54

      Hi Scott,
      We weren't able to get to this on the air, but it is an excellent observation. Our conversation on this following the program basically came down to the fact that there are other choices that the teacher could make besides those two films. Shayna offered that there are several excellent documentaries that could have been chosen. The other question to ask is what was the teacher hoping to accomplish by showing the film? The answer to that question would help to provide other film choices. It would also be interesting to ask the school what makes one film offensive as opposed to the other?

      • Shayna Watson img 2015-02-19 11:14

        Thanks Jim. I could not have said and or asked it better. I'm curious about the intent in showing the racially charged film "Birth of a Nation," and what would happen after its viewing. Are parents aware of the possible viewing? My prayer that if the film is shown, that the adequate systems of support, and a diverse panel of instructors will be able to speak to systems of power, politics and racism, so that the students can walk away from the experience fully informed.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-02-18 11:24

    Jim writes...
    Scott: your guest this morning representing the NAACP, should check her references more carefully before using them on radio.
    She cited “The Yellow Kid”, an early newspaper comic, some historians say the first, as an example of Asian prejudice in the media.
    When the U.S. Postal Service put The Yellow Kid on a stamp in 1996, the following narrative was put on the back of the stamp:

    THE YELLOW KID
    R.F. Outcoult (1863 - 1928)

    The first popular newspaper color cartoon was “Hogan’s Alley” starring the Yellow Kid. The tenement exploits of the IRISH immigrant kid ignited public affection; when two New York papers fought over rival versions, “Yellow Journalism” was born. The cartoon ran from
    1895 - 1898.

    Maurice Horn’s “100 Years of American Newspaper Comics” says that the Kid’s only item of clothing was his nightshirt, which some month’s after the cartoon’s introduction, was printed in color. The color settled on was yellow. The kid was a denizen of the lower East Side’s Irish ghetto and he later acquired a name, Mickey Dugan. The comic became a center piece in the struggle between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst for the New York newspaper market. Hearst won by enticing Outcoult to leave Pulitzer’s paper. But both papers’ use of sensationalism to sell papers created the term “Yellow Journalism” which borrowed the term from the Kid’s iconic nightshirt.

    So “The Yellow Kid” had nothing to do with Asian people, but it said a lot about anti-Irish prejudice at the turn of the century, a point
    she could have made if she had known the facts.

    • Shayna Watson img 2015-02-19 11:04

      Thanks Scott for sharing this. I really appreciate that this person took the time to listen, pay attention and visit wikipedia to research his information. I'm always open to learning opportunities and I hope they are too. The data I presented, was not inaccurate, nor misleading. There are a number of critics who reference The Yellow Kid character as offensive, and the comic strip cartoon, as racist- often referring to people of African descent as “coons” and illustrating them in negative stereotypes as noted on the show, which is why I found it interesting that The Yellow Kid was on a stamp. Needless to say, I was given the Yellow Kid reference from someone of Asian descent, which spurned my interest. Furthermore, with more time on the radio segment, it would have been great to discuss the historical impact of “Yellow Journalism,” its evocative approach, as well as the history of the Hungarian Jewish Immigrant, Pulitzer, who was in literary and personal conflict with Outcault. I'm really interested in the history of the Irish, they too suffered oppression and prejudice during their settlement in the US-that would be a great conversation...perhaps another show Scott? Maybe the respondent and I can converse about that fact together.
      The point of the conversation was to raise awareness and cultural sensitivity in how various cultures were and are portrayed in various forms of media. Hopefully the respondent understood that much. I really appreciate their response-it helps us all to grow. If they are reading this, they can refer to the primary source; i.e. “The War Scare in Hogan's Alley” and or actually speak with people of in their local Asian communities, to get more grounded, factual information. I would also encourage them to attend our event this Saturday February 21 5pm-7pm at Barnes and Noble to further share their thoughts and experiences.

  • Jim Siburt img 2015-02-18 11:48

    Hi Scott,
    We weren to able to get to this on the air, but it is an excellent observation. Our conversation on this following the program basically came down to the fact that there are other choices that the teacher could make besides those two films. Shayna offered that there are several excellent documentaries that could have been chosen. The other question to ask is what was the teacher hoping to accomplish by showing the film? The answer to that question would help to provide other film choices. It would also be interesting to ask the school what makes one film offensive as opposed to the other?