a wonderful DENISE MEREDITH article

author/reporter Denise Meredith was kind enough to stop by my table at the Phoenix Fan Fusion convention and learn a few details about me & my time in the industry. We discussed Image comics BITTER ROOT: RED SUMMER SPECIAL I helped contribute to along with the Bram Stoker award winning comic DESTROYER. She did an extensive reach out to a variety of Black artist & creators in the article below:

Yes, Monique, There Are Black Superheroes
By Denise Meridith, National Reporter for the Florida Courier
African-Americans were represented in a wide variety of roles in the comic industry at Phoenix Fan Fusion May 23-26, 2019.
Phoenix, Arizona. May 27, 2019– On Sunday, May 26, 2019, the Phoenix Fan Fusion(formerly known as Phoenix Comicon) wrapped up its four-day convention in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. The event has been a model for inclusion, particularly for the LBGTQ community and for people with disabilities. Looking at the weary Wookies, Little Ponies and Captain Americans, it is obvious that diversity of tastes is also solicited. But, outside of a couple of panels about Black Panther or one or two celebrities out of the hundreds of panels and appearances the past two years, there has been poor representation of ethnic diversity. This year, there was evidence that there is a potential, growing pool of talented African-Americans involved in the comics industry.

Blacks are becoming more visible in superhero movies. In February, Black Panther became the first Marvel film to win Oscars. In April, Captain America passing his shield to the Falcon in the Avengers: Endgame bodes well for growing Black participation in future films. Actor Billy Dee Williams returned to Phoenix for this year’s Phoenix Fan Fusion. Williams will be reprising his iconic role as Lando Calrissian in the final Star Wars: Episode 9 this winter. The 82-year-old’s continuing attraction to all generations was obvious by the large crowd at his talk on Saturday and the lines for photos and autographs throughout the weekend.

Fans were also thrilled this year to see Nichelle Nichols return to the Phoenix convention. Her performance as Star Trek’s Uhura, which was lauded by Reverend Martin Luther King in the 1960’s, served as an inspiration for generations of Black youth. At 86 years of age, Phoenix was, sadly, a stop on Nichol’s farewell tour, which will end with a Nichelle Nichols Farewell Convention in Burbank, California in May 2020.

African-Americans, not on screen, are also making important contributions the comic culture. Recognition should always be given to people, who ignited the modern era of Black superheroes. For example, Denys Cowan (he and his colleagues Michael Davis, Dwayne McDuffie and Derek T. Dingle founded Milestone Media in 1993), was invited to Phoenix this year. Cowan is known for Static Shock, Young Justice and The Boondocks.

Ken Lashley from Toronto, Canada, seemed to be enjoying his first visit to Phoenix. He is a long-time, successful illustrator who has worked on comics, movies and toys (e.g., The Flash, Uncanny: X-Men and Suicide Squad). His Age of Apocalypse comic book series has sold half a million copies. Dietrich O. Smith, who has been drawing comics for two decades, whose new book Bitterroot will be out this summer, and who recently won a Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in graphic novels, is planning to move back to Arizona. “I have friends here and love the work environment,” he said. 

But it was also exciting to welcome newer artists like Chris Leon Brown from South Carolina, who was celebrating the first anniversary of his Omega Black book series and enjoying his first visit to Phoenix. Lashley, Brown, Smith and others are featuring youth and attracting young readers, as well as dealing with topical, racism-related issues.

James Mathis III has taken a different route to success in the comic industry. This Brooklyn native, who now lives in Los Angeles, worked as a voice over artist for many years with FX. Mathis has been the voice of Black Panther/T’Challa in the animated Black Panther series. Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest received a 2019 Image Award nomination.

George Takei, who, with Nichols, broke many racial barriers during their time on Star Trek, gave an impassioned speech to several thousand fans at Phoenix Fan Fusion on the last day of the convention, about the importance of Americans valuing diversity. He expressed gratitude that comic conventions have helped him promote his theme of racial tolerance through speeches, theater, movies, and television.

In return, the addition of all ethnicities, their stories and talents enhances the quality, emotional depth, universal appeal, and profitability of any industry. The inclusion of more of these actors, artists, writers and others of color could inspire youth and increase the popularity of Phoenix Fan Fusion and other comic conventions with all generations.

(Photo by Hassan Kareem) Eighty-two-year-old Billy Dee Williams, famous for his role as Lando Calrissian in Star Wars, still excites the crowds, as he did at the Phoenix Fan Fusion conference in Arizona on May 24-26, 2019.
(Photo by Hassan Kareem) Comic fan Rashad Abdul-Kareem got to meet comic artist Chris Leon Brown, of the Omega Black series, at Phoenix Fan Fusion in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 25, 2019 
(Photo by Yulanda Gilliam) Dietrich O Smith, who has been a comic artist for two decades, was happy to return to his former home state of Arizona, for the Phoenix Fan Fusion convention May 23-26, 2019, in Phoenix, Arizona.
About Denise Meridith Consultants Inc.
For 18 years, Denise Meridith has been CEO of Denise Meridith Consultants Inc (DMCI), a public and community affairs company, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a public affairs executive, professor at Arizona State University, author, long-time reporter, and popular public speaker. Meridith has previously had regular columns with the Arizona Republic, Phoenix Business Journal and Examiner.com. She has published several books, including Thoughts While Chillin' and its sequel The Year a Roof Rat Ate My Dishwasher: An Arizona Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs. Meridith is the National Reporter for the Florida Courier and often has articles published in the Arizona Informant and on Smerconish.com

Media Contact:
Denise Meridith, CEO
Denise Meridith Consultants Inc
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