Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Screen animation and comic book writer Brandon Easton has written for the animated series Transformer Rescue Bots and the 2011 reboot of ThunderCats, and for comics including Shadowlaw, Watson & Holmes, Miles Away, Roboy, The Joshua Run, and Arkanium, and the motion comic Armarauders. He’s also authored a bio-graphic novel about pro-wrestler Andre the Giant.

News outlets such as Forbes and Wired have noted Easton’s work, and so have awards juries. Easton's original graphic novel Shadowlaw received a 2014 Best Single Issue nomination from the Eisner Comic Industry Award. In 2014, the East Coast Black Age of Comics, or ECBAC, gave Easton three Glyph Awards, including Fan Award, Story of the Year, and Best Writer, for scripting Watson and Holmes #6, and in 2013, the Best Writer Glyph for Shadowlaw.

Easton is also the documentary film-maker behind Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century.

Easton spoke with me on December 18, 2014 via Skype from his office in Los Angeles. We discussed what writers need to do—other than write—if they want to work in Hollywood; the differences between writing for animation and writing for live action; how to write scripts for comic books.

This episode begins with our discussion of what the recent Sony hacks revealed about why major US studios exclude African-American movie stars from even being contenders for casting in countless motion pictures.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Dr. Lorraine Monroe has been a teacher and professor of education for decades, and has made a significant impact on the way that children are educated and teachers are taught to teach in New York City.

Dr. Monroe is the founder and Executive Director of School Leadership Academy, an educational consultant, and was the Chief Executive for Instruction at the NYC Board of Education. She founded the Center for Minority Achievement at Bank Street College and is a member of the Board of Trustees at Columbia University Teachers College. 

I spoke with Dr. Monroe after she’d just given a talk about the schools that she oversaw, and how their transformative mission requires them to fight the many ways that Euro-American schools poison African-American children. She spoke of the necessity of getting city kids out of the city and into nature, and in particular to a healing camp that provided meditation that they loved, a camp whose quiet restored their serenity and gave them the blessing of stillness.

Monroe also spoke of learning and teaching compassion by taking care of hurt or abandoned animals as means to help children become better citizens, and she emphasised the importance of, as she put it, putting the feet where you want the feet to go, and planting the seeds where you want the seeds to grow—that is, taking children who are the victims of the American political-economic-social-educational system to visit colleges and universities so they will be more likely to see post-secondary education as a natural part of their own futures, thereby transforming them into victors in their own lives and communities.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Darryl Lenox is one of my favourite comedians, and while his routines are hilarious, I respect the intellectual weight he brings to his work that arises from his education, his socio-political perspective, and his international experience.

For twelve years we got to claim him as an African-Canadian, but he’s originally from the US and to the US he has returned. He’s spent 15 years touring and headlining comedy clubs, researching human behaviour and calibrating his comedic lasers.

But no matter where Darryl Lenox goes, he’s hilarious. He’s had his own hour-long special on Starz Network called Blind Ambition, a reference to his own serious eye problems that led him to work with the Third World Eye Care Society that provides eye exams and donated eye glasses to people in developing countries.

In addition to appearing on the Conan O’Brien Show, A&E's Evening at the Improv, BET's Comic View, The Best of Just For Laughs Comedy Festival New Year's Eve Special, and Comedy Central Jamie Foxx's Laffa Polooza, Lenox has performed at the HBO Comedy Arts Festival and the comedy festivals of Boston, Chicago, and Vancouver, and won the Seattle Comedy Competition and Best New Play at Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Almost twenty years ago in my then-rôle as a high school English teacher, and while teaching some stories and poems by South African writers, I reflected upon the fact that for decades in apartheid South Africa, students had studied literature written only by English and Boer writers, never by actual South Africans. It struck me as perverse that a colonial minority could overwrite an existing and vibrant culture with its own narrow world-view.

And then I came to a shattering realisation: as a non-Native Canadian, I was no different than an English or Boer school teacher in South Africa. I had gone through twelve years of public school and two university degrees without having once been required to read the words of a Canadian writer—and by Canadian, I mean one whose ancestry in Canada pre-dates European conquest and Indigenous destruction.

At that moment I decided that I needed to delve into Canada’s Aboriginal literary canon. That wasn’t easy, since the people whose advice I sought—from librarians to bookstore managers—had no answers. One told me point-blank that First Nations people had no actual body of literature, since “they have an oral culture.” Eventually someone suggested I speak with a professor in the Native Studies Department at the University of Alberta. That instructor recommended an anthology edited by acclaimed author Thomas King, and a 1996 collection of short stories called Traplines by someone named Eden Robison.

Traplines stunned me. The four short stories told the harrowing experiences of urban and rural teenagers in contemporary British Columbia.

In the title story, young Will Tate is torn apart emotionally by an offer from his English teacher. Having lost her own son, she offers to adopt him, giving him an escape his abusive brother and alcoholic parents. But how can Will face betraying his own blood, despite their monstrous betrayal of him?

In the mystical, darkly-comedic “Dogs in Winter,” a teen girl protagonist struggles to escape the legacy of her mother, a serial killer who preys on men. In “Contact Sports,” a boy is knocked around like a pinball by his older cousin, who could be either his saviour, or a slick sociopath, or both.

But of all the stories, none affected me more than “Queen of the North,” an inspiring and tragic story of a sensitive, intelligent young woman who is transformed by her uncle’s decade-long sexual abuse into a violent, drug-abusing catastrophe. I loved the eloquence, intelligence and emotional intensity of the collection, and so did my students. Some, inspired by reading the stories, crafted their own excellent creative writing or made positive improvements in their lives.

Eden Robinson is a thirty-something West Coast writer of the Heisla and Heilstuk nations from Kitimat, BC. Traplines was as a New York Times Editor’s Choice and Notable Book of the Year; it also won the Winifred Holtby Prize for the best first work of fiction in the Commonwealth. Robinson’s first novel, Monkey Beach, was nominated for the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award of 2000.

This episode’s conversation is from deeps in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. I spoke with Robinson way back on December 16, 2005 for a celebration of indigenous writing at the Edmonton Public Library and co-presented by the University of Alberta bookstore.