Next week, Cooper Union opens its doors for a three-day exploration of black identity. Titled “Drawing Lines: The Black American Experience,” the event features daily talks by Congressman John Lewis, award-winning indie comic artist Juliana Smith and artists/curators William Villalongo and Mark Thomas Gibson.

Congressman John Lewis
May 11, 7:30 pm
The Honorable John Lewis, who was elected to Congress in 1986, is often referred to as one of the most courageous persons the civil rights movement produced. Having grown up in the segregated South, he’s been a long-standing leader of human rights. Among his many achievements, he was the youngest of the Big Six civil rights leaders during his tenure as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, between 1963 and 1966. He will speak at The Cooper Union about the necessity for civic engagement.

May 12, 6:30 pm
Juliana “Jewels” Smith, writer and creator of (H)afrocentric, will discuss the comic strip about four disgruntled undergrads navigating the moors of Ronald Reagan University. (H)afrocentric turns a mirror up to students and readers to question presumptions about race, gender, class and sexuality. Smith has previously given talks at Studio Harlem, The Schomburg Center, and New York Comic Con.

Black Pulp!

May 13, 6:30 pm
Co-curated by artists William Villalongo and Mark Thomas Gibson, Black Pulp! is an examination of Black identity within the American context, offering perspectives other than the popular stereotypes. Featuring 21 artists from the black diaspora, including Firelei Báez, Felandus Thames, Hank Willis Thomas and Fred Wilson, the show places their work in the context of rare historical books, comics, and newspapers, such as Alain LeRoy Locke’s The New Negro (1925), Wallace Thurman’s quarterly Fire!!: Devoted to the Younger Negro Artists (1926), and Jackie Ormes’ comic strip Torchy in Heartbeats (1953).

Villalongo, a New York-based artist and assistant professor at Cooper, and Gibson, a lecturer at Yale School of Art, will participate in a discussion.

“Drawing Lines: The Black American Experience” takes place May 11 to May 13, at The Cooper Union, 7 East 7th Street, East Village.