By Monique Gooch-Brown
NASHVILLE, TN — Clips of Connecticut cartoonist Joe Young’s animated short film of Smokey Robinson’s poem, “Black American” were shown recently on ABC’s Emmy award-winning show “The View.”
As a teaching artist, writer, cartoonist and producer, Young was able to animate Robinson’s poem to convey his personal opinion and stance on the term Black American. This poem has sparked conversations about racial identity, and was animated in collaboration between the producer, Joe Young and the artist, Smokey Robinson.
“Joe Young’s depiction through animation of my ‘Black American’ poem is outstanding. It truly reflects my sentiments on the subject and captured my intent,” Robinson has said.
Young completed the animated short film in 2021 during the COVID-19 lockdown. He said that was the perfect time to focus on the animation and get it completed. It was a great opportunity in exercising his creative imagination to bring Robinson’s poem to the world of animation, Young said.
“I was able to illustrate Smokey’s poem with creativity and with an unbiased opinion,” he said. The poem has released a voice in many who agree with its point of view as well as the opposing voices.
“The various reactions I’ve seen since the release of the animation shows me the power of the spoken word enhanced and made more effective through the visual arts, specifically here, through animation,” he added.
Robinson’s animated poem ties in with Young’s latest animated comic book character, Kemet, because of its Black history awareness and Black pride connection. The word Kemet means Black Africa. Kemet is from West Africa and speaks with an accent.
When asked what inspired the character Kemet, Young said, “There are a couple of reasons why the character got created. With everything going on in the world with social upheaval and racial division, I thought a character like Kemet could address some of those issues. He’s a Black American and I saw him as a bridge to bring folks together. He travels back in time and takes the lessons he learned in the past and brings his knowledge back to the present in the 21st century.”
Kemet is for young people but his messages reach all ages, and all nationalities. “[However,] if I had to say, the target would be middle school age kids.” Young said. Another target market is Black single parents. “Kemet’s interactive. We send letters out and kids write to him, and they draw pictures. It’s really taken off.”
Kemet currently has a million plus readership. The comic will soon be distributed to 230 newspapers and 20 million subscribers. “We also have activity worksheets. It has Black history facts, trivia, and a lot of fun stuff.”
Young wants people to learn about the contributions of Black people. “How they not just built the country, they built the world and contributed globally.” Their goal is for Kemet to become a positive household name throughout the country.
For more information on Joe Young visit: www.joeyoung.org or call Robenia McKinley at (860) 997-0211 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Joe Young on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube at @creatorjoeyoung and on Facebook at @Joeyoung. Kemet also has a social media following. Follow Kemet at @KemetComic on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.