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PM Press: Juliana Jewels Smith

Juliana Jewels Smith


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Juliana "Jewels" Smith is the creator and writer of (H)afrocentric that features four disgruntled undergrads of color and their adventures at Ronald Reagan University. In 2016, Smith took home the Glyph Award for Best Writer for Volume 4 of her independent series. She was also honored by the African American Library and Museum of Oakland with the first annual Excellence in Comics and Graphic Novels Award. She created (H)afrocentric as a way to challenge students and readers alike about the presumptions around race, class, gender and sexuality through character dialogue. She has given talks about the relationship between comics, humor, racial justice, and gender equity at The Schomburg Center, New York Comic Con, Studio Museum of Harlem, The Cooper Union, and more.

For more information about (H)afrocentric comic, click here.
For more information about Juliana "Jewels" Smith, click here.
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Meet Juliana 'Jewels' Smith!



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(H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4
Author: Juliana “Jewels” Smith • Illustrated by Ronald Nelson • Colors/Lettering by by Mike Hampton • Foreword by Kiese Laymon
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-448-7
Published: 09/2017
Format: Paperback
Size: 10x7
Page count: 136
Subjects: Art-Comics / African American
$20.00

Glyph Award winner Juliana “Jewels” Smith and illustrator Ronald Nelson have created an unflinching visual and literary tour-de-force on the most pressing issues of the day— including gentrification, police violence, and the housing crisis—with humor and biting satire. (H)afrocentric tackles racism, patriarchy, and popular culture head-on. Unapologetic and unabashed, (H)afrocentric introduces us to strong yet vulnerable students of color, as well as an aesthetic that connects current Black pop culture to an organic reappropriation of hip hop fashion circa the early 90s.

We start the journey when gentrification strikes the neighborhood surrounding Ronald Reagan University. Naima Pepper recruits a group of disgruntled undergrads of color to combat the onslaught by creating and launching the first and only anti-gentrification social networking site, mydiaspora.com. The motley crew is poised to fight back against expensive avocado toast, muted Prius cars, exorbitant rent, and cultural appropriation.

Whether Naima and the gang are transforming social media, leading protests, fighting rent hikes, or working as “Racial Translators,” the students at Ronald Reagan University take movements to a new level by combining their tech-savvy, Black Millennial sensibilities with their individual backgrounds, goals, and aspirations.

Praise:

“Smith's comics ooze with originality.”
—AFROPUNK

(H)afrocentric is a book that is incredibly contemporary and fits the progressive minds of today's readers. It tackles issues of intersectionality and gentrification in ways that are not only informative but also entertaining. It's unlike any comic book I've ever read.”
—Jamie Broadnax, founder and managing editor of Blackgirlnerds.com

(H)afrocentric is fully dope, artistic, brilliantly drawn, styled, and wonderfully radical with an awesomely fiery heroine! Juliana Smith and her team are to be commended for this desperately needed political and cultural contribution. Get into it and grab your soapboxes!”
—Jared A. Ball, author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto

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What Others are Saying

hafro (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4
By Paul Buhle
Socialism & Democracy
June 2018

"But there is something else here, rooted (in my view) in the existing limitations of the indie comic world. Diverse in almost every sense, often politically radical, and very d.i.y. in both production and distribution, it has been blessed with too few artists of color, and too few probings into the world of black youth today. With admirable exceptions, it has not much treated the legacy of the great past movements that reshaped African American life, and the victories denied by repression and the steady advance of neoliberalism. (H)afrocentric would be remarkable if only for its subtle take on these legacies and how they are perceived, ignored or understood, refigured or recycled by the following generations, marked indeed by mixed-race youngsters, the source of the “H” in the comic’s title."

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hafro (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4
By Sameer Rao
Colorlines
April 13th, 2018

"Smith describes “(H)afrocentric” as a feminist version of “The Boondocks.” It takes its name from the half-Black, half-White background of its protagonists Naima and Miles Pepper. Smith loosely based the activist Naima and laid-back Miles on her and herself and her brother. She sets much of the action at the fictional Ronald Reagan University, where the pair attend classes with friends including Elizondo “El” Ramirez, an aspiring activist with Chicano nationalist beliefs, and Renee Aanjay Brown, a mixed Black and Indonesian-American girl who identifies as lesbian and checks many of Naima’s contradictions. “Naima is a self-critique of the self-righteousness that I and a lot of activists have,” Smith explains. “(H)afrocentric” uses satire to address and deconstruct both activist culture and oppression itself..."

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hafro (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4
By Matt Thompson
Anthrodendum.com
February 16th, 2018

"(H)afrocentric should be of interest to anthropologists seeking to learn from marginalized peoples about how they are taking control of their own representations. With the first story about gentrification and the second about the impossible task of the translator I could see this being used in the classroom in some contexts. A little further afield into cultural studies, this would be a good way to teach students to read creative works as embedded in social material processes."

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hafro (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4
By Christina Vortia
Hypelit.com
February 3rd, 2018

"No better words could ever describe this comic that is funny as hell, sharp, and unapologetic af....These characters were so fresh, unlike any I've seen in a comic before. Completely relatable, downright hilarious, and so damn smart. I'm not sure when the next volume is due out, but I'll be waiting on it. I totally could see this as a show, filling a void left gaping and wide when Aaron McGruder was ousted from Boondocks...."

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hafro Visionary Graphic Narratives: Celebrate Black History Month and Beyond with These Essential Comics
Library Journal
January 2018

Biracial and Afrocentric, Naima yearns for revolution amid Eurocentric fellow students at Ronald Reagan University. She decides to fight gentrification and escalating rents by creating the social networking site mydysaspora.com. In a second story, she tries an internship as a “racial interpreter,” caught between frankness and accommodation. Inspired partly by Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks, Smith supplies a feminist perspective about Millennials of color squeezed between cultures, with energetic black-and-white ­drawings.

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hafro (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4: A Starred Review
Publishers Weekly
January 2018

This timely and humorous but flawed collection follows the trials and tribulations of six young people of color navigating structural racism, intra-community strife, and capitalism in modern America. Undergraduate revolutionary Naima devises a 21st-century fix for gentrification: a website where “black folks can up and exodus” when white people become too much to handle. With help from a crew of friends—not all of whom are sold on her politics—Naima puts on a block party to fund her site and stop a neighborhood icon from being evicted, but soon must face the unintended consequences of her activism. The plot abruptly shifts to magical realism in the final chapter. Within a relentlessly goofy send-up of the self-absorbed progressive movement/lifestyle, Smith looks to inspire readers to take strong political stances and keep their senses of humor.. Nelson’s character design is, in places, disturbingly uncanny and stiff, while Hampton’s unintuitive lettering and balloon placement make the reader labor to tell who’s talking and in what order. There’s a charming spirit and guiding intelligence at work, with messages for readers of all identities to chew on, but the uneven execution will limit its reach. (Sept.)

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hafro (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4: A Starred Review
Kirkus
Starred Review
September 2017

"The novel hosts a multicultural cast of college students who engage politically, blending satire and history for a recipe of topics millennials don’t shy from. Sporting a tank top with the word “Ally” written above a photo of John Brown, perched on top of the literal soap box she preaches from, Naima Pepper is a force to be reckoned with.

Readers will be smitten with Naima, and they will hope for more of her."

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hafro (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4: A Review
Library Journal
September 2017

Naima, who is biracial and Afrocentric, yearns for revolution amid her fellow Eurocentric students at Ronald Reagan University. Wearing a T-shirt of abolitionist John Brown and conjuring conversations with heroes Malcolm X and Fannie Lou Hamer, Naima decides to fight gentrification and escalating rents by creating the social networking site Mydiaspora.com. She enlists eccentric friends and locals to help out, but setbacks lead to varied success. In a second story, she tries an internship as a “racial interpreter” but is caught between being frank and accomodating her white supervisor, with whom she disagrees on most things. Inspired partly by Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks, Smith (web series “Sasha & Condi”) aims to write from a feminist perspective about millennials of color squeezed among cultures. Her characters depict individuals who simultaneously wish to blend in and break out of social norms, while her masterly script satirizes attitudes black and white alike, trendy-chic niche preoccupations, political activism (note slogans on background signs throughout), idealism, and gender stereotypes. First-timers Nelson and Hampton provide realistic, energetic black-and-white drawings. VERDICT Rebels, phonies, fringe-mongers, and the simply clueless take wry hits in Smith’s insightful series. Culture watchers, teen through adult, will find their presumptions challenged as well as much to recognize in themselves. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17, p. 40-46.—Ed.]

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hafro (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1–4: A Review
By Brandon Yu
San Francisco Chronicle
August 25th, 2017

"The first three volumes focus on Naima’s attempt to fund her idea for mydiaspora.com, an “anti-gentrification social networking site, for black folks.” Like many other lines, it can be hard to tell if Smith is being self-indulgent in her social justice leanings, or slyly self-deprecating. The fourth volume, however, takes a fuller shape and sharper satire. Naima struggles to deal with her new job as a “racial translator” and fights with her Fannie Lou Hamer-looking fairy godmother over what it takes to become a revolutionary.

Alongside nicely detailed illustrations by Ronald Nelson, Smith sets up promise for a deeper picture of an ultimately new type of comic."

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