feature: entertaining and enlightening: “(h)afrocentric” brings consciousness to comic books

June 25, 2014

Inspired by her personal interactions with her community college students in San Francisco, Juliana “Jewels” Smith decided that she wanted to reach today’s youth through words and illustrations rather than mere lecture. In her interview with Talia Taylor, Jewels speaks about what specifically sparked the creation of (H)afrocentic the comic book. “I started thinking of different mediums to reach people and comic books felt like the medium that made the most sense”. Cleverly bringing to light issues such as gentrification, gender equality and race relations, Smith’s comic books are great for activists of all ages.

By Billie Alexander, AFROPUNK Contributor *

“I’m motivated by a sense of justice. I’m motivated by people; Basically the comic helped to tell my story, as well as thinking about all the things that were happening in the community I was living in. This comic book is a way to inspire folks that don’t necessarily get to see themselves in the world” – Jewels Smith

Each character has a strong sense of individuality and flavor. From Renee Aajay Brown, the suave Black and Indonesian lesbian who “is only politically engaged when it comes to questioning her own gender and sexuality”, to Elizando “Eli” Ramirez “a self proclaimed Chicano with Nationalist tendencies”; Smith’s comics ooze with originality.

My favorite characters are fraternal twins Naima and Miles Pepper. Naima (the protagonist) is a modern day mixture of activist Angela Davis, Black Feminist author Patricia Hill Collins and headstrong, free-spirited Winifred “Freddie” Brooks from the classic sitcom A Different World. Paying homage to John Brown in her Ally t-shirt, Naima is powerful and headstrong. The two twins are completely different personality wise. Miles enjoys reminding his sister of their humble middle class beginnings living in the suburbs with their “White mama”, while Naima would rather stand on her soapbox and educate her peers about the negative affects of gentrification in urban communities. The comic book series has its own Soundcloud, and lavender soap! (which can be purchased on

* Billie Alexander’s blog: