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SÕL-CON aims to celebrate diversity in comic community

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Artists talk with fans at the 2015 SÕL-CON. Credit: Frederick Aldama

Artists talk with fans at the 2015 SÕL-CON. Credit: Frederick Aldama

Diversity within the comic community will be celebrated this weekend at the second annual SÕL-CON, The Brown and Black Comics Expo.

The expo is held at Hale Hall in conjunction with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum and the Cartoon Crossroads Columbus event.

As artists from Latino and African-American backgrounds, co-founders Frederick Aldama, John Jennings and Ricardo Padilla started the event to promote unity and diversity within the comic community.

“It just seems crazy that we weren’t doing more work to bring these two communities together for healing, for understanding, for work in solidarity together,”Aldama said. “What better way to bring these two communities together than through comic books, the joy of storytelling through visual and verbal means.”

SÕL-CON was also created to tackle the lack of minority representation and stereotypes in comics, Jennings said.

“Traditionally in mainstream comics there has been a really huge hole, in terms of positive characters of Latin or African-American descent,” he said.

The expo’s name comes from the Spanish word for sun, sol, and the homonym soul, which is often used to describe food, music or overall African-American culture, Aldama said.

“The name manifests and externalizes the experience of being a marginalized community,” he said.

Aldama, a professor at Ohio State and the founder and director of LASER, an OSU-based college readiness program for Latino students in the Columbus area, said he takes into account that children are some of the biggest readers of comics.

“I’m bussing Latino and African-American high school students to campus so that they can meet and have role models for them to look up to,” Aldama said.

There will be four youth workshops on Friday in Hale Hall, giving kids the opportunity to have hands-on experience creating their own work with digital animation art, flipbooks, comic books and zines.

“One of the things I love about comic books or cartoons is that with a little bit of effort, anyone can pick up a pencil or a pen and ink and make something immediately that expresses how you feel,”  Jennings said.

The expo will also focus on relevant topics that affect both communities, and will feature a Brown and Black Lives Matter talkback from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m on Friday in Hale Hall.

“The talkback is going to be a politicized session where these creators are going to talk about the function and purpose of creativity in raising awareness around these issues,” Aldama said.

The expo will kick off with a joint SÕL-CON and CXC reception on Thursday Oct. 13 at 5:30 p.m. in Hale Hall. All SÕL-CON specific events will take place Friday Oct. 14 in Hale Hall from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

SÕL-CON and CXC are free and open to the public. A full schedule of events is available at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.