NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new comic book is taking a serious look at racial strife.
Chris Cooper is the African-American bird-watching enthusiast who was falsely accused of threatening a white woman in Central Park.
He has turned his story into a graphic novel.
On May 25, Cooper was in the Ramble, a popular site for bird watching in Central Park. Amy Cooper, no relation, had her dog off the leash in the area, which is prohibited. The following was her response when he pointed that out:
“I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble. Please send the cops immediately,” Amy Cooper said on her cellphone.
The incident, which was recorded by Chris Cooper, resonated deeply, as the deliberate act of racial bias went viral. But he used the event, and his other passion as a comic book writer, to create a new graphic novel, “It’s a Bird.”
The 10-page story centers on Jules, a teenage birder who is black.
“Well, the conceit is that you get a pair of binoculars, inherited from his grandfather who was a civil rights activist and Korean War vet, and he thinks they’re crappy old pair of binoculars and doesn’t want to deal with them. But when he starts looking through them he sees not only the birds, but he starts seeing the African Americans who have been unjustly killed at the hands of police,” Chris Cooper said.
The story highlights real-life incidents, including the shooting of Amadou Diallo. However, Cooper said he wants the story to transcend specific moments.
“Getting to the heart of the matter, you know, what’s going on here, which is the systemic bias that pervades all these incidents,” Chris Cooper said.
He said the aim is to weave together experiences that he, and other African Americans have had into a more powerful statement of humanity.
“We shouldn’t presume that someone is a criminal, and I think that’s very important. I think that’s what has the potential to save us as a society at this moment, when we’re so divided,” Chris Cooper said.
He said he understands comic books have long reflected aspects of American culture, and hopes “It’s a Bird” will have that superpower, too.
“Comic books combined both the pictures, the images and words, so you get the power of both in one place,” Chris Cooper said.
The comic book also includes George Floyd, who was taken into custody by Minneapolis police custody on the same day as the Central Park incident.
The comic is free and available online only.
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