Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Men of conscience have got to stick together...
"Or nothing is going to change."
It may be of use to you to learn, going in, that co-author Mark Long is indeed the son of camera journalist Jack Long depicted on the cover shoulder to shoulder with civil rights activist Larry Thompson. I mention this from the outset to impress upon you that this is a personal recollection of real events surrounding Texas Southern University in 1968 and - with its artist in common - this graphic memoir therefore sits comfortably beside Congressman John Lewis's MARCH trilogy memoirs, about which we wrote with a passion.
I say "comfortably", but of course it is far from comfortable watching any of man's many and ever so varied inhumanities towards man, and it is particularly painful to watch peaceful protesters sitting on the ground and therefore at their least offensive let alone defensive, being brutally beaten by police from behind with batons and gun butts, then framed for crimes which they were transparently incapable of committing by those decrying the very violence that they themselves had overtly, officially sanctioned.
Nonetheless - and in spite of so much more within, from venomously spat neighbourly racism and so much subsequently learned behaviour manifesting itself in their susceptible children, to hit-and-run truck drivers targeting black children on Wheeler Avenue - this is an overwhelmingly uplifting book about solidarity with a final few pages to make your hearts soar at the proven potential in all of us to do some much better by standing up for others, not just ourselves, overcoming the odds and effecting that change.
On the subject of solidarity, here's something that made me stop and think: a scene in which families pull up in cars on a hillock overlooking a shore so that some of them can go coastal crabbing. Nate Powell has a way with song, both here and in MARCH, so that it swirls through the air in old-school ecclesiastical ribbons from singers or speakers and, once elsewhere here, into the very camera / microphone by which Jack Long records it. On this afternoon the sound emanates through the open doors from each car radio: the very same tune playing at the same time in the same wide, open space in harmony and unison.
Now, I ask you: when is that ever likely to happen these days when we choose our own soundtracks with stereo CD-players? It won't even necessarily happen in a shop like ours, when so many choose to wear their own private headphones and so fail to hear our gently welcoming interaction, "If you have any questions, just shout".
Music bonds elsewhere when Jack Long reciprocates Larry Thompson's initial invitation to cross his threshold (virtually unheard of and far from approved) by inviting his entire family (wife Barbara, children Danny and Cecilia) to his Sharpstown residence much to the slack-jawed shock of his curtain-twitching neighbours, but also to the almost immediately inquisitive delight of his son Mark and daughters Michelle and Julie who'd never before met any children of colour, let alone ruffled through their hair and vice-versa.
Not everyone will react as you'll fear here, because the courage of some emboldens others. But you'll find disappointment aplenty too, for racism was rampant and America in the late 1960s came with another obsession and fall-out: The Vietnam War.
The era is later than the majority of MARCH and it's evoked ever so well through furnishings and technology and play.
It's a different perspective from MARCH's because it's predominantly white and middle class at that. But it comes with its own lessons and aspirations never to be forgotten, and if the risks to the likes of the Longs are comparatively slight (comparatively, but not necessarily negligible, as you will see), it's a story which comes with its own fortitudes too.
Once last time in the spirit of encouraging support and solidarity, I leave you with this, by one of the most eloquent individuals of any century, who knows exactly of what he speaks.
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
- Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.