July 24, 2002

Report: Aaron McGruder and Scoop Jackson at the Chopin Theater

On July 24, 2002, Robert "Scoop" Jackson (author of The Darkside and founder of XXL and Slam magazines) joined Aaron McGruder (cartoonist known for the comic strip The Boondocks) for an evening discussion before a packed audience at the Chopin Theater in Chicago. The theme of the discussion was Exploring America in Change, and topics of discussion included freedom of speech (in general and particularly post-September-11), blacks in the American mainstream media, and navigating one's way through big media and big moneyed interests.

McGruder has gained particular fame for his sharp response to September 11. The New York Post famously suspended The Boondocks for a month and a half in response. Suspended, but didn't cancel. Nonetheless, McGruder received a flood of media attention for the suspension: a spot on ABC TV's Nightline, a feature piece in the New York Times, a full-page story in Entertainment Weekly magazine.

The two hour discussion was poignant and hilarious. Here are some the gems of the discussion that I can recall:

McGruder (during a discussion about his student experience) : "Do we have any high school students in the audience?"
(some hands raise in the audience)
Jackson: "Don't worry. R Kelly won't be here tonight."

Jackson: "Nobody could predict what happened on September 11."
McGruder (half-jokingly): "Bush knew."

Jackson, during a discussion about a four-day-long series of meetings with Nike on a book he's writing about the history of Nike: "When you get to big money, everything changes."

McGruder: "You can't say 'pimp' in the newspaper. Who knew?"

Amazing quote from McGruder: "Never deviate from the formula of success."

Interesting tidbit courtesy McGruder: Actor Will Smith was offered the lead role in the film The Matrix, but he turned it down to take the lead in the film Wild, Wild West.

Jackson asked McGruder: "If you were white, would you be able to draw the comic that you now draw?"
McGruder: "Well..."
Jackson: "Say you were an invader. Say you were Eminem."

Another interesting thought courtesy McGruder: Colin Powell, a career soldier and a man with key responsibility for killing some 500,000 Iraqis, is regarded in the media as the Bush administration's "voice of reason." (Which, scary to say, is probably true.)

McGruder summarized his thoughts about Tiger Woods' nothing-you-can-do-about-it fatalism towards women at the Masters: "Tiger Woods is an idiot."

McGruder also plugged Huey's Hate Book. Seriously. Huey Freeman, the main character of The Boondocks, has a Hate Book--a book listing everything he hates. McGruder then thought about producing Huey's hate book for real, so he did.