HARI In-House Blog

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Empire City is the birthplace and center of all magic in the universe. But its residents are unaware of its true history because this knowledge was stolen, then hidden and eventually forgotten - passing out of all memory, lost on the citizens of this mega-metropolis. But there is a 17-year-old potential superhero named Young Blak, a skateboarding Hiphop MC who recently discovered he possesses supernatural powers and is able to cast magic spells through his rap lyrics. Guided by ancestors and the spirit of his older brother Konzaquence, who was slain by Blak's arch nemesis King Vulture, Blak must choose a path to either use his powers to become the savior of Empire City or seek revenge for the loss of his brother. The fate of their world depends on this decision.

Blokhedz: Music, Magic, & Mayhem is an interactive exhibit featuring art, animation, and urban vinyl figures from the pages of the graphic novel. Blokhedz fuses the energy of American graffiti with Japanese Anime aesthetics. The result is Empire City - a world that seamlessly blends science fiction with magic and traditional African, Afro-Latin and African diasporic spiritual mysticism.

The Exhibit Features:

  • Debut of new Blokhedz Animation
  • Blokhedz animated shorts
  • Digital Comic books
  • Blokhedz and Hiphop themed comic art
  • Original Graffiti

Exhibit on display in the Neil L. & Angelica Zander Rudenstine Gallery
Friday, April 10 | Gallery Opening 5pm | Panel Discussion 6pm
The Hiphop Archive | 104 Mount Auburn Street, Floor 3R, Cambridge, MA

Panel Discussion
Visual Translation: Crafting the Sonic, Signifying, and Visceral Imaginary in Graphic Novels

  • Moderator: Marcyliena Morgan - Director, Hiphop Archive & Research Institute
  • Panelist: Mike & Mark Davis aka MADTWIINZ - BLOKHEDZ: Music, Magic & Mayhem Creators
  • Erika Alexander - Actress, Writer, Producer, Co-Creator of the graphic novel Concrete Park
  • Nicole Hodges Persley - Professor, Actress, Director - University of Kansas
  • John Jennings - Professor, Cartoonist, Designer, Graphic Novelist - University of Buffalo (SUNY)
  • Tony Puryear - Screenwriter, Co-Creator of the graphic novel Concrete Park
  • Deborah Whaley - Professor, Visual Artist, Curator - University of Iowa



Mark & Mike Davis are identical twin brothers making up the two-man art team known as The Madtwiinz.  They've worked in the fields of animation, comic books, toy design and live action film. Their versatility and dynamic style has them working alongside most major Hollywood studios. They've worked on a wide range of animated tv shows from Boondocks and to How To Train Your Dragon: Riders of Berk. The twins currently work on animated series for Fox and DreamWorks. Their creator owned intellectual property, Blokhedz, has been published as a graphic novel in Germany, South America, and North America through Simon & Schuster. Blokhedz also landed a development deal with Cartoon Network. Whether working on animated tv shows, comics, or crafting original pieces for international pop art shows, the twins' styles are constantly evolving while they continue to create engaging content across numerous media platforms.

Mad Twiinz

Erika Alexander has the kind of life story that seems like it could only happen in the movies. The child of two orphans, Erika grew up in the mountains of Arizona. Famed producers Merchant and Ivory "discovered" her in a basement theater in Philadelphia and cast her as the lead in My Little Girl. Alexander starred for five years as fan favorite "Maxine Shaw"in the hit series Living Single, winning two NAACP awards for Best Actress in a Comedy. Erika's recent film work has been equally distinguished. She co- starred opposite Denzel Washington in Tony Scott's Deja Vu produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. She also starred in director Steven Soderbergh's independent feature, Full Frontal with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. On stage, Erika has starred in six plays at New York's Public Theater, most recently garnering accolades in The Story opposite Tony-winner Phylicia Rashad. The New York Times called her work "a nervy, spot-on performance." Another highlight was her appearance in the Public's Shakespeare in the Park production of The Taming of the Shrew. Erika was a national surrogate for Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign, a CA convention delegate and a 2008 William J. Clinton Foundation delegate to Africa. She is an advocate for at-risk youth and for women and girls. She is co-creator and co-writer of the critically acclaimed, Best American Comic 2013, graphic novel Concrete Park, published by Dark Horse Comics. 

John Jennings is an Associate Professor of Art and Visual Studies at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) State University of New York. He is the co-author of the graphic novel The Hole: Consumer Culture, Vol. 1 and the art collection Black Comix: African American Independent Comics Art and Culture (both with Damian Duffy). Jennings is also the co-editor of The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art and co-founder/organizer of The Schomburg Center's Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem, MLK NorCal's Black Comix Arts Festival in San Francisco, and the AstroBlackness colloquium in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. Jennings' current comics projects include the Hiphop adventure comic Kid Code: Channel Zero, the supernatural crime noir story Blue Hand Mojo, and the upcoming graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's classic dark fantasy novel Kindred.

Nicole Hodges Persley is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at The University of Kansas. She received an MA in African American studies from UCLA and her Ph.D. from The University of Southern California’s Department of American Studies and Ethnicity. She is an actress, director and producer with membership in SAG/AFTRA and AEA. Her research broadly explores the impact of racial, ethnic and national identity on transnational performance practices in the performing and fine arts. Her book Sampling and Remixing Blackness is due for release in 2015 at The University of Michigan Press and is the first to explore the impact of Hip Hop culture on non-African American artists in theater, conceptual art and dance. Hodges Persley has directed, devised and produced shows in Kansas City, Los Angeles and New York, with award winning productions at The Kansas City Fringe Festival and Highways Performance Space in Los Angeles. She is the founder of the Rep & Rev: Listening to the Music of Black Theater play reading series at The American Jazz Museum and Project V.O.I.C.E., a Kansas City arts incubator dedicated to identifying and developing performers and playwrights of color in Kansas City. Dr. Hodges Persley teaches courses on race and performance, acting, improvisation theory, Hiphop culture, and transnational performance. She has been an associate at the Hiphop Archive at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies since 2002. 

Tony Puryear is a screenwriter, an artist and designer, and the co-creator of the Dark Horse Comics graphic novel series Concrete Park. Tony grew up in New York City, attended The Bronx High School of Science and majored in Art at Brown University. He worked in advertising at J. Walter Thompson, NY under its then-creative director, the novelist James Patterson. Tony directed Hiphop videos for such legendary acts as EMPD, K-Solo and LL Cool J. In 1996, Tony became the first African-American screenwriter to write a $100 million-dollar summer blockbuster with his script for the Arnold Schwarznegger film Eraser. The film went on to gross nearly half a billion dollars worldwide. Tony has written sci-fi and action scripts for A-listers Mel Gibson, Oliver Stone, Jerry Bruckheimer and Will Smith. He was honored as a designer when his 2008 presidential campaign poster for Hillary Clinton was added to the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.  With his wife, the actress Erika Alexander, Tony co-writes and draws Concrete Park. This sci-fi adventure series was selected as one of The Best American Comics, 2013.

Deborah Elizabeth Whaley is an art practitioner, curator, writer, and Associate Professor of American Studies and African American Studies at the University of Iowa. Her research and teaching fields include the institutional history, theories, and methods of American and cultural studies, 19th and 20th century American cultural history, comparative ethnic studies, Black cultural studies, popular culture, the visual arts, and feminist theory. She is the author of two books: Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime (2015) and Disciplining Women: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Black Counterpublics, and the Cultural Politics of Black Sororities (2010). Her book in progress is Feeling Her Fragmented Mind: Women, Race, and Dissociative Identities in Popular Culture. Whaley was co-curator, with Kembrew McLeod, of the University of Iowa Museum of Art exhibition, "Two Turntables and a Microphone: Hiphop Contexts Featuring Harry Allen's Part of the Permanent Record; Photos From the Previous Century," and has served as a consultant or feature writer for art exhibitions on Black popular music and sequential art.