April 20, 2010
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
Artist says cartoons serve higher purpose than 'ha ha funny'
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Keith Knight, the award-winning K Chronicles cartoonist who satires race relations and other hot-button issues, visited Slippery Rock University Tuesday to talk about the value of comic strips for affecting dialogue and change. He said the best cartoons provoke serious discussion and serve a higher purpose than humor.
"Ninety-nine percent of cartoons in the paper that are supposed to be funny are not ha ha funny," he said. "When I do something serious, it is going to be serious, and it is going to knock some people for a loop. I don't always expect people to laugh at my cartoons, but I do expect people to respect where I am coming from."
Knight, the final presenter for SRU's Diversity and Democracy series, showed and read more than 30 of his cartoons. His work explores issues such as racism, politics, police brutality, homosexuality and global warming.
One cartoon referenced an incident in New York City in which four white police officers shot an unarmed immigrant 41 times. The cartoon asked the question how many shots does it take for police to kill a man. Knight's cartoon includes 41 "blams" to symbolize the gunfire and point out that 41 shots is excessive by any standard.
"That's not defense; that's offense," he said of the officers' self-defense claims.
Knight, who said he lampoons society from the black perspective, said he wants his work to provoke a response, spark dialogue and improve relationships on college campus and society at large. He opposes complacency and the assumption that America is a post-racist society.
"Too many people in this world don't do a thing. They just sit around. I think it's better to react to a situation," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're black or white. If you have a problem with something, you have a problem with something. Speak out."
Knight discussed a cartoon that provoked controversy at SRU when it ran in the campus newspaper, The Rocket. He praised the editor-in-chief for not retracting the comic strip, which many construed as racist, and added that growth occurs when a community confronts sensitive issues.
"We've become a county that is just about yelling at each other," he said. "It's the uncomfortable stuff that makes you move forward.
Knight, who grew up in Boston, lives in Culver City, Calif. The K Chronicles is a weekly semi-autobiographical comic strip based on Knight's life. He recently launched a daily strip, The Knight Life. His cartoons have been described as a cross between Calvin and Hobbs and underground comic.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.