Disturbing the peace

A comic prompts pacifist-agressive behavior

Five years after the 80-year-old Fellowship of Reconciliation decided to celebrate youth activism with a nonfiction comic book, the peace organization is trying to find a sensible way to destroy all 20,000 printed copies.

The problem, FOR claims, is that the comic book it created is racist. The African-American family depicted in the comic book Activists!, however, thinks the group is finding conflict where none exists.

“We’ve been screwed by FOR,” says Pat Boozer, who runs an inner-city counseling program in New Haven, Conn. Her family’s story is told in the strip. Boozer says she finds nothing racist about the book, and wants copies for her own group.

But the impressionistic drawings of Boozer’s family caused such an in-house stir that FOR won’t release the book. African-American staff members who were not consulted during the comic book’s production called the finished work offensive, complaining the cartoon exaggerated the family members’ features.

Another story in Activists!, describing a gay teenager’s fight to attend his school prom, provoked more objections. In a memo, one staff member complained to FOR’s board of directors: “Several faiths in our current membership would find the young homosexual story unacceptable.”

Shortly afterward, FOR announced that the 44-page comic book would not be distributed. Boozer calls FOR hypocritical: “They set themselves up as an organization that can mediate between groups, but they don’t carry themselves that way.”

FOR’s executive director, Jo Becker, downplays the complaints. “We are a spiritually based peace organization,” she says. “Mediation is not one of our primary functions.”

Becker offers at least one consolation: The books won’t be burned–they’ll be recycled.