My youngest daughter and I were laughing at dinner. It was hard to withhold side comments when her son attempted to stick a garlic shell noodle up his nose. My son-in-law thought the little guy’s behavior was a little illogical, because if his son really wanted something up his nose, the peas on his plate would make the attempt easier.
Contemplating any form of logic in that particular moment was worth a chuckle, so we all joined in with crazy banter, trying to one up each other on profound comments surrounding the logical choice of peas.
Soon a deep parallel was drawn to my daughter and son-in-law’s middle school youth group. This morning half of the class shared their contemplation of topics few adults are willing to address. I was amazed at their understanding and openness to discuss such controversial subjects.
The most artistic filmmakers, actors and artists I’ve met all held the same willingness to explore the depth of any topic related to the human condition. In fact, the better the artist, the more impact they made in society by addressing the difficult in the development of their works.
Charles M. Schultz is one artist that I’ve admired for years. The man demonstrated integrity in his art and consistently demonstrated how to salt in morals and ideal behaviors that the masses drank in ever so deeply.
The syndicated Peanuts comic strip was his crown and joy. He spent 50 years entertaining the world with difficult childhood emotions that impacted our society. Two weeks after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Shultz received a sincere letter from a Mrs. Harriet Glickman, who perfectly articulated the idea of adding a Negro child into the Peanuts strip. She was also astute enough to warn him of the possible ramifications.
Schultz received thousands of letters every month and rarely heeded suggestions. He was a true artist with many ideas stock piled for future strips. However, he was so moved by Glickman’s suggestion that he responded to her with his concern. Schultz feared any attempt on his part might come across as patronizing and he had no good solution.
Glickman asked Schultz for permission to share his letter with a black male friend of hers by the name of Kenneth C. Kelly and had him write Schulz with two good reasons for including a Negro child in his Peanuts strip. Kelly was also articulate and suggested Schulz introduce the character as a supernumerary that could be developed later into a main character.
But Schultz wouldn’t have it that way. He had something specific in mind to do once his fear of patronizing blacks was defused. Schulz sent a letter off to Glickman announcing that on July 31, 1968 Peanuts would debut Franklin, Charlie Brown’s African American friend.
Unfortunately, Glickman was right about the backlash Schulz would receive, but he handled it well. Larry Rutman, president of United Feature Syndicate didn’t like a scene with Franklin playing with the other children and asked for a change.
Schulz gave the perfect response, “Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How’s that?”
Larry printed it and Peanuts went on to impact numerous societies worldwide.
It only takes one artist with perspective and integrity to change a culture.
Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers