“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. They are civilization’s radical voice and moral compass.”
– Paul Robeson
by Marcela Brane
The Herb Block Foundation
The Herb Block Foundation was asked by Tamara Lucas Copeland to comment on the Foundation’s annual Herblock Prize winner for Editorial Cartooning, specifically on the “Racist EZCash” cartoon shown here. The Herblock Prize is for distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous standard set by Herblock, reinforcing his lifelong fight against abuses by the powerful and the freedom to express it. The prize is awarded to the best portfolio of 10-15 cartoons, and this year’s winner, Mark Fiore, is the first animated cartoonist to win.
Fiore’s cartoons cover subjects like refugees, immigration, xenophobia, and gun violence, as well as politics and other subjects. Whether race, religion, government transparency, or environmental concerns, cartoons use both a sense of humor and a sense of outrage to inform. The cartoon “Racist EZCash” is about how our country profits from structural racism. It lists startling statistics about Ferguson, MO, and how it is representative of other police departments across the country.
One of the three Herblock Prize judges, Kevin Kallaugher, said:
Mark Fiore’s entry contained an engaging and powerful collection of visual commentaries. Fiore demonstrated a great use of parody, adept writing, great visualizations, and solid journalism, to deliver thought-provoking editorials. Like a good Herblock cartoon, Mark’s work displayed a consistent and determined passion to fight against society’s ills and absurdities. It is his skilled and masterful cartoon craftsmanship steeped with determined political convictions that make Fiore’s animations worthy of the Herblock Prize.
When we were asked to comment on why the Foundation and our committee chose a portfolio like Mark Fiore’s with a piece like “Racist EZCash” for recognition, the answer was easy – because for the political cartoonist, it is their role to speak for the other guy or to call out the injustices. As Mr. Block said, “There are no super men or women, there are only you and I and others who believe in democracy, think about the other guy, and do something about it.”
The Putting Racism on the Table series really broadened the scope of our discussions in the office. It connected me with others and presented me with greater awareness of structural racism and implicit bias, presenting the challenge to press this lens within myself, my family, and The Herb Block Foundation. For six months during the series, grantmakers and their trustees gathered to “think about the other guy.” I believe that was a great start. Now, let’s start doing.