The Daily Heller: Color Us Human

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In Lowell Thompson's Anti-Racist Coloring Book (subtitled: "Take Your World Beyond Black & White"), Frederick Douglass, Abe Lincoln, even Marilyn Monroe, can be any pigment you like.

Thompson is a Chicago-based artist, writer and creative catalyst. He calls himself a "recovering Adman," having spent the first 35 years of his adulthood creating ads and commercials for many of the nation's biggest agencies. He was one of the first African Americans hired by a major Chicago advertising agency, moving ever higher from pasting storyboards at the Foote Cone & Belding agency in 1968 to working on the first “Take a Break at McDonald’s” commercial. He eventually became an art director at J. Walter Thompson, where he developed ads for Kemper Insurance and Kraft cheese.

Four years ago, "I had a revelation," he told the Chicago Tribune. "The key to understanding the race problem is one word: branding. Not only were cattle and slaves branded, but America became the world leader in branding through advertising. And the greatest ad campaign in American history was for American racism: By branding Africans as subhumans, it justified the slavery that America's success is based upon. My job now is unselling racism."

Among his books and campaigns is this coloring book. I asked Thompson a few questions about the book and the workshops he has organized using it as a catalyst.

Has this been published?

It's been published by me as part of a grant I received from the Chicago Community Trust. I've distributed various iterations at different events over the last two years.

Who did you create the coloring book for?

Everybody, but especially "color-challenged" adults.

How has it been received?

It has been received well … well, very well.

Do you have hope that this book will inform and alter understanding?

It already has in some places here in Chicago. The book and my whole "Colored" concept is my "special sauce" for saving the world (well, at least the USA).

Where is it available?

It's only available at events sponsored by the Chicago Community Trust right now—or, by ordering from me either on my Facebook page, or my email address.

Do you have any future plans?

Do I! I've got two grants that look like they will get funded as part of the Healing Illinois initiative here by the end of this month. I plan to offer it at select bookstores and through museum stores.