Who says cartoonists should only make their readers laugh? Certainly not Jerry Craft, creator of the Mama’s Boyz comic strip which is featured weekly in Urban Views. Since creating Mama’s Boyz in September 1990, Craft has used the comic strip as a vehicle to teach readers about serious issues such as AIDS, childhood obesity and teen pregnancy. Craft has also illustrated books and board games that teach history, learning skills and self esteem.
Explaining his approach to the Mama’s Boyz comic strip, Craft says, “I grew up in an era of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and Schoolhouse Rock and all that. It seems like back in the day, they used any opportunity they could to teach kids something…I don’t know that when you watched Fat Albert you knew you were learning. It was like, ‘Learning’s cool!’ That’s what I like to do with my Mama’s Boyz comic strip.”
Born in the Washington Heights section of New York City, Craft grew up with two parents in the home but most of his friends did not. He created Mama’s Boyz as a way to honor the strength of single moms and as a revision of the first comic strip he ever sold. The comic strip characters include Pauline Porter and her two teenage sons, Tyrell and Yusuf. They are official spokescharacters of the American Diabetes Association’s African-American Program. The cartoon has been distributed by King Features Syndicate to over 1500 newspapers around the world since 1995.
Craft has also illustrated three board games which are sure to catch the interest of anyone in search of gifts that expose kids to cultural history and offer them a sense of their potential. There is one called “My First Matching Game” that is a memory game about African Americans for children ages 3 and up. There is also a game called “I Can Do Anything” that teaches youth about careers and one called “The Black Heritage Trivia Game.”
Craft has illustrated 7 children’s books. One of them is “My Hair is Curly,” a book written by Sabrina Carter which tells the story of 4 year old Taylor who learns to embrace herself as unique and special. “Looking to the Clouds for Daddy” is written by Margo Candelario and based on her three daughters’ memories of their father who passed away. “Mama’s Boyz: The Big Picture” is written by Craft and is the story of 16 year old Yusuf who is visited by 4 phantoms who show him the consequences of his decisions related to health, fashion, family and education. Other titles include “A is for Anacostia” by Dr. Courtney Davis, “Please Won’t You Listen to Me” by Sabrina Carter, “Please Don’t Yell at We” by Sabrina Carter and “Hillary’s Big Business Adventure” by Lori Nelson.
With his commitment to encouraging, educating and uplifting his readers, it is no wonder that Craft has received numerous honors. His first collection of comic strips, “Mama’s Boyz: As American as Sweet Potato Pie!” was named in “Great Books For African American Children.” His second collection of comic strips, “Mama’s Boyz: Home Schoolin’ – Because Learning Shouldn’t Stop at 3 O’Clock,” was endorsed by both Teachers Against Prejudice and Comics in the Classroom. He has received two African American Literary Awards Show Open Book Awards for best comic strip (2009 & 2004) and a “Conversation Starter” award from the DC Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy.
As one of very few syndicated African-American cartoonists in the country, Craft is succeeding in using his illustration skills to send a message that “learning’s cool.”
For more information on Jerry Craft and Mama’s Boyz, visit http://www.mamasboyz.com.