BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG –In town for a Black History Month lecture, Archie Boston stood in front of a packed room at the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC) earlier this month. This year’s presentation was called “Fly in the Chocolate Milk,” a take on his book “Fly in the Buttermilk” where he chronicles his professional life as being one of a few African Americans working in advertising in Los Angeles.
A retired professor of graphic design and advertising at California State University, Long Beach, Boston was the first African-American professor of design and advertising in the state of California. He first opened a design company with his brother called Boston and Boston and later Archie Boston Graphic Design.
As an extension to his first book, “Fly in the Buttermilk, memoir of an African American in Advertising, Design and Design Education,” his lecture served as an umbrella to embrace his book and new posters on Black Lives Matter.
“This lecture should be relevant to everyone, especially angry young black men who are having issues with law enforcement and vice-versa,” said the Gibbs High school graduate.
Retiring seven years ago from the nearly all white world of advertising in California where he was figuratively a fly in a sea of white buttermilk, he now spends the majority of his time in the black community, hence the chocolate milk.
“Fly in the Buttermilk” is filled with intimate encounters of achievements and obstacles in his life over the last half century. It makes a profound statement with courage and conviction about advertising, design and design education.
Many of his older posters evoked negative reactions. If the reaction was like a slap in the face, then that was his intent to get the viewer’s attention. For instance, one of his posters featured a black man in Klansman garb with a white hood; another poster was of him and his brother with “for sale” signs hanging around their necks as if they were slaves being sold at auction.
Once you got over the image and read the text, it was actually a tongue and cheek way of promoting the design business, and it worked.
“Most of my work is not politically correct. I never want to be politically correct. I have always been a creative person that expressed my personal views about issues as a visual artist and writer,” stated Boston, who revealed that he got a lot of hateful responses on YouTube when he posted a video featuring his new poster.
Boston showed his “old school kick ass” portfolio highlighting some of his award-winning creative poster designs, which spanned over 35 years.
“Someone wrote that my posters were filled with wit, satire and treads lightly on racism. They were designed to break through the clutter of thousands of advertisements competing for attention,” he remarked.
His designs certainly grabbed attention. In one poster advertising his services, the large print read: “Catch a nigger by the toe.” It then when on to say what a great job he’d do and if they weren’t impressed with the way he hollered, “let me go.”
Black Lives Matter
After watching the deaths of black people by law enforcement officers, the issues of racial profiling, police brutality and racial inequality in the criminal justice system, Boston designed posters and a video that gives 10 good reasons why black lives matter.
The posters are his personal perspective on why “Black Lives Matter.” The headlines on all 10 posters read: “If Black Lives Matter.” He purposely ended the thought with a period instead of an ellipsis to attract the attention of those who are adamant about correct English. They were also deleted at the beginning of the ending statement, which he said is a call to action phrase with the answer to the preceding statement.
For example, written atop a photograph of a young black man it reads: “If Black Lives Matter.” The response at the bottom of the poster reads: “Support A Traditional Black College.”
“Black lives have always mattered to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and black lives have always mattered to me,” Boston said. “That is why this 73-year-old man is speaking to you today, instead of taking my afternoon nap.”
He gave a laundry list of reasons why black lives have always matter to him:
Black lives mattered when he had his first art exhibition at the Johnson Library in 1962.
In 1963 when he teamed up with his oldest brother, Brad, to design posters that were so provocative even his family felt he crossed the line of decency.
In 1965 during the Los Angeles Watts Riots when he was in the Army National Guard 40th Armored Division.
In 1972 when he was featured in a story in the St. Petersburg Times with the title “No One Can Suppress Archie Boston.”
In 1970 when he tutored minority high school students at Otis Art Institute in California to help them prepare for a career in fine arts, animation and graphic design. Many of them are now working professional and passing on the torch to future generations.
In 1974 and 1976 when he and his wife Juanita adopted their two children, Michael and Jennifer.
In 2002 when he published his first book “Fly In The Buttermilk, documenting his life experience in three professions.
In 2009 when he published his second book “Lil’ Colored Rascals in the Sunshine City,” a story about growing up in St. Pete during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
In 2009 when he retired after teaching for 33 years and hiring several African-American professors in the graphic design program during the 12 years he served as program chair.
In 2014 when he designed and published Charley Williams’ book entitled “Overcoming The Odds: No excuses find a way.”
In Nov. 2014 when he had a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum and donated proceeds from his book sales at the exhibition.
In 2015 when he designed 10 new posters to share with the world on social media.