Black Heroes Matter
Black Heroes Matter. Because they do. As I sat on my sister’s couch reminiscing on how 6 months prior I was walking across the stage to accept my Master Degree and looking forward to continuing my football career as a professional, I asked myself, “How did I get here.” More importantly, “How do I get out of here.” Such a crazy experience to go through. Very humbling indeed. I went from having a successful college football career to couch surfing between my cousins and sister in Los Angeles, I lived off of McDonald’s Sweet Tea and 7-Eleven Pizzas, and all my belongings resided in my Mini Cooper. Definitely a humbling experience. What made matters more intriguing was that I was 24 with a Master of Arts, and I could not get a job if it slapped me in the face. Creative agency after creative agency rejected me like the ugly step child I was. “You have a nice body of work, but no work experience.” Well of course! I was a football player. What other time did I have to do anything else? I just couldn’t get my foot in the door. So as I wasted time on my sister’s couch, I thought to myself, what would Spiderman do? What would Goku do? What would my heroes do if they were in my situation? That’s where I got stuck. I couldn’t go past what my heroes would do because I literally couldn’t see my heroes in my shoes. I couldn’t see them waking up and brushing their hair to the waves. I couldn’t see them dealing with the problem of being over qualified for entry level jobs, but under qualified for salary jobs. I couldn’t see them being prejudged prior to interviews because they didn’t look like the typical millennial that wants to make it in the creative industry. None of my heroes spoke to me personally because there was a physical barrier between us. They weren’t BLACK! So they will never go through things that a young, black man would go through. Yes, we have the Martin Luther Kings and the Michael Jordan, but how can they compete with Tony Stark after he blows up an army of Aliens from outer space?
As time went on, I began to notice a trend happening. Hollywood has continued to replace colorful characters of substance with either stereotypical side roles or pale skinned white counterparts. Need I remind you about the #Oscar’sSoWhite situation. A big slap in the face to all the modern day heroes of color that aren’t being acknowledged for inspiring future generations. That’s telling society that they are not doing anything to benefit the world as a whole. There work has no value. Not only do they not acknowledge our heroes, but there has been a very consistent trend of killing off our heroes both on screen and real life. The whole joke about “the black dude always dies first.” It is a very real thing. There is some truth to the whole notion though. As much as we want/ try to forget, America and the world for that matter has continued to destroy our black heroes. Back in the days of slavery, anyone (both WHITE or BLACK) that set out to save slaves would be destroyed and forgotten. Over the generations, the Heroes have come and gone but the mission has been the same. In the era of Jim Crow, Leaders of households and communities were being lynched in public or captured never to be seen again. During the Civil Rights Era, the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcom X (among others) were all assassinated. Today, Black men (those whose role in the community are to protect, inspire, and build) are being taken and killed by those who were sworn to protect (and Rent-A-Cops). It is a pain to see this continue to happen. A vicious cycle from generation to generation. This isn’t something I can ignore or take lightly because our future is slowly being taken away from us.
Yes, we live in a country where we have the right to do whatever we want. A free market. That works both ways. It can work in our benefit because we can inspire a generation of intellectuals that can create limitless opportunities of salvation for other. On the flip side, people have the freedom to hinder our opportunities and exploit us and our resources so that we continue to fall victim of a system that doesn’t have our best interest at hand. It’s the law of nature that is play. It’s a combination of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: “Survival of the fittest,” and Newton’s 3rd law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Any attempt we make on the road to salvation will be met with equal opposition. When we are confronted with that adversity, we can’t fold. We must prepare ourselves. We must educate ourselves. We must train ourselves. We must create opportunities for ourselves. We must inspire others to be like ourselves. That is the only way to prevail and reach our end goal. Yes, life sucks. When life gives us lemons, we want to put it on a t-shirt, make a hashtag, and come together to remember/protest. I can’t say that there is anything wrong with that, but when life continues to give you lemons, at what point do you stop sulking, go to Costco, buy one of those huge bags of sugar, and open a lemonade stand on the corner…
Instead of sulking in reality, the inner football player kicked in and this project was born. My mission became simple: redefine the heroes that inspire me, so that they can inspire others like me. It started off with one drawing of a Mario with darker skin, a wider nose, and fuller lips. I posted it on Instagram, and to my amazement, it resonated with many people that had the same interests as myself. Then an illustration of Megaman came about. It also received positive feedback. Over the course of a year, those simple ideas evolved to become a book full of the ILLEST HEORES ALIVE!
I think it is crazy how I started this on the comfort of my sister’s couch, and has ultimately defined my identity as an artist. I look back at all the work I have done thus far, and I am amazed at how consistent I have been able to keep things in spite of all the changes that have happened in my life since the last volume. It took me a total of 14 months from the start of the project to come out with volume 1, in less than six months I dropped volume 2, and now the big finale is ready to go 3 months after that. I would say that it is the determination to my craft that fuels this madness, but I’m not dedicated to it as I want to be. That starving artist life is not the business. LOL. It really is just the practice I put in week by week to challenge myself as an artist. From there, I just tried to crank as many scribble and ideas on paper, and splash some color on that bad-boy. I think the biggest change is how efficient I have been able to work when I sit down and flesh out an Idea. Now that the style is set, I try to push it as far as I can. This has been such a fun ride to continue though. Especially how well people from various backgrounds and ethnicities have received the work I have been doing at conventions. From those interactions, I just felt that I needed to push myself further. Both with content, form, style, and composition. Making it more inclusive, but also stick to the initial goal of appealing to a voiceless population. I think I did a good job. I would say that most of my favorite works of art are a part of this collection, and I had a wonderful time creating this over the past year and a half. I hope you all enjoy it!
Create and Conquer