Ypsilanti

Heroic Futures event will use superhero comics to inspire young people to lead

On Oct. 2, a free virtual event called Heroic Futures will encourage youth ages 14-18 to become their own heroes and figure out what they're passionate about. 
 
The event is made possible due to a partnership between Ypsilanti-based nonprofit Hero Nation and Bold Futures. Hero Nation's mission is to use nerd culture and pop culture to help children develop positive identities and relationships, and increase social-emotional learning. Bold Futures is an annual one-day event that introduces teens to local business owners and allows them to identify and suggest potential solutions for community problems, followed by pitching those solutions to businesses and nonprofits. Heroic Futures will be presented with support from the Entrepreneurship Center at Washtenaw Community College, as well as Optimize, a student group at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan that's focused on promoting social change. 
 
The three-hour virtual event will kick off with Hero Nation founder Jay Hero (formerly known as Jermaine Dickerson) introducing Heroic Futures and its two guest speakers. Guest speaker Dorphise Jean is an author known for the comic-book series "Spirit’s Destiny" and "Nia Caler," and for creating a universe that promotes super-heroic girl power and children with disabilities. The second guest speaker, Greg Anderson Elysée, is a Haitian-American educator, filmmaker, model, and award-winning comic book writer. He’s also the creator of "Is’nana: The Were-Spider," a comic series based on Anansi, the trickster god of the Akan people of Ghana. 
 
Hero says the event is explicitly meant to challenge and decentralize white supremacy, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression. Hero and both guest speakers are Black and queer, and their identities inform their work.
 
"We want to have conversations about where these voices and perspectives are coming from, and about intersectionality and representation," Hero says.
 
After the guest speakers finish, youth participants will break off into smaller groups for "hero ideation," a process of visualization and mindfulness practice where students envision themselves as heroes. They will ask themselves questions about their values and beliefs, and have conversations about those revelations with facilitators. Students will end the day by creating a Hero Statement, which Hero describes as a statement of "who they are as individuals and the cause they want to fight for."
 
"We want them to imagine the best version of themselves, while facing challenging emotions," Hero says.
 
Hero says the collaboration between Hero Nation and Bold Futures was natural, since the two organizations' missions are aligned.
 
"This idea came about because Bold Futures underwent a transition in the way they were approaching how to inspire students to do community engagement work and focus more on social impact instead of just entrepreneurship," Hero says. "It's a way to integrate all those things under one roof."
 
Registration and more information about the event are available here.
 
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photos courtesy of Hero Nation.