Editor's note: Concentrate managing editor Patrick Dunn is a member of Hero Nation's board.
Ypsilanti-based nonprofit Hero Nation will host a free virtual event called Hero Nation "Presents" at 2 p.m. Oct. 10 to highlight the voices of local young people inspired by comics and introduce a new program called the Creator Alliance.
Hero Nation began in 2017 with a mission to empower kids through superheroes, comic books, and video games. The organization launched its first initiative, Hero Nation Comic-Con, in September of that year, attracting more than three dozen vendors and more than 100 attendees.
Hero Nation "Presents" takes the place of the Comic-Con this year, in light of gathering restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As with everything happening in the world, lots of people are making changes, including us," says Jermaine Dickerson, Hero Nation's founder and executive director. "We decided to try something different and have a virtual experience instead. Times are very challenging right now and bleak for a lot of us, and we wanted to share a message of inspiration, hope, optimism, and empowerment."
The first part of the program will feature conversations about the impact of "nerd culture" with three young people: Aaliyah Shakur, age 8; Darrel Shakur, age 10; and Destiny Houge, age 13.
"We'll talk about what kind of video games they like, or what is it about anime that draws them in, or what is it about superheroes, that, as a kid, inspires you," Dickerson says, adding that they'll also discuss what it's like being a "Black nerd" and the importance of representation.
The second half of the event will introduce a new initiative for comic creators, the Creator Alliance,set to launch in 2021. The first four creators to be featured will be Dorphise Jean, Greg Elysée, John Robinson IV, and Ed Williams. They'll share their creative process in a panel discussion during the second half of Hero Nation "Presents."
The panel discussion will introduce the creators and their work, and Dickerson will ask a series of questions about what inspires and drives them, how being a creator of color impacts their stories, and what their expectations for the Creator Alliance are.
Dickerson says the Creator Alliance program will center around amplifying the four creators' voices and connecting them to Hero Nation's audience.
"It's a platform to connect their stories and talents with the kids," he says. "One way we'll be doing that is through a library of online donated content posted to our website."
Dickerson says some details of the Creator Alliance program have yet to be finalized because he wants the first four creators to be deeply involved in shaping the future of the program.
"This is new, and I don't think anyone has done something like this before in this way," he says. "We're here to serve kids, especially from underserved and marginalized populations including Black and other POC, LGBTQ, those with disabilities, girls, and those with low socioeconomic status, but we're here to serve adult [creators] as well."
A link to the Facebook Live event is 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Hero Nation.