BLACK SUPERHEROES

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“I am very passionate about making a lasting positive impact in one of the most significant communities I belong to: the African community.” Beserat Debebe

 

Beserat Debebe is the founder behind Ethiopian based Etan Comics who has just introduced superhero HAWI. She is derived from a story of the 20 year old Emnet Legesse Ethiopian born in the United States of America who returns to Ethiopia for a family visit. But while in town, her mother is kidnapped by a cagey captor, leading her on a “…life-altering adventure embedded with historical conflict” according to Beserat. Frankly, I have not seen the comic, nor have I met the Etan Comic founder, but I am impressed with the committed comic book creator who says on the Etan website, “The only thing I would claim confidently and wholeheartedly is that I am very passionate about making a lasting positive impact in one of the most significant communities I belong to: the African community. This is why I created ETAN COMICS. I want to use this platform to inspire the current and future generation of Africans. I also want to show to the rest of the world that Africa is not just a continent of suffering, war, corruption, diseases and everything else they typically hear on mass media.” Bravo!
While the notion of comic books by and for black folks is not new, it is novel in Africa. However, experts in comic book history can give us the full run down on what was out there, where and what as it pertains to the continent. Until then I refer to Golden Legacy Illustrated History Magazine that I still have in my collection. The first issued was published in 1966 by Bertram Fitzgerald. “The subject of our magazine, Golden Legacy, is black history and is written so young people can understand easily and develop interest for the further study of history.” I have sixteen volumes in my collection that I exhibit periodically. They range from Touissaint L’Ouverture and the Birth of Haiti to Joseph Cinque and the Amistad Mutiny. Cinque maybe considered one of our first superheroes as he led the rebellion and fight for freedom on the slave ship Amistad which went on to be a landmark case tried in the Supreme Court of the USA in the 1830’s. The collection also documents Black inventors, Ship captains, and icons such as Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Dumas and Fredrick Douglas.
Reading materials excite me, whether newspapers, literature and comic books. HAWI is important for children and a welcome addition to the literary genre. The more children are exposed to narratives and images reflecting them, the more our children will see and know themselves. However, let us consider what makes a superhero. It is usually a secret power, that few and far between share or even have knowledge of and further they use these talents or special gifts for the greater good of society. Real talk readers, this sounds like women to me. Yes on this last weekend of Women’s Month I would like to milk it for every drop. Women, like HAWI, are endowed with abilities from multi-tasking to memorizing the names, birthdays and all necessary information to administrate our households. These supermom powers are not reserved just for the child bearers however. These are generous gifts bestowed with the XX chromosome. Unfortunately, real life super women do not have a super cave to retreat to or a loyal butler ready to take your change of costume and polish the super car for the next adventure. We have no cheerleaders or followers, beyond those on facebook and Instagram, but we have confidence, we have determination, we have commitment and we have unconditional love that drives our strength to move mountains. So to all my Super Sistars, keep your capes in good condition and keep your loyal team of husbands, partners, kith and kin close so they can strengthen you when you come to the reality that sometimes you don’t have to save the day, just yourself, so you can do it all again tomorrow.

Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.