The Importance of Black Superheroes and Why We Need Them

"Being black in America serves as a double-edged sword; too often black children are reminded that they are not enough that they begin to believe it, losing ambition to overcome the boundaries set in place for us. Or, if we happen to land jobs and careers, we’re still limited by the proverbial glass ceiling. We need to remind black boys and girls that they are worth way more that what society constantly reduces them to."

Coming soon to Netflix is the story of an African-American boy with special abilities, the son of a single mother whose dutiful efforts to protect him and keep his gifts secret knows no bounds. Raising Dion garnered quite a bit of attention when its trailer was released not too long ago. It adds to a list of productions on TV, in theatres and on streaming services that showcase representation for people of color. The importance of this is it brightens the silver lining for black boys by reimagining fictional characters to look up to, allowing these fictional characters to look and sound like us.

For a story so original in its inception, yet expected to parallel (or perhaps even outdo) the mysteries and wonder of our traditional and popular superheroes, Raising Dion leaves much more to surprise than what’s been revealed. Its documentary-style filming and personal narration by Dion’s mother imply a more personal approach to the storyline than the usual.

Black audiences, varying in age, are excited about the new series because of how true to life it seems to be, all while retaining the wonderment and awe popularly displayed in white fictional stories.

Though unable to fly, teleport or control natural elements, the skills, and humanity of a single black mother serve as enough of a superpower—one quality black audiences will definitely be able to relate to and find enthralling.”

Raising Dion is an illustration of the phrase “Black Boy Magic” – an innocent black child with remarkable abilities, all of which he himself is on a journey of mastering. Much like today’s society, Dion’s very existence poses a threat, and the opposition seems to want to contain Dion and his powers for all of the wrong reasons. Some are anticipating how the politics of today will play out in the show, and it’s plausible to believe that the messages of topics like race relations may be relayed. Ultimately there will still be devices in place strictly for purposes of enjoyment (i.e., fight scenes, rescue missions, costumes, etc).

In 2016, an estimated 3,468,000 black children (under age 18) in the United States were living below the poverty line. That makes 34% of the total 17 and under US population, a 6% decrease from 2012, yet still noticeably higher in percentage than counterparts of other races. For many of these disenfranchised youths, having examples role models to look up to—or, in this case, grow up with—fosters a healthy imagination and confidence that could pivot a black child’s life in the right direction.

Those who do not understand the substantial impact of content would probably argue that race shouldn’t hold so much weight in this discussion. But there are plenty young black men from urban areas all over America who have never known entertainment media to embrace them as anything other than the thug, pimp, or the convicted felon. Many of us do not have the luxury of even watching televised or streamed content, let alone be afforded the opportunity to positively redirect the image of the black man in the media.

Another impactful side of the show as the trailer promises is the showing of the trials and tribulations of a single black mother. For many young black boys who grew up in a similar situation to Dion, mothers were no less heroic than the figures they watched or read about. Though unable to fly, teleport or control natural elements, the skills and humanity of a single black mother serve as enough of a superpower—one quality black audiences will definitely be able to relate to and find enthralling.

Being black in America serves as a double-edged sword; too often black children are reminded that they are not enough that they begin to believe it, losing ambition to overcome the boundaries set in place for us. Or, if we happen to land jobs and careers, we’re still limited by the proverbial glass ceiling. We need to remind black boys and girls that they are worth way more than what society constantly reduces them to. It’s important to foster that self-confidence by painting them in the image of fictional superheroes so that they can aspire to become real-life ones: doctors, musicians, lawmakers, scientists, explorers and innovators of tomorrow.

Thinking of their history and trajectory, all of the biggest superheroes of American comic book culture have been iconized and somehow taken on lives of their own in the minds and hearts of their fans. It would be endearing to see America’s newest young hero be ushered into a legion of greats in the same way. Young black children can benefit from seeing a black hero, similar to the likes of Green Lantern, Black Panther, or even Static Shock, grow up and navigate a difficult world right alongside them. For many of us, seeing this level of representation on a massive scale represents hope like nothing else can convey.

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Alfonso Francois is a #CarefreeBlackBoy, Brooklyn native, proud Trini, Posse scholar, Wheaton alum, passionate writer, somebody’s hero, BeyHive elite.

Alfonso believes writing helps him reach his max potential. It is his most creative vein and strongest voice. It’s what helps him become anyone he wants to be, and it’s the easiest way for him to understand others as well as the world around him. From growing up underprivileged in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to graduating with a BA in Film & New Media Studies under a full-tuition scholarship, Alfonso’s greatest skill is knowing how to maneuver in both worlds comfortably. Visit FonzFranc.com.

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