By Amanda Steele
During Friday’s Black Heroes Matter panel, writer, filmmaker and co-creator of Bitter Root David Walker moderated a conversation with panelists James Mathis III, the voice actor for Black Panther on Marvel’s Black Panther’s Quest; Regine L. Sawyer, creator of Lock It Down Productions and founder of Women in Comics Collective; Sanford Greene, comics illustrator for Bitter Root; and Chuck Creekmur, a lifelong comic nerd and hip-hop artist who founded Allhiphop.
The Black Heroes Matter panel has been going for four years now, and it’s meant to bring a group of creators together to discuss Black heroes in media and the intersections between representation and the real world.
David Walker kicked off the panel by saying that the focus was all about “us celebrating our greatness,” and he got into the discussion about heroes by asking the panelists to talk about their own heroes. This was an insightful part of the discussion where panelists mentioned people including artist Tyrone Geter, Run-DMC, their moms, Frederick Douglas, and Irene Kirklady, the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus.
Panelist Sanford Greene discussed how important mentors are for Black creators, and people of color in general. He said that the artist Tyrone Geter was his mentor and helped him “to understand that I had this position, this power if you will.”
One exciting announcement to look forward to was given by David Walker about an upcoming graphic novel he is working on. He says that he is planning a graphic novel called The History of the Black Panther Party that is set to release in 2021.
Next, Walker directed the panelists to reflect on the own ways they act as heroes in their community. Regine L. Sawyer talked about her work “giving a space to women and nonbinary people in comics.” She said that, “If I’m able to help somebody, why not do it? We all have to help each other.”
One of the most poignant parts of the Black Heroes Matter panel was when Walker talked about how just because Black Panther was released it doesn’t mean that representation for Black people has suddenly “arrived.” He said, “I don’t think the moment of the Black superhero is here. If anything, we need more heroism out there.”
To add to this, James Mathis III, Black Panther’s Quest voice actor, said that there needs to be more representation of everyday Black families and families of color. He said there needs to be more stories in “the kitchens and homes of people of color on a normal day” and the importance of representation of all kinds – not just in superhero movies.
Before the end of the panel, Walker noted that the main reason for the Black Heroes Matter idea was community and building those spaces, saying “part of what we need to do more is not be afraid to be seen…A hero is someone making a stand for something they believe in.”