Q&A with David Heredia, creator of Heroes of ColorClaude Harrington 02.10.2016
Late last year, David Heredia of Heredia Designs LLC, launched an educational video series called Heroes of Color. The three-minute episodes, created with a whiteboard animation technique, celebrate the outstanding achievements, courage and perseverance of a diverse group of heroes from a wide variety of ethnicities and nationalities.
The pilot episode (which we featured as our PICK OF THE WEEK back in October) tells the story of the 369th U.S Army Regiment. Also known as “The Harlem Hellfighters,” this was one of several segregated black military units that served in Word War 1.
To learn more about how the series came to be and what we should expect in the near future, I spoke with Heredia about Heroes of Color.
Blake Harris: As you know, we really enjoyed your Heroes of Color piece and selected it as our PICK OF THE WEEK back in October. I’d love to start off by hearing about where the inspiration came from?
David Heredia: It’s funny you ask, because the original idea for Heroes of Color was inspired by frustration.
BH: Frustration? Really? How so?
DH: Well, you know, I’m a big comic book geek—and so is my four-year-old son—so we go to comic book stores together all the time. He can’t read, but he likes looking at the pictures. And I don’t really read them either, I just look at the artwork; so here we both are, buying comics we won’t read! Anyway, we went to the store one time and he was pointing for a Falcon comic and I realized that Falcon was, like, the only brown-skinned hero that he really knew. And I was like, “You know, there are a lot of other heroes that look like that.” With my complexion (he’s fair-skinned, because my wife is Mexican). So he was like, “Oh? Which ones?” I figured all sorts of heroes would come to mind, but when I opened my mouth I realized there really weren’t that many. So I said to myself: hmmm…interesting.
BH: That is interesting. And definitely problematic. How did you go from that moment to trying to change the situation?
DH: So I went online and started searching for heroes of color. And the more I searched, the more frustrated I started to get. And then, all of the sudden, I started looking into real people—regular people who were considered heroes—and then it kind of went from there. From the frustration of not really associating heroes as heroes of color. Latin or Black or otherwise. So that sort of gave birth to it.
BH: The first video you did is about the “Harlem Hellfighters.” How did you select them as your subject matter?
DH: Well, I wanted to focus on a hero—or, in this case, a group of heroes—that people didn’t know much about. And here was this group of black soldiers who signed up to fight in World War 1, risking their lives and pledging allegiance to a country that openly lynched black people. So I really liked the idea of focusing on those heroes, and also that it could be educational too.
BH: After you finished that first video, how did you go about getting it out there? What was your initial plan for distribution?
DH: It’s funny, because I was just talking about education, and after watching the finished video, my first thought was: oh, I want to get this into the school system. See if I could get it included in the curriculum for history. And it sounded fantastic, but there’s just so much red-tape and it’s so difficult to get anything approved. But to answer your question, about distribution, I’ll be honest and say that I’m still sort of trying to figure out how to market it. The good news is that after putting it online, I’ve had tons of people approach me and tell me that want to get on board. Some have even offered to help me finance it. So there’s been a lot of interest about taking it to the next level, and that’s kind of where I am now. In a sense, I think it’s been a good thing that I’ve only produced the one episode so far.
BH: Will there be more episodes?
DH: Oh, absolutely. On my to do list right now, there are like 72 names. I can’t do all of them, of course, but I’d like at least get 26 of them for a short series 1 type deal.
BH: Without revealing too much, can you tell me about some of the other that you’re thinking about doing for down the line?
DH: One of the next episodes is on this Vietnam vet, this half-Mexican and half-Indian vet. This guy’s story is just unbelievable. It’s crazy. And, you know, it’s also important to me that this series celebrates heroes that are a) not black b) not all in the military. And one of the things that I’m trying to do with the series is focus on less known heroes. People you may not have heard of, or there’s not a lot of stuff out there. People who have made significant contributions whose name has not yet seen the light of day, really.
BH: That’s great. Just one final question for you: since it was your son’s question that spurred this whole idea, I’m curious to hear his reaction. Did you show him the first Heroes of Color episode? And, if so, what did he think?
DH: Yup, my son saw the video. My daughter saw the video as well. And they didn’t really understand it, but they enjoyed watching it. So I’m glad that they were able to enjoy something that is, you know, educational, but there was one part that made me sort of cringe-worthy for them to see.
BH: Which part were you worried about?
DH: There’s a scene that talks about black people being lynched and it shows three guys hanging from their necks. Oh man, I got so nervous when that came on; what am I going to say to my kids if they ask? Well, my son didn’t ask, but my daughter did. “Why are those guys like that?” She was only five at the time and my wife and I thought that was a little too young to really answer that question. So my wife, thinking quick on her feet, she said, “Oh, those are piñatas.” You know, with candy inside of it. That kept the conversation moving and I’ll just wait until she gets older to talk to her about all that.
BH: And when she is older, I imagine that this video and hopefully this video series will actually be a pretty good segue into addressing that serious topic.
DH: Exactly. It can be a good educational tool. And that’s one of the main reasons that I’m so excited to keep going and making more and more of these.