Photography by Doug Coombe

Photography by Doug Coombe

The Hero Within

by Jermaine Dickerson

 

Somewhere, someone is crying out for help, either for themselves or for someone else in need—or both. In the Indian state of Assam, violent floods claim countless lives and leave survivors in poverty, and in a worsening health crisis. In South Africa, the global plague of human-trafficking infects a nation still managing the aftereffects of apartheid. Across the Americas, indigenous people combat the generational effects of cultural genocide and colonization of their native lands.  

In the United States, a white supremacist apologist president enforces legislation that threaten the lives of immigrant families, Muslims, people of color, women and LGBTQ people. Trans women of color are murdered at escalating rates at the hands of belligerent men who perpetuate toxic masculinity.  Black Americans continue to fall victim to racial and police violence, and a judicial system that dehumanizes black bodies for profit.  And in your neighborhood, a teen is contemplating suicide after being forced into homelessness because his family disowned him for being gay. 

But despite the world’s blight and despair, there’s an overwhelming force of good that combats these oppressive forces; people who are outspoken and protest systems of injustice, inequity, intolerance and inequality; people who not only speak on behalf of their struggles but stand in solidarity with others enduring other forms of oppression. They’re heroes. Sometimes they wear red capes or vibranium suits. They may wield patriotic shields or lassos of truth as they leap through dynamic panels in the pages of a comic book. And sometimes, they’re simply the parent who believes in your dream, the teacher who tells you to never give-up, or the friend who offers you shelter when you have nowhere else to go.
 
However, I believe the most important hero is the one inside of you. The voice that urges you to do good even when it isn’t the easiest thing to do, that challenges you to be more than a bystander, is the reminder that you’re stronger than you think, and that your life and story matters.
 
That’s the power we all possess—the power of a hero. That power allows us to see the value in our lives and the lives of others. It inspires us to be outstanding citizens for the betterment of ourselves, our communities, and the world.
 
Whether you’re protesting in the streets of Charlottesville, starting a local youth literacy program, or writing a comic featuring a superhero inspired by your life—we all have a part in making the world a brighter place.
 
But first, we have to believe in the hero within ourselves.