David Heredia presents poster of his illustrations to judge Kamal Sinclair during his pitch of 'Heroes of Color' at PitchBLACK. PHOTO COURTESY JAMES BROOKS

Celebrating heroes who didn’t wear capes

Some heroes wear capes and spandex. Others get their powers from radioactive spiders or from surviving failed science experiments.

But Santa Clarita artist and animator David Heredia has a different type of hero in mind: underrepresented historical figures.

His animated series “Heroes of Color” shares these stories, and was recently a winner of Black Public Media’s PitchBLACK Awards, which included $60,000 to help him continue the project.

“I’m really excited to be able to continue the series,” said Heredia, who has worked for Walt Disney Animation, Warner Brothers Animation and DC Collectibles. “This series is a great opportunity not just to educate, but to elevate and inspire.”  

Heredia said he plans to use the funds to continue the project, which he would like to see completed as a 12-episode series. Available right now are three, 3-minute pieces featuring: the Harlem Hellfighters, a segregated military unit in World War I; Gaspar Yanga, who led one of the first slave uprisings in colonial Mexico; and Puerto Rican civil rights leader Dr. Antonia Pantoja.

Each issue contains colorful illustrations, but the narrations solidify the educational portion of “Heroes of Color.”

The father of three said his children helped him shape and develop his project, which has previously won awards and has even screened at the Black Comic Book Festival in New York.

“We went to the store and noticed that there weren’t many black superheroes. When we left, I decided to do research on U.S. history and found so many heroes of color that were real people, people like Native Americans, Latinos or African Americans but whose stories are swept under the rug.

“When you share these stories, especially with children, you will impact them,” he said. “I knew I was taking a very big risk, but it’s about inspiring change.”

That message captivated judges at the PitchBLACK Awards. The event, held in April, was a culmination of the 13-week 360 Incubator+, a boot camp-like training, as Heredia called it, for all creatives to learn how to pitch broadcast programs, web series or virtual reality projects. As the winner of the digital media category, the project not only received $60,000 in funding, it was also awarded a license agreement for public media distribution.  

“David’s project is a very deserving one,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, Black Public Media executive director, in a prepared statement. “We will continue to support him as we facilitate the connections with the distributors and funders at the pitch forum and field additional interest developed.”

While new episodes of Heroes of Color is underway, Heredia is also awaiting the release of his book, titled “Little Heroes of Color,” based on the series. The children’s book will be available later this year via Scholastic. The artist also has a has an accompanying art exhibit, “United by Art,” which celebrates the arts from around the world, featuring at the Newhall Community Center through July 2.
Throughout his work, Heredia’s central focus is to “engage the public. The demographic now is changing rapidly. We have to start educating ourselves now, as parents, for our kids. Cultural education is for parents.”

To learn more about Heredia and his work, visit heroesofcolor.com.

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