Culturas Corner highlights individuals who make their community a better place through their work, business, volunteering or activism. Today we meet David Heredia, the creative mind behind “Heroes of Color,” which tells the stories of POC historical figures.
Thanks for taking the time to tell Culturas about you and Heroes of Color! To start, can you tell us about yourself and how you got into art and, eventually, animation.
I have always been into art. Growing up in New York City in the early 80s was amazing because of all of the graffiti and breakdancing that I was exposed to at such a young age. It shaped my style of work today. I started to take art more seriously after graduating from The High School of Art and Design in NYC. I decided I wanted to get into comic books and landed an internship at Marvel comics. After a few months there, I realized I loved reading them more than I loved creating them. I then began exploring other ways to tell stories. After graduating from my two-year college, I got accepted into the 4-year animation program at the School of Visual Arts. This changed everything for me, as the doors of opportunity suddenly opened up.
Can you tell us about the necessity of a project like Heroes of Color? Why is it important to promote diversity and inclusiveness starting with children, particularly through art?
Heroes of Color was forced into existence. I feel that if parents would do better to expose their children to the richness of the diversity that the U.S. has to offer, we would be in a better place. Another issue is schools’ lack of effort/interest to decolonize their curriculum. We need to get away from this old way of educating. It seems to me that elementary school curriculum is the antithesis of diversity, equity and inclusion. This project is important because in positive representation, you help build your child’s confidence. It helps to reinforce that they are important members of the community and of society. When none of the celebrated people in history look like you, it can have a damaging mental effect on children and take decades to repair. We can’t afford to keep shattering our kids’ confidence and cheating them out of cultural education by only providing European history, European artists, Anglo leaders, etc. Saying we want change isn’t enough anymore. As creative artists, we have the power to create the stories that we want our children to hear. The time of sitting back and waiting for someone else to tell our stories is dead. Get up, do research and write the stories yourself. Art is one of the best ways to keep children engaged. It provides a safe space for them to express themselves in a way that comes naturally to them. Using art as a tool to educate is an easy way to inspire and engage.
How is your family raising your kids to know their different cultural backgrounds?
My wife is Mexican and I am from the Dominican Republic, so we both play a major part in shaping their culture. We speak to them in Spanish, we cook the traditional dishes, we listen to the music from our culture and others, we discuss music and art from different parts of the world. We work hard to expose them to as much culture and tradition from around the world through art, music, food and multiple trips to the library. They love learning about cultures and it helps them to appreciate their own cultures so much more.
Last year you were awarded by Black Public Media to fund the entire first season of Heroes of Color episodes. What details can you tell us about the show?
Well, it actually just funded four episodes, but the scripts have been written and edited and the narration has been recorded and the storyboards are in progress. I am working on ways to raise more funds to get the entire 12 episodes completed and sign a streaming deal. I want this series to be available on a major platform and help inspire parents, children and educators to bring more of a well rounded, DEI education. I am working on a feature-length 22-minute episode as well. The script is completed and has been edited and finalized. I don’t want to share too many details about that project yet, but it’s suffice to say that it will be the best piece of work that ever came out of my studio.
What is your favorite cultural memory?
My favorite cultural memory has to be Christmas time as a child because of all of the traditional dishes that my family made and the house parties dancing to merengue and bachata and just soaking up all aspects of my culture. We used to throw parties for any reason under the sun. I miss that and loved that so much.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Know someone who should be featured on Culturas Corner? Nominate them here.