Foreword about Black female superheroes
Representation matters. Especially for Black women, who are constantly ignored, stereotyped, or treated less than human. It is incredibly important that young women of color see representation in media. The importance of Black female superheroes for Black women can’t be overstated.
We must reinforce the fact that they too are superheroes. As I raise my own little black princess, I strive to put positive, powerful women of color in her view. Whether that’s Bumblebee of DC Comics, the Dora Milaje of Black Panther fame, or Sparkle Cadet from Craig of The Creek. She must know she is not alone and is all-powerful.
It would be irresponsible of me to try and write anything about the importance of superhero representation for Black women. So, I reached out to a few Powerful Women of Color and asked them to share their thoughts on the topic. Below you will find an amazing collection of pieces submitted to Super. Black. I am profoundly grateful to these women for sharing their thoughts with the Super. Black. audience.
Black Women on Black Female Superheroes
Pop culture’s earning power is undeniable, and comics are one of the original purveyors of pop. For this reason, there are pockets of comic universes that have been exploited time and again.
From movies to merch, Superman, Batman, and now Spiderman have all had their origin stories retold multiple times, and each adaptation pulls in beaucoup bucks. While their superpowers are highlighted, the hero’s human nature inspires love and loyalty from their audience.
Comic universes are full of hardwon, well-developed plurality and the Black heroines that currently exist in those worlds are no exception. And now, maybe more than ever, the storylines of superheroines like Vixen and Storm are ripe with box office earning potential.
It’s odd pulling from universes home to characters like Vixen, Storm, Monica Rambeau, and Rocket, yet we keep seeing stories adapted to the big screen with many of the same faces. Black superheroines are valuable for many of the same reasons all superhero stories are.
The dichotomy of supernatural ability and human fallibility is a reminder that even the strongest of us have a right to humanity.
How can I let you play at being superhuman when the real world refuses to even acknowledge your basic humanity? Am I failing as a mother when I sit back and allow you to play at being all-powerful, when I know the truth: the real world does not even respect your bodily autonomy? What does it mean when I watch you center yourself as the subject in your play, knowing the real world will again and again and again tell you that you are the object?
Do I let you continue? Or do I tell you the truth?
Is it my job to crush your dreams? Or do I stand by and watch the real world crush them for you?
And then I remember.
The “real world” I worry about preparing you for is a world that was created by those who had the power, the ones who told the stories, who wrote the histories, who created the superheroes in their own image.
It is through play that your imagination will show you that other worlds are possible. And it is through seeing powerful black women as role models that you will know that you can grow up to be strong enough to build these new worlds.
And so I step back and release you to your play like releasing a helium balloon free to float
higher and higher,
shooting for the moon,
falling among the stars.
– Laura Powell is a gardener in Brooklyn
I grew up watching superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman on TV. The first time I was exposed to a superhero that I could relate to was when I saw Storm in the X-Men cartoon series. Storm is a black female mutant who can not only control the weather but all earthly elements; like many black women, Storm’s abilities are often underestimated.
The kinship I felt for Storm was most deeply rooted in the fact that, despite her power, she had experienced trauma in childhood that affected her throughout her adulthood. Most black women and girls operate and even thrive while carrying with them a great deal of emotional and/or physical trauma.
The world is conditioned to believe that we don’t need support or protection because we’re strong resilient. Storm and other black female superheroes represent a powerfulness found in all black women, but these superheroes also show that our resilience does not negate our vulnerability.
– Louisy R, Rockstar Marketing Exec
As a black woman who often struggles to find images of black women in video games and action, fantasy, and sci-fi movies, I know that little black girls have that same longing. It’s no coincidence that my 4-year-old god-daughter has every Doc McStuffins toy imaginable. Representation matters. When Black Panther came out in theatres in 2018, it was a movement. Black people went to see this movie in droves! I even saw it 3 times in the theatres, which was an extremely rare occurrence for me.
Black people showed up to the film in Wakanda’s finest, able to finally cosplay characters that looked like them. I saw so many social media posts of images of ecstatic black children who were taking class trips to see this movie….it was a movement. For those children that have the privilege to see images that look like them in comic books, video games, and action movies saving the world, they aspire to do the same.
This is representation. Little black girls should be able to experience that same magic.
– Janelle Taylor, Brand Marketer and Video Game Enthusiast
Would you like to add to this conversation?
If you have a piece you would like to submit for this topic, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Super. Black. and I will gladly review and publish your piece.
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