By Julia DiGiacomo
Heroes among us in Iowa City and beyond are passionate about making a difference in the lives of others.
The event “Real Stories, Real Heroes: Heroes Among Us” sought to highlight the stories and impact of influential African Americans.
As one of the events of Black Superhero Week on campus, five panelists spoke Tuesday evening in EPB. Black Superhero Week is in partnership with Black Student Union.
University of Iowa multicultural programs director Jamal Nelson facilitated the discussion. Panelists included UI Ph.D. student and cultural worker Lisa Covington, fashion designer Andre Wright, Executive Director of Hope’s Front Door Janell Robinson, UI educational support services specialist Wisdom Nwafor, and President of Sanofka Outreach Connection LaTasha DeLoach.
The participants answered questions about their lives’ work, what brought them to this point, and their ultimate goal in terms of service to others.
“We really expand beyond the idea of just superheroes. Tonight, we’re talking about real people who are in Iowa who are black superheroes,” Nelson said. “They have put in the work and the effort to make sure people move forward.”
The five panelists do a variety of types of service in their respective communities.
For instance, Wright said, he focuses on entrepreneurial mentorship in the area of fashion.
“I’m always looking for opportunities to help people in whatever way I can,” Wright said.
Among other things, DeLoach has cofounded an organization known as G World, which is dedicated to empowering young girls. Her work generally focuses on supporting young girls.
“By the time I finished my undergraduate and graduate degree here, it was very apparent that there needed to be something for black women and girls,” DeLoach said. “We created some programs to try to help girls find their voices, their authentic voices.”
Robinson works for an organization in Illinois called Hope’s Front Door. It is dedicated to helping people experiencing homelessness.
“I cannot imagine treating someone as less than because they are going through a crisis,” Robinson said. “In order for a community to prosper, we have to make sure everyone is doing well.”
Nwafor, who is involved with the TRIO program on campus, is devoted to creating inclusive learning environments for students.
Covington is also heavily involved in mentorship and community outreach. She has been part of the effort to teach African American studies classes in Iowa City high schools.
Nelson said there are several more upcoming events for Black Superhero Week. Today, the documentary *White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinities in Comic Books* will be screened at 5 p.m. at FilmScene, 118 E. College St. The event will examine the representation of black masculinity in comics.
On Thursday, UI Professor Deborah Whaley will do a book signing and raffle to celebrate her newest book, *Black Women in Sequence*. Nelson said her book is about the various iterations of black women in pop culture and media.
On Friday, students who signed up will be transported from the African American Cultural Center to a movie theater to see the new *Black Panther* movie.
“There’s always going to be a way to achieve your goals,” Robinson said. “It might not be that day, but you have to keep trying. That’s what I live by every day.”