Single-parent families make up roughly three-fifths of Black households in the United States, and children from those homes often lack positive images around them. With many of these parents having to hold two jobs to make ends meet, their kids regularly learn to take care of themselves with limited resources, so finding creative ways to both entertain and educate is a must.
Seeing such a need in these homes that have been further stressed by the relentless COVID-19 pandemic, cartoonist Joe Young created his Kemet comic book series to not only educate but entertain Black children while they are at home.
According to Counseling Today, comic books offer more than an escape for children. The characters in the books are personified — they are who the kids strive to be. It further states that superhero characters are just like their readers: complex, emotional and facing many of the same challenges and obstacles.
Young, himself a former single parent and now a nationally known cartoonist, teaching artist, writer, filmmaker and producer, knows how to reach kids: through comic art and storytelling. He understands the need for a positive escape into the imagination as a child, as demonstrated when he became the Guinness record-holder for creating the world’s longest comic strip. Young was also a recipient of the Daily Point of Light award from the White House for his work in bringing the arts to disadvantaged youth.
In his early years, school was not easy for Young. He did not comprehend the material, and his instructors didn’t realize their teaching styles did not meet him where he could process the information correctly.
“What’s interesting is that I was able to learn the same material through comics because the presentation was more exciting and sometimes told through characters and storytelling,” he said.
Where traditional learning techniques failed him, comics did not.
“One of the greatest influences in my life that ultimately led to my success as a creative and entrepreneur was comic art,” he said.
While many have chosen to relax or watch TV during the ongoing pandemic, Young has been busier than ever, creating content to meet the needs of Black children while educating and entertaining them during their isolation — particularly with many schools and libraries closed and some parents struggling to keep their children interested in reading.
His “Kemet” series teaches values and positive messages such as helping others, doing one’s best, teamwork and perseverance. The title character, a 10-year-old superhero who travels through time in his “Sankofa 82” spaceship, is also featured in weekly youth activity sheets, distributed to more than one million readers each month.
“What an amazing concept the Kemet character is,” said David Murphy, publisher of The National Black Unity News. “It is entertaining, educational and also provides current as well as historical values.”
The Kemet property is unique, educational, cultural, fun and also celebrates the resiliency and accomplishments of African Americans in this country. Within the pages of “Kemet,” children will find adventure, science, both fantasy and realism, history and heroism. Young readers and families are sure to embrace the Kemet character and comic series.
Joe Young (www.joeyoung.org) and his works have appeared in the Pioneering Cartoonists of Color book, People, Ebony, GQ and Jet magazines, the Boston Globe, New York Times, C-SPAN, CNN, the Black Family Channel and other national media outlets.