by Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Five young African-American superheroes called the Fearless Five may be saving young Black minds–one picture adventure book and T-shirt at a time.
The Fearless Five is the creation of Steve Johnson, 43, owner of HNK (Happy, Nurturing, Kind) Concepts, a product development company.
The concept of the Fearless Five arose when, as an expectant father, Johnson said he couldn’t find the sort of products that would empower and foster a strong sense of self in his daughter.
“I did not want to see my daughter growing up devaluing her own self-image,” Johnson, a senior finance executive at an energy company in Houston, Texas, told the AFRO. He grumbled about the situation until his wife “spurred him on.
“She asked me, ‘When are you going to stop complaining and do something about it?’”
And so HNK and the Fearless Five were born in 2007.
“As parents, we desire to see children grow up believing that they are powerful and full of potential. We are excited to be contributing to the development of a positive self-image in children, especially our young, Black children,” said Johnson. “Enhancing the self-concept of Black children is critically important, given the fact that they are bombarded so early in life with imagery that effectively devalues their self-concept at such a critical stage. We want to change that by having them see images of children that resemble them in a positive light.”
HNK’s first product was a five-part picture book series for children ages 3 to 9 years old, featuring the Fearless Five in storylines centered around positive themes including teamwork, determination, self-esteem, caring for others and caring for the environment.
Johnson said he used the young superheroes to “combat the verbage and negative noise” Black children hear about themselves, such as stereotypes that they are “dumb, lazy and not worthy. To that end, the main source of the superheroes’ powers is their minds.
He made other critical decisions, such as ensuring the young superheroes represent different hues across the “Black” spectrum and making the leader of the team, Phenom, a girl named after his daughter, Hannah.
“I wanted to show my daughter and other little girls that they don’t have to accept the definitions of beauty, intelligence and success that are given to them,” he told the AFRO.
Another superhero, Blaze, is a chubby boy who likes snacks and is often teased about his size. Despite being heavyset, however, Blaze has superhuman speed and agility. Two other characters, Tank and Element, are small for their age, which makes them feel self-conscious.
For children who face similar obstacles, Johnson has recently launched the “Be…Fearless” apparel line, which features a Fearless Five character and an uplifting message, such as “Be Smart, Talented…And Fearless!”
The T-shirts and books are available at the company’s website, www.fearlessfive.com.
“We want to see all children, especially young, Black children, believing in themselves,” Johnson stated. “This is our effort toward realizing that goal.”