Creating Superheroes in New York City classrooms

New York, US: On a cold blustery day following a frigid snowstorm in the Big Apple, I held class with my first cartoon workshop at an elementary school in lower Manhattan with the simple goal of spreading the infectious spirit of art and tolerance.

I was a special guest of Dance to Unite, a non-profit organization whose mission is to use dance as a vehicle to teach and to celebrate cultural diversity for the purpose of unity and peace.

I introduced myself to my audience composed mostly of Hispanic and African American youth and teachers reflecting the entire cultural fabric of America. I posed a question, “Where do you think I am from?”

Responses from students were global and continental. Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Indonesia, Argentina to name a few.

I asked why no one thought I was from right here in America. One pointed to my head, actually over it, my turban. Another mentioned my beard. Another my skin color.

I told the little ones I was born in Washington DC. A loud incredulous response, “You are?” came back.

The stage was set for me to introduce my world of cartoons full of turbaned and bearded characters. A hundred year old marathon runner, a turbaned ice skater whizzing on ice, spongebob with a turban, physicians in turbans, Captain America illustration in a turban and beard. I concluded with photographs of my outing dressed as Captain America on streets of New York City. That brought out wide eyed, “Oohs”, “Wow”, “No way” responses.

With their imagination stirred anew we got into the interactive part of the cartoon workshop. Armed with pencil, paper and a simple instruction to create new superheroes inspired by their own lives the students and even the teachers went to work.

The creative output from kids and teachers was fresh, personal and inventive. Here are a sampling of superheroic imaginations.If you would like to host a superhero cartoon workshop in your school, community, office, conference or any other setting in need of the creative spirit feel free to contact me by email [ vsingh at sikhtoons dot com ] or twitter @sikhtoons

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