Philadelphia Organization Uses Comics to Help Immigrant Kids Face Their Fears


In today’s climate, children in immigrant families, documented or otherwise, are facing increased fears that someone in their family may be detained or deported. It’s a stressful and scary thing for these kids to face. But never fear! One Philadelphia organization is using a unique tool to help these children deal with their fears; comic books.

According to a recent story on NewsWorks, the online presence of WHHY, the local group Mighty Writers is helping Philadelphia Latino children process their concerns through creating their own comic books. Their stories address their fears and anxieties rising from the recent of election of Donald Trump, who voiced anti-immigration views, made racially charged statements, and put forward aggressive policies for dealing with undocumented immigrants. Mighty Writers made the decision to offer the children an outlet via a course on using sequential art to express themselves, taught by artist Nora Litz.

The article talks about the comics that the kids are producing, some of which feature President Trump in a threatening or satirical posture, but most of their stories revolve around their fear of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arresting and deporting their parents or family members. 12 year old Alan, who is a citizen though his parents are not, admits that before enrolling in the Mighty Writers class, he was worried. “Before coming here, taking the classes, I was very scared,” he said. “I would usually dream about it. And I would, like, wake up very scared, go into my mom’s room and seeing if she’s fine. I’m mostly worried about my family being separated, because I’ve experienced that, like, three times or two.” But using the comic strip medium to explore his feelings seemed to have helped him, as Alan says, “I drew and wrote what I think. And I don’t know how many weeks we’ve been here so far, but those weeks I’ve, like, forgot about everything and just lived my normal life.”

Nora Litz advises students Yaretzy and Amy on their comics.
Photo: Emily Cohen for NewsWorks

The teacher, Nora Litz, is a Mexican-American artist. In 2011, she created an art project called El viaje de los niños, or the Journey of the Children, which explored the experiences and stories of Mexican children who crossed the border to come to Philadelphia. In the NewsWorks article, Litz talks about how she had been planning a workshop whose focus was immigration, but the election of Trump and his campaign platform made the issue even more relevant. Litz said, “What they’re telling you, of how worried they are, and how worried they are for each other, and just making sure who’s here, just the same as their houses, when they go, like, ‘Is my mom OK?’ And they come here and it’s like, ‘Who’s still here?’ It’s just awful.”

The workshop is being offered by Mighty Writers, an organization whose mission, according to their website, is to educate school-age Philadelphian kids to “think and write with clarity so they can achieve success at school, at work and in life.” The organization offers daily after school programs, as well as writing classes on nights and weekends. Along with arts-driven workshops such as the one taught by Nora Litz, Mighty Writers offers scholar programs, prep and essay courses for college, and mentorships from any of the hundred of Philadelphia’s professionals that work with over 2,500 kids annually at their four locations across the city. Head over to the Mighty Writers website for more information and ways you can help support their work.

As for the kids in Nora Litz’ workshop, the article states that the comics they are creating will be exhibited this summer, and eventually be bound into a book. And, as with most comic books, the stories tend to end happily, with families reuniting and being allowed to stay together. Spider-Man couldn’t have done it better himself.

 

Jeremy Radick

Knight Radick, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man....who does not exist. But he is a comic Book geek, cinephile, robophobe, punctuation enthusiast, social activist, haberdasher, insect taxidermist, crime-fighter, former actor, semi-professional Teddy Roosevelt impersonator and Dad.

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