Could Cartoons Help Us Become A More United Caribbean?

On the evening of Saturday, May 24th, 2020 the social media feeds of Caribbean users were abundant with Dancehall music lyrics and status updates clothed in nostalgia; nostalgia about the impact which the Jamaican grown music genre had played in shaping memories. On the evening of Saturday, May 24th, 2020, Beenieman and Bounty Killer were the headliners for Versus TV’s battle. But this was not to be the only clash for the night. There would be a post-clash clash. During the live feed, Saint Lucians and Jamaicans got into some disagreement about one thing or the other and that disagreement left YouTube and carried into the Twitterverse.

Scrolling the threads of vitriol which ensued, one is served a buffet of insults on island size, English language proficiency, and currency devaluation. To say that the display was embarrassing to the region would be a limited way of describing the scene painted as citizens from two islands, from the same regional bloc, and with many of the same struggles sought to discredit the achievements and progress of the other. The reality is that both Saint Lucia and Jamaica form part of a region that is viewed as less developed. They are both Small Island Developing States. The reality is that both Saint Lucia and Jamaica sit at international meetings, lobbed as one entity, advocating and finding ways to solve the same problems: climate change, food security, financial inclusion, and economic development.

But then again, this is not the first time that attempts at Caribbean unity and integration have resulted in a post-exercise clash. What ensued on Twitter in the days after Beenie and Bounty’s iconic display is simply a microcosm of the realities which have marred Caribbean Integration from its inception. True. Since Eric William’s promulgation of a most perplexing Mathematical Equation – one from ten leaves Nought – the Caribbean has made some strides towards integrating and unifying. Still, the reality is that our region has not quite grasped the machinations of integration. But perhaps, cartoons can bring us together.

Perhaps the answer is in beautifully illustrated men and women wearing beautifully designed costumes inspired by the flags of Caribbean countries. Perhaps the answer is in hilarious, yet serious captions to accompany these illustrations: the perfect mix of Caribbean parlance and the tackling of real, and relevant issues. Perhaps the answer is a fictional world where men and women from each Caribbean country sit in unity to find ways to fight against common destructive forces. Perhaps the answer is a fictional world where men and women from the Caribbean band together and see their differences as a sacred, yet powerful force when joined.

Mabrika CEO & Founder Albert Pierre tells about the birth of what we now know as Caribbean Justice and the role this world of fiction has played in growing Caribbean pride and fostering regional unity.

Tell us about your company: Name, Location, Structure, its product/serve.

The name of the company is Mabrika Studios. We are a group of creatives dedicated to showcasing a unique form of media to the Caribbean and the wider world. Although we have members in Dominica, The US Virgin Islands (USVI), and New York, our company is headquartered in the USVI.

We are still small and generally interact via video conferencing or Google hangouts to foster the creative process which involves creating concepts for characters, stories and artwork.

Please name any co-founders/team members.

The co-founders include Sean Francis and Daniel Pond. At first, we were just a few college guys getting together to talk anime and cartoons. But it soon blossomed into something more.

What inspired its birth? Why and How did you start it?

In 2005 I created a superheroine and called her Super Dominica. After meeting Daniel and Sean we began steps to add more and more layers to her story.

Super Dominica is a Kalinago superheroine with the ability to control various aspects of nature. At the inception of Super Dominica, we were only concerned with creating a comic surrounding her character.  For 3 years after her inception, things remained dormant but then in 2010 the idea was resurrected. Also introduced was the idea to have other Caribbean Super Heroes.

We were now no longer all based in Dominica. I was in the USVI, Sean – NYC and Daniel – Dominica. The idea was that each island would have at least 1 unique superhero; 1 superhero per Caribbean island/ territory. These heroes would fight alongside Super Dominica by forming an alliance.

What would you say has been your greatest challenge so far?

Every co-founder has his own special talents and skill. Sean deals with 3D design and writes out concepts for character design. He also does a lot of reading and researching on Caribbean History. Many times he is our main motivation.

Daniel helps out in the area of character development. He also has skills in Graphic Design and Press Design.  It’s sometimes a challenge seeing that we are at different locations. Developing new concepts for characters and their stories also takes a toll on all of us. Currently, I am a teacher and I work part-time at a TV News Station as a Graphic Designer.

What would you say has been your greatest triumph so far?

So far one of our greatest triumphs has come in getting the idea out there. Now that so many people are pumped they are waiting for us to follow through. 10 years of our lives was poured into this project and we really want to see it reach everywhere.

We’ve been at this for years; creating characters, writing plots and developing strategies to make this global. As of now, the Caribbean Justice Universe has evolved into a movement. We have gained widespread support from all over the Caribbean region and from West Indians living all the US and Europe. They are all singing the same tune: “DO IT, DO, DO IT!”

How would you say your company answers any one of the Caribbean’s problems?

Growing up in the Caribbean there was never any representation of a Caribbean Super Hero. Saturday Morning Cartoons was our only fictional fix and whenever we saw a black hero portrayed we reveled in it because we knew that this was the closest that we would ever get to being represented in the comic world.

In 2010 the idea was introduced to have other island heroes that work together as a team. At least one Super Hero representative per Caribbean Island/ Territory sounded good in theory. We soon realized that getting accurate and unique renditions and representation for each of these countries would be tough to pull off.

We were looking to produce a story that has cohesiveness and continuity. So we decided to have an Alliance of Caribbean Super Heroes tasked with the responsibility of defending the entire region from various threats.

As they lock hands to unite their forces the readers would be exposed to a sense of diversity and unity never seen before. This would be something organic; an answer to the wishes of many kids who wanted to see more protagonists who look just like them. But this was also a reflection of what many of us in the region would hope to see the concept of regional integration produce.

Although the Caribbean is a multi-cultural, and multi-racial place and we want to show that there can be unity even in the midst of differences. The Alliance represents the strife to give everyone equal and accurate representation in the midst of unity against the things which divide us.

The roster of heroes we have done so far has had such an amazing impact that we are putting even more effort into studying each island’s culture in order to properly design characters that capture the hearts of young and old alike.

How would you like to see creative entrepreneurship in the Caribbean develop?

I would like to see a diversification in the various avenues for entertainment. The Caribbean entertainment industry that is geared towards teens and children needs work and that’s one of the things we are hoping to help improve on.

Are you currently working on any projects that you’d like to share?

The project we are currently working on will depend on successful crowdfunding. The idea is to get the base concept out there. We want to give most of the Caribbean Islands a taste of what it would be like to have their own Super Hero. This will be done via promoted ads featuring high-quality artwork and renditions of the island Super Heroes. We are hoping that people will become motivated to support this project (Caribbean Justice Graphic Novel/ Comic Books) through our crowdfunding campaign. We will post regular updates, keeping to one of the things which makes this company different: Great PR & Social Media Marketing.

Can you share with other entrepreneurs 3 social media & PR tips that could help them achieve growth similar to yours?

Last year on Facebook we went from 5000 likes to 20 000 likes in a matter of weeks. There are people all over the Caribbean behind this movement. Our Instagram and Twitter is still new but it is picking up. These are some of the tips that people can apply to attain success similar to ours.

1. Know your audience
2. Be original with the work and what you are presenting
3. Engage with your fans on a regular
4. Keep posts short and simple

Note: This interview was originally conducted in 2016. As of date, Caribbean Justice’s Facebook page appears to have limited activity. However, the hope is that this article will be a reminder of how impactful to the Caribbean this body of work is, and will encourage the minds behind it to continue on the journey.

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