NEW YORK, NY (April 24, 2012) — The Open Hands Initiative, in partnership with Liquid Comics and MTV Voices, announced Monday the newest rendition of the Silver Scorpion comic book character — an animated web series featuring the world’s first disabled cross-cultural superhero.
Silver Scorpion is the brainchild of a group of American and Syrian youths with disabilities who gathered in Damascus a little more than a year ago. The hero they envisioned, an Arab teen that loses his legs in a tragic accident, has the power to not only bend metal with his mind, but — the creators hope — to transform his world… and ours.
Created by 26 talented youths with disabilities who convened for a Youth Ability Summit in Syria, the Silver Scorpion will come to life on the web in an animated 4-part series on the MTV Voices global websites, bringing this unique story of courage and perseverance to young people all across Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. The series is intended to build bridges among the youths of the world while promoting inclusion and equality for people living with disabilities.
Jay T Snyder, American businessman and Co-Founder and Chairman of the Open Hands Initiative, calls the Silver Scorpion comic book “a gift from youths with disabilities from America and Syria to the world that reflects what can be achieved when the people of our two countries are provided a platform to engage. The story of Silver Scorpion will now be accessible in more places than ever, helping to empower youth with disabilities and encourage cross-cultural understanding.”
He added, “This is not just a comic book; it’s a breakthrough effort in public diplomacy that helps forge lasting bonds and understanding between the youth of the United States and the Middle East.” Despite the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria, Mr. Snyder emphasized the importance of cross-cultural exchange and of shining a light on the issue of disability rights despite Syria’s current challenges: “This type of people-to-people diplomacy is as important now as it was a year ago when we brought these creative young people together, and it will be even more important in the years ahead.”
The Silver Scorpion character was developed by participants in the Youth Ability Summit, a meeting of disabled youth that took place in Damascus, Syria. In workshops led by Open Hands and Liquid Comics, the children were asked to work together to create an original superhero that reflected their cross-cultural values and ideals as well as the challenges of living with a disability. By the end of the summit, the wheelchair-bound character of the Silver Scorpion was born. The participants created a character that transcends our differences and emphasizes our common humanity.
As recognition of the students work, at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative, President Bill Clinton highlighted the Silver Scorpion project, stating that the comic book, “…will help to establish trust and understanding between cultures, to empower young people with disabilities.”
“This project is unique in the way it empowered students from across the world to be the architects of a new superhero that embodies their worldviews and the role models they would like to see. MTV Voices is the perfect platform to share their character with the world,” added Liquid Comics Co-Founder & CEO Sharad Devarajan. “Great superheroes have always been allegories to larger societal issues and the story of our generation is globalization and our ability to overcome regional and cultural differences to find our common humanity. These students and their experience together speak to the very best of that globalization in the years ahead.”
The Silver Scorpion tells the story of an Arab teenager, Bashir Bari, who loses his legs in a tragic accident. Consumed with anger and grief, Bashir retreats into a world of isolation, resentful of the pitiful looks and whispers of strangers. When he accidentally witnesses the murder of Tarek, a mysterious local metalsmith, Bashir is unwittingly chosen as the new guardian of an ancient power that has remained hidden for centuries. With new abilities allowing him to manipulate the metal around him, Bashir must rise above his personal grief and use this newfound gift to protect the world, while learning firsthand to embrace the values of tolerance and cooperation.
“MTV Voices is all about giving young people a platform to express ideas, aspirations, concerns about the world in a creative manner”, said John Jackson, VP of Social Responsibility, Viacom International Media Networks. “The Silver Scorpion project and how its super hero was conceived absolutely reflects that core value and is a natural fit for MTV Voices. Through the story of the super hero, the young Americans and Syrians involved with the project have found a way of sharing their values with the world, and MTV Voices is delighted to bring that to our audience, encouraging them to engage with us on the narrative, the ideas and the vision”.
The Open Hands Initiative hopes that this project will serve to help American citizens reach out to the Arab world and build connections during what has become a period of dramatic change. The Open Hands Initiative worked with many young people and their families in Syria on the project before the current period of unrest. The Silver Scorpion web series on MTV Voices will also be promoted globally through iEARN (International Education and Resource Network), which reaches 45,000 schools and youth organizations in over 130 countries.
Hamza Jaka, one of the youth participants who helped create the Silver Scorpion added, “Working on the Silver Scorpion comic taught me a lot of things, the most important of which was that people change can the world. As young people, we often don’t realize the power of our actions, but, no matter how young we are, or where we’re from, if we work together, we can change the world.”
“There is no better time to extend a hand of friendship and compassion to the people of Syria,” said Mr. Snyder.
To view the animated series, please visit http://voices.mtv.co.uk/category/silver-scorpion/.