It’s a special week at our headquarters in Portland. That’s because Mercy Corps is hosting the opening of Darkness & Light, a special exhibition raising awareness for the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa and DC Entertainment’s We Can Be Heroes giving campaign.
The tour — next stopping at San Diego’s Comic Con, followed by Atlanta and Chicago — showcases a collection of original artwork inspired by DC Comics’ Justice League characters paired with photographs of the real-life heroes who are fighting hunger in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
But how exactly did Mercy Corps end up with a Lego sculpture of Superman in our building?
From crisis to heroic campaign
Last year, on July 20, famine was declared in Somalia — the first time a hunger crisis had reached that magnitude in the Horn of Africa in 21 years. More than 12 million people — a population the size of Oregon, Washington and Idaho combined — were at risk of starvation.
Meanwhile, the media was giving little mention of what was quickly becoming the worst hunger crisis in 60 years. Although many generous Mercy Corps donors were giving to this new emergency, without news coverage, it wasn’t receiving the volume of donations needed to truly fund the challenging work our team was facing in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
It was the time to get creative and look for a new opportunity to raise awareness for the Horn of Africa.
Inspired by the 1986 movement around the famine in Ethiopia (remember Live Aid and “We Are the World”?), we had an idea. Mercy Corps’ CEO Neal Keny-Guyer called someone he knew at Time Warner. It was a long shot, like shooting from the half-court line…of a court 50 yards away. But an hour later, we received a response from the Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner, and they wanted to learn more.
Warner Bros. owns DC Entertainment — or as many of us would know them, DC Comics. In 1986, DC Comics produced a comic book called “Heroes Against Hunger” featuring Batman and Superman fighting famine in Ethiopia, with all proceeds going to families in need.
Seeing the immediate needs at hand 25 years later, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment reconnected with this history of giving and the new We Can Be Heroes campaign was born. The two-year initiative uses the iconic comic book characters to spread the word about the crisis and raise support for the work that Mercy Corps, Save the Children and International Rescue Committee are doing to feed families and help them rebuild. DC Entertainment is matching the first $1 million in donations to the cause.
How you can be a hero
And now there’s a new opportunity to connect with our heroes — Batman, Superman, Catwoman, but most importantly, the aid workers, medical volunteers and others working nonstop in the field to save lives in the Horn of Africa. Darkness & Light: Art Inspired by Heroes & Villains, Hope & Heroism is a one-of-a-kind art and education exhibit featuring some incredible exclusive art, including a large-scale painting by DC Entertainment co-publisher Jim Lee and intricate Lego sculptures of the characters themselves.
It is also an opportunity to learn about and see how this crisis is affecting families first-hand — photos from Mercy Corps and the other agencies show how they have been forced to leave their homes and search for food, water and basic health care. But there is also hope — the famine was downgraded in February and we are helping people return home and build stronger resources to withstand future cycles of drought and hunger.
If you are in Portland, stop by our headquarters downtown to see the exhibit through this Saturday, June 30. As it travels around the country, you’ll have also the chance to check it out at Comic-Con in San Diego (July 9-15), in Atlanta (August 4-13) and in Chicago (September 19-26). Click here for more information.
It’s incredible to see such a huge media spotlight shone on this issue through DC Entertainment’s involvement. The We Can Be Heroes ad campaign, the media outreach and other initiatives like this exhibit are raising awareness and funds that are quite literally saving lives. This means so much to me personally, to all of our staff, and particularly our teams on the frontlines in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya who are seeing that people truly care.
You can join us in the fight against hunger: Spread the word and donate to We Can Be Heroes.>