12-YEAR-OLD LOCAL ARTIST CREATES ‘EVERYDAY SUPERHEROES’ TO RAISE MONEY FOR THE ACLU

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Local artist Sasha Harmon Matthews working on one of her Everyday Superheroes.

By Carol Tannenhauser

A 12-year-old Upper West Side girl has found a way to fight the “sadness” she feels about, what she diplomatically calls, “current events.”

Sasha Harmon Matthews – already a published comic-book author and artist – has launched the “Everyday Superheroes Project” to raise both her spirits and money for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In less than a month, the seventh grader from MS 54 has created and sold 33 commissioned cartoon likenesses of people, from cookie bakers to microbiologists, highlighting their everyday superpowers.

everyday superhero set for WSR 550

As of last Thursday (before the mail arrived), Sasha had raised $1,885, with a backlog of 10 orders. It takes her between 1½ and 2½ hours to complete a drawing. She provides a digital file and is mailed a check or cash, which she deposits in a bank account set up for the project.

“What if this gets out of hand?” WSR asked.

“I’ll drop out of school,” she deadpanned.

Sasha described the thinking behind her project: “I wanted to do something that was actually important. ‘Everyday Superheroes’ is a fundraiser. 100% of the money made is donated to the ACLU. The superhero part is because I think a lot of people feel a little bit powerless and maybe they’re sad and depressed about the same ‘current events.’ The point is to make people feel empowered. Everyone has something that makes them special, even if it seems ordinary.”

The superheroes Sasha draws are all around us. “They’re you,” she said, “what you do or are interested in that makes you an interesting person.” Like her mom, Amy Harmon, a New York Times reporter.

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Or, one of the first everyday superheroes she created, her father, Scott Matthews, a photographer whose work is frequently featured in WSR.

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Matthews used Sasha’s drawing of him as his profile picture on Facebook, explaining her plan to raise money for the ACLU and how to commission a drawing. The price would be determined by the purchaser. (Most have given between $50 and $150.) Within hours, four friends wrote back commissioning drawings. Then, friends of theirs wrote, and friends of theirs, and, soon, Sasha was drawing people she had never met, from as far away as California, Australia, and New Jersey.

Amy L., from Montclair, received her drawing as a gift from her business and life partner. After opening the file, she wrote, “I am seeing this RIGHT NOW at this moment and I am laughing and crying and absolutely blown away by this young woman. The hula hoops (even a tiny one for LOLA!) My hair (no longer very blonde but she nailed the messy style), my pink boots, my belt, my creative shirt. What a gift!! Oh Sasha Matthews Rumble Comics you are MY hero and I will treasure this always.”

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Sasha “nails” her subjects because she does her research. All are asked to send photographs of themselves and to fill out “super-questionnaires,” including three questions, as described by Sasha: “#1 What are three of your favorite colors, and if you don’t have three of them, I can make them up; #2 What is your special job, interest, hobby; and #3 How do you feel about capes? Mostly all have capes,” she said, “and are smiling, because people like to see themselves smiling.

“This project is really not just a response to Trump. It’s also for any other reason people might feel sad. Trump is probably the main shadow in people’s lives, but there’s also a lot of other things to be sad about. People can get in touch with their inner superheroes. I’m 12 and I raised almost $2,000 already, and I have to go to school and stuff. The point is, everyone has a different thing that makes them special. If you want to do something, do it. What I do is I draw. Someone else could mobilize their talent for charity.”

For information about how to commission an Everyday Superhero, go to rumblecomics.com.

Sasha Harmon Matthews is the author of Sitting Bull and Pompeii: Lost and Found. We profiled her after her Sitting Bull book was published when she was 10.

Be a West Side Rag superhero! Keep comments civil, or they will be deleted!

ART, NEWS | 34 comments | permalink
    1. EricaC says:

      Whatever your political views, I think this election has reminded us all that we need to participate – hopefully in a positive and creative way. Well done, Sasha – you are doing what we all should be doing.

    2. Karen says:

      What a great role model! Sasha proves that ordinary people can make a difference for the better! (though she is very talented artistically, so not quite “ordinary”!)

    3. Bruce Bernstein says:

      go Sasha!!!

      A real West Sider!! with a lot of common sense.

    4. Pamela says:

      Love Sasha’s story and we are the proud recipients of one of her Everyday Superheroes drawings (of my 11 yr old daughter) … which makes me smile every time I see it. Sasha proves that kids really can make a difference .. and is leaving her mark on this world. Proud to be in her circle of Superheroes.

    5. CB says:

      1) As soon as I can afford it, I’m going to commission a picture of my husband for his birthday!

      2) Am giggling madly about the capes thing, because I keep remembering the designer E-Mode from “The Incredibles” (voiced by Brad Bird) going on a “No capes!” rant.

      • lynn says:

        What’s the fee for a portrait?

        • She asks people to contribute as they see fit (most contributions have been $50 or $100, with greatest so far $150).

          • lynn says:

            Thank you for the reply about the fee. What an amazingly talented and intelligent child! And kudos to her for choosing the ACLU. Maybe the person who suggested that she help the homeless could concentrate his/her own efforts on working with the homeless instead of taking issue with where this child is directing her funds.

    6. Zeus says:

      Good work Sasha, but the ACLU has plenty of dough and maybe, just maybe, your great contribution could be pointed toward helping the homeless situation on the UWS and the city.

    7. StacyC says:

      Sasha is a hero to our community and so talented. What an awesome family.

    8. Marcia Newfield says:

      Very inspiring

    9. whatsupduck says:

      What an impressive young adult! Way to go, Sasha! Making the UWS proud! 🙂

    10. Independent says:

      Just curious, what if someone were interested in commissioning a portrait but only on the condition that the money go to a charity other than the ACLU, say a non-partisan, non-political one that were dedicated exclusively to helping veterans or disabled children?

      Also, what if someone who was happy about DJT being our President wanted to celebrate by commissioning a drawing of the First Family– The President, First Lady Melania and First Son Barron (or any one of them)– portrayed in capes as superheroes?

      • West Sider says:

        If you’d like to inquire about a portrait go to the website: rumblecomics.com.

      • UWS_lifer says:

        Really, Independent? Even on this nice, sweet article you have to try to pick some kid of conflict? Start a political debate when it is clearly not the time and/or place?

        Take a break and go outside for a walk. It’s absolutely beautiful outside. I recommend Riverside even though everyone seems to like Central Park better.

        There is more to life than politics and provocations.

        • Mark says:

          The best part is that he/she asks here rather than have the courage to ask a 12-year-old girl directly.

      • We discussed several charities, Sasha settled on ACLU — largely for “freedom of speech” reasons (which I don’t see as a “partisan” issue, and ACLU certainly has a record of also defending extreme right speech). Regardless, it was her decision. She wouldn’t accept a commission of the Trump family, unless it was the Trump family themselves commissioning it. Also note that in she does clearly explain that her project isn’t about Trump (which I think comes out more clearly toward the bottom).

        • UWS-er says:

          Thanks for this response. The ACLU has defended freedom of speech in ALL cases, as you point out, whether from the extreme right, extreme left or in between. Defending individual freedoms and liberties shouldn’t be seen as partisan or political. They’re a vital organization that has gone up against liberal and conservative administrations whenever civil liberties have been threatened.

    11. Maya Stein says:

      Fabulous, inspiring piece about a girl I hope the whole world finds out about.

    12. Carlin Meyer says:

      Sasha – you are my superhero! Way to go!!!!!

    13. Amy Tingle says:

      Oh my dear, Sasha. You are a brilliant bright light in this world. My superhero portrait is absolutely perfect and your idea and your attitude are exemplary. Each one of us needs to do only exactly what we can to make small changes that will lead to the larger ones. Brava!! And thank you for making me and my hula hoops shine.

    14. Judy says:

      Go Sasha! You’re an inspiration!!!

    15. UWS_lifer says:

      The President of the ACLU, Susan Herman, is a law professor at Brooklyn Law School and has been since the 1980s.

      I was lucky enough to take her Constitutional Law class as a first year law student (seemingly, a million years ago):).

      Anyway, the ACLU is one of the most important organizations our great country has and we should all support it, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, etc. I think it is the perfect choice for this project.

      Prof. Herman also wrote a great book a couple years ago called “Taking Liberties” if I remember correctly. Excellent read and more important today than has been in years. Check it out. (sorry for the blatant plug but what the heck, she is a brilliant and compassionate lady and deserves it!)

      It’s great to see this young lady following in her footsteps.

      • If anybody knows Professor Herman (or anybody else with ACLU) I’d love to find somebody there to tell about Sasha’s project…

        • UWS_lifer says:

          Hi Pops,

          Well, I haven’t spoken to her for decades and that was just as one of 120 students in her Con Law lectures.

          I am sure she would love to hear from you guys since she surely wants to encourage young, future lawyers (maybe?), to take an interest in the ACLU and the Constitution.

          I am sure you can find her email address either through the Brooklyn Law School website, the ACLU website or maybe even her publisher, Oxford University Press.

          I think it’s a GREAT idea to reach out to Prof. Herman or someone at the ACLU and establish a relationship and/or get involved somehow. Not only because it is noble and valuable to our society but it is exactly the kind of thing that Prep Schools, Colleges and Law Schools look at and love! I know that isn’t your motivation but hey, gotta think ahead.:)

          I can tell your child has a bright future ahead. Initiative and heart go a long way in this world.

    16. UWSSurfer says:

      Sasha’s cartoons are whimsical, witty and wonderful!

      I laughed at the hula-hooping Lola. I love the design the 2 bodies and hoops made.

      It is fantastic that Sasha is donating her talent to help the world. We have seen how powerfully the ACLU is standing up for what is right.

    17. Kelly says:

      This story is EXACTLY what I needed tonight! Heart, talent, inspiration, conviction, & leadership! 💖

    18. Kelly C says:

      This story is EXACTLY what I needed tonight! Heart, talent, inspiration, conviction, & leadership! 💖

    19. Independent says:

      In response to a number of the comments that were generated in response-to my original one or otherwise relate to it:

      1.) I thank Mr. Matthews for answering the inquiries I had made in my original comment. I appreciate his doing so without resorting, as others have, to attacking me.

      2.) Relevant quote from the article, with key words highlighted by me via italics and/or boldfacing:

      “This project is really not just a response to Trump. It’s also for any other reason people might feel sad. Trump is probably the main shadow in people’s lives, but there’s also a lot of other things to be sad about.

      With all due respect, I am afraid that simply is inconsistent with and rather emphatically contradicted by the contention, made by Mr. Matthews in his reply to me, that his daughter “does clearly explain that her project isn’t about Trump”.

      (“Not only about” is quite different than “Not about”. The distinction is far more than one of mere semantics and pointing it out is not mere pedantry.)

      3.) Concerning the ACLU, I note, first of all, that a careful reading of my comment would reveal that in it, I neither made any characterization — whether positive, negative or otherwise– of that organization nor offered any opinion of it.

      4.) Despite this fact, several posts were made that not only defended the ACLU but glowingly praised that organization– to the point of largely turning the thread into an all-out ACLU advertisement and love fest.

      That such individuals, as revealed in their comments, apparently find it inconceivable that reasonable people could hold a very different view of the ACLU than the one held by said commenters is instructive.

      5.) Perhaps the most useful and effective response to the reaction that my comment generated is to simply posit a hypothetical in which the situation were completely reversed. First, imagine that instead of DJT, Hillary Clinton were now President. Now, imagine a story exactly the same as this one but with just two key differences: all references to Trump substituted with ones to Hillary Clinton and the ACLU substituted with a charity that the typical WSR reader did not view favorably. Finally, imagine a comment being posted that was identical to mine, save, again, the obvious substitutions of Clinton for Trump. Would the reactions and comments in such a case be at all similar to the ones we have witnessed here? Would a commenter such as “UWS_lifer” characterize the story in my hypothetical as a “nice, sweet article” and accuse one who had made a comment such a mine (with the noted critical changes) of “trying to pick some kid [sic] of conflict”, “Start[ing] a political debate when it is clearly not the time and/or [sic] place” or inappropriately engaging-in “politics and provocations”?

      • Good grief, you’ve spent the past week writing up a 5 bullet point response to nitpick over the motives of a child trying to raise money for a charity?

        Including a need to dwell over the fact I wrote “not about” rather than “not only about” when you also clearly understood I was directing you to this passage, which you even quoted yourself: “This project is really not just a response to Trump. It’s also for any other reason people might feel sad. Trump is probably the main shadow in people’s lives, but there’s also a lot of other things to be sad about.”

        My daughter was inspired by current events to do something. And then she came to see the scope of her project as being about something more than what originally got her thinking.

        Direct all future correspondence to our 12-year-old lawyer, Mr. Poopy Head.

    20. Independent says:

      With the desire to part on a more positive and conciliatory note, I offer the following addendum to my previous comment.

      1.) Sasha’s drawings are cute and cheerful.

      2.) I wish the Matthews/Harmon family well.

      3.) Regarding my first sentence just below the quoted-text in point number two in my above comment:
      I regret any gratuitously confrontational tone that I fear may have resulted from (but was not intended by) my choice of words. If I had it to do over, I would shorten and tone-down that sentence.

      In this vein, I was similarly concerned over my use of the word contention. Reviewing the entry for contend at Dictionary.com, however, I find the fourth and final definition appropriate in the context that I used it and non-pejorative:

      verb (used with object)
      4. to assert or maintain earnestly:
      He contended that taxes were too high.

      4.) Finally, apropos the theme of people getting involved in the context of the Presidency, etc.:
      There is obviously a great and often unbridgable chasm between the respectable Upper West Siders that dominate in these parts and “Basket of Deplorables” dissidents such as myself. Nonetheless, two areas in which there would appear to exist considerable common ground and convergence between many on both sides of the divide are foreign policy (anti-interventionism;anti-war) and trade (None other than Bernie Sanders praised President Trump for scrapping TPP). I see potential in these areas for working together toward shared goals.