An animated film you likely haven't heard of features a brand new kind of superhero.

A stunning animated movie set to hit U.S. theaters on Feb. 2 stars a new kind of "superhero" — the kind every kid (and adult) could use right now.

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero,” directed by Ayman Jamal and Khurram H. Alavi, celebrates the totally true, incredible story of an Ethiopian slave, born in Mecca around 580 AD to a former Abyssinian princess. And if the film lives up to the promise of its lavishly animated new trailer, it'll be a treat for the eyes — and self-confidence — to a whole generation of kids.  

The film features British-Nigerian “Suicide Squad” and "Lost" actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in the leading role, bringing to life an adapted version of Bilal’s inspiring journey from young boy to fierce fighter for justice: ‌‌“A boy with a dream of becoming a great warrior is abducted with his sister and taken to a land far away from home. Thrown into a world where greed and injustice rule all, Bilal finds the courage to raise his voice and make a change,” according to the film's website.


Image via Bilal: A New Kind of Hero/Facebook/Barajoun Entertainment‌

Now more than ever, young moviegoers need exposure to a range of stories, cultures, and identities on the silver screen. (Plus, as Disney's "Moana" and Pixar's "Coco" have proven time and again, these stories have the potential to shake up the box office.)

But the story of a young black Muslim standing against the forces of corruption, oppression, and evil is one that young kids rarely get to see.

It's especially important for young people who are Muslim themselves, many who have never lived in a time when their religious and/or racial identity wasn't subject to attack. And harmful stereotypes and xenophobic comments about those of Arabic descent from the Trump administration has led to a meteoric rise in bullying in America.

According to an investigation by BuzzFeed News, there have been more than 50 reported incidents of students across the U.S. using Donald Trump’s name or message to bully and harass their classmates.

The statistics are even more alarming for today's Muslim schoolchildren. A 2017 study from the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding reported that 42% of Muslim families said their children experienced Islamophobic bullying at their schools. The study also reported that one in four of those incidents were perpetrated from teachers and school officials.

Image via Bilal: A New Kind of Hero/Facebook/Barajoun Entertainment‌

‌‌As you may have guessed from the name, "Bilal: A New Breed of Hero" is literally kicking off a whole new genre of superheroes.

And that's exactly what the film’s director Ayman Jamal intended. In an interview with Shadow and Act, Jamal said superheroes like Superman inspired him to make the film. Though he found motivation in major movie hits like "Braveheart" and "Malcolm X" during his adult years, he couldn’t find movies about real historical heroes from his culture when he was a child.

Jamal knew something needed be done when his five-year-old son said he wanted to be superman when he grew up. “I love Superman, but I wish he’d said something possible, and I wanted to create this," he stated in the interview. "To inspire kids with a real human superhero that they can aspire to. Superman is the reason I did this. I had to save my kid.”

The real-life Bilal's story is the stuff of a legend — he's been deemed “the voice of Islam.” One of the earliest converts to Islam, he became one of Prophet Muhammad’s most trusted companions. According to Islamic tradition, Prophet Muhammad also chose Bilal to be the first "muezzin" — the appointed person at a mosque who makes the call to prayer, or adhan, five times a day. — of the Abrahamic faith.

Image via Bilal: A New Kind of Hero/Facebook‌/Barajoun Entertainment

To give the story the dazzling treatment he thought kids like his deserved, it took eight years and more than 5,000 hours of research, the work of actual scientists, and more than 250 animators.

All so Jamal's son — and other young children like him — could find inspiration in a new kind of superhero.

“We hired two forensic scientists to model the characters based on these descriptions and what we know about the tribes of the time,” Jamal added. "It took six months to design each character and we're really proud of it. We're showing the characters exactly as described in historical texts, not just using our imagination. We've spent 5,000 hours of research to develop clothes and props too."

It took a lot of resources, money, time, and hard work to produce the film, but it was worth it, because representation matters.

Courtesy of The Commit Partnership
True

For Festus Oyinwola, a 19-year-old first-generation college student from Dallas, Texas, the financial burden of attending college made his higher education dreams feel like a faraway goal.

As his high school graduation neared, Oyinwola feared he would have to interrupt his educational pursuits for at least a year to save up to attend college.

That changed when Oyinwola learned of the Dallas County Promise, a new program launched by The Commit Partnership, a community navigator that works to ensure that all North Texas students receive an equitable education.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The Dallas County Promise covers any cost of tuition not included in financial aid grants. To date, nearly 60 high schools in Dallas County currently participate in this initiative.

It pairs students — including Oyinwola — with a success coach for the following three years of their education.

To ensure that students like Oyinwola have the opportunity to build a solid foundation, The Commit Partnership is supported by businesses like Capital One who are committed to driving meaningful change in Dallas County through improved access to education.

The bank's support comes as part of its initial $200 million, multi-year commitment to advance socioeconomic mobility through the Capital One Impact Initiative.

Keep Reading Show less

A family of kittens in western Turkey has won people's hearts with an emergency visit to a hospital.

Not an animal hospital—a human hospital. And it wasn't a pet owner who brought them in, but the mama cat herself.

According to Gulf Today, staff had previously left food and water for the stray orange tabby outside the Izmer, Turkey hospital, but that morning she kept meowing outside. Finally, she fetched one of her kittens and carried it right into the hospital, clearly on a mission. She wasn't scared or shy as hospital personnel cleared the path for her. With her baby in her mouth, she trotted through the hallways, seemingly looking for someone to help.

Medical personnel examined the kitten along with its siblings and consulted with a veterinary clinic.

As it turned out, the kittens had an eye infection. Mama kitty's maternal instincts are really something else. Just look at this sweetness caught on video:

Keep Reading Show less
RODNAE Productions via Pexels
True

The past year has changed the way a lot of people see the world and brought the importance of global change to the forefront. However, even social impact entrepreneurs have had to adapt to the changing circumstances brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.

"The first barrier is lack of funding. COVID-19 has deeply impacted many of our supporters, and we presume it will continue to do so. Current market volatility has caused many of our supporters to scale back or withdraw their support altogether," said Brisa de Angulo, co-founder of A Breeze of Hope Foundation, a non-profit that prevents childhood sexual violence in Bolivia and winner of the 2020 Elevate Prize.

To help social entrepreneurs scale their impact for the second year in a row, The Elevate Prize is awarding $5 million to 10 innovators, activists, and problem–solvers who are making a difference in their communities every day.

"We want to see extraordinary people leading high-impact projects that are elevating opportunities for all people, elevating issues and their solutions, or elevating understanding of and between people," The Elevate Prize website states.

Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Deitch, The Elevate Prize is dedicated to giving unsung social entrepreneurs the necessary resources to scale their impact and to ultimately help inspire and awaken the hero in all of us.

"The Elevate Prize remains committed to finding a radically diverse group of innovative problem solvers and investing unconventional and personalized resources that bring greater visibility to them as leaders and the vital work they do. We make good famous," said Carolina García Jayaram, executive director, Elevate Prize Foundation.

The application process will take place in two phases. Applicants have till May 5 for Phase 1, which will include a short written application. A select number of those applicants will then be chosen for Phase 2, which includes a more robust set of questions later this summer. Ten winners will be announced in October 2021.

In addition to money, winners will also receive support from The Elevate Prize to help amplify their mission, achieve their goals, and receive mentorship and industry connections.

Last year, 1,297 candidates applied for the prize.

The 10 winners include Simprints, a UK-based nonprofit implementing biometric solutions to give people in the developing world hope and access to a better healthcare system; ReThink, a patented, innovative app that detects offensive messages and gives users a chance to reconsider posting them; and Guitars Over Guns, an organization bridging the opportunity gap for youth from vulnerable communities through transformational access to music, connectivity, and self-empowerment.

You can learn more about last year's winners, here.

If you know of someone or you yourself are ready to scale your impact, apply here today.