Big E’s ‘Our Heroes Rock!’ Highlights Overlooked Stories of Black History

Author:
Publish date:
Promotional image for Our Heroes Rock

The New Day is not the only tag team that features Big E.

Ettore “Big E” Ewen has also partnered up with journalist Andreas Hale and graphic designer Jonathan Davenport to create Our Heroes Rock!, a first-of-its-kind 3D animated series that will allow viewers to explore heroic figures in Black history with the added elements of hip hop and science fiction.

“We also want to branch out to all the unsung heroes of America in our community and culture,” Hale says. “Women’s history, Latino history, the LGBT community, we want to tell the stories of the unsung heroes.”

Hale’s journalism career spans the past decade and a half, and he is currently the senior editor of combat sports for Sporting News. He has also developed a friendship with Big E, one of WWE’s most talented and popular performers, and Davenport, a graphic artist who also designs some of the most spectacular gear for WWE talent. The three have joined forces to create a series designed to help children learn important, yet often hidden, details from American history, as well as inspire people to rewrite the nation’s history books.

“We want to change perspective on Black history and our heroes,” Hale says. “Instead of learning about the French and Indian War, maybe now you’ll learn something about Fred Hampton or Malcolm X or Ida B. Wells or Jane Elliott. America is a melting pot, but our history books don’t reflect that. Our history books make it seem like the only heroes worth talking about are white men. There are very few women and very few people of color. Even when we talk about Martin Luther King, who we hope to do an episode on down the line, there are so many layers behind what he did beyond the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

“If you’re a white kid that’s never heard of Emmett Till, how can you sympathize or empathize? Then you fast forward to 2021, and we’re still seeing similar things, so we really want to broaden people’s perspective on people of color and recognize and acknowledge our cultural differences and appreciate each other.”

The genesis for Our Heroes Rock! was the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer. This led to a conversation with Hale on The New Day’s podcast, which was a powerful opportunity to share and a spark for future events.

“We discussed our feelings, our very visceral feelings, about George Floyd and how African Americans are treated in this country,” Hale says. “Me and Big E have been friends for a while, and this is something we’ve talked about. Even around ‘KofiMania,’ we discussed how to push the culture forward, in terms of making it feel fun and creating something that’s relatable. And that podcast got a tremendous response, and E continued to ask, ‘What can I do to continue this conversation?’”

Big E refused to allow that discussion to dissipate. There was a watershed WWE moment when he and Kofi Kingston took a knee in the ring during a live broadcast of SmackDown. He wore armbands during his matches with the names of victims of police brutality. Then he and Davenport began creating new wrestling gear that featured civil rights heroes and inventors.

“Big E and Johnny got together, and they came up with the idea of merging School House Rock with African American history,” Hale says. “I thought it was incredible. I called Big E and said this was an idea with legs, and it shouldn’t be limited to just on-screen in WWE. That’s how this all came together, and then we started the Kickstarter to gauge what the temperature would be for interest.”

Those discussions helped ignite Our Heroes Rock! The next step in the equation was fundraising, which, thus far, has been a roaring success. With weeks still remaining before the end of the campaign, the Kickstarter has already twice surpassed its goal. The aim is to have the pilot ready six months after the Kickstarter is complete.

“We’re working on our stretch goals now, which allowed us to have Erick the Architect of the Flatbush Zombies as the music producer for our pilot,” Hale says. “The Kickstarter runs through the final night of WrestleMania, and we want people to have a piece and be a part of this project.”

With a background in music journalism and entertainment, Hale has tapped into his vast collection of resources, connecting with a variety of friends to add a unique touch to the series. This led to Rapsody narrating the pilot, which will detail the story of Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to integrate an elementary school in the South.

“We want people to have an emotional attachment,” Hale says. “So in the Ruby Bridges story, kids can learn attributes about themselves—like being brave and tolerant.

“The only way to end something like racism is by teaching empathy and sympathy for other cultures. We should recognize and acknowledge our cultural differences, and we should also be able to recognize and acknowledge the heroes, no matter who they are, what color they are, what gender they are, or what sexuality they are.”

In addition to such a compelling series, Big E fans will be delighted to know that the reigning intercontinental champion will play an integral part of the on-air product. Coming alive in animation as “E-Tour the Robot,” Big E will take viewers on a journey of the show’s “Hall of Heroes”.

“You need a big, charming voice to make this work, and that’s Big E,” Hale says. “He is a big, boisterous, passionate voice. The fun-loving man you see on screen, that’s him—and his passion is to change the world. There is no better person for this project. If you want to put history on someone, you’ve got to put it on Big E’s broad shoulders.”

Our Heroes Rock! offers a very meaningful opportunity to widen people’s perspective, especially in a country that is still struggling with the harming effects of racism. This represents a chance to discuss heroic figures that have been overlooked for too long, as well as include significant representation to the country’s most important figures. And for Hale, he hopes this makes a difference both afar and at home.

“We have a diversity issue everywhere, and the world can be an ugly place, so we want to do something at the ground level that gets directly to kids,” Hale says. “I don’t want someone else’s kids harming my kid, so we’re putting our best foot forward to change all our kids’ lives. I hope we can do this together.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.