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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Dr. José Morey

A minority-owned social impact production studio, Ad Astra Media was founded by Dr. José Morey (otherwise known as Dr. Intergalactic!) in 2019 because “I saw a need to create diverse stories that were by us, for us.” In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Dr. Morey shared with us some of the content that Ad Astra Media has created for kids, its powerful effect on communities around the world, and what Hispanic Heritage Month means to him.

Can you briefly explain the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month and what it means to you?

To me, Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the core of what being Latine is: familia. It is a celebration of your given and chosen community.

This is the essence of our heritage. We honor our elders and esteem them for their knowledge, their wisdom, their magic. We honor our parents for their support and steadfastness. We honor our children, for in them lies all that our community is and will be.

What are some meaningful ways we can honor and celebrate Hispanic Heritage month as a family and community?

There are many ways. Spend time with them. Call them. Understand that if one of us has a problem or is sad, then that should be the burden of all of us. Or that if one of us rejoices, then that should be the celebration of all of us. As communities and allies, support endeavors of Latine ventures, whether it be books, comics, movies, the bodega on the corner, or the growing small business down the street.

Can you talk a little about why you founded Ad Astra Media?

I saw that many kids from all underrepresented communities didn’t find community in many STEAM circles. I wanted to create stories that would plant the seeds for their future dreams. I wanted kids from BIPOC, LGBTQ, neurodiverse, and mixed ability communities to have heroines and heroes who looked like them. To show them through animation, gaming, books, and comics that their future was literally boundless.

Kids are dreamers. And if they can see it, they can be it.

But too often kids from underserved communities have limited role models in popular media that come from STEAM fields, or worse, they have no representation at all. I also wanted to give creatives from those communities a platform to be able to tell their stories – the ones they didn’t get to see as they grew up. The stories that are too seldom told and yet are so often needed.

What is some of the content that you have produced which you are most proud of and why?

Good Night Little Astronaut and Good Night Little Doctor Book were our first two publications, and since then, we have been able to expand the series to eight books in over four different languages. Of special note is that we were able to translate books into Dari and Pashto to help when Afghan friends and neighbors came to the US after the war. I am still very proud of the work the team did to open up our content and welcome these families into our familia.

This series focuses on social-emotional learning for young boys and teaches boys about topics that tend to lead to toxic masculinity. For example, our “What are Tears for Momma” discusses the importance of young boys expressing emotions and why it is good and healthy to cry.

One of our original and longest running comics, the series follows a diverse group of kids who each represent the power of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). Through the lessons they learn from Dr. Intergalactic and his crew in space, the kids explore the universe around them and within them. This comic is available free digitally, and we have been able to do special projects outside the US with it.

My favorite would have to be a program we started in Valla de Bravo, Mexico, where we are teaching kids and their families from rural communities about climate change and sustainable farming. The project started with 150 families and has expanded to over 1500 families.

We have seen kids’ nutritional deficiencies disappear due to improved diets, and with the excess funds their backyard farms produce, they have been able to send all their kids to school.

This has been particularly empowering for the girls in the community who were often left out of educational opportunities. They all really resonate with our Intergalactic Academy comic character Sophie, who comes from Mexico City and is the Bearer of Engineering. It is amazing to see what a simple comic and representation can do in the lives of a single child, let alone an entire community. Kids who don't even have electricity in their homes are now dreaming of going to space and being astronauts. It's the very essence of what Ad Astra Media sets out to do.

For more information on Ad Astra Media’s current and upcoming projects, please visit https://www.adastramedia.org.

What advice would you give to creators who wish to make Latino and Hispanic heritage part of their daily work and not just limit it to a date or month every year?

I think if you celebrate our core values of familia and community, you can celebrate our heritage year-round. If we follow the adage of the Golden Rule and see ourselves in the world around us, whether that be in our neighbor across the street – or across the ocean – and love them as ourselves, then I believe we are living these values year round.

For creatives, I would say seek out those that are like-minded and surround yourself with them. Seek out other creatives or companies that are not just creating great content but that have impact and community at the core of their creations.

It is possible to both do well and do good.

Find your tribe and place of abundance. Do the work. Help others, whether it’s just one person or many more. As you do, you will continue to build your familia and continue to celebrate our heritage every day.

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Since its first historic performance in 1958, Ailey has been innovating and evolving the perception of American modern dance throughout the world. Noggin is honored to partner with them in helping kids all over get up moving, learning, and expressing their feelings through dance. Because movement has meaning when we dance how we’re feeling!