MADEatREC featuring Dr. Sheena Howard

MADEatREC ft. Dr. Sheena Howard

MADEatREC is a series focused on highlighting cool sh*t our members are creating, planning or collaborating on.Think of these spotlights as an inside look into the life of a creative entrepreneur atREC. This next feature is with Dr. Sheena Howard a writer and educator bringing a new voice to black authors in the comic industry.Scroll to check out the conversation with Dr. Howard and our Creative Director.


PreviousNextCan you introduce yourself — tell us more about who you are, where you’re from, and what you do creatively?My name is Dr. Sheena C. Howard. I’m a Professor of Communication, creative entrepreneur and image activist, where I use writing and production through various mediums to challenge the status quo. I’m from Southwest Philadelphia – where I was born and raised and currently reside with my mom, 4 year old and cat.

Photos by: Kevin Kilkenny

Could you touch on why amplifying typically underrepresented voices is so important to you personally and in your industry? What led you to take on this responsibility?Historically the representations of Black people in media have been so damaging to us as a people (same for other minorities). Many of us are trying to navigate the world, trying to cope with and defy stereotypes that people in the power have placed on us and those stereotypes were created and reproduced through media – media in which we historically did not have any control over. Jim Crow started as a song and a dance before Jim Crow laws were implemented – so images and performance as entertainment has power and influence over how we operate and how we are treated in the world. I want to be someone who creates and produces multi-faceted characters and stories about people who are largely misrepresented or underrepresented in media and that everyone can appreciate and learn from. My goal is to enrich the landscape of media to tell the stories people are scared to talk about or refuse to acknowledge because they aren’t profitable or popular or easy to sell. Also, stories about experiences people are unfamiliar with lead us to more understanding, empathy and connection. We are all better for it.


What led you into breaking into an industry (that historically) hasn’t had many women, let alone black women, playing big roles?The industry kind of found me. I used to hate when I would watch super successful people say “it found me” because that is not actionable advice but for me I wrote an Eisner award-winning book as a result of my dissertation work at Howard University.My dissertation is on African-American communication and gender dynamics in Black comics, with a focus on The Boondocks comic strip. From there, I was shocked by the lack of nonfiction books on the history of Black people in comics. I thought I would be able to trace the history of Black comic creators by going to the Howard University library and checking out a book or two – unfortunately, at the time, there was no such book.That is why I put together my first book, Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation, from that book.I became the first Black woman to win an Eisner and from there that designation continued to follow me and call me back into the world of comics. Eventually, editor Joe Illidge (DC Comics), asked me to co-write my first comic book series, Superb. That was a big hit and now I’ve been writing comics ever since. Before writing comics I had a few nonfiction books, was writing op-eds for The Huffington Post and writing a documentary film called Remixing Colorblind. I felt very trapped and finally reached the point to just give my energy more to where I want to be and less at where I currently was. It’s definitely been a challenging transition but I honestly know it was the best decisions for me.. I’m so much happier and it honestly has set a fire underneath me b/c I still need to make up financially for the hours I’m losing at my day job b/c I still have the same bills and life doesn’t stop. Balancing my creative freedom has been interesting to say the least though, I find myself working more at night now b/c my brain just is so active when my body is so use to me being up at 5am for my day job. This has caused me to have actually not even be sleeping as much as someone would think simply b/c I don’t want to get in the habit of wasting day time by sleeping and being up all late in the morning. I’m honestly still trying to figure out the best avenue for me.. and so far I’ve been letting my late nights become my creative idea process where I come up with the plan and then let the day side be when I execute the ideas... it’s all about balance and I’m slowly getting there day by day.

Who are some of your inspirations (in any medium)?The creative women that inspire me are across various mediums. They are Tina Turner, Oprah Winfrey, Brene Brown, Toni Morrison, and Issa Rae. They all have traits, experiences, and accomplishments that I admire and hope to embody in some way. I have a picture of each of them on my wall – it’s one of the first things I see in the morning to remind me of where I am going, who I want to be connected to and some of the characteristics I want to embody.

You are a creative who has quite literally been able to leverage their talents to create a sustainable career & more importantly make money. We can't ignore how taxing & freeing being a creative entrepreneur is. How did you find the balance of using your creative gifts while staying focused on your creative growth & business goals?It is a continued work in progress. Recently (since joining REC), I have really put a lot of effort and attention towards growing as an entrepreneur so that I never have to be dependent on an institution that I don’t own to support myself or my family. The biggest things that have helped me grow as a creative entrepreneur over the last 2 years and things that I would suggest to any creative trying to bring in a steady income from their work is1) Get an accountant that can manage the financial side of your business2) Get a coach (Creative coach or business coach)3) Invest business income back into the growth of your business.The last one was VERY confusing to me a few years ago. I knew this was the advice that business people would always share, but it just didn’t make sense to me.Especially when any money you make from your creative work at the beginning, you probably literally need it to pay a loan or eat. I also didn’t know what exactly I should be investing in, when my business was making money.Now that those things are clear to me, I truly feel the sky is the limit for my entrepreneurship financial growth and it feels great. Along the way I’ve been sharing these creative entrepreneurship tips, techniques as well as grants and resources over on my mailing list and socials which can be accessed by going to


PreviousNextIn an ideal world where do you see your career in 5 years.In 5 years, I’ll be in a condo on the water with at least 4 books published and the freedom to create my days in a way that gives me the maximum ability to impact lives and live the highest version of self – I will have a book in each of the following categories published - a personal development book, a comic book with a major publishing company, a creative entrepreneurship book and a planner for creatives. My academic branding and coaching business – Power Your Research - will be a 6-figure company and will have helped numerous academics amplify their platform.I’ve published one book a year since my first book publication in 2013 and any years I’ve skipped a year, its because I published 2 works the year before or year after. This all started with a simple goal – to publish one book by the time I was 30. Now, I make it a point to publish one a year. It’s an amazing feeling. In 5 years, I see a New York Times bestseller, a critically acclaimed comic book and a self-published book that I am able to live off of financially for years to come. I also see myself at a major awards ceremony – which one, I don’t know but that’s what I have been envisioning. I just really plan to step my writing up as well as my platform and academic branding business.Any advice for others who are looking to begin their own creative endeavor but are unsure how to start? What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it is not about the number of followers you have but about the number of lives you’re impacting in a positive way. If I had 1 million followers but could only sell one book to my followers, that wouldn’t be impact. So, I’d focus on the current people who support you, and the rest will come as a result of giving value to the people who are paying attention. Also, writing is hard and it takes long (at least for me), just like the process of many creative pursuits, and when it gets hard or I feel like I don’t want to write, I think about the person whose life I can impact – I literally visualize the final product, holding the final product and an image of the person I am trying to reach. That gets me through to the finish line every time.


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