Student by day, cartoonist crusader by last period bell

 (Courtesy of Sy Abudu/NYCLU)

(Courtesy of Sy Abudu/NYCLU)

Sasha Matthews has a superpower. Armed with her Copic markers, the 14-year-old can draw cartoons that inspire, inform and provoke. Just ask former First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris — both women are fans of Sasha’s work.

In fifth grade, Sasha’s talent revealed itself when she had to draw three comic books for class. Looking at her creations, “Sitting Bull,” “Plant Girl” and “Pompeii,” it was hard to deny she had a gift. Sasha continued sketching for fun, but after she heard President Donald Trump’s comments disparaging women and attacking minority communities, she decided to use her art to make a public statement.

Sasha launched a fundraiser called “Everyday Superheroes.” Anyone who made a donation could commission her to illustrate their friends and family as superheroes. Through her drawings, Sasha transformed teachers, trumpeters and microbiologists into caped, spandex-clad crusaders.  

 Sasha's "Everyday Superheroes" fundraiser for ACLU. (Courtesy of Sasha Matthews)

Sasha's "Everyday Superheroes" fundraiser for ACLU. (Courtesy of Sasha Matthews)

In an interview with West Side Rag, Sasha explained the fundraiser's aim: “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.” Through “Everyday Superheroes,” Sasha raised $11,635.83 for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a non-profit organisation seeking to defend the rights of U.S. citizens.

Sasha continues to use her art activism to start conversations on issues she is passionate about on her Twitter and Instagram. In December 2017, Sasha posted a cartoon criticising the publishing company Scholastic for forcing students to relinquish copyrights when submitting work to the company’s Art & Writing Awards. Scholastic saw her post online and agreed to look into a solution. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Sasha posted a series of cartoons on Twitter to protest gun violence. And this month, she created a four page comic about the ACLU’s class action lawsuit about migrant family separation.

 Sasha at the "Everyday Superheroes" book launch. (Courtesy of Sasha Matthews)

Sasha at the "Everyday Superheroes" book launch. (Courtesy of Sasha Matthews)

When she’s not drawing, Sasha can be found LARPing with friends (a live action role-playing game she claims is “like Dungeons and Dragons, but better”) or flipping through old issues of The New Yorker. She isn’t sure if wants to become a professional artist when she’s older — lawyers get to argue for a living and Sasha finds that pretty appealing.

But for the moment, Sasha plans to continue with her art and encourage other girls to speak out about the injustices they witness. “If you don’t practice saying something now, you won’t say something as an adult,” warns Sasha. With every cartoon and comic, the 14-year-old proves that superheros come in all shapes and sizes — capes and spandex optional.


 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

McKinley Tretler is communications manager at Malala Fund. She’s on the hunt for the perfect Oreo milkshake and to befriend Mindy Kaling.