PHILADELPHIA -- Acori Honzo remembers growing up in the 1980s playing with action figures resembling heroes like He-Man and Luke Skywalker.
But he doesn't remember playing with any toys that looked like him.
"I didn't feel sad when I played with these things, but, what if, what if," he asked. "What if I had a little, say, Langston Hughes, or if I had Harriet Tubman?"
Honzo, 43, decided to use his lifelong art skills to answer that question retroactively.
"I noticed there weren't that many African American sculptures, so I just started making them myself," he said.
Now, Honzo is notable for sculpting lifelike dolls of Malcom X, Harriet Tubman, Tupac Shakur, and other Black figures throughout American history.
"I'm thinking about that individual person, acknowledging the excellence of my people," he said. "Because our story is the American story."
Honzo's skills landed him a space at Cherry Street Pier, an innovative hub for artists jetting out into the Delaware River. Before the pandemic, guests could stroll through and shadow artists as they worked.
Even more, it was a collaborative space to spark new ideas among city artists.
"To be honest, I didn't even think I would be able to have a space in here because I didn't think they would get my Black figurines," he said. "And it was the exact opposite."
Honzo hopes to convert his own success and support system into inspiration for all walks of life.
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Artist sculpts lifelike figurines of Black heroes throughout American history