It’s time for Savannah audiences to finally meet The Astrals, a local, anonymous community service group that uses the imagery and anonymity of superheroes to help people feel comfortable reaching out for help. They say they’ve been active for about a year now, and the group includes The Knight, Reflex, Strix and Apex.
You’ll get a chance to meet them at 8 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Bay Street Theater during their fundraising event, a collaboration with Stage Front and Reach Out and Read.
Founding member of The Astrals, The Knight, recently spoke with Do Savannah about their fundraiser, their mission and how they use their “secret identities” to help our community.
Do: Tell us about your event, why it was created and how guests can get tickets.
The Knight: “... a fundraiser was always something we've wanted to do, and we wanted to kick off the new year with one to not only support such a great cause, but to also show the community how serious we are with our goals. There's no fee for entry. Our goal initially was getting as many authority figures/other community service groups at the event. However, if anyone else is interested in attending, they are 100 percent welcomed to attend.”
Do: Any highlights of the event you are most looking forward to?
The Knight: “... I can't speak for the rest of the team, but for me I'm very excited to also treat this event as a sort of ‘community reveal’ for the team. We've been around longer than people would realize, and letting people know we're here whilst staying anonymous has had its challenges.
“But, I believe this event is going to kick off a new chapter for the team, which makes me incredibly excited. I'm also excited to get the chance to meet more people at the event, answer questions and build relationships throughout the community.
“Lastly, for anyone who might be fans of the medium that has, of course, inspired how we keep ourselves anonymous, we're also unveiling something pretty special at the event that would bring a little fantasy into reality. I'm really excited to see how the community reacts to that unveiling. It'll be very ‘illuminating.’”
Do: Why did you see a need in the community for The Astrals, and why is anonymity so important to your cause?
“This is always a tricky one to answer, if I'm being honest. When people hear the name of the group, the nicknames and even what we'll be wearing at the event, it can seem like we only did this to ‘play hero.’
“... we all were seeing situations play out that people knew were happening, yet no one was saying anything directly to the right people. As strange as it may seem, people preferred their information going through a third party, as long as it eventually went to those right people.
“So, before we jumped in the deep end and got costumes, we originally would contact people, look into situations, but use those nicknames as a way to keep ourselves anonymous. Then, when we collected as much as we could, we would send it directly to the police.
“It was only when those people who wanted to talk wanted to meet us or people wanted to join the cause that we realized in order to continue to keep our identities safe, we'd also have to conceal them in person.
“But, unlike other anonymous groups, we didn't want to feel ominous. So, we ended up using the imagery of the superhero, and that ended up working really well.”
“The anonymity is vital because of a few reasons. ... I feel it's important for those who are reaching out to us anonymously because it makes them feel safer and more comfortable telling their info. Second, for us it's important to keep our identities out of the picture for the safety of ourselves and the people we care about. Lastly, and this is based on how this past year has gone, I feel as if people want something like this.
“What I mean by that is, I have been shocked at how trusting people have been of us with their information, or how willing the police have been at working with us, even if it is just sending e-mails or dropping off information.
“The reason I'm shocked is because … on paper, this idea of dressing up to help the community sounds like something that shouldn't have worked, but it is. I wouldn't be doing it this way if it hadn't. ... If this ‘fantasy to reality’ way helps people feel confident enough to reach out, or even feel inspired enough to not be a bystander when something wrong is happening, then I will continue doing it this way for as long as I can."
Do: What other projects/events do you have planned?
The Knight: “We have a couple goals/plans in mind. I think the first one people will see shortly after the fundraiser are other ways to raise funds for homeless shelters and charities throughout the city. We're actually in the process of working with local comic book store, Planet Fun … and working on an ‘inspired by real events’ comic book line based on the team. ... The hope is that the funds the comics raise will all go directly to various shelters and charities.
“... We've been trying to help out different shelters the best we can, and sometimes they've reached out to us for financial help, so partnering with local businesses to help raise funds for these shelters periodically could really help out in the long run.
“... To have some kind of headquarters would be a dream. We've had to meet victims or people who want to share intel in public locations like parking garages and alleyways. You can see why we'd want a secure place for them to feel safe to meet us at.
“... I encourage anyone who wants to join, or see how they can help, to reach out to us. … We want to help Savannah anyway that we can and the more chances we get at doing that, the better we feel as a team.
“I would just like to again thanks Stage Front and Reach Out and Read for such an incredible opportunity. I'd also like to thank to Sav Sculpture for helping the looks of our members for the event.
“If anyone would like to reach out to us about intel, questions, how to join — anything at all — our e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow our Facebook page at The Astrals - Savannah, GA, and our Instagram at theastralsofsavannahga …”