Coming off of a busy stretch, including work at New York Comic Con, Joe Hughes needs all of the rest he can get. However, he did manage to speak with the AmNews to briefly discuss his life and career aspirations, as he’s been named our Black New Yorker of the week.
Hughes is a native New Yorker, but his family, like many Black families in America, has its roots where the birds fly for the winter. “I was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens,” said Hughes. “My parents are both from the South.” Hughes’ mother and father are from Alabama and Florida respectively. “And they moved up to New York in the late ’60s to start a family.”
Attending different magnet schools around the borough of Queens, Hughes eventually found himself at one of the top high schools in the city (and the country): the Bronx High School of Science, where he graduated in the year 2000.
After high school, Hughes spent a year at Hunter College in Manhattan before transferring to the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he majored in philosophy and minored in journalism. Once his undergraduate career was over though, Hughes, like many college students, had a hard time figuring out the next step. He eventually found it in a place he’d never expect.
“After I was done with school, I took a job working at Forbidden Planet, a comic book store in Union Square,” said Hughes. “It was meant to be a part-time job while I figured out what I was doing with my life, but over a brief period of time, I suddenly found myself being a manager at one of the most well-known comic stores in the country. That eventually led to me getting a job as a sales representative for DC Comics.”
The career that Hughes never expected has led him to attend such highly regarded events as Comic-Con International in San Diego this year as well as the aforementioned New York Comic Con. While he feels honored to be able to attend these events, Hughes hopes to open the lane for ethnic minorities in the realm of entertainment. “The entertainment industry has made several transformations over the years, but at least one thing seems to remain constant: minorities are poorly represented. We’re well into the 21st century, yet the majority of us seem to be perfectly fine with Jake Gyllenhaal being cast to play a Persian and asked to fake an English accent while doing so,” Hughes said, referring to the recently released film “Prince of Persia.”
But Hughes isn’t fine with the Hollywood practice of dressing up to play “ethnic.” He wants to play a role in fixing what’s broken. “My goal is to play a role in changing that,” he said. “I’m not entirely certain where my career path will lead, but if 30 years from now I can look back and say, without question, that my efforts helped to positively change an industry that desperately needs to be more inclusive, then I’ll be satisfied. For now, though, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”