I didn’t know what to expect with New York Comic Con. Last time I had attended (which was my first time), it was four years prior, and I was squeezed into the last day of the convention. Sundays are the days people go hard to wrap up the awesomeness they’ve experienced for the weekend, along with people who just couldn’t snag Friday and/or Saturday passes, so Sunday will just have to do. Either way, it was packed, and I didn’t really know how to navigate or take everything in.
This year, though, was different.
The New York Black Girl Nerds crew and I began planning back in April just what we wanted to do while here. What articles we’d be writing, who’d be snapping the pictures, who’d live tweet and shake hands with people we needed to be fully composed in front of because we were press (did I mention we were PRESS? With credentials and ability to flash them to get into a secured press lounge to get in? UGH!) and going apeshit was just not on the criteria… We planned for the weekend.
And even though we planned, there was no amount of expectation that could have prepared me for the awesomeness I didn’t see coming, which I was thankful for. I mean, if I had any type of spoilers written out for me to follow, I’d chuck them out the window. Because the best things in life are the things you’ve worked hard to obtain, and the things in between you never thought you needed to get there… till you did.
So what made Comic Con so great? Well, the simple fact that as a Black girl nerd, I didn’t feel left out one bit. In a culture that does a great job of excluding Black girls, for the underlying stereotype that we just aren’t INTO “stuff like that,” along with the general invisibility cloak entertainment media does a great job of stuffing us under, I didn’t expect to see an open arm extended towards us. I didn’t expect to see many panels with us included in it, even with a chunk of them surrounding the topic of diversity. Didn’t expect to see us in charge of a few booths. Hell, I didn’t even expect to see a lot of Black girl cosplayers, because it can be intimidating.
But, of course. I was wrong. THANK GOD. So, here are the three things that made Comic Con worthwhile for a Black girl nerd:
1. BLACK GIRL COSPLAY
I have yet to cosplay (I plan to. I really do. I just want to get it right), so whenever I attend events that call for it, I make sure to pay close attention to the craftsmanship that comes with such a dedicated event. What is usually reserved for geeks, cosplay is also something I usually see reserved for White geeks. Not exclusively, but like many spaces, people of color who celebrate spaces outside of the stereotype are somewhat excluded or not paid attention to. So I made sure that attending Comic Con, I sought out the Black girl nerds/geeks who practiced the art of cosplay, so I can live vicariously through them. And my goodness, did I ever. Just imagine being in the Haven of Geek, and coming across a good chunk of those geeks being costume donning Black girls. UGH!
2. BLACK GIRL NERDS REPRESENTED IN PANEL DISCUSSIONS
We are all well aware how annoying the term ‘diversity’ has become, for whenever it was spoken, it was taken for a grain of salt. To the people who generate the content released to the masses, when they think diversity, they think a teaspoon of Nesquik in a gallon of milk. “There (dusts hands off). That should do it.” When navigating through the NYCC app, which allowed for me to schedule every panel, screening, and fan signing that I wished to attend, I went through the panels to see which one I was genuinely interested in attending, along with how many of these panels would have an array of people being asked the questions. I saw a good amount of panels that spoke about diversity within the LGBTQIA, People of Color, and Women communities and their intersection within geek culture. Though I didn’t attend each one, for they felt very regurgitated, I did attend a few, especially the ones centered around Blackness and geekdom, for example, the Black Comics Month panel hosted by MizCaramelVixen, which was not only a success, but had a fair amount of Black men AND women amongst the panelists. A few other panels centered around women in geek culture, such as the Women in Geek Media and Geeks of Color panel, which had a beautiful palette of women of color, Jamie Broadnax and Tatiana King of the Fan Bros being amongst the panelists. Though I would have loved to see other panels that didn’t center around diversity actually HAVE a diverse selection of panelists (for example, the Tor.com panel was all white), being that Comic Con is holding diversity panels, I was happy to see our appearances and hoping it only increases as the years go by.
3. THE PEOPLE, SPECIFICALLY MY BLACK NERDS
Okay, so this was the highlight of the weekend; the friends I made. As I said in the beginning, this was my first time doing the all weekend run of Comic Con, and my 2nd time being there in general (but we just won’t count it, ‘kay?), so regardless how fun it was, do remember it was PACKED, where walking at a normal pace didn’t happen often, and where you waddled regularly, using your elbows as staffs meant to separate the Red Sea doubling in as the crowd. It being packed was overwhelming enough as it was. Add in the panels, meet and greets, the food court, art/comic stations, and etc were in so many corners and sections of Javitz, that you had to walk through packed circles CONTINUOUSLY. Easily, you can get annoyed, but somehow, having Connie there with me, along with knowing I was there for work, fun, and opportunity kept my spirits high and my eyes wide open. All the while having a bright mindset and simply feeling high off the energy blanketing the center, I met some of the greatest people ever.
First off, I met Karama, aka @theblerdgurl on Twitter. Organizer of the AfroFutureFest table, which housed some of the coolest Black comic book artists in the game right now, I developed this relationship with a Black woman on a mission to work Comic Con like her life depended on it. Karama was a vision to behold, shaking hands left and right, bringing people who’ve never met before into introductions, making sure to give talks of confidence to us Black nerds who are just trying to make it in the culture we love… she had this energy I craved to be around; a hustler at heart. And being in her vicinity and having the luxury of calling her a friend… I felt blessed.
Second, the Fan Bros… MAN OH MAN… The week of NYCC, Connie, LaTanya, and I were representing Black Girl Nerds at the Fan Bros live podcast that they did for NYCC’s Super Week, a week of kickass awesomeness leading up to NYCC. That entailed us sitting at tables facing an audience (OUR audience), with mics to our mouths, cameras recording our hilarity, and table conversations we have during our own moments of friendly solitude with…friends. This was the first time I had ever been BEHIND the table and not in the audience, and I will be forever grateful to Jamie, creator and editor of Black Girl Nerds, and the Fan Bros team for the opportunity. Seeing the hard work they put into bringing such an awesome show together, their hustle and diligence to be professional while having fun during their run at NYCC, and their open arms towards us to build this Black nerd family. I felt like I was a part of something bigger than I. Such amazing people (Tatiana, especially… this girl is a BOSS. If you combined her and Karama’s energies together into a pill, it could challenge the Limitless one).
Last but never the least, the Black artists! UGH MAAAAAN. Let’s get into it. I got to meet Afua Richardson, one of the dopest Black women artists/illustrators to grace this Earth. While she’s kickass with a pencil and paper, she’s also a writer, lead singer and songwriter in the band, Waking Astronomer, and has done voice acting, as well. We have Chuck Collins, who’s a friend I made when I saw his work back at the first annual Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomberg Center back in January 2013. His art is sharp as hell, and his comic “Bounce,” gives me flight! I also got to meet his partner in crime, Keith Miller, who writes the dopeness in the comics he creates with Chuck, specifically TriBoro Tales. He’s quirky and adorable, with a love for Afrofuturism (which, thankfully, EVERYONE I’ll mention has. Like, c’mon…) that I appreciate oh so much. I got to sit and have a great conversation about screenwriting and film with Alexander Simmons, creator of the comic series Blackjack. He’s a man with great vision and awesome storytelling, willing to hear about little ol’ me and what my dreams and aspirations are. Anyone who takes interest in my plans is a great person in my eye. I also met Markus Prime, who’s one of the dopest artists to blow up via Instagram. Meeting him felt surreal, because I absolutely love his work, but when he started vibing with Connie and I, I was absolutely beside myself. We all just became instant friends, and I’ll never forget it. He hung around the Niobe booth, for he’s signed off to illustrate some art for Amandla Stenberg’s comic, “Niobe.” And speaking of Niobe, I met THE illustrator, the enticing Ashley A. Woods. There is something about Ashley, man… I don’t know if it’s her ability to always seem so chill and ready for fun, or her adorable smile, but she was just so approachable. And then you see her art and you’re blown away, hanging around just to learn a little more about her. Crushing is an understatement.
Connie and I also got to hang with Jamila, creator of Girl Gone Geek and co-creator of Geek Girl Brunch. She’s such a huge contribution to women of color in geekdom, so to be able to chill and hang out with her and witness her many costumes was a kick.
Preparing for Comic Con only to have those preparations fly out the window or take flight of their own, having small expectations, only for them to be challenged as my enjoyment there grew, being amongst so many other working Black nerds who want to share the awesomeness we possess in this industry… I felt like I was in a huge family reunion for the first time, and got to meet cousins who I realized were actually really dope, and who I should take more time to spend time with.
Being at Comic Con with the BGN crew and many others helped me find my family. The week after , I was experiencing some major friendship withdrawals, because my time spent with everyone felt surreal. It was beyond magical. Words can’t express how thankful I am to be a part of such an amazing group of people who celebrate their geekdom, especially because when I was younger, I hid it. In high school, my geekdom went into hiding as I began to adjust to being a teenager, which usually results in insecurity and a knack for wanting friends and people to SEE you, even if YOU put on a front just to BE seen. It wasn’t up until a few years ago where I began to allow my geek to break down the brick walls to see the light, and being at Comic Con and seeing so many geeks, Black especially, revel in the culture that they identify so heavy with, it warmed my heart. One thing I’m learning as I grow as a human is that a lot of us are more alike than we think, and when you strip the expectations and stereotypes and status quo’s, we are all weird and awesome individuals, and you don’t have to be a comic loving, science obsessed, superhero fanatic nerd to identify as weird. WE ALL ARE. Yes, even you football player. Even you, stripper. Even you, mailman. Comic Con reminded me how great it is to be around one of MY kinds of weird.
It helped me realize that whatever weird you are, you have a family and a place that celebrates it. Never be afraid to seek that.
UNTIL NEXT YEAR!