It should go without saying, but it always bears repeating: representation is important.
When I started looking into cosplay for the first time in 2008, to say I was a bit intimidated would be putting it lightly. I had very few crafting skills to speak of, couldn’t tell a bobbin from a pin cushion and had no clue which characters I could even dress up as – it’s no secret that nerd culture isn’t the most diverse. What encouraged me to finally get off the sidelines and jump into the fray was a Black Cosplayers thread I found on Cosplay.com, which was started by Jessi Green, otherwise known as Butterfly Samurai, who would one day become one of my good friends. I read through every page of that thread, checked often for updates, and though I never posted, each page gave me a little bit more of the courage I needed to put on a wig for the first time. It’s been eight years since my first con, but I’ll never forget how encouraging it was to see other black nerds in costume. Jessi and her friends made me feel like it was okay to be myself, and with #29DaysOfBlackCosplay, I hope to do the same for others.
Last year, #28DaysOfBlackCosplay mobilized, energized and united the black cosplay community, as cosplayers from around the world shared their pictures under a hashtag that spread across the Internet like wildfire. What began as an idea I had to foster a sense of positivity and camaraderie within a subculture that has given me so much quickly evolved into something that was both larger and more meaningful than I could have ever dreamed of. It was so moving to wake up every morning to find pictures of cosplayers of all ages, shapes and sizes, and to read about how much they’d learned, gained and grown through and because of cosplay.
My hope for this year’s #29DaysOfBlackCosplay event (because we had to get that extra leap day in there!) is that it will be a rallying call to arms for a group of people who are consistently subjected to derogatory comments and outright racism in response to doing little more than proudly displaying their love for this hobby. When we call out racism in this subculture, we are often ridiculed, silenced and told to make a space of our own if we want to see our faces. Challenge accepted. This is how we’ll represent ourselves. This is how we’ll uplift each other. This is how we will make this hobby open, inclusive and welcoming to everyone.
All this month, we’ll be featuring a variety of cosplayers who are celebrating #29DaysOfBlackCosplay – because we had to get that extra day in there for the leap year, of course. You’ll see their pictures, read their stories, and will hopefully be inspired to make a costume of your own. For more melanin, you can follow the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. If you want to participate, all you have to do is post your pictures under the hashtag, and share other pictures you see posted as well. Everyone is welcome and invited to take part.
And if you’re on the fence about cosplaying? Trust me – I’ve been in your shoes, but it’s totally okay. I hope what you’ll see this month will give you 29 reasons to come to a con in costume. Speaking from personal experience, your life will never be the same.
Written by Chaka Cumberbatch
#29DaysofBlackCosplay created by Chaka Cumberbatch, is an annual social media event during Black History Month celebrating Black excellence in the cosplay community. Follow the hashtag throughout the month for photos, stories, updates and info about cosplayers making a significant impact within this subculture.