From Blerds to Badass AfroPuertorriquenõs, the Seventh Annual Black Comic Book Festival Continues to Make an Impact

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On January 18 and 19, the 7th annual Black Comic Book Festival took place at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, the Black Mecca.

Featuring more than a dozen panel conversations with leading comic-book-creators of color, along with a cosplay show, book signings and a free screening of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this event continues to make an impact on the Black comic book community, further spreading awareness that comic creators and enthusiasts go far beyond mainstream. For those of you who missed it, here are some highlights from some of the panel discussion that took place:

Creating Black Fantasy Panel

In this discussion, Tim Fielder, creator of Matty’s Rocket and other works, heads up a discussion with creators Dedran Snead and Roye Okupe about how their inspirations for getting into comics and building careers out of their love for the medium, as well as the importance of building fan bases, and the future of black comics. Watch the full discussion.

Scripting Our Stories: Black Women Writers in Comics

Moderator Karama Horne of discusses a variety of topics related to women of color in the comic book industry with guests including
Jamila Rowser, creator of Wash Day, Eve Ewing, known for Riri Williams: Ironheart, Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs, co-writers of The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, Vita Ayala, creator of The Wilds, Livewire, and Submerged, and Regine Sawyer, who created The Rippers.

Our favorite takeaway quote from this panel was by Dierdre Hollman, founder of The Black Comics Collective, who responded to the question, “What does the Black add to the Black nerdy spaces?” She answered, “The Black is the celebration of us, the celebration of who we are. We don’t have to hide behind it. We can use the language that it Black. We can affirm one another. We can talk race and politics. And we don’t have to filter our being, out talk, what excites us, what angers us through any politically-correct lenses. We can authentically be and express and create together in that space.”

Watch the full discussion here.

AfroPuertorriquenõs: Cultural & Social Activism in Comics

Discussing the ongoing recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and sharing personal and emotional stories of how folks on the island are still struggling, Crystal Velasquez, Esmerelda Santiago, and Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez who have been helping in the recovery efforts also advised how comic-book-creators of color could assist too.

Watch the full discussion here.

Curating Black Nerdy Spaces

Deirdre Hollman, Claieresa Clay, Hilton George, Cagen Luse, and Kadiatou Tubman talk about the importance of creating safe spaces for creators of color to, well…create.

Fielder, a veteran in the comic-book field, and a regular participant at the Schomburg Center’s Black Comic Book Festival, notes that this event continues to be a showcase for both audiences and creators. “I love the creators out there showcasing their work, such as David Crownson’s Harriet Tubman Demon Slayer and Greg Anderson Ellysee’s Is’nana the Were-Spider. In particular, Shauna J. Grant’s Princess Love Pon is to die for.” Fielder says.

Also, he notices that every year, the numbers of attendees continues to rise while the quality of offerings gets better and better. In spite of snowy winter weather, 9,000 people registered to the event, but 10,000 attended.

“The Schomburg has, at this point, become a linchpin of the black comics community. In fact, it’s estimated in some quarters that many of the creators make more in that one event than all of the other remaining events in the year combined. That’s power!”

You can now watch all of the panel discussions in full from the 7th Annual Black Comic Book Festival online. Until next year, remember that the only way to expand the reach of black-comic-book creators it to buy their products and spread the word about their work.

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Charles Moss is a freelance writer based in Chattanooga with bylines in The Atlantic, Slate, Washington Post, VICE, MOJO Magazine and other publications.

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