If you are reading this article, I suspect that there is a 60% chance that you are reading this because you are a POC, and if you are, an 80% that your mind has been on the BlerdCon 2021 Cosplay Contest. I have to admit that this was the main reason I wrote this article, but this matter has been on my mind.
Before I get I get into that, I wanted to say something. I’m sure that some of you may be wondering why Black or POC organisations/institutions are even a concept. Rather than preaching to the those that know, you can click here, and see my handy dandy supplementary crash history course. The rest of you, keep on reading.
The cosplayer that won the BlerdCon 2021 Cosplay Contest is a White cosplayer who is known as Knight @ princess dress sewing (knightshade94) on Twitter. She went to BlerdCon 2021 with some friends who encouraged her to enter. She was hesitant to, because she understood the nature of BlerdCon. Despite this, she entered as the main protagonist from Cardcaptor Sakura, with a costume she claimed was at least 80% handmade. She is shown below.
In an upset, Knight @ princess dress sewing won against her POC fellows.
Besides the very obvious controversy of a White person winning a contest in a convention meant to celebrate Black nerd culture, it was argued by many attendees that her “80%” handmade cosplay was not, and was completely store bought. Upon looking at pictures, in my opinion, not only does it appear to be, but the quality is low, and the condition, wrinkled.
Here is the contestant that many attendees said should have won.
Here are some that were considered close competitors. In regards to all pictures, you be the judge
When she won, Knight @ princess dress sewing had this to say about the audience’s reaction.
BlerdCon takes this position as to their objective or reason for it’s creation.
And this is how they feel about their cosplay contest.
From this, you can see that even if all races are allowed to enter, there was still a legitimate concern as to the winner’s eligibility if her costume was store bought.
I don’t know if an investigation was made, and I do not know how much professional cosplay scrutiny was given before the contest. From what I heard many of the judges did not even have any professional background in cosplay, so it may have not been as if Kamui Cosplay or Yaya Han had examined and stress tested the costumes and props, if that was the case.
I would like to know these things for sure, rather than say what I’ve read or heard, but there seems to be a blackout about this subject.
I have tried to ask people and parties that were there, even the winner, but nobody directly involved wants to talk.
I have put up posts in many of my Black and POC geek/nerd/otaku/cosplay forums asking for attendees to let me know what happened for this article, and admins/mods either rejected or erased them.
As a people, these are subjects that we would not have shied away from as few as 20 years ago, but I guess the few of us that have connections and/or make money in this business do not want to “rock the boat.”
I know for a fact that I am not alone in getting silenced on the subject, and groups have put up pinned posts threatening action if this subject is discussed…
However…I have digressed from the overall subject of this article: How included should White people be in Black and POC events and conventions? I think the motivation and the passion behind the reasons that we make our spaces to share our creativity is the defining factor. It is a the outcome of a combination and balance of many strong feelings and reasons.
What are the factors? It is our sense of frustration, anger, and offense at feeling the need to even have to create the space. It is our sense of justice and revenge that we may feel for originally being excluded. It is the sense of power of knowing that we can now do unto others as we feel has been done to us.
Then again, it is also tempered. It is the healing from the satisfaction in being able to create something that others wish to be a part of. It is any sympathy or mercy we might have earned in being the excluded, and not wanting others to feel the same way. It is an aspiration to be better than the people that do exclude us. It is the desire to erase old offenses, heal old wounds, and move on.
For the record, Knight @ princess dress sewing updated her position on her win. I could not find out the motivation, as she would not respond.
How does this end? I really don’t know. The best I can do is tell you what I think, and that’s if an organisation has the need to create a space because of exclusion, while I don’t think other people shouldn’t be able to attend and enjoy it, I also don’t think they should be able to enter any competitions, either.
I think if the space grows to the the point that everyone of good nature wants to be a part of it, and the creators want everybody to fully participate, then I think that they need to change the name, objective(s), and purpose of that space. Make it official. In my opinion, anything else goes against the spirit of why that space was created. It loses it’s purpose. It’s just another convention. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s the natural evolution, but don’t stand up and proudly proclaim “We are a safe space for Black nerds” if in that same breath you continue “…and everybody else!”
If that’s the case, how are you any different from MomoCon or Anime Weekend Atlanta? I’m sure if you call up any convention, they will promise all of the same things that BlerdCon does, now. (I can personally vouch for the two that I mentioned.) They will claim to be an all-embracing safe space for fans of all colour, orientations, creeds, and religion. The only thing they won’t say is that they are not suggestively exclusive, just by name alone.