This upcoming month, February, is a home to a very popular social media event. In addition to it being Black History Month, (which is very important in itself) it is also a celebration for Black cosplayers. 28 days of Black Cosplay is a tag on social media that was created by Chaka Cumberbatch-Tinsely (@princessology on Twitter) several years ago. It was created to promote visibility, representation and to celebrate Black makers. There are plenty of cosplayers avidly talking about the costumes they plan to post during the month and how they plan on showcasing and uplifting other fellow creators. It is something that we are very excited about.
The cosplay community is a vast ocean of personalities, voices and talents. As such it is very easy to be overlooked whether it’s by talent, account size, etc. Black cosplayers have been routinely overlooked for others for a multitude of reasons whether it’s lack of diversity, smaller accounts, colorism, homophobia, fatphobia, etc. Because of this, we are not commonly accepted as the rest of our cosplay brethren. Many Black cosplayers have been called names–referred to as the “Black version of x character” or the “N-word version of x character.” Just recently one of my mutuals on Twitter got a terrible quote retweet that described wanting to hang her from a tree.** ‘The offense? ‘Simply cosplaying Asuka Langley from Evangelion.
There were many other terrible quote retweets and comments of which were probably as horrible as that one, made with impunity. While I personally have not experienced that level of vitriol, I have been called a cockroach on Reddit and have had several uncomfortable comments thrown my way, simply for existing.
In addition to racism, the community has a multitude of other issues that we deal with that include lack of diversity and representation, colorism, and tokenism. In response to these issues, there have been communities, podcasts, and even events dedicated just to Black cosplayers. However, it is not enough to create our own spaces and events. The cosplay community has to work towards actual change where everyone is included and welcome, not just certain people or archetypes. This in itself is an entirely separate post/argument. (Trust me, there’s a whole mess of stuff to dissect about the community as far as racism, ableism and other issues go.)
So with the 28 Days of Black Cosplay coming up, what can/should you do?
The obvious answer is to support us as well as our work. Encourage diversity from brands known to cosplayers and even further than that. Recommend us for opportunities. Be a better ally. Do not stand for racism when it happens to Black cosplayers (honestly to any POC). Do not be performative (only following us to make yourself look better, only to quietly pretend we don’t exist later).
…AND ENJOY OUR TALENT.
**A note, as much as I did not want to, I went to censor the persons name as well as the slur used. Covering legal boundaries all of that.