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Dispatches from the Black Comic Book Festival 2017

To most of America, January 13-14th is part of the weekend where Americans celebrate the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to us in the Bleek or Blerd Community it’s almost as meaningful, it’s Black Comic Book Festival (BCBF.)

Harlem has always been a mecca for the Arts, so it’s only natural that this great event is held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Now in its fifth year, BCBF is the brainchild of Deirdre Hollman, John Jennings, Jerry Craft, and Dr. Jonathan Gray.

John is an Associate professor of Graphic Design at the University of Buffalo, his most current work is the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Jerry is the writer / artist / creator of Mama’s Boy and all of its subsequent sequels. Brought together by the Schomburg Center’s Director of Education and Exhibitions Deirdre Hollman, and Professor of English Dr. Jonathan Gray, they formed like Voltron to created a space for creators from all over the U.S. to give the people of Harlem and NY, an opportunity to meet these comic crafters face to face.

With the popularity of the event growing exponentially, last year saw the highest attendance for any event in Schomburg history, an extra day was added to accommodate the growing crowds and give the fans more time with the creators. This extra day also allowed local schools the chance to expose young minds to these positive images, possibly planting the seeds for the next generation of comic heads.

But this festival is more than an opportunity for fans to cop cool comics, the Schomburg has afforded them the opportunity to learn about the craft of comic book making, storytelling, art, and the impact it can have on us.

Some of the panels I was able to catch over the weekend were:

  • The How to Draw Afrakan Superheroes lecture  gave attendees paper and pencil to create their own superhero along with presenter by Akinseye Brown of Sokoya Productions.
  • Curating Comics spoke about the blurring of lines between fine art and comic art. Tim Fielder of Matty’s Rocket fame stole the panel with the summation of his work “I put negroes in spaceships!”
  • My first panel for Saturday Black Heroes Matter, moderated by writer David F. Walker, was a very “spirited” panel of writers and artists.This panel spoke about the importance of representation on the page and the need for it still in this day and age.
  • The best way to describe the Cosplay Show is Halloween in Harlem. Fans mostly came dressed as their favorite characters from the comics with a few from the movies and Anime.
  • One of the biggest concerns that will hopefully be addressed next year is the representation of women there, Fierce Femininity & Fandom was the only panel dedicated to women who have for color ink in their veins.
  • Unfortunately I was unable to to catch the Comics and Hip Hop panel which featured hip hop icon Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and writer / artist Ron Wimberly (Prince of Cats), but it’s most definitely on the to stream list.

For a full list of the program and all the panelist and exhibitors visit Black Comic Book Festival.

The biggest takeaway for me from BCBF is that while most of the exhibitors were independent artists, there were a few folks who currently do work for mainstream  publishers and that Game of Thrones Wall between being successful only with a mainstream company and making it independently is slowly being removed. With the level of technology lowering costs and accessibility, events like BCBF and the Blerd Press spreading the word about these hidden gems, it’s only a matter of time before LA LA Land takes note and starts mining this event for its next blockbuster.

 

George Carmona 3rd is an Artist / Designer, former Milestone Media Intern, former DC Comics paper pusher, book lover, and lifelong comic geek.  You can find his work at FistFullofArt.com or follow him on twitter @GCarmona3.