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After such a heavy week, I’m easing into this newsletter with a TikTok trend of Black men frolicking.
I hope their full belly laughs and exuberant “wheeeees!” as they leap (or sometimes stumble) in the air help you tap into your inner child as we stroll through into the realms of Black fantasy culture. But before I grab my wand and strap on my fairy wings, please consider forwarding this newsletter to a friend because we all could use each other’s help today.
May healing be with the Latino community and others in Uvalde, Texas who lost their loved ones in such a tragic way.
And may we use our collective pain to push those in power to create real change for our nation so no more innocent lives are lost.
Now, let’s go spread some magic, y’all.
Black, ethereal and free
Once upon a time,
In a land known as The Shade,
A gala was bursting with Black joy and Black fae
If Black cosplayers and creatives could have their own holiday, it would be Black Fae Day. The annual event held every second Saturday in May allows Black fantasy and folklore fans being ethereal and carefree virtually and in real life during Black fae meetups. Jasmine La Fleur, a 33-year-old resident of Oklahoma City, and her partner Carlos Williams Jr., of Jacksonville, Fla., created Black Fae Day last year to promote positive Black representation in the fantasy genre and mainstream media.
After going viral its first year, all the Black magic was invited to the official Black Fae Day Picnic at Freedom Park in Atlanta on May 14. The next day, Jasmine, Carlos and their team of magical helpers also hosted the “Fairytale Gala: Land and Sea” at Cha’le Gardens in Riverdale, Ga. The Black-owned venue was transformed into an immersive fantasy experience where attendants could swim with mermaids and watch knights duel. Black creatives stepped out in their best mystical looks, their iridescent wings glistening in the sunlight. Black coils, braids and locs were adorned with flowers, horns and ornamented headdresses. Black drag entertainers mesmerized the audience through dance. This TikTok will give you a good idea of all the magic that took place during the gala.
Among the many gifts Jasmine says this Black Fae Day has offered her, one was seeing Black kids giggle and prance with mythical beings who looked like them. Another blessing: seeing Black elders dressed in cloaks and dragon wings. Age, sexuality, gender identity doesn’t matter during Black Fae Day. All that matters to Jasmine is that her people find generational healing in their own Black magic. Older Black people have expressed to Jasmine their love of fantasy media, like J. R. R. Tolkien, but they didn’t feel safe to express that fascination when they were young due to racism.
“With the history of lynching and all of those things in our country, it didn’t end well if you stood out,” Jasmine said. “Me dressing up as a fairy and going out in public is a very privileged place to be in right now. I feel like I’m reclaiming that for us in some ways. Like, you will be safe. We’re in this together. You can stand out. That’s the messaging I want to send out for Black Fae Day.”
Jasmine’s entrance into fae hood was partially paved by the Southern-born pioneers of Afrofuturism. She was raised on the music of Sun Ra, the avant-garde jazz legend from Birmingham, Ala., who took listeners on a cosmic journey through his band Arkestra and claimed Saturn as his home planet. She also jived to Earth, Wind & Fire, formed by Memphis’ Maurice White, and Parliament-Funkadelic.
Afrofuturism’s otherworldly symbolism and regalia set Jasmine’s imagination afire with Black liberation while growing up in New Mexico, a state where the population is 2 percent Black. The lyrics made her believe Black people could be beamed up to space - a place where they can be celebrated, peaceful and away from racism.
“I wanted to be that Black person that stood out and be like, ‘Yeah, that’s me. I’m gonna be beamed up on the mothership,’” Jasmine said. “Then I saw Bootsy Collins with platforms, a big shiny bass and star goggles. I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can look like this, too?’ So that out-of-this-world image always stuck with me.”
Afrofuturism’s creativity made Jasmine naturally attracted to the fantasy world. But she noticed that Black roles in fantasy TV shows and movies were limited to villains, supporting characters with a tragic backstories or exotic love interests who were later discarded.
“I don’t consider that representation at all,” she said. “Like, I need our fairy queen. I need our dragon riders. I need wizards. I need the King Arthur of Blackness. Where is that?”
Because of the lack of the fantasy genre’s lack of diversity, Jasmine never saw herself as a fairy or an elf. But that changed when she spotted an Instagram photo of visual artist Kenji K dressed as a fairy in a white, satin outfit, her Black tresses dripping with butterflies and topped with a rose gold crown.
Kenji’s photo inspired Jasmine so much, she jumped on social media last March asking Black people to dress up as fairytale characters two months later. The word spread like wildfire. Soon enough people started tweeting about the outfits they were creating, the wings they planned to buy and the events they were planning in their cities. A Black Fae Day Facebook group Carlos suggested quickly swelled to about 1,000 members. They also created an Instagram of the same name. #BlackFaeDay became the second most trending topic on Twitter. Faeries from across the country were spreading the mystical vibes as they hosted tea parties and picnics in the park.
Jasmine didn’t expect Black Fae Day to grow so quickly in just a year. Her hashtag has been shared more than 17,800 times on Instagram and received more than 13.8 million views on TikTok. All this attention has caught the eyes of publications and multimedia platforms like Enchanted Living and Punk Black. The Black Fae Community Facebook group, now more than 9,300 members strong, is active with posts about make up trends, do-it-yourself tutorials, enchanting photoshoots and resources on Black-owned fantasy shops.
Members hype each other up as they participate in other BlPOC fantasy events which were inspired by Black Fae Day (which you will learn about below!). Jasmine attributed Black Fae Day’s growth to the need for a community where Black fantasy lovers don’t have to dodge gatekeeping actions and behaviors that deny the existence of Black faeries, giants and other fairytale creatures. Jasmine wants the world to know that our Black presence is magical – both inside and outside the fantasy realm.
“Surprisingly, or not, Black joy is very radical and shocking to a lot of people. They don’t know how to react when they see us, which is strange for us to experience,” Jasmine said. “It’s like, ‘Yes, we are happy. We don’t just struggle. Yes, we do imagine. Yes, we do play.”
Black fantasy: past, present & future
Jasmine and one of Black Fae Day’s 18 ambassadors, Kia Sangria, chatted with me about the past, present and future of Black fantasy culture. Here’s a quick Q&A of our chat:
What was your favorite fairytale from back in the day that you wished has a Black main character? What was your first experience of a Black person in the fantasy show, movie or book?
Kia: The Swan Princess and my first time seeing Black anything was probably The Wiz. That one meant a lot because I remember my grandmother putting it on and she used to get so excited when it would come on the TV and we would watch that together. That’s actually my fondest memory with her.
Jasmine: I was obsessed with Peter Pan. I wanted to be one of the Lost Boys and I admired Wendy a lot. But I would have loved to see the Lost Boys just brown and Black with curly little afros and just Black boy joy. I feel like just Peter Pan’s attitude is very like what I experienced with some of the boys growing up in my life. He was just rambunctious, adventurous, brave. I would also say The Wiz as well. Seeing Michael Jackson sing ‘Ease On Down The Road’ was so beautiful and fun.
What has Black Fae Day given you currently?
Kia: I feel like Black Fae Day gave me an opportunity to connect with my friends outside of cosplay. It kind of opened the window for me to feel that grown folks feeling of when you plan a little event with your friends and you get together and stuff, but I had such a childish wonder that I wish I could live in forever. That’s another reason why I don’t take the day for granted because I only seem to have that feeling on Black Fae Day so far.
Jasmine: I’m allowing myself to embrace my own qualities that are magical and unique. It allows me a space to escape a lot of the trauma as a Black person in general. It gives me some reprieve and a place of peace to be able to be mythical and ethereal even if it’s just for a day.
What’s one thing that can be done to better the future of the Black fantasy community?
Kia: I think we deserve like Hollywood-level press… Because as Black people, we are both invisible, but then hyper visible at the same time, and I really think it’s important for people to see us constantly. Because I’m tired of people telling us ‘Oh, this isn’t really your lane.’ Like Black people don’t exist here.
Find your fantasy
Black Fae Day may be over, but the magic isn’t. With Black Fae Day inspiring the creation of other celebrations centering melanin magic, add these dates to your calendar if you like:
Black MerMay Day: Embrace your inner Ariel (or Ursula….I ain’t judging) on Saturday, May 28th. All melanated merfolk and water fae are invited to participate. There’s also a Facebook group if you want to tap into that community. Also, did you know there is a Black-owned mermaid academy in Nashville, Tenn.? I’ll introduce y’all to that instructor in next week’s newsletter 😉.
BIPOC Vamp Day: Become a vampire for a cause Sept. 23-25. An artist known as Black Bettie Cosplays started Black, Indigenous People of Color Vamp Day to dispel the myth that vampire mythology only existed in Europe. September is also Sickle Cell Awareness Month and BIPOC Vamp Day doubles as a fundraiser. Participants raised $3,600 for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America last year and are setting the bar higher this year.
Summon your own Black magic by spreading the Black Joy. Shout out to Black women with PhDs who talk about Black Joy in their group chat. I see y’all and thank you for spreading your melanin magic in the academic world. See y’all Friday!