Black Joy

You play too much (And we love that!) | Black Joy – October 28, 2022

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When was the last time you let your imagination run wild?

Over the past several days, I’ve challenged my craft skills by making my own fairy wings for Halloween. I’ve dedicated fifty-leven hours of my life to tedious tasks like sketching wing details, brushing layers and layers of paint and glitter glaze onto sheets of acrylic and sealing it with the three-dimensional magic of Mod Podge.

My body aches from all the standing and all the time I spent hunching over a table following the detailed steps laid out by CocoaSugar Cosplay. Throughout my struggle, I just kept daydreaming about twirling around in my fairy wings and sparkly, flowy skirt at the fairy ball me and my best friends are attending this weekend for Halloween. The night will be truly magical.

Some may think that running around as a fairy at my big age would be childish. But it’s liberation.

Along with taking on the largest craft project of my life, I’ve been reading the genius of Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, a Florida A&M University alum from Detroit who thoroughly examines how white supremacy shows its face in sci-fi and fantasy fiction in her book, “The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games.” The first few pages alone are filled with powerful insight. As a young Black girl, Ebony didn’t need to adventure through magical mirrors to find danger. The realities of discrimination and racism were causing enough trouble for her family and community.

Sadly, our kids are witnessing the same fate in a world where Black girls are viewed as less innocent and more adult than white girls, where Black boys are viewed as threats by age 10 and Black queer youth are under attack by state lawmakers. Ebony combs through examples of popular fiction to show how these stories reinforce racism, not only through a lack of Black characters, but by also marginalizing the few Black characters who do exist.

She calls this issue the “imagination gap,” and the consequences are disheartening. “When youth grow up without seeing diverse images in the mirrors, windows and doors of children’s and young adult literature, they are confined to single stories about the world around them and, ultimately, the development of their imagination is affected,” Ebony wrote.

It’s time to reclaim our play time, y’all. And there are many people out there who are challenging white supremacy through imagination. But before you embrace your inner child – send this newsletter to your friends and fam.

Let’s get childish!

– Starr

Black and livin’ in color

There were a few things that kept me sane during the chaos of 2020, and one of them was the start of Blacktober. This annual, month-long celebration of Black creativity puts a spotlight on Black graphic artists, animators, cosplayers, video game streamers and other content creators from across the world as they follow daily prompts. My mind was flooded with nostalgia as I awed at beautiful illustrations of Black Starfires, Zeldas and Ariels.

I’ve reported on Blacktober since its inception two years ago and I covered its one-year anniversary. I’m continuing the tradition by chatting with two Black creatives.

Dee Brown is a 28-year-old nonbinary parent of two who’s known as the Fairy Art Mother, a name she chose after having their first child. Instead of being a fairy godmother who makes your dreams come true, Dee changes people’s worldview of Black people through their artwork. Dee used to live their life based on the stereotypes of Black people they learned during their childhood, when they identified as a Black girl.

Then, they were inspired by another Black artist to be themselves. Now, Dee is drawing otherworldly illustrations of Black people. Here’s one of a Black witch with purple hair taking a selfie while zooming across the universe on a “broomba.” Dee’s talents have attracted more than 94,000 followers across Instagram, TikTok and Twitter in just a few years.

DeAnne G. is an animator and illustrator in Atlanta who I recently found on Instagram. Her artwork has already wowed me. Some of my favorites so far: this fan art of Ariel’s red locs swaying in the sea and a beautiful drawing of an East African bride.

Head over to our site to read my conversation with Dee and DeAnne about how a lack of Black representation has affected them as people and artists and their thoughts about Blacktober.

You have permission to dream

Did you know that the publisher of the world’s most diverse manga characters was founded by a southern Black man?

For those of you who don’t know what manga is, it’s basically graphic novels or comics that originated in Japan during the 1900s (However, according to this article by the University of Pittsburgh, manga was inspired by American newspaper comics.) Manga, as well as its multimedia sibling anime, has since become a global staple in pop culture – including our own. Evidence: Singer and bassist Thundercat’s song “Dragonball Durag.” Lizzo and Megan Thee Stallion’s performances as Sailor Moon.

And then there’s Saturday AM, a Black-owned, digital manga-style comic book brand founded in 2013 by Fredrick Jones, a North Carolina native and lover of comics, anime and manga. With more than 100 digital comics and its recently-released series of print graphic novels (and trading cards!), fans of Saturday AM are immersed in a universe full of Black, brown, LGBTQ+ protagonists whose storylines are penned and illustrated by young, Black comic creators from around the world. Saturday AM has already made history by introducing the world to its first Black woman protagonist in “shonen,” the action-packed genre of manga that appeals to young boys.

Frederick created Saturday AM after attending an anime convention with his nephew, who wore a wig to resemble Goku’s hair from Dragonball Z. Frederick noticed how his sister-in-law side-eyed him after looking at a photo of her child in a Goku wig. Frederick tried to reassure her that wearing wigs to look like anime characters was something all the youngins are doing, but he also empathized with her hesitation. How could she imagine her Black son cosplaying as an anime character when the genre rarely centers Black protagonists?

“Manga cannot become this popular and then at the same time, send the message to Black and brown kids that they can’t be the hero, they can’t be the pretty beautiful person, they can’t be the heroic sidekick – the Sasuke (from Naruto) if you will. We can’t even exist,” Frederick said. “So I just thought it was really important for Saturday AM to make sure that we’re giving young people permission to dream. Permission to imagine scenarios where there can be a Black wizard, a squad of young Black kids like Naruto fighting crime or being ninja. You have to give them permission to do that.”

You can read more about Fredrick’s passion to diversify the industry and how Saturday AM is giving young Black creators permission to dream as well in my story that’s set to publish on Monday. Keep an eye on our Twitter, Instagram and website for the link.

For the spooky and country

Y’all know I’m all for Blackness taking up space in different genres.

Our dope social media producer Mackenzie Foy pulled together a roundup of Black horror films paired with our fav Halloween candy. Hit us up on Twitter to tell us about your favorite Black spooky film and Halloween treats.

How many of y’all were told that country music is white? *raises hand* Well a new book is challenging that narrative. Black people can enjoy both the cookout and the hoedown. My friend and colleague John Hammontree interviewed DePaul University English professor Francesca Royster who wrote “Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions.” Francesca grew up with country music and found a rich Black history while researching the genre. You can read more in John’s story about how country music became known as the “white man’s blues” despite the musical influences of Black artists from the past and how today’s Black country artists are showing that country music is theirs too.

Spread the Black Joy by staying playful. See ya next time!

The Reckon Report.
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