Photo credits George Carmona III
For two days, New York City’s neighborhood of Harlem was ground zero to a creative cultural explosion as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosted its 8th Annual Black Comic Book Festival. Over these two days, comic heads come from all across the United States to talk, sell, make connections, Cosplay and be inspired or most importantly inspire the next generation of creatives.
During the Festival I was able to ask a few questions about the Schomburg Center’s Black Comic Book Festival from its producer the very busy Kadiatou Tubman.
BlackSci-Fi.com: How does the Schomburg look to program this festival? This is the 8th year here, how do you and the Schomburg keep things fresh and new for the fans of BCBF?
Kadiatou Tubman: When I started working with the festival I said the people who know the most about the festival are the exhibitors and the people that come to the event, so we need to lean on them, asking what is it that you want to see in a program so when it comes to putting together panels, presentations or workshops I reach out to our vendors and exhibitors what would you think is fresh or new that you want to see on the stage.
BlackSci-Fi.com: On a personal level, what’s the thing you look forward to the most?
Tubman: Oh man. The first day and this is not really big, the first day there was a child who purchased a comic book Harriet Tubman Demon Slayer by David Crownson, and as soon as he got it he went next to the elevator in the Schaumburg Center sat down and started reading it, that’s all I want, that’s the best thing we can do when we’ve fulfilled our mission and I see something like that. That’s what I look forward to every year seeing someone getting excited about who’s here, about the programming and also excited about getting to read, diving into the Worlds that are created by people that look like them and are from their communities.
BlackSci-Fi.com: How important is this to the culture?
Tubman: This event is literally for the culture. It is Harlem, this neighborhood, this community, it’s iconic, it’s huge. I was just talking to somebody that this is the Mecca this is a pilgrimage for a lot of people because you get to see yourself here in a way that you don’t get to see it anywhere else. It’s so Black and affirmative and it’s inclusive, we don’t use Black to say it’s only for Black people it’s about how diverse we can tell stories and show you about our lives and our imaginations, you find it all here and I think that’s all incredible and it makes us so unique in regards to the larger conventions.
For the first day of the Festival, the Schomburg encourages local schools to make that field trip for the students to come and see the creators and catch the animated short Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms by Manuel Godoy and Geizel Godoy. Later that night we were able to see most of Che Grayson’s short film Rigamobut none of Steven Lowe’s work on Little Apple due to technical difficulties, all hail the internet. On Saturday the youngsters that braved the cold were able to see Malika created by Roye Okupe of Youneek Studios.
The Festival was off to the races with its first-panel #StrongFemaleLeads in Comics and Graphic Novels, kicking off the intensity of the Festival. Moderated by podcaster Janicia Francis, this panel consisted of comic professionals Eve Ewing, Dhonielle Clayton, Greg Burnham, Vita Ayala, and Shauna Grant, and they went in. Writer Eve Ewing really went in as she broke down how she is able to create in a medium whose fandom can be a bit much at times, “…the way I usually think about it is as the entire history of Black art is about a double helix of joy and sorrow. I think that that’s what it means to make Black art specifically in the United States.”
And to be clear the Festival isn’t all about politics, during a celebration of the late Robert Garrett founder of Xmoor Studios his daughter Niya Garrett and friend Regine Sawyer of Lockett Down Productions announced that they would be relaunching XMoor Studios this Spring and in February they’ll start a Kickstarter to help the relaunch. Sawyer would later post on Twitter “It was wonderful to be able to celebrate and honor my good friend Robert Garrett aka @Keylonjakes. I’m so grateful to the Schomburg for the opportunity ❤️. His daughter and I look forward to continuing his legacy with #XmoorReborn ??.”
Another announcement was made during the Epic Narratives in Comics: Sci-Fi, Afrofuturism, and Beyond panel. Moderated by Erika Hardison of Fabulize Magazine with panelists Newton Lilavois and Tim Fielder, it was Fielder who let the crowd know that he had completed his original graphic novel Infinitum, which will be out later this year.
In addition to the panels and vendors in the main building, the BCBF has been able to utilize another location, the Countee Cullen Library for workshops specifically programmed for the younger attendees who want to have fun creating comics or masks, to the slightly older folks looking to actually create comics from industry folks like artist Tim Fielder (How to Draw Comics) and Kickstarter rep Camilla Zhang (How to build a community around your work and How to write a logline.)
The very last part of the event is the fan-favorite Cosplay Showcase & Contest. This year it was presented by Blerdcon with retuning host Kanene Ayo Holder of BlackIssuesIssues and cosplayer Queerly Femmetastic.
The event is always free but the space is very limited so it is highly recommended that you register to get in as the standby line can go around the block. And to find out about the next BCBF or too just visit the Schomburg Center check their website and follow them on all the socials Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
George Carmona 3rd is an Artist/Writer, former Milestone Media Intern, former DC Comics paper pusher, current book lover, and lifelong comic geek. He is the author of the DC Super Friends Joke Book from Penguin Random House. You can find his work at FistFullofArt.com or follow him on Twitter atGCarmona3.