"For as much attention as black cosplay has gotten in recent years, we're still on a constant quest to discover, follow and befriend each other, because we all remember how alienating it used to be, being the lone black nerd," says cosplayer Chaka Cumberbatch, who helped found #28DaysOfBlackCosplay. She will be sharing a photo a day at Princess Mentality Cosplay. "We get excited about meeting each other, and we all know what it's like to be picked apart and ridiculed on the internet."
Chaka recalls worrying that no one would be interested in participating — a fear that has now proven to be unfounded. The #28DaysOfBlackCosplay is alive with photos and stories of black cosplay.
Why is this celebration so important? "It is absolutely my experience that black cosplayers face an insane amount of criticism for cosplaying outside of our race," says Chaka. "So many of us have done a lot over the past few years to try to counteract it by encouraging and promoting diversity within our community, but it still happens to this day. My friends and I have been called every racial slur under the sun. It takes a lot to put yourself out there, when there's still such an undercurrent of racism in the cosplay community."
To Chaka, black cosplay is a revolutionary act, and highlighting black cosplayers is a beautiful way to celebrate Black History Month. "To me, the act of putting on a costume, putting your pictures on the internet and walking into a convention with the full knowledge that doing so will likely result in your getting made fun of is, in and of itself, contributing so much to our community," she says. "Because you're showing other people what it looks like. You're normalizing it. You're proving that it can be done."
Chaka gets messages every single day from "black nerds" who were previously afraid to cosplay. Seeing others do it gave them the strength to try. "I always wanted to cosplay when I was younger, and was so nervous about making my first non-black costume, because I didn't see many examples out there of what I might look like," she says. "My goal with this movement is to provide multiple examples for anyone who might be as nervous as I was. I want to empower, inspire and unite this community, one black cosplayer at a time."
Image: Chaka as "Queen Akasha" courtesy of Hell or High Water Photography
Image: Stephen Little/Flickr Creative Commons
Image: Keith Sowa
Follow #28DaysOfBlackCosplay on Twitter to keep up with the gorgeous photos and awesomely nerdy way to celebrate Black History Month.
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