What is #28DaysOfBlackCosplay? The Origin, The Hashtag, The Movement
It’s that time of year again. February. Black history month. Better known in the geek world as #28DaysOfBlackCosplay. You may be wondering what is the deal with this random hashtag that has taken over your social media and how does it affect you. Heck, some people might even be unsure what cosplay is and if black people can cosplay in the first place.
The Origin of #28DaysOfBlackCosplay
The hashtag started to take root back in 2015. A fellow cosplayer, Chaka Cumberbatch-Tinsley (Princess Mentality Cosplay) is the visionary behind the 28 Days of Black Cosplay. I imagine that she was sitting on her sofa one day just tweeting away, maybe scrolling through Instagram. When she realized that there is a lack of black cosplayers on display, even in February, which is supposed to be the month of massive blacktivity.
There most certainly are black cosplayers out there, they just don’t get as much hoopla or recognition as many of their non-black counterparts. So Chaka decided to set out on her own and start displaying black cosplayers on your facebook page, which has nearly 40K followers. The idea stuck and started to grow. Chaka is no stranger to being a trendsetter in the cosplay community. In 2013, this photo of Chaka cosplaying Minako Aino, better known as Sailor Venus, a popular Sailor Moon sidekick, started circulating around the internet. Many were angry at seeing a black Sailor Moon girl. This cosplay sparked many heated arguments and debates.
According to the US Census Bureau, the population of black people in the U.S. is only 13.4% of the total population. The numbers are even smaller in the geekdom and cosplay community, but some fabulous black cosplayers often get overlooked because they “don’t look like the character”. Black cosplayers get dismissed off the courts before they even get a chance to play in the game. These dismissals are not due to lack of creativity or skills, but its a result of having an excess amount of melanin in their skin.
Go now and google “cosplay.” Go ahead I will wait. Chances are the majority of images that come back will be nonblack cosplayers. As a matter of fact, I did the math for you. From the first 400 images returned in the search, 10 of them pictured black cosplayers in some form. That’s a whopping 2.5%. Let’s drilling down a little bit more. Black female cosplayers get way more of that 2.5% exposure than Black male cosplayers. It’s almost like the community is telling the black men to go back home, cook dinner, and watch the kids while the women are out cosplaying.
These numbers are sad and disheartening. It’s unfortunate that the community doesn’t value dark-skinned cosplayers more. It’s hard for cosplayers to feel like they are being heard and appreciated when they don’t even get the chance to be equally represented.
The Photographers’ Role
Photographers, in general, do not seek out black cosplayers. You could have two people in similar cosplays, and the shutterbug will look at the black cosplayer, smile, then point their camera at the non-black cosplayer. Of course, I’m speaking in generalities. Not all photographers do this, but a vast majority do. I’m not sure if they are afraid to ask for a photo or if they don’t realize that they are doing this. One example I have heard is that black cosplayers are much harder to light than non-black cosplayers. I 100% don’t agree with that, but it’s a common excuse. However, let’s put this to bed right now. To all the photographers out there – Every cosplayer wants a photo of their craft. That includes black cosplayers as well.
Every year in February, black cosplayers around the world tag their photos with #28daysofblackcosplay. It’s a way to show the society we are here all geeky and slaying at the same time. The movement is not an attempt to discount any other cosplayers it is just a way for black cosplayers can feel included in a community that doesn’t always value the black contribution. We still love all of our cosplay brothers and sisters. Nothing changes that. But for 28 of the year, you might see a boost in content displaying black cosplayers. Embrace it like them know that you care, use the hashtag to follow to find and discover new talent. You may find new ideas and partners to collaborate with.
I’m glad that Tia stepped out on the limb and started this movement. I think we all know it needed to happen, but she was the brave soul that took the first step. And now it’s a movement, and it’s spreading like a California wildfire. I think Martin Luther King would be proud of her. It is a small example that one person can make a difference. So get out there and vote (That is just my own personal plea to you)
If you ever wanted to try cosplaying. Now is a great time. Check out Amazon or Halloween Costumes to get your first costume. You should start easy, go to a convention test the waters. But if you want to jump in head first, start adding a line item in your budget strictly for your monthly cosplay fix.
There are a lot of amazing black cosplayers out there who do make than just cosplay Black Panther characters. If you are unsure where to find more these amazing cosplayer, just head over to our Instagram. You can start there. @urbancosplayers
Lift every voice and …Cosplay. We are just creative people creating.
Writer, Cosplayer, Wine Lover.
Founder and Editor-in-chief for Urban Cosplayers, a website dedicated to spreading the representation of People of Color (PoC) in the cosplay culture.