To black cosplayers, a love letter

Since the dawn of what would become fandom as we know it, cosplay has been a part of how fans expressed themselves and showed their interest in different nerdy properties. For black fans in particular, cosplay became a way to embody the characters they knew and loved, characters that didn’t always look like them. Despite frequent pushback from other cosplayers, attendees, and many people online, black cosplayers have continued to embrace a fandom activity that allows them to bring their nerdy fantasies to life and see themselves in pop culture spaces like never before.

One of the highlights of seeing Black Panther In 2018, all blacks decided that this movie centered on one of Marvel’s earliest and most famous black heroes would be their time to shine Many dressed up to show their appreciation for the characters and their cultures, wearing their costumes to the film’s premiere screenings, taking photos with young fans, and showing off their talents, such as playing the drums. Cosplay for those fans at the time, and at conventions to come, was a way for people to connect and share the excitement for a movie that some of them had been waiting for since the time the MCU was created.

February, of course, is Black History Month. Every February since 2015, #28DaysofBlackCosplay — a hashtag started by cosplayer Chaka Cumberbatch-Tinsley to “flip the script, recapture the conversation, and reposition February as a celebration of Black excellence and Black-specific cosplay culture” — has seen thousands of Black cosplayers turn up to celebrate across themselves and their hard work as cosplayers. There is so much creativity, so much joy, throughout February because those cosplayers have chosen to gift us all with glimpses of their immense talent.

Cosplay isn’t just a part of the fandom, it has communities in its own right. Black cosplayers are hyper-visible for being black nerds in what is largely considered a “non-black” space, and as such have developed cultures where other fans are drawn to what they represent. Remember that super cute Finn/Rey couple cosplay that went viral in 2016? The cute moment was a reminder that these characters, who were firsts in their own right on multiple levels, grabbed the attention of fans who didn’t feel like they could be the heroes in a franchise like Star Wars before the sequel trilogy.

Unfortunately, most black cosplayers can’t just “be”. Despite the “for fun” element clear in the fact that cosplay is short for “costume”. play,Black cosplayers are not allowed to dive headfirst into the escapist space of fandom. There is always the reminder that we are seen as strangers.

One of the biggest examples: When black cosplayers do their best work, they’re told that the character they’re playing is “not black,” so it’s not authentic of them to put on the costume. Black and brown cosplayers are frequently re-labeled as an “ethnic” version of their character, subject to hate on the internet. As we saw with Vishavjit Singh’s Captain America and Chaka Cumberbatch-Tinsley’s Sailor Venus cosplays, many are forced to explain the “why” behind their choices and defend their interest in cosplay as a whole.