Last Saturday, the Schomberg Center in Harlem, New York City was home to the 4th annual Black Comics Festival. It was my first time attending, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I got there about an hour after doors open. The festival was free, all you had to do was register through the site, show up, get your yellow wrist band, step inside and enjoy yourself. I appreciate the effort the organizers made to make this event as inclusive as possible. While NYCC is an amazing event, tickets are expensive and lots of comic book fans without a several hundred dollars sitting around aren’t able to enjoy it. A free festival allows those fans to enjoy the sense of camaraderie and community you get from attending these types of events without breaking the bank.
Although I have been living in NYC for close to 12 years, I had never been to the Schomberg Center, but it’s a beautiful building. When I first arrived, the space felt perfectly adequate, but as more and more people started arriving it got tighter and tighter. By the time I left I could barely make my way through the building. I’m not complaining about that though, because it’s a good thing. Eventually organizers of bigger conventions will see that Black people are an integral part of Nerd culture and we deserve more than 2 panels per event.
While there wasn’t much there by way of actual comics, the event was more about like minded people being able to come together in a space that’s safe enough for them to be themselves and speak freely about their interests. The highlight of this was the small art gallery that highlighted Afrofuturism. Even though the gallery was small, the art there was interesting, engaging and moving. The art there highlighted just how nerd culture, activism and Afrofuturism are synonymous with progress.
I’ve been part of Black nerd culture in some kind of way my entire life, and its still kind of jarring to be in spaces with lots of people like me. I’m just use to shrinking myself to make other people more comfortable in spaces where my personal interests are front and center, whether that be music, comics or MMA. But these kinds of events make it easier for people like me to navigate the scene. It almost always morphs into something bigger than just comics or nerdy interests. Eventually it starts to feel like a family reunion and I’m looking forward to seeing more family at more events like this one.