I didn’t know black people cosplayed. Black people shouldn’t cosplay. These sentiments are exactly why 28 Days of Black Cosplay exists. If you’ve been actively using any popular social media platform in February during the past couple of years, you’ve likely noticed the tag #28DaysOfBlackCosplay tends to be trending throughout. You may have even found yourself wondering what that is, and it’s pretty self-explanatory: It’s an annual social media event that lasts throughout all 28 days of February, created by cosplayer Chaka Cumberbatch (also known as Princess Mentality) to highlight and celebrate the existence of black cosplayers. This is done by sharing photos of black cosplayers to social media and tagging them #28DaysOfBlackCosplay.
While the geek community often touts itself as being more accepting and diverse than more “mainstream” subcultures of society, I can say from my own experiences as a black cosplayer that geek culture, and in this case, the cosplay community, is far from free of the same racial turmoil that permeates other aspects of modern existence. Black cosplayers, no matter their levels of notoriety, often find themselves on the receiving end of racially-based ridicule and online harassment. I can’t count the times I’ve checked the messages and comments on my own cosplay page only to read things like “Leave it to the white and Asian girls,” “You look like an ape,” and “Black people just don’t look right in cosplay.” Even the seemingly benign “This is good for a black cosplayer!” is little more than an insult disguised as a compliment, implying that black cosplayers are inherently less than their non-black nerdy counterparts. What’s worse, these things are often said by the some of the same people who often repeat the ever-popular mantra of cosplay acceptance “Cosplay is for everyone.” This can be quite discouraging, even to cosplayers with the thickest of skins, so 28 Days of Black cosplay was created in response to the harassment and stigma of being a black cosplayer. To me, it is a way of saying “We’re here. We exist. And we’re just as talented, varied, and amazing as any of costumed nerds out there!”
It’s necessary because, in addition to racist cyber-bullying, people often express surprise when they learn of my interests and hobbies as a black girl. “You cosplay? I didn’t know black people did that!” and they proceed to regard me as a mythical creature or rarity. This is an exasperating experience that many black cosplayers go through. It is also typically followed by the irritating notion that if you are a black person with interests outside of those which are deemed as “acceptable” or “typical” of black people, then you must not be proud of your race. 28 Days of Black Cosplay is a lovely way to destroy this notion because not only does it blatantly acknowledge the “black” aspect of being a black cosplayer; it openly embraces and celebrates it! It’s a fun way to normalize the reality of the black nerd, which is part of a larger push for black people to be seen as individuals with a broad range of interests and passions. We are not a monolith. We are people, like any other people. And in the case of 28 Days of Black Cosplay, we are people in badass costumes.
In addition to this article, my first contribution to #28Days is a list of some of favorite black cosplayers (in no particular order). Some are friends, some are those I admire from afar, and all are pretty great! I’ll be sharing additional lists of amazing cosplayers throughout February on my website, Facebook page, and other social media!
Princess Mentality (The founder of 28 Days)
DeLa Doll Cosplay (Me, duh)
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