Do you remember how you heard about ECBACC and began covering it for your site?
I know Akynseye Brown really well because he's my godbrother. I was freelancing at one point, so I was spending a lot of time in Philly. I thought when people were talking about this Philly convention that they were talking about Black folks who had taken up residence at an existing con. I'm pretty sure it was Akinseye who was like, "Nope this is Black people and it's been going on for quite some time."
I think I covered ECBACC even before I launched theblerdgurl site because theblerdgurl was basically an idea that came from a Tumblr. There was a lot of discussion about the lack of Black characters and other people of color in comic books. I was like, there's actually a lot that you guys don't realize exist. So, the site's goal originally was to tell people about stuff that they didn't know about. About 6 years ago, I wrote an article Why ECBACC is one of the most Important Comic Book Conventions For Blerds ... and Why You've Never Heard of It. Then it kinda blew up. It blew up on Tumblr and then I moved it over to my WordPress site where it was really, really well received. My goal is always to highlight marginalized voices, and the fact that I'd never heard of ECBACC was just sad.
Also, I had heard of the Glyph Awards but had never made the connection. I think it's because I didn't live [in Philadelphia]. Whenever I'd see anything about it, they were listed separately. I knew it was the only award ceremony for Black comics. One of the things I'm also into is helping to market indie creators, and if there's nothing else I can do, I can use my power to let more people know about this event. I think my first year was 2014 but then I came back with the intent to cover it for 2015. I was stunned when I learned it was founded in 2002!
What's a cherished memory from ECBACC?
I think I was really shocked about the amount of cosplay. I had never seen that many Black cosplayers in one place. Some people were even cosplaying indie Black characters! I thought that was phenomenal. That's the part that really got me. I had known about the Schomburg [Black Comic Book Festival] because I live in New York so that was easier to get to. Covering ECBACC and the Schomburg really helped me define how I was going to move forward as a journalist. What dawned on me is not the lack of stories out there but the lack of people talking about them who weren't trying to be a part of it. I've written Forwards for books, but I've never written a comic because my goal is not to do that. It has always been to cover them. The response I got for the ECBACC post and other Black conventions I've covered has been profound because every day there's someone who hasn't heard of it and doesn't know the history behind it.
What are some encouraging trends you've seen in the indie comic book space?
I think Black Panther shed a light on the fact that Black stories can sell, not that people weren't creating them beforehand. People like Roye Akupe who has sold at ECBACC and several different conventions, grinding on his own consistently, caught the attention of Diamond. Because he met those deadlines, he caught the attention of Dark Horse Comics who is now distributing his books. I remember in 2014 when he just had the one comic at his table at ECBACC. Now he has a whole line of comics. The thing I love about this is it's not Dark Horse taking his idea and trying to do their own version. It's not Dark Horse trying to coopt or license his characters. It's them recognizing YouNeek Studios as a company that's doing good work and wanting to partner with him and pay for his marketing and distribution. I think that's a goal a lot of indie creators should be looking towards. No one should give up their IP unless they want to and get paid for it. I love that we're now at the point that mainstream companies are like, "Instead of us trying to do this Black character and getting dragged on Twitter, maybe we should just pay somebody who is already doing it." That's the most direct thing I can see with indie comics and ECBACC's effect.
Where would you like to see ECBACC go in the future?
Digital. Even when the event goes back to being in-person, they should have virtual events in between. There should be things for Women's History Month, a spotlight on Afro-Latino creators, Black queer creators in June. So then ECBACC will have a presence all year round that brings people to the live event. There could be an ECBACC Twitch channel for gaming, an ECBACC podcast... There's no reason ECBACC can't have all these other entities that are under the ECBACC umbrella to keep that conversation happening. There could be a virtual ECBACC Juneteenth. How awesome would it be if they did something with Kugali or Comics Alliance or other African creators as they come to the fans live from where they're working.
You cover a lot of events, both Black-centered and not. Is there anything you find that's uniquely ECBACC?
The Glyph Awards. It's ECBACC's crowning jewel. They're the industry standard for Black creators. With sponsorship, the Glyph Awards could be even bigger. That is absolutely ECBACC owned.