"My intention is to be broad, but I have no intention of taking away the essence of who I am. The African Diaspora will always be what ONYXCON is about."
What is the connection between ONYXCON and ECBACC?
Uncle Yumy. He's like family to me. Yumy looked out for me the way you're supposed to look out for folks when they come to you the way I came to ECBACC. I was much younger. I still got the same spirit, still energetic, but it must have been tenfold back then. I just remember how he embraced me even in the first email. We had the same spirit of true unification. It didn't matter that I was in Atlanta and he was in Philly. We wanted to do the same thing. My baby ONYXCON hadn't even been thought of. All that was alive at that time was my desire to do independent comic books. I had an ashcan I was shopping around at the time. Duwud Anyabwile who does Brother Man told me I needed to go to ECBACC so I looked it up online and reached out.
What is a treasured memory of ECBACC?
When I got to Philly, Maurice picked me up at the airport and gave me the royal treatment. People were saying Philly can be rough, but I was like, "I'm cool, I got a bodyguard and a homie!" He really looked out for me. We were riding around looking at all the murals, and he told me Philly has more than anywhere else in the country. At first, I was like you can't beat Cali, but the whole town is a Museum!
I'll never forget the first ECBACC I went to. I was always into masks and masquerade. I still love it. My first book was all about wrestling. I fused Lucha libre, the Mexican wrestling tradition, with African wrestling traditions. One of my characters had face paint. I didn't want to do a full cosplay, but I figured I could do the paint. I got so excited talking to people all day that I didn't have time to get my makeup on, so I decided I was going to paint my face while on the panel! Now, this is the first time I'd ever actually been involved in a convention. There must've been about 6 other people on that panel. Afterward, Jerry Craft, who not only writes comedic stuff but is like a comedienne said, "Ayo Joseph, it's tight but, I'll tell ya what, as you were painting it, I thought to myself, 'Is this brother gonna kill all of us by the end?'"
How do you see ECBACC and ONYXCON and other boutique cons as they relate to the broader ecosystem?
I really love your choice of words because I've seen "boutique" used for other things but never this. I always say "niche" or "culturally specific." My intention is to be broad, but I have no intention of taking away the essence of who I am. The African Diaspora will always be what ONYXCON is about.
I know that ECBACC was an homage to Turtel Onli and what he did with the Black Age of Comics back in '93. In Detroit, Andre Batts started the same year I did with the Motor City Black Age of Comics, which was, in turn, an homage to Yumy and ECBACC. I never liked the phrase, "I do it for the culture" because it's "cultures" plural. We need to allow ourselves the truth of our individualism and our communities. We have to honor our uniqueness.