(Originally posted on tumblr)
I attended the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) at the Enterprise Center on Saturday, May 16 and was impressed by many of the talented artists there. Founded in 2002 by Yumy Odom – (President), ECBACC is the oldest African-American comic book convention in Philadelphia and a pioneer in giving Black heroes, super-powered characters, and their creators a voice in the comic book industry.
ECBACC was created so that African-American fans, visionaries, artists, writers, and collectors could come together to share ideas, images, and of course, sell products. Along with MeccaCon, The Black Comic Book Festival it’s also one of the only Black comic book conventions in the country.
It’s the organization that sponsors the GLYPH Awards every year, and as a 501©(3) non-profit organization, you can get a tax break JUST by buying a ticket . However, judging from the responses I got when I told fellow blerds I was going to attend, those who are not comic content creators…have never heard of it.
From 11am-7pm the main room of the Enterprise Center featured comic book creators, filmmakers and artists, selling everything from posters and graphic novels to DVDs and action figures. There were professional workshops and panel discussions for adults, such as the “The BlackScifi Industry” featuring Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Dawud Anyabwile and “The Comic Connection” (featuring award winning artists Mshindo Kuumba and Jerry Craft). There were workshops and films for kids as well.
Two screening rooms had exhibits for current indie projects like the live action short “Kung Fu Bum” by Chopstick Graffitti, and the animated short “E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams” by YouNeekStudios were shown.
Not everyone present just sold comic books either. Adae Mina is a manga-style artist and comic industry veteran Alex Simmons was selling a narrative about his character Blackjack. There were several tables with narrative and afrofuturistic fiction, manga art, movies and learning tools for children, like Kuumba Kids and EdAnime who’ve animated series aimed at teaching African-American history, science, health and self-esteem to kids.
There was work by veteran comic book creators that I personally knew, like N. Steven Harris and Robert Garrett of XMoor Studios (Ajala) and Chuck Collins of Rat Ronin Studios (Bounce! and TriBoro Tales), and some new to me, like Kamau Mushale and his comic Captain Kacela Universal Ranger. Or Yorli Huff and her semi-autobiographical hero Superhero Huff.
I also met Tim Fielder, creator of Matty’s Rocket, and Rorie Still, one of the few female creators there with her comic Teddy Ninja. I also spoke with comic book historian Professor William H. Foster, who’s basically a walking encyclopedia of Black characters in comics and their storylines, as well as longtime comic book artist, Jamar Nicholas, (Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun/ Leon: Protector of the Playground).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention AfriCoz, the cosplay competition, and the cosplayers represented were a mix of mainstream characters (there was an Avatar mom!) and original cosplayers of color like, Capt Kacela, Dreadlocks, The Reaper and who could forget Helvetica Bold! the superhero for social justice.
With all of this history, knowledge, talent and artist accessibility, I wondered why ECBACC is held in such a small venue and why more don’t attend. How come most #blerds know about the Glyph Awards, but those same people are not familiar with its sponsor ECBAAC? Why doesn’t ECBACC get the level of coverage that conventions like MECCACON do?
“Publicity and awareness are always key regarding attendees of any event. At ECBACC we are always honored and humbled by the increasing numbers of individuals and families that come out to our annual Glyph Comics Awards Ceremony on Friday and our full-day convention on Saturday. We have been blessed with attendees who were local, who have come as far as California, and are gaining interest from fans overseas. I think once people know about ECBACC they become very much interested. We ask that people spread the word. Advertisements are one thing, but personal endorsements to friends, family, and colleagues are powerful. Next time someone comes to ECBACC, please bring the friend that is only marginally aware of heroes that “look like us.” The next time you come to ECBACC, bring students from your school who are unaware of the career possibilities that our professional vendors make credible. The next time you come to ECBACC make note of what you learn, then share what you’ve learned with others.”
So consider this post an announcement. If you’re an artist, are trying to figure out how to get into the business, want to learn how to create comic books, animation, filmaking, have children that you want to expose to inspiring heroes, or are just a #blerd like me, next year, GET TO ECBACC. We can’t keep complaining that there aren’t enough #POC in comics and then not support the artists who create them.