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I admit it. I'm a geek. That's right. I'm an old-school Star Trek-watching, Marvel-collecting, anime-watching geek. If my 13-year-old fanfic writing self had heard about the Philly-based East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) which highlights Afrocentric characters in the comic industry, I would've squealed with delight. In her honor, I'm going to spend the next three minutes convincing you why you should attend this weekend's Comics and Culture Fest on Saturday, July 15, which is part comic book convention and part street festival.
Geekdom for the culture
The Comics and Culture Fest will take place at Letitia House and focus on bridging hemispheres of Blackness and geekdom. It will include a kids' library zone, industry panels, a comic book marketplace, and even a cosplay contest dubbed Africoz comes with a cultural bent: celebrating positive images of those of African descent and encouraging attendees to craft their own or use existing heroes as a launch point.
So, why should you attend the festival?
#1: You want to support a group that highlights cultural awareness
Founded in 2002 by Yumy Odom with the support of 35 comic industry members, ECBACC highlights the "importance of African Americans in the [comic] industry" and spreads “awareness of Blacks in [the] comic sphere," according to its vice president Akinseye Brown. While describing how the African diaspora does not exclude fantasy or comic culture, he believes ECBACC "make(s) clear that these ideas of culture and comics aren't separated from us. It's very natural, they're blended. They're part of our everyday life. You know, we love marketing, not [just] Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, [we also] still like Superman and Green Lantern."
Every year, ECBACC honors writers and artists within the diaspora. As a feminist teen, I hated the absence of female writers and artists—which led to unrealistically top-heavy female bodies and storylines trivializing sexual assault. Although this year's ECBACC award winners were seemingly all male, the cover art for winners such as Malachi Bailey's Her, Newton Lilavois's Kisha Demon Eater, and Onaji Rouse's Kandake, refreshingly did not feature oversexualized female bodies.
#2: You're a hardcore Philadelphian who high-fives all Philly-based groups
How Philly is ECBACC? Let me count the ways. The first Black comic book, All Negro Comics, was created in Philly by Warren Evans in 1947, which ECBACC honors. Brown designed the 2023 commemorative "50 Years of Hip-Hop" library card for the Free Library. ECBACC's first pioneer award went to Samuel Joyner of the Philly Tribune. ECBACC sponsors a literacy program called Storytelling That Advances Reading Skills (STARs) in the surrounding Philadelphia and Tri-State area, which uses comic books to foster vocabulary and creativity. And ECBACC frequently hosts events at Philly joints like the African American Museum and the Free Library.
#3: The convention is part comic convention and part outdoor festival
This event will feature food, vendors, residential authors, live music (including a hip-hop/comics fusion group called the Microphone Misfitz), and places for families to run. The event was so popular last year, ECBACC was requested to host it again.
#4: Nichelle Nichols was a former ECBACC panelist
That's right, the late, great Lt. Uhura herself graced former ECBACC events.
#5: You're a geek at heart
And even if you aren't, this is the perfect time to let your geek flag fly! The ECBACC Comics and Culture Fest is free, family-friendly, and open to the public. If you've never attended a comic con before, come on out and dip your toes into the cultural pool!
What, When, Where
East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. Free. Saturday, July 15, 11am-6pm at Letitia House, 3451-3485 West Girard Avenue. ecbacc.com.
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