DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Cosplay and the building of a Black World

Last semester at the school I teach – and where my son, Ade, attends – the younger male students – ranging in age from six to ten and all of African descent (i.e. Black) – decided to fashion their own costumes based on characters they created. The boys created elaborate back-stories for their personas, developed comic books and transformed from being “themselves” into their personas at every break, during lunch and – for Ade, at least – on the ride home from school.

My son and his schoolmates had discovered the joys of cosplay.

Cosplay, thought by most to be short for “Costume Play” is, more accurately, short for “Paracosmic Play”. Paracosms are the fantasy worlds that many imaginative children invent.

Young people who engage in cosplay are developing creative skills that pay off later in “real life.” The famed trio of Brontë Sisters – best known for the novels, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre – and their Brother, Branwell, are a prime example of those who began writing early through creating and building upon imaginary worlds. As children, they concocted paracosms so elaborate that they documented them with meticulous maps, drawings, and hundreds of pages of encyclopedic writing.

Yes, cosplay involves wearing costumes and acting in the role of a favorite character from a novel, television program, comic book, movie or one’s own imagination; however, any good cosplayer knows that to cosplay well requires a knowledge of the world that character comes from. Those who cosplay characters from their own imaginations – such as my son and his schoolmates – usually create their character’s back-story, which includes the supporting characters and the setting from which that character comes.

It now appears that, like the Brontës, children who engage in cosplay are more likely to be creative as adults. A 2002 study shows that geniuses are twice as likely as “normal” non-geniuses to cosplay. Some fields were proven to be particularly rife with cosplayers: Fully 46 percent of the recipients polled in the social sciences were cosplayers in their youth.

Fandom and cosplay is not for every child – some are just genuinely more interested in football than they are in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles (note that on the covers of the Kane Chronicles, the protagonist’s face is never shown; the protagonist is Black, however, on the cover of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series of novels, the white protagonist’s face is always shown) – but we need to see a change in the media; more Black writers need to tell our stories so that more young, Black fans are encouraged to reap the benefits of participatory fandom and cosplay.

These young, Black cosplayers will go on to make a better world for us.

Why?

 Because cosplay requires practical creativity. Fleshing out a universe demands, not just imagination, but an attention to detail, consistency, rule sets, and logic. You have to grapple with constraints – just as when you are problem-solving at work.

The future belongs to those who can imagine it.

 

On October 26, 2012, join us for a night of adult cosplay and exciting short films at The Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film.

Come out in your (Steam)funkiest gear and enjoy the four short films that will be screened; engage authors, filmmakers and artists in a panel discussion on the Steamfunk Movement; shop for books and movies in our bazaar and meet and greet your fellow Steamfunks, Steampunks, and lovers of Science Fiction and Fantasy!

Presented by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture & History and the State of Black Science Fiction as part of Alien Encounters III, the four-day convention on Black Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy!

Friday, October 26, 2012
6:30pm – 9:00pm.

This event is FREE and open to the public!

Wear your Steampunk / Steamfunk Clothing, Costumes, Gadgets and Gear and receive a Blacknificent Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel free!

 

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. At present, Balogun is directing and fight choreographing the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk –a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is also co-creator of the soon-to-be-released role-playing game, Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG. Balogun is Master Instructor of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Technical Director of Martial Ministries of America, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth. He is also a traditional African priest, actor and conflict resolution specialist, who works and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, his seven daughters and his son.

13 responses »

  1. Milton says:

    I’ll be there all steamfunky!

  2. Dr. Curiosity says:

    “The future belongs to those who can imagine it.”

    Amen!

  3. On this note:
    “(note that on the covers of the Kane Chronicles, the protagonist’s face is never shown; the protagonist is Black, however, on the cover of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series of novels, the white protagonist’s face is always shown) – but we need to see a change in the media;”
    – have a look into the changes they made to Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, starting with what was Rivers of London here, but sells as Midnight Riot over in the US. Great book, but if you get the chance, have a look for the two covers and even the process behind the US cover. You might find it interesting. I know I did.

  4. srtorris says:

    Wow that’s what it’s called? I always saw it as having a vivid imagination and I must tell you, your children are lucky. What happens too often in the African-American community is we discourage this type of behavior so good for you and KUDOS that you don’t.

    There have been too many stunted children because of it.

    • Balogun says:

      I concur. My mother always encouraged – and tolerated – my hyper-imagination and paracosmic play, thankfully, so I pay it forward with mine.

  5. [...] DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Cosplay and the building of a Black World « chroniclesofharri…. [...]

  6. […] The origin of the Mahogany Masquerade began when Yours Truly began research on Black perceptions of self and our place in Cosplay. […]

  7. […] Steampunks and Steamfunkateers insert their personas into imaginative scenarios in which they play the role of a hero who bravely confronts the forces of chaos and destruction. […]

  8. Diashawn says:

    What are you talking about? I looked at the covers, they’re pretty equal when it comes to showing the face.

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