It’s Been Real

peace-sign-jamila-art-by-skoots

Art by Myles Rowser

It’s Been Real

Girl Gone Geek is 6 years, 3 months and 23 days old. I’ve published 626 posts since the day I’ve started it. This is my last one.

Girl Gone Geek Blog is the Caterpie of my evolution as a writer. I’ve grown a lot and decided it’s time for me to finally accept my transition to Metapod. (Please note that I’m much more of a Psyduck, but for the sake of the metaphor I stuck with the Caterpie evolution.) Thanks to GGG I found my voice, made amazing friends and had life-changing experiences. When I created Straight Outta Gotham and co-founded Geek Girl Brunch, I started to become more than a blogger. Now, I’m working on even more projects behind-the-scenes, including my first comic, and these ambitions need me to leave behind my life as a Caterpie.

It’s bittersweet, but I hope you’ll continue to follow me and stick around for my Butterfree stage.

 

The Plug

Here’s how you can continue to follow me and keep in touch.

I’m starting a tinyletter called Another Interlude. It’s an email newsletter you can subscribe to here.

You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and my personal Tumblr, Lovers (B)rock.

You can join Geek Girl Brunch whether you identify as a woman, non-binary or genderfluid, as long as you’re okay with the label “geek girl”. (You might find me at the Miami or Fort Lauderdale chapter events!)

If you dig hip hop and geek culture, you should follow Straight Outta Gotham on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, and sign up for our monthly newsletter.

If that’s way too much to remember (sorry!) this is all also on JamilaRowser.com.

And as always, you can drop me a line at jamila@girlgonegeekblog.com.

Thanks for hanging with me.

I love all y’all,

Jamila

When Silence Is Self-Care In Comics Culture

carrie-mae-weems-roaming

Carrie Mae Weems: Roaming, 2006

I. Self-Care in Silence

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve grown quieter about comics over the last few months. After my speech this past November at UNLV, I felt empty. But even when I regained strength I remained quiet. Was I uninspired? Was I being lazy? Whether I couldn’t really tell, or I wasn’t being honest with myself, it took reading Kim O’Connor’s Don’t Be a Dick: Tips and Tricks for How to Talk About Comics piece on Comics and Cola for the reason to become clear to me:

I’m writing today because I think I know the answer to a question that comics types revisit every so often: Why aren’t there more people writing comics crit?

Some of the reasons are universal. (There’s no money in it. There’s no real audience.) Others are huge, but not universal, like systemic racism and sexism. On top of all that there’s another, more nebulous obstacle that some of us experience, and that’s the fact that comics promotes a culture in which people feel way too comfortable acting like total dicks to complete strangers.

When I read those words from Kim, it felt as if she knew what I’ve been fearing all this time. Like she was speaking directly to me. I know I’m not alone. It hurts to see people get harassed for calling out problematic elements in comics. I love comic books. There’s no doubt about that. But it pains me watch the harassment perpetuate – to use bell hooks’ phrase – an
imperialist
white-supremacist
capitalist
patriarchal ideology.

I haven’t experienced a lot of this bullying myself. But the thought of it happening scares me. It scares me to the point where I’m apprehensive of writing, or even just tweeting, about the many issues that bother me. It’s exhausting to simply exist as a woman of color in a society that suffocates me with sexism and racism every day. Right now my spirit can’t manage even more of it in comics culture.

At this moment, I feel the spirit to speak up. I just don’t I have the energy to fight back. But I’m glad others have that strength. I love them for it. So much. They’re a beacon of hope and an inspiration.

Maybe my energy will continue to come and go in batches, though I always fear that it will run out for good. Maybe one day I’ll find my own everlasting strength. For now, my silence is a form of self-care. And if I can’t fight back myself, I’ll continue to support those who can.

 

II. Celebrations

A dear friend of mine shared a poem with me. I shared it with another friend. I’ll now share it with you.

won’t you celebrate with me
By Lucille Clifton, 1936–2010
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

To me, this poem reflects what marginalized people, specifically women of color, experience not only as members of society, but as fans within comics culture as well. What happens out there, happens in here, too. What I like most about this poem is that it doesn’t offer any false hope. It doesn’t make a promise that things will get better, but it doesn’t forebode that things will get worse either.

The poem, instead, gracefully welcomes us to celebrate in the now, that we had the incredible strength to merely survive. Reading a comic, critiquing a comic, creating a comic, all take strength in a world where you are constantly told your voice, your body
or your life
don’t matter.

So won’t you celebrate with me? Celebrate that you made it through another day. Celebrate that you’re still you despite everything and anyone trying to change that. Celebrate that you still managed to be passionate about comics when its culture makes you feel as if you don’t belong. Let’s celebrate with our middle fingers up in the air. Smiling, perhaps through tears. But smiling just the same.

Not Lost in Space: A Love Letter to My Internet & IRL Friends

[Art by Becca Hyman from her Peppermint Gun Comic]

Last Saturday, I attended the 4th Annual Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. The Center was packed with over 5,000 (mostly) black and brown folks of all ages. I love attending events like these because, to quote my friend Cynthia, “It feels like a family reunion.” It was beautiful.

I found a group of amazing black and brown folks who are kind, creative and passionate. Not only do we share a love for comics, games and anime, but also have the shared experience of being a PoC in an oppressive world. Some of these people I’ve only met once, and some not at all. Either way, they are the homies.

We may not see each other in person often (if at all) but we’re always in each other’s mentions, DMs and comments. We can talk about the latest issue of Saga and share our wash day routine. We share One Punch Man fan art and livemixtape.com links in the same message. No code switching necessary.

We value each other.
We inspire each other.
We support each other.
Without them, I’d be lonely.

If you think I’m talking about you, I am.

Self-Care Tips for fans of Geek Culture

jamila-pixel-smaller

Art by Myles Rowser

I’ve come down with a case of being too woke and it’s starting to take a toll on both my mental and physical health. I’ve seen a lot of articles talk about self-care in relation to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other oppressed communities and I think it’s important to take some of those self-care tips and apply it to the –isms and –phobias we also experience in geek culture.

Here are a few ways we can survive in a culture that’s sometimes hostile:

Find Your Community

x-men school

One of the most important things for you to do is find your community and safe spaces. This can be a group of IRL or Internet friends, troll-free online forums or meetup groups.

There are a lot community specific places online and in person that you can join. Geek Girl Brunch, Black Girl Nerds, Gaymers, Geeks Out and Geek Girl Pen Pals Club are just a few. Do some research and ask around about online and in-person communities that fit your needs.

Having a place where you can just be yourself and not worry about intolerance or hate is vital. Not just for the journey towards a more diverse geek culture, but for life. Finding a place where you feel comfortable may take some time, but never give up.

Do you know any other community specific groups or sites? Please comment and I’ll keep the list above updated!

You Don’t Have to Engage

warp-drive-picard-130514

The second thing you should do is don’t feel the need to engage. If you’re like me, a lot of your feeds are filled with people sharing and talking about the latest injustice. I know sometimes social media can make you feel guilty if you don’t talk about the latest negative headline or don’t tweet out the newest hashtag. But remember, you don’t have to talk about it, and if you do talk about it you don’t have to reply to anyone.

It took me a while to really feel okay with just being silent on topics of injustice on social media. It’s only recently that I decided to speak up only when I really wanted to and not when I felt pressured to. It all comes down to awareness – make sure you’re fully aware of your actions and in control of them.

It’s also okay to not educate everyone, or anyone for that matter, about diversity, race, gender, religion or sexuality. It’s not your job. Explaining why representation matters and your own humanity is tiring and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.

I’ve also come to realize the similarities between talking about social justice online and dealing with street harassers. Street harassers will cat call and try to make you feel guilty for ignoring them or shutting them down, but you have to remember, just like social media, you don’t owe them shit.

Tune Out

shinji-ikari-wallpapers-anime-e1427820755376

The third thing you can do is to get off the internet. Now I’m not telling you to cancel your internet and phone service, but I am telling you to tune out when your social media feeds and the news become too much. Switch on airplane mode for a few hours, play a game offline, watch a movie, read a book, go to the park and try your very best to not use your social media apps.

If you can’t tune out all the way, that’s okay! This is a judgment free zone. Instead, try muting and unfollowing accounts that often post negative news. If you run across negative media, think like Dory and just keep scrolling.

Go to your Happy Place

kimi ni todoke friends

Last but not least, when things are overwhelming go to your happy place and do something that you truly enjoy. It’ll (hopefully) cheer you up and it’s also a great reminder as to why you fell in love with geek culture. Because I won’t lie, sometimes we need reminders.

My happy place is shoujo manga and anime. The storylines are so innocent and sweet. I know the most stressful thing the characters will experience is a love triangle or holding their boyfriend’s hand for the first time. Even that stresses me out! But in a good way.

Whether it’s society in general or the pockets of geek culture that you’re apart of, it’s important to be mindful of your mental and emotional bandwidth. If things are literally too much for you to handle, please please please seek professional help. You do not need to go through this alone. 

Do you have any other tips that work for you? Please share in the comments!

On Presenting at UNLV and Chaos Emeralds

girl-gone-geek-blog-jamila-rowser-unlv-BANNER-new

On Presenting at UNLV…

In October, I was asked to present about diversity in geek culture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In November, I did just that.

When I first read the email from the Multicultural Program Coordinator at UNLV I thought it was a scam. It was so unbelievable. She said she was working with the Students Organizing Diversity Activities (SODA) and they wanted to bring me in as a speaker for their upcoming event called Uncensored on November 12th.

I’ve been on podcasts and panels, but I never did something like this before. In fact, I have stage fright. So when I was asked to speak in Vegas I was equal parts honored and terrified. Despite this good news coming during a particularly bad time in my life, I said yes.

It was a rough few weeks for me mentally leading up to the event. I was incredibly anxious the entire time to say the least, but I did it. In fact, I think I did a good job and I’m proud of myself. But I didn’t do it alone. Whenever I doubted myself (which was daily), my SO, brother, family and friends made me think otherwise long enough to get it done.

Speaking of doubting myself, this experience made me realize that I’m too humble. I tell myself and others that I don’t know how I got here. That I’m just lucky or that I slipped through the cracks when no one was looking. I feel like I have Premature Imposter Syndrome; I’m not even worthy of thinking that I’m not worthy. Ain’t that some shit? But, there’s another part of me that knows how hard I’ve worked and that I deserve to be “here”.

I’ve been thinking about contradictions a lot recently. Which you may have noticed because I just mentioned that I feel I’m both not worthy and deserving at the same time. I stumbled across this Walt Whitman quote from Song of Myself recently, and in a few eloquent words he sums up how I’ve come to terms with my seemingly opposing sides,

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

During my speech at UNLV I brought up contradictions several times in regards to enjoying problematic media. I’m a feminist who loves sexist hip hop songs. I’m a woman of color who enjoys some stereotypical characters. I’m confident and insecure. I contain multitudes and I’m cool with that.

… and Chaos Emeralds

sonic-the-hedgehog-image-special-stage-chaos-emerald
My experience as a geek culture blogger can be compared to playing Sonic the Hedgehog. (Stay with me now.) I started blogging because I wanted to talk about the stuff that I liked and I hoped that I’d make some friends along the way. Years later, those are still the core reasons why I continue blogging. Being interviewed, meeting creators, making new friends, speaking on panels and podcasts are all like the special stages in Sonic. The stages where you get to float around this pinball-like maze collecting rings and trying to get the chaos emerald before time runs out. I don’t play Sonic for the special stages, I play it because I enjoy it. But playing the special stages makes the experience even better. For me, the chaos emeralds are when people tell me that Girl Gone Geek inspired them or when I spoke at UNLV.

I hope I get more chaos emeralds, but even if I don’t, I’m still going to keep playing the game.

 

[Most of the photos are by Jemar Souza]

New York Comic Con 2015: Gimmie The Loot

Here are all of the goodies that I got from NYCC. This post was half done a month ago but life has been kinda crazy so better late than never as they say!

The Divine 
girl-gone-geek-jamila-nycc-2015-new-york-comic-con-divine

The Divine is a fast-paced, brutal, and breathlessly beautiful portrait of a world where ancient powers vie with modern warfare and nobody escapes unscathed. (via Amazon)” This is a perfect example of why you should judge a book by its cover. (I bought this from the Kinokuniya booth along with Virgil.)

Eliza Frye 

Her art made me stop in my tracks!

Virgil

girl-gone-geek-jamila-nycc-2015-new-york-comic-con-virgil-image-comics

“Betrayed, beaten, and banished by his own, an outed cop fights his way across Jamaica for revenge! (via Image)” Virgil was a thrill ride. Buy this!

Jordie Bellaire is GREAT & They’re Not Like Us 

Jordie Bellaire is my favorite colorist. If you read (good) comics, chances are Bellaire is the colorist on one of them. She’s crazy talented, hardworking and to top it all off she’s a super nice person.

About two years ago I was tweeting sweet nothings to @whoajordie about her coloring and she said she was going to the upcoming New York Comic Con and she’d give me a little something. I promptly melted. Sadly, she couldn’t make it to NYCC that year. But she didn’t forget that convo. This year she tweeted at me that she wasn’t going, but Declan Shalvey (another talented artist) was going and she would give him something for me to pick up. I was just beside myself. I didn’t think she remembered a few tweets she exchanged with a fan two years ago, let alone decide to give little old me something.

Fast-forward to the con and I pick up my gift from Bellaire via Shalvey and it’s volume one of They’re Not Like Us written by Eric Stephenson art by Simon Gane and colors by Jordie Bellaire. Now I’m already reading this comic because duh, why wouldn’t I be? But I didn’t have the first volume which I was excited to get. And then to have it blessed by Jordie Bellaire herself was one of the highlights of New York Comic Con. She did a cute little sketch and wrote, “Thanks Jamila”. Thank YOU, Jordie. For real. Thank you. It never gets old when you realize someone you’re a fan of is a really nice person.

Tephlon Funk

girl-gone-geek-jamila-nycc-2015-new-york-comic-con-tephlon-funk

Tephlon Funk is an anime/manga and hip hop inspired comic with plans to come out as an anime as well. TF is one of those projects that I could just throw my money at without knowing much about the story because the art is so dope. This post was supposed to go out when the Tephlon Funk Kickstarter was live so y’all could fund it. But alas, life did its thing, and now the Kickstarter has ended but thankfully it was funded!

Alitha Martinez

Alitha Martinez is a talented artist who has worked for DC and Marvel and we’ve been on two panels together about Women of Color in Comics. Martinez had a booth in artist alley and I HAD to cop her art. I picked up two postcards and a beautiful erotic comic called Foreign: Gifts and Curses: Pillow Book.

Wayward

girl-gone-geek-jamila-nycc-2015-new-york-comic-con-wayward-image-comics

My friend Roshi is reading Wayward and told me she loved it and I should read it, too, so I stopped by writer Jim Zub’s booth in artist alley and picked it up. The cover is filled with cats so I’m already a fan.

Markus Prime

I’ve been a fan of Markus Prime for a while now. I love his creative, race swapped characters. He was at NYCC supporting Amandla Stenberg and Ashley A. Woods’ new comic Niobe (see below). He also did a variant cover for the series. He didn’t have a booth but he was nice enough to bring two prints for me to buy from him the next day!

Ego Rehab by Dave Crosland

girl-gone-geek-jamila-nycc-2015-new-york-comic-con-dave-crosland-ego-trip

While in artist alley, I did my usual “scan for artists of color and women to buy from” and came across Dave Crosland’s booth. I bought his comic Ego Rehab, which is an autobiographical story where Crosland is rescued from lack of inspiration by his adventurous inner child. It sounded like fun so I picked it up!

Niobe: She is Life Print & The Untamed

I stopped by the Stranger Comics booth to support the new series, Niobe: She is Life. It’s written by Sebastian A. Jones, and Hunger Games star and activist Amandla Stenberg with art by Ashley A. Woods based on layouts by Stranger’s Art Director Darrell May. Unfortunately, issue one was sold out but I managed to snag a gorgeous print and and the hardcover of The Untamed. Niobe seems to be sold out pretty much everywhere so lucky you if you managed to get a copy!

Nowhere Men

girl-gone-geek-jamila-nycc-2015-new-york-comic-con-nowhere-men

My love for Nowhere Men runs deep, y’all. Very rarely do I fall in love with every bit of a comic but I did with NM. It was young love, but just as we were getting to know one another, my heart was broken when it went on a hiatus with no mention of a return. I felt like I was left at the alter. Despite its abrupt stop, I continued to tell anyone who would listen to read Nowhere Men. But as they say it’s always darkest before the dawn and it was announced that Nowhere Men was returning.

When is it returning? Not sure exactly, sometime next year. But just like Nana, I’ll wait forever for its return. This announcement, however, came with upsetting news. The original artist, Nate Bellegarde, won’t be returning with it. I’m really sad about this and will probably never get over it, but I understand. For a minute or two, I tried to figure out how to describe the way Bellegarde’s art made me feel, but I can’t. I’m speechless… Or rather wordless. I wish him all the best. He is talented beyond words. I’m looking forward to Dave Taylor joining the Nowhere Men team as the new artist. (Oh, and shout out to David Brothers for being awesome!)

New York Comic Con 2015: Cosplay Roundup

Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop Cosplay

Y’all are probably sick of seeing my femme Spike cosplay, but I’m not sick of wearing it. Any chance I get to pretend to be as cool as Spike Spiegel I’m going to take it. This cosplay was made by the very talented Stefánia Ágoston of Ticci Rockabilly. I wore this to the Fanbros: Crossplay Cosplay Contest and Party where I was one of the judges. Fanbros are the homies; I love their podcast and they are some of my favorite geek peeps. Check them out!

Neon Genesis Evangelion… Sweatshirt

I needed a day of rest from cosplaying so I wore my Neon Genesis Evangelion sweater from Apparel K on Thursday. I love how cute Sachiel looks on the sleeves of the sweater.

Sailor Goon Cosplay

For Friday, I went with a remixed version of my Sailor Goon cosplay. I traded my denim vest and shorts for a leather-ish vest and black shorts. I left the wig at home because I couldn’t be bothered… but also because I’m in love with my new hair color.

Sailor Moon from Earth 23 Cosplay

The Story

I’ll be honest, I had a lot of concerns about my Earth 23 Sailor Moon cosplay. Being a PoC I’m extra sensitive to appropriation. Nowadays everyone is being called out for it, both justly and unjustly. I was nervous that what I was doing could be considered the same thing. Race and culture bends in cosplay are nothing new, but I wondered if those cosplayers experienced that same trepidation.

I approached this cosplay with the utmost respect to Sailor Moon and Japanese culture; which helped subside my appropriation concerns. To me, this was more than a simple culture bend cosplay. I wanted to show the strong connection that black women have to Sailor Moon. Yes, women of all backgrounds grew up watching the Sailor Senshi. However, there’s a special connection many of women of color made with the Sailor Scouts. Here was this group of strong, but also flawed, teenagers kicking ass… and they were women of color. Something we could only really find in anime. My cosplay was my way of honoring that connection and hopefully uplifting women of color as well.

The Construction

I bought the fabric from Jabbie Kunda at the International African Arts Festival in Brooklyn this summer. If you live in NYC and want to buy some beautiful African wax and kente fabrics, his permanent shop is located at the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market (aka the African Market).

Stefánia of Ticci Rockabilly made my Kente Sailor Fuku and did an amazing job. To add a little poof I wore my petticoat from Bodyline and my friend Shanté made my beautiful ankh headpiece.

@girl_gone_geek stealin my heart at #NewYorkComicCon. booth 2238 – come say hey

A photo posted by amandla (@amandlastenberg) on Oct 10, 2015 at 11:30am PDT

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

The Compliments

The compliments were overwhelming. Instead of a magical girl transformation, I turned into a shy shoujo character like Rinko Yamato or Sawako Kuronuma. I felt not only extremely adorable, but strong as well. I believe people got the message I was trying to convey and I’m happy about that.

I met Amandla Stenberg (Hunger Games) and she loved my cosplay so much that she posted a photo on her Instagram! She was at NYCC to promote the comic she’s writing, Niobe: She Is Life, along with the artist Ashley Woods. The comic comes out November 4th. Preorder it now at your local comic book shop!

Steven Universe Cosplay

I wanted to do a Steven Universe cosplay but since I waited last-minute I ended up with just the shirt, gem and cheeseburger clutch (instead of a backpack). Still cute, though!

NYCC 2015 Cosplay