WCW: JAMILA ROWSER-WRITER

You guys may have seen me post about Geek Girl Brunch, on my social media pages. I am so grateful to have found the Geek Girl Brunch Community. I have met so many amazing women through it and wonderful friends.

I had the opportunity last week to talk to co-founder Jamila Rowser.  Jamila is bomb! She has written for NYLON Magazine, MTV, Mass Appeal and Critical Chips 2 (which was nominated for the 2018 Angouleme Alternative Comics Award).  In addition to Wash Day and Geek Girl Brunch, she also founded Straight Outta Gotham, a project that highlights connections between hip-hop and geek culture.

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Back to her new project Wash Day!  Wash Day is a slice-of-life comic that pays tribute to the beauty and endurance of Black women and their hair. The 27-page story was written by Jamila Rowser and illustrated by Robyn Smith, with script edits by J.A. Micheline. It follows Kimana, a 26-year-old woman living in the Bronx, as she cares for her long, thick hair.

As Kim goes through her Sunday morning rituals, readers experience the highs and lows of her day—fresh coffee, rising rent, girl talk and catcalls.

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Jamila, inspired by her own wash day ritual and desire to read more comics by and for women of color, decided to follow the words of the great Toni Morrison, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it

Robyn decided to peruse comics so she could tell stories that highlight the personal and societal aspects of Black womanhood. It is those very facets that she saw in Wash Day and drew her to the project, “There’s something radical about a story of a Black woman taking time for herself and taking care of herself in ways extremely specific to Blackness.”

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Wash Day will be self-published with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Which runs from April 3rd - May 4th.  Hyped to see Washday exceed its Kickstarter goal of $5k to $10k! #blackgirlmagic at its finest!

A physical copy of the comic book,  Wash Day

A physical copy of the comic book, Wash Day

Check out my q&a with Jamila below!

O.C.O: What brought you to comics?

J.R: I’ve always enjoyed anime, video games and sci-fi and fantasy, so comics was inevitable for me. I also had a late uncle named Barry who was a huge comic book fan and was a big inspiration to me as well. He took me to my first comic con when I was young.

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O.C.O:  What was the inspiration behind “Wash Day”? and Why was it important to you to highlight the day in the life of Kimana?

J.R: I love josei manga and I wanted to create a Black josei comic basically. A comic by and for Black women. There’s a quote Robyn Smith, the artist of Wash Day, said that I think describes up it beautifully, “There’s something radical about a story of a Black woman taking time for herself and taking care of herself in ways extremely specific to Blackness.” 

Preview pages, illustration by  Robyn Smith

Preview pages, illustration by Robyn Smith

O.C.O:  How did you and Robyn link up?

J.R:  I found Robyn on Twitter! Someone had retweeted her art and I was drawn to it. I look at more of her work and I loved her style and read her moving comic The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town and reached out to about working on Wash Day. She was excited to be a part of the project and loves drawing hair, which is great because there’s a lot of it in this comic. She’s been an absolute pleasure to work with.

With a pledge of $30 or more, readers will receive a  Wash Day  sticker sheet featuring art by Robyn Smith. 

With a pledge of $30 or more, readers will receive a Wash Day sticker sheet featuring art by Robyn Smith. 

Preview pages, illustration by  Robyn Smith

Preview pages, illustration by Robyn Smith

O.C.O:  Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

J.R:  Other than my Uncle Barry, I would say my friends and music are my biggest influencers. Specifically, artists like Frank Ocean, Solange, SZA and Tyler the Creator, especially their recent projects. Missy Elliot, Erykah Badu and Outkast are also big inspirations to me as well. I think they are all highly creative people whose art is often clever and intellectual, but also deeply relatable and accessible to many.

Preview pages, illustration by  Robyn Smith

Preview pages, illustration by Robyn Smith

O.C.O:  What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

J.R:  That I get to work on something that I care about. It sounds simple, but it’s truly fulfilling to be able to devote time and energy into a project you’re passionate about.

O.C.O:  If a young girl is interested in creating comics, what’s the best advice you can offer her?

J.R:  Create what you want to exist in the world.

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O.C.O: What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?

J.R: I am working on a mini comic that I’m not ready to announce yet. I hope to release it late summer/early fall. I’m pretty excited about it! I can say that it is inspired by an iconic song.

O.C.O:  What advice would you give to aspiring artists wanting to use their art to address social issues? 

J.R:  Try to let go of the pressure to be the representative of your people. It’s often a burden I feel as one of the few Black women who works in a predominantly white space (I’m talking about my 9-5 job), but I actively try to let it go and remind myself that my experience is mines alone and I can’t and shouldn’t have to represent my race or sex. The same goes for stories, of course there are experiences we all share, but don’t get hung up on trying to include everyone’s experience.

Support Wash Day y'all: www.washdaycomic.com the kickstarter campaign runs through May 4th.

You can follow Jamila on Instagram and Twitter.

Xo

Kos

NYCC 2017 Recap!

An October tradition for my friends and me is attending New York Comic Con (NYCC).  This is a time when I, and my fellow geeks from the metro area, can escape reality for a few days! The merchandise and cosplays at this year’s New York Comic Con didn’t miss a beat.

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I dug The Big Lebowski and The Professional cosplays the most! Cosplayers dressing up as 90s movie icons? Oh the 90s nostalgia!

A few of my fellow geek gals participated in a ClulessXHarryPotter mashup (shouts to Chavon of Geeky & Creepy for the idea). It was awesome! Yes, that is me being the only Slytherin (a lovable Slytherin) in the group.  The blazer is killah, snagging it on Esty along with the Harry Potter Patch bag from Hot Topic.  I predict there will be more group cosplays in the future for me, including a repeat of this one :) 

ROLLCALL!   Che : Ravenclaw, Kos: Slytherin,  Arkieda : Ravenclaw,  Robyn : Gryffindor,  Isake : Ravenclaw, Christina: Gryffindor,  Akua : Ravenclaw

ROLLCALL! Che: Ravenclaw, Kos: Slytherin, Arkieda: Ravenclaw, Robyn: Gryffindor, Isake: Ravenclaw, Christina: Gryffindor, Akua: Ravenclaw

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AS IF!

AS IF!

Since I’ve been attending regional comic cons recently, I have become stoked about the panels!  Connecting with fellow geeks on topics that matter: mental health, diversity, and geek journalism, this year at NYCC they didn’t disappoint. A highlight for many was “Fashioning Fiction: The Aesthetics of Fantasy Worlds” panel, which included Geek Girl Brunch co-founder Yissel Ayala. Yissel along with 6 panelists broke down what makes fashion fantastical and how they find inspiration in the real world to clothe the denizens of their imaginary realms.

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Yissel is a visual merchandiser and has a BFA in Women’s Sportswear from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT Alum Woot Woot), she’s has been mentored by Carolina Herrera and studied knitwear at Politecnico Di Milano in Milan, Italy   

I had the opportunity to speak with YIssel after the panel, check it out:
O.C.O: What led you submit for the panel

Y.A: My friend and cheerleader Erica Shultz encouraged me. We'd gotten to know each other through me moderating her panels at New Jersey Comic Expo, so she knew I was beyond capable.  Actually, "encouraged," is an understatement.  She'd regularly e-mail and text me reminders to brainstorm ideas and the panel submission deadline. Ha! She really pushed for me to do this, and for that, I am forever grateful.  

Soon after, I visited my friend Melissa Grey to get her take and bounce ideas off of her over wine (like you do). I knew I had to do something around fashion. Around design  - A subject I'm passionate about, knowledgeable, have credibility in. But, what else? Well, I love books.... It was Melissa that suggested the aesthetics of fantasy worlds. It was pretty perfect. Here I was talking to my published author best friend, so I knew I'd at least have one guaranteed panelist onboard. 

I went home and drafted out some copy, came up with the name, "Fashioning Fiction", had Melissa reply to my e-mail with even better copy, sought out potential panelists with her help, and the panel was born. 

O.C.O: What did you want to teach/accomplish with the panel?

Y.A:  I wanted to talk about fashion for an hour without it becoming as superficial as red carpet coverage before a major awards show.  

When people think of literature, what words spring to mind? Smart. Profound. Classic. How does the average person view fashion? Is it fun? Well, you and I know that. But then there are people who think: "superficial," who don't realize that, "smart," "profound," and, "classic," are all terms that apply to fashion too. 

It was important for me to be able to celebrate fashion as a crucial world-building tool. So, I put a lot of thought and care into my questions and presentation as a whole. Through PowerPoint I created a visual narrative. I told an easy to follow story, first on Literature’s contributions to fashion, citing prominent literary works and designer achievements, which allowed me to dive into the heart of my panel, fashion's very necessary contribution to storytelling. My approach worked. It really fucking worked. 

O.C.O: How'd you come to know your panel mates?

Y.A: They're my friends, and friends of friends. I find already knowing someone makes asking them to be on your panel way easier!

O.C.O: If you could have a follow up panel to this one, what would it focus on?

Y.A: I think I may just do a round 2 of this panel, as I already have some interested parties. It's more than I could've hoped for.

I do like the idea of discussing the great style icons of literature and their influence on modern fashion. Maybe I'll attempt that at BookCon? We'll see!

Follow Yissel on Instagram and Twitter @Thedesignergeek

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As I left New York Comic Con, I could not help but notice the increased attendance from last year!  I learned later that attendance rose to over  200,000 to be exact!!  How awesome is that?!  New York Comic Con continues to get better and better.  I started going in 2013.  Each year I leave the con more confident, inspired, and creative. Until next year!

xo

Kos

WCW: Akua Harris-When Geeks Travel

Summer is winding down, . . .sadly.  Time to indulge in that last BBQ, beach and rooftop get together with friends before the autumn leaves start to fall.  I am excited to say that I am also ending my summer by attending DragonCon in Atlanta; one of the largest cons in the east coast.  I’m excited, as this is my first regional comic con. I am also inspired by my niece, Akua Harris, who has attended many regional comic cons through the years.   

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Akua featured on  Buzzfeed's  NYCC round up for her Rogue Cosplay

Akua featured on Buzzfeed's NYCC round up for her Rogue Cosplay

Akua was born on Star Wars Day “May The Fourth Be With You” we also grew up together.  Although she is my niece, in reality, she is more like my sister.  There is a difference of four years between us. 

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Akua is smart, beautiful, creative and passionate about what she does; particularly about traveling, cosplay and gaming.  Her travels had led her create the group “When Geeks Travel” a travel initiative celebrating the geek in all of us.  She is passionate about her cosplay costumes; meticulous in every detail.  Cosplay is truly an art form.  Akua’s Cosplays are always on point!  And, did I mention she is fluent in Spanish. 

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Akua in addition to attending comic cons all over the country, works in digital marketing offering her services to Black Girl Gamers and is also an officer at Geek Girl Brunch NYC.  Geek Girl Brunch,  was founded in NYC about three years ago, is an awesome group that meets once a month, with a new theme and a new place where geek girls like us can meet up with a mimosa and talk all things geek. The organization has expanded across the country, to the Caribbean and Europe! 

In between work and prepping for upcoming DragonCon in Atlanta, I was able to ask Akua a few questions about prior cosplays and what advice she might offer to aspiring geek girls.

O.C.O:  What's your favorite cosplay to date?
A.H: Probably Spidergwen for the comfortability of it. I could wear it all day, which is important for a cosplay!

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O.C.O:  What advice would you give a budding geek girl going to her first ever comic con?
A.H:  Take an emergen-c in the morning, bring portable chargers and download the con app - that's what's been most helpful for me at least. Don't get caught up in your cosplay being perfect either, half the time no one notices it isn't perfect but you. Spend that energy having fun instead!

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O.C.O:  Tell us more about the NYC division of Geek Girl Brunch
A.H:  We've become a bit of a family and I imagine a lot of the other chapters have developed that kind of relationship as well. I've seen a lot of friendships blossom and flourish because of GGB. Outside of brunch we coordinate movie dates, holiday parties and even trips. We have a lot of entrepreneurs in our chapter as well, and I love seeing how supportive the girls are of one another. 

Photo credit: Geek Girl Brunch NYC

Photo credit: Geek Girl Brunch NYC

Photo credit: Geek Girl Brunch NYC

Photo credit: Geek Girl Brunch NYC

O.C.O:  What do you like the most about Dragoncon as a cosplay and media professional
A.H:  I like Dragoncon for the fact it’s by the fans for the fans. A lot of our cons are more business focused than fan focused now, so I appreciate more than ever that Dcon will never be that.


O.C.O:  When did you decide to take your cosplay to the next level (mashups etc.)
A.H:  When I was planning a Darth Vader cosplay I wanted to put my own spin on it, rather than just be regular Vader. And I for some reason like to wonder about which Hogwarts house a character would belong to, so I took that and ran with it. 

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O.C.O:  Marvel or DC?
A.H:  Marvel
 

O.C.O:  Favorite female comic book character.
A.H:  Currently Penny Rolle. I'm late to pick up on bitch planet, and now that I have I love it. She's the embodiment of self-acceptance and having zero fucks to give regarding other people's opinions of you. 

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O.C.O:  Where can folks see you next? 

A.H:  My next cons are Dragoncon and NYCC. Socially, my cosplay/personal pages are @Astylishjedi on every channel. I also started a geek travel group - When Geeks Travel - and you can find it @Whengeekstravel on any channel. 

Artwork by  Monique Steele

Artwork by Monique Steele

Folks going to Dragoncon, Akua has partnered up with Blerds Who Brunch for their Dragoncon event on September 3rd.  Use the code “WHENGEEKSTRAVEL“ for 20% off tickets and meet Akua!  You can purchase tickets here.

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xo

Kos