At Baltimore, I was really honored and humbled by my cosplay family. It was one simple act that did it. Annually we host a big photo gathering where many of us will come out in full costume and of course get our photos taken. It’s a beautiful experience because it’s a reunion of sorts as many of us may be reconnecting for the first time in a few months or even a year since the last one. One cosplayer and her husband, many of us hadn’t seen since they moved from Maryland and back again and it was a joy for many of us to see them. Another couple came and many of us found out that they were expecting a child and there are so many stories beyond these.
At this year’s gathering we did something different. It all started with Donald Trump’s statement about athletes and how they should be fired for exercising their First Amendment rights. For myself, I initially missed most of his comments as they aired live because I had other commitments to attend to as well as prepare for Baltimore Comic Con. The biggest thing is, BCC (or any con for that matter) is supposed to be a time where we can all relax and put the worries of the world behind us right? Nope, not at all.
Saturday evening as I changed out of costume, the news came on that was when I heard for the first time, Trump’s statements and the reaction that American athletes had. It wasn’t until a little later that I learned what NFL teams were going to do (which is what they should have done a year ago) to protest Trump’s statements.
I thought over how to get cosplayers involved and considered if they even want to be involved because while I can’t say that I know each and every cosplayer that comes to our shoots, I can say that everyone has a difference of opinions. I even weighed in the fact that many were not pleased with the events of Charlottesville and the actions of one cosplayer as she decided to march with white supremacists.
Funny thing was, as I came to the idea of asking cosplayers to voluntarily take a knee, one of my fellow cosplayers, Corey Morgan, had hours before and told me that at some point that he was going to take a knee during the shoot. I laughed because great minds think alike and I let him know that I had something planned and that I hoped that everyone would buy into it.
At noon, the shoot starts, we do our various shoots and then the moment arrives and I asking myself, how many people will I lose by asking them to protest during a moment when we are supposed to be putting real life to the side? I got everyone’s attention, and let them know what I wanted to do. The big sticking point was that if they chose not to be in the picture because they disagreed or couldn’t due to their employment or military status, I understood. Before I finished my statement, most of them were already applauding the idea and wanted to be a part of the picture.
I turned to check to see if the camera people were all set and to get some footage and when I turned back, nearly every one was still there and ready to go and it made me feel good and proud that these cosplayers stayed to represent a stand against social injustice.
The conversation that has happened since, in my personal opinion hasn’t been all that surprising. Many conservatives have been more concerned about the perceived disrespect to the flag and to our veterans than actually wanting to attempt to talk about why Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench and then took the knee in the first place. Many of them are upset at athletes not standing, but what is telling is that, they themselves show the same disrespect to the flag when watching games. Worst, many of them offer no solutions on how to solve what’s ailing America when it comes to social injustice rather, they will complain because protests inconveniences them. It’s never been about disrespecting the flag or dishonoring veterans. We even had a few veterans that were in the picture and a few that weren’t because they still currently serve but appreciated the idea in the first place. Many of them agree that we still have a lot to correct in this country. Many more will agree that politicizing them is the absolute wrong thing to do and social media outlets made it known.
For those that have completely missed the point of why we are protesting is because many of us, and not just minorities, are sick and tired of the same narrative each and every time a person of color is detained by cops, especially when we are unarmed and compliant, some how we die at their hands, a media circus ensues, the family is bought out for millions and the cops walk, and sometimes even keep their jobs. We are tired of having a criminal justice system that imprisons people of color at disproportionately high rates for the same crimes of their white counterparts and for longer periods of time. To put it simply, we are tired of still being treated by second class citizens after being here for 400+ years. Not only that, many US citizens are tired of having someone in power who at every moment, tries to kick everyone down for absolutely no reason and people are taking stands against his brand of hatred. It’s insane that in a country that started based on protesting the British rule, people seem to forget that the 1st Amendment guarantees us the right to protest. Problem is whether we peacefully gather in the street or peacefully do it at a game, some find it an inconvenience because they would rather people with grievances to simply be silent.
To anyone that was in the picture, thank you. There are a few of you that I know that have been socially aware in your communities for years. I have even run into some of you at some other community service events, some of you, like myself have also protested and many of you are activists. Even when called upon to help others, you have been the first ones there with supplies, ideas or simply for comfort. I will be brutally honest in that if you have cosplayed, you have run across many people from different walks of life. You have met and/or friended people who are different races, gender identities and religious beliefs. To embody some of these characters, you have to know that many in the comics would stand up for our beliefs as well and sometimes it can be a bit surprising that not all cosplayers gets this. Many of you came out dressed as heroes but were more than heroes at that moment when many others would have walked away. To that, I salute you.