If you were noodling around on social media this weekend, you likely noticed that a certain hashtag took over every platform. The enormous participation in #DrawingWhileBlack was a testament to the incredible talent of black comics artists... and the industry's seeming reluctance to hire them.
Marvel hired the first black female writer in its entire history just last year. And Tim Hanley, a comic book expert, found that approximately 79 percent of people working on comics in 2014 were white. More recently, Marvel blamed a severe and long-trending slump in sales on its few efforts to increase the diversity of its books, a claim that was proven to be wholly untrue when sales data was analyzed. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence make clear that the comics industry has problems when it comes to hiring people of color.
The hashtag was created by Twitter user @sparklyfawn (Annabelle H.), who wanted to do something to showcase the talent of the many, many black artists they knew were on Twitter. Annabelle, a Ghanian-American student studying animation and illustration at the Maryland Institute College of the Arts, told SYFY WIRE, "I was really inspired by #visiblewoman and #blackout when I came up with #DrawingWhileBlack last month! Giving marginalized artist visibility and recognition is very important to me because I didn't really 'see' myself in the art world when I was younger."
Their rules for participating in #DrawingWhileBlack were simple:
(1) Be black (including mixed-race people who are black).
(2) Be an artist (whether professional or not).
(3) Post 2-4 examples of your work, preferably one a self-portrait or photograph.
(4) Use the hashtag #DrawingWhileBlack.
The response was enormous. For days, Twitter (and other social media platforms) were absolutely flooded with gorgeous art in an amazing celebration of this marginalized community.
A lot of people got in on the action. But there was also some backlash; as so often happens during these events, which are organized to promote a particular marginalized group, people asked why everyone wasn't allowed to participate. The hashtag #DrawingWhileWhite even made an appearance, though it was a relative flop. Annabelle wasn't surprised about the backlash.
"There will always be people to be against things that celebrate any type of marginalized people, especially when black people celebrate themselves," they said. Annabelle points out that art doesn't exist in a vacuum, citing a popular quote from black illustrator Nuri Durr. "Yes, your race doesn't really determine your technical skills, but your experience affect your body of work and career."
They continue, "#DrawingWhileBlack isn't a separatist movement . . . Black-centric events like #DrawingWhileBlack are created to show the world that we deserve to be recognized, we are proud of who we are, we should be able to celebrate the positive in our culture, and people should celebrate among us!"
Annabelle was also very encouraging of other marginalized groups who were inspired by the hashtag to celebrate artists within their own communities. "I'm happy that other marginalized groups are inspired by #DrawingWhileBlack and creating their own hashtags," they said. "That was one of my main goals!" They have a few simple requests, though: Wait until the popularity of the current hashtag has faded, so it's not piggybacking. "I also request that people not use the phrase 'drawing while...' due to the correlation #DrawingWhileBlack has with 'driving while black.'"
Even Annabelle is surprised by its reach. "I felt like it would get a lot of people's attention in only the artist community on Twitter, but I'm glad it went beyond it!" You can see some examples of the amazing art on display below, or search for #DrawingWhileBlack on your favorite social media platform to see more.