There I was, in The Bronx…
minding my business and working on a story about Nathalie Emmanuel’s Emmys makeup when an email came through my inbox. In big, bold (all cap) letters read “REGINA KING JOINS CULTURECON” in the subject line. After screeching for a millisecond, I immediately opened the email. It was an invite to CultureCon 2019. What I didn’t realize at that moment was how much it would change how I viewed my own potential in the creative field.
The Day of CultureCon finally came…
but I had no idea where I was when I arrived at some off-street in Brooklyn (reminder: I am from The Bronx). Despite the address that was so clearly printed on my e-ticket, I was lost and confused. To my relief though, so were many other skin folk peers wandering outside of Brooklyn Navy Yard, including Love & Hip Hop star Jessie Woo. After looking around at one another for ten minutes, one girl was smarter than the rest of us, finding the actual directions to CultutreCon. But as a large group of Black people trekking to what felt like a faraway destination, I couldn’t help but feel like it was reminiscent of a certain historical event. However…
We finally reached salvation that was the entrance to registration.
And nearly everyone was BLACK. The attendees already waiting in line for their wristbands were BLACK. The gorgeous man (among hundreds) registering me into the event was BLACK. Once I walked into the main ballroom, I was so overwhelmed by the view that I had to hold back tears (and ya girl did not bring backup baking powder). There was a sea of BLACK and BROWN faces row by row by row. Different shades of skin in the audience were apparent and various textured hairstyles in dreads, locs, afros, fades, and headwraps slightly blocked my view of the stage. There were several styles with cultural references represented in people’s clothing. The event was like being in a fully realized version of Fashion Week in Wakanda, and I was one of many bad bitches in the room (this is New York, after all).
Speakers from the likes of Sanaa Lathan, 2 Dope Queens’ Phoebe Robinson, Regina King, CEO of Essence and Shea Moisture Richelieu Dennis, Dave East, Kerby Jean Raymond and the Pyer Moss team (pronounced “Pier” but spelled our way), Kofi Sirobe, Quincy Brown, Mack Wilds, Elaine Welteroth, and Tracee freakin Ellis Ross were on the program among other industry leaders. There were activations from Netflix’s Rhythm & Flow and Strong Black Lead, Target (Elaine was giving away her book and signing them which gone by my arrival), as well as food trucks galore. I didn’t want to miss a thing, but there was so much that it was impossible to see it all.
I wished that CultureCon could be my everyday life
When I looked around at the space I was in, it was so different from what I knew to be my reality. CultureCon was a dream that could only come to fruition at a convention such as this. Even the goodie swag bags lined with natural hair care products, press on nails, wide-tooth combs, bonnets, ‘do-rags, and other dark chocolate infused snacks were supplied with the intention that this experience was for us, by us.
I found myself in a space with other amazing creatives such as myself who had dreams of filming, writing, photographing, styling and what have you. However, I wasn’t intimidated even though maybe I should have been. Living in a world where Black and Brown people aren’t, by any means, the standard or “shot-callers” in creative, corporate, and a plethora of other industries, could make a person of color feel like there can only be one of us. I loved being surrounded by beautiful people who looked like me, but it still pains me to know that all of our chances in such an industry are slim pickings. Being creatives of color mean we all have to work harder and prove to others who don’t have to work as hard why we deserve a spot to tell our own stories.
Black people already know our music, our hot takes, our fashion, our beauty, (our Beyonce), our food, etc. define popular culture as we know it. And as creatives, it’s our job to let the world know why our lives and experiences matter, with or without a seat at the table.