“Do I have to choke you?” Was not what I expected to hear so early in a panel but that is what Wayne Brady said in response to Michael Davis’ request that he prove his identity to everyone in the Black Panel when he called in. Brady was scheduled to be a panelist but had a conflict and was unable to make it. The fact that he took the time to call in while he was working shows just how dedicated to the message of the panel he is.
The panel felt like an exhale. Like all of the frustrations of the nerds of color community could be released and it was incredibly cathartic. The honesty of the panel and fans was refreshing as all of the usual platitudes used during similar conversations were left behind.
It called out bad choices made by creators for their detrimental representation and served as a call for change. Davis referenced the Mark Millar creation Tyrone Cash, the smartest man in the Marvel Universe and mentor to Bruce Banner. Cash was the original hulk but managed to keep his intellect, however he took that power and knowledge and turned into a crime lord. Decisions like that are hurtful and make panels like this necessary at every convention.
The overall theme was that we as a community have the ability, capacity, and responsibility to create the content that we want to see to increase our own representation. A strong emphasis was placed on the need for our content to be as good or better than what is already on the market in order for it to be competitive. However, it wasn’t only about the need to increase the representation of people of color but that of disabled individuals as well. The disabled are the largest minority group in the world but are so rarely represented in any media.
The panel had an overall positive message Interspersed with constant Trump jokes and references to the difficulty that so many in the Black community experience when interacting with police. With recent events it is hard to not get brought down but the panel maintained its message of positivity.
A young man expressing his goal to be a comic artist that works hard to increase diversity in the industry was offered a job on the spot by Davis and was promptly put to work handing out fliers. He was later invited to join the panel. It was an example of the cooperation in the community that is sorely needed.
Having been to other panels on diversity and blackness in comics this one was by far the most entertaining and liberating. The conversations would occasionally meander off topic but always came back to how we can create the content that will best represent us and to do it well.