There were not that many African American tablers at the Brooklyn Zine Fest, but there were somewhat more Black attendees. Brooklyn’s fest is not unique in this way; I have yet to attend a zine festival or expo that has significant Black participation. Still, Brooklyn’s organizers are keenly aware of the importance of greater diversity among the festival’s participants, and I am very excited about the possibilities for the future.
This attendee was a really nice guy, and he was intrigued by the idea of a series of drawings of Black men. I sketched him as he browsed at other tables on my aisle, after first giving him a heads-up that he would be likely to see himself in a coming post.
Don’t you just love love love his schoolboy scarf and matching beanie?
In lower Manhattan, somewhere between Fishs Eddy (889 Broadway) and the Brooks Brothers Flatiron Shop (901 Broadway).
Forbidden Planet Comics, 832 Broadway, New York, New York.
The weather in Brooklyn was wildly inconsistent. By the end of the trip, it was somewhere in the high 60s (Farenheit). The first evening I was there, though, it was so cold I thought my fingers were going to freeze and drop off. Since it was April, I didn’t bring a warm coat or even a sweater, and the first night served up some mid-30s temperatures that reminded me of why I’m glad I live in California.
On our first night in the city, this guy was standing in front of a nearby Italian bakery. I simply did not understand how he could possibly be standing outside in nothing but a t-shirt and khakis. If he was jogging or doing some sort of physical labor, it might have made sense to me; but he was really just standing around looking bored.
I know I have lost my tolerance for very cold weather, but this man was some kind of superhero. I hope to run into him again, some day. If I look a little more closely, I just might be able to see his cape.
At Sugarcane Restuarant, 238 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, New York.
One of the highlights of my Brooklyn trip was our dinner at Sugarcane, a Caribbean restaurant on Flatbush Ave. It’s a wonderfully appointed establishment, with silver paint and glass tiles on the walls, dimmed lighting, and wonderful black and white photos one each of the walls. A streaming music service played a steady mix of dancehall, reggae classics, and contemporary R&B.
The mood and decor of the place struck a nice balance between comfy and cool. It was welcoming while still feeling modern and edgy, and the almost exclusively Black crowd ranged from groups of cool 20-somethings to middle-aged couples. (Me and my fabulous partner fell into the latter.)
The food was close to perfect. I had Jerk Chicken Wings followed by a Jerk Chicken Salad. The salad was served with a deliciously savory mango vinaigrette dressing, and the Jerk chicken was absolutely amazing. The wings were flavorful and juicy and the sauce tasted fresh.
We loved our meal so much that, on our last night in Brooklyn, we went back to Sugarcane for the final dinner of our trip.
At a SoHo bagel shop, early Sunday Morning, New York, NY.
Morning rush hour on the 4 line, from the Borough Hall-Court Street station in Brooklyn, New York.
Crossing Adams Street, Brooklyn, New York.
In the New York metro area of my childhood, I regularly crossed paths with Afro-diasporic folks from throughout the Americas; but I rarely encountered kids who had immigrated from Africa. It’s one of the biggest differences between my experience of NYC in the 1970s and the way New York feels today. Forty years ago, Afro-disaporic New York was populated by people whose families’ migration from Africa to New York involved at least a couple stops on the way–at one of the many places in the Americas where the slave ships made landfall and again at the plantation(s) to which their ancestors were sold. While many Black New Yorkers of the time were immigrants, few such families’ pathway from Africa could truly be called immigration. I was not very different from the other Black kids I knew in that the route my families took from Africa to Long Island, Manhattan, or the Bronx took several centuries, beginning with what can only be called, not the immigration, but the importation of our ancestors.
Duane Reade drugstore, near the Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn, NY.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently in Brooklyn; and it was wonderful to be surrounded by some many different kinds of Black people. I also mentioned that I grew up on Long Island (Nassau County) in the 1970s. During that time, the Black community was growing in diversity, and in my school and in my neighborhood I encountered people of African descent from Aruba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti, as well as from the American South (like me).
Even then, Blackness came in a lot of different languages and accents, and the African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Latino kids debated between and among themselves about how being Spanish speaking or coming from an island outside of the U.S. impacted one’s relationship to Blackness. For example, one question that came up over and over was about whether or not Puerto Rican and Cuban kids of African descent were Black like “us” (African Americans) or Latino like “them” (Puerto Rican and Cuban folks whose skin was light or white and whose hair spoke more of indigenous and European ancestry than of a connection to the so-called Dark Continent).
As a child, I was both confused and offended by these arguments. When immigrants of African descent argued to those of us with roots in the American South that they were (for example) Caribbean, but not Black, it felt like rejection. Today, though, I appreciate that such statements were more about maintaining a sense of nation and culture in the face of the virtual tidal wave of African American history and culture that faced (and faces) all Black immigrants to the U.S., and less about denying the triple legacy of Africa, Middle Passage, and slavery that all of us share.
Back in April, I attended the Brooklyn Zine Fest. As soon as I arrived at Kennedy Airport, I knew I was going to experience Blackness in a very different way than during my daily life in Oakland, CA. In all honesty, as a person who grew up on Long Island, the Brooklyn of today feels very different than the Brooklyn I knew back then. My first tip off to how much the city has changed since my childhood–and how different it is from the Oakland, California of today–came while I was waiting at the baggage claim. There were Black people all around me, but the