Black Girls Anime: Space For Black Girls That Love Anime
Cosplayers. Vendors. Fellow fans. Anime conventions are filled with excitement and activity, yet for Eunice Ibama it was the energy of Anime Detour in Minneapolis that captivated her.
“The energy was immaculate. Everybody was just living their best life at this convention.”
Walking through the convention hall, she took in all the sights. From the cosplayers dressed as some of her favorite characters to other attendees that were just as excited as her to be there. That day Ibama’s Snapchat held the evidence of her unfiltered excitement.
This was her first convention at age 22, and although she had arrived alone, she felt so at peace.
Suffering from insomnia at around 6-years-old, Ibama stumbled into anime. Staying up late one night in her New York City home, she tuned in to Toonami, an anime television block on Cartoon Network.
The first thing she saw was magical girl Sailor Moon, basked in pink and blue iridescent light, twirling and transforming into her iconic sailor scout uniform. From that night onward, she would wait for her parents to fall asleep, sneak out of her room and sing along to that iconic theme song:
“Fighting evil by moonlight. Winning love by daylight. Never running from a real fight. She is the one named Sailor Moon!”
And, thus, Ibama’s love for anime had begun.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing from here. Anime fandom – similar to other nerd spaces like comic book fandom and gaming communities – is commonly understood as a male dominated space. Being a female fan of anime can lead to a constant questioning of one’s place in the community. To be a Black female fan, like Ibama, adds an additional layer to that experience.
Ibama describes her younger self as “a really closeted fan.” Attending a predominantly Black high school in Minnesota, Ibama hid her anime passions for fear of being understood as weird by her peers.
“When I was younger, I didn’t want people to know that I was into anime, so I kept that shit to myself.”— Eunice Ibama
Ibama had one friend in high school who she avidly talked about anime with. She found community on online messenger boards, where the ability to remain anonymous provided her the freedom to be herself.
But this experience is not unique to Ibama. Author and TV and media critic Eric Deggans said it quite well in an interview with NPR about “Blerd” culture: “For years, we Black nerds felt caught between white folks’ expectations that we’d be cooler and Black folks’ disappointment that we’re clearly not.”
It wasn’t until Ibama was 21-years-old that she became public with her love for anime. Struggling with depression at the time, she no longer cared if people knew about this particular passion. “What’s the point in hiding?” she said. “This shit’s fun.”
It was in this same headspace that she created Black Girls Anime. According to Ibama, the creation of BGA was an accident. While scrolling through Facebook one day in 2017, she saw an ad to create a page. Not really knowing what a page was, she decided to make one anyways.
Unsure of what to name her page, she thought, “I really like anime, and I’m a Black girl – Black Girls Anime?”
In the beginning, Ibama was the only follower of the page she created. She would post photos of cosplayers of color, but BGA eventually turned into an anime meme page.
After reaching approximately 5,000 followers, Ibama, with the help of a friend, began a new venture – reporting anime news on Facebook and Twitter. Their hard work led to great success for BGA, but there are always critics on the internet.
In November of 2018, Ibama received a message on Twitter criticizing her use of her platform. “I’ve never had somebody come at me like that, ” she said. But rather than engaging in a Twitter feud, she decided to use this incident as a motivating factor.
“I have to grind even harder. I need to do more than anime news. We gotta start uplifting Black girls.”
Ibama and her forming BGA team began to post more content that featured Black girls in the anime space. Her anime recommendations were gaining traction. January 2019 saw tremendous growth. When she attended Katsucon in February, people she met at the convention wanted to know more about Black Girls Anime.
BGA has become a strong online community that, as stated on their Facebook page, “celebrates quirky girls of color who like anime, manga cosplay and so on!” This page currently has a following of over 48,000 people.
In the broader anime community, the hardest part about being a Black female fan according to Ibama is “people always doubting you as a fan. People always questioning you. People always telling you you’re wrong or that you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
For example, after posting a photo of her manga collection on Twitter, Ibama said the first comment she received was “Are you sure that’s not your brother’s collection?”
BGA is a place where Black female fans are not only included, but shine. This is especially true for Black Girls Anime: Gurls Edition, a sister group of BGA.
While BGA is a public page, Gurls Edition was created as a space exclusively for Black women and girls. It is a private Facebook group that fosters a positive and accepting community for Black women in fandom.
The success of Gurls Edition has allowed Ibama to designate the work done in this group to other administrators and moderators who then maintain the integrity BGA’s mission on this platform.
The impact of Black Girls Anime is felt when young girls message Ibama through social media about how this community has helped them tackle their shyness or motivated them to start their own clubs at their schools.
“I want Black women to be confident in their nerdy space. I want Black women to thrive in nerdy spaces.” says Ibama
Despite all the things BGA has accomplished, Ibama and her team have big goals for the brand.
They have recently created their own website: blackgirlsanime.com. They want to create BGA chapters in cities so members can attend curated events and meet IRL. They want to continue making great online content. But Ibama’s biggest goal:
Ibama is grinding so that Black Girls Anime can become a platform where women and non-binary people of color can be visible and succeed in the broader nerd community. “The sky is the limit for BGA.”