BAM: The Black Comix Expo and the importance of The Black Comics Collective

Art by Akinseye Brown/ Sokoya Productions


The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Black Comix Expo returns this Sunday (February 10th) for an eventful showcase celebrating comic writers and illustrators of color. Co-presented by The Black Comics Collective, this free event will feature over 20 comic exhibitors, an immersive AfroFeminism VR experience, an Afrofuturista panel discussion, children’s art workshops, a superhero cosplay showcase & so much more!!

This day-long expo is the perfect event for fans of fantasy and sci-fi, comic book nerds, art and all-around comic book lovers. In its second year the expo continues to bring together comic book artists, writers, creators, and fans for a program that celebrates diversity, inclusion, and representation.

Black Comix Expo _ Elena Olivo 6

The expo will take place at the BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building (30 Lafayette Ave) this Sunday, Feb 10, 11am—5pm Free
(admission on a first-come, first-seated basis starting at 11am)



I had the opportunity to chat with the founder and creator of The Black Comics Collective Deirdre Hollman. 

“The Black Comics Collective, Founded in 2017 is a NYC-based community of black comics enthusiasts who create and consume captivating stories featuring characters of color. The Black Comics Collective celebrates cultural diversity in comics and seeks to amplify awareness of creators, writers, illustrators, and publishers who are producing independent comics that depict a dynamic range of global black experiences, aesthetics, and social issues.” She co-founded the Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center in 2013 with John Jennings , Jerry Craft, and Jonathan Gayles, an annual event she co-curates and co-produces that has drawn over twenty-five thousand fans to Harlem in its first five years.” 


Scholar | Educator | Cultural Producer | Education Consultant

Deirdre Hollman is an avid educator with over twenty years of experience engaging youth and teachers in the study of black history, art, and culture. Currently, Deirdre is creating new opportunities for the celebration of black comics, art, and culture at venues throughout New York City.

1. Coming from a background of art history, and a masters in museum education and educational leadership how did you incorporate this into founding the Black Comics collective?

“Education is my activism because access to knowledge, to the complex truths and beauty of our humanity, is a social justice issue. My work aims to position youth as participants in and producers of our present and future realities. Teaching through the intersections of history, popular culture, politics, art, and literature is my engagement approach to enrich the curriculum and empower teachers and learners. ”

“The Black Comics Collective convenes black comic creators and the community that craves them via its digital platforms and via its live events including monthly meet-ups, author/illustrator talks, festivals and conventions, exhibitions, film screenings, workshops, and pop-up shops.” The collective gives people an opportunity  to meet with creators of color that work in the field.

“Through festivals, I can bring the community and the creators together in an atmosphere of celebration, learning, and cooperative economics.  I also use social media as a way to share information about what new material is coming out, helping to widen the audience for comics by creators of color. My events are a family affair combining literacy and representation.” It is an experience that widens the audience, the festivals are much more family oriented than just your typical adult father attendees.

There are many cosplayers that attend the Harlem Schomburg comic festival. In the second year of the fest the collective decided to hold a cosplay showcase to feature the talented and dedicated cosplayers. They all bring so much character and freedom of expression to their costumes and performance. We see the growing amount of cosplays each year, the showcase is something you definitely don’t want to miss.


2. How did you first get involved in the world of comics? What sparked the idea of the collective and incorporating comics into education?

Deirdre has always had an interest in comics, stemming from the Sunday funny pages and watching Saturday morning cartoons. Also from her own son, providing him with children’s books with kids of color. Through his development her quest was to find more representation in literature. As he got older she eventually introduced him to comics as a literacy advance. Always looking into the independent scene, she really had to search for books that were featuring characters of color. This was before the big diversity boom. Now there is a good selection of more inclusive mainstream books.

Intertwining the study of art, culture and history Deirdre looks for news ways to infuse these subjects into her lessons to engage the students. She introduced comics in the classroom as a literacy tool, and as a means of storytelling through visual basic communication. There is a huge growing interest in both anime and manga; graphic novels are a helpful means to engage young people into the art of storytelling.

Deirdre uses art as a jumping point for teaching themes of social studies and history. Having the students analyze comics and engage in making their own they are exposed to both writing and art. They really get to go through the journey and understand both the artist’s and the writer’s process. Working with the other co founders they provided a way that students can attend workshops and meet with creators helping to expand upon the process.

Black Comix Expo _ Elena Olivo 8

3. What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

“The readers engaged with the cultural content gives me the most personal satisfaction. Watching the excitement of young people carrying stacks of comics that showcase cultural representation. I am someone that is connecting the artist with the reader. There is so much excitement in enriching the imagination of young people with material that is culturally empowering. Also the distribution of new ideas. I take this position as event curator very seriously.”

Connecting kids that love a writer, that can say “he is writing books for boys like me.” This kind of connection brings Deirdre a lot of joy, knowing that they may not have met before.

4. Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your work or affected your life?

“The students, collectively working with middle and high school students in neighborhoods across the City – they’ve taught me so much about what education needs to be.” She emphasizes how education needs to be more reflective of the young people and how she is very inspired by the genius and relativity of her students. That giving them more access to knowledge and the need to express their own ideas. Being a part of their learning experience propelled her and is pushing her to get her doctorate. “To be able to create innovative and non traditional learning experiences is the driving force in the type of educator I am. To change the contents of the curriculum, and to have more impact on urban youth because of what I’ve experienced.”

Photo credit: William Farrington

5. What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of the comic industry – and why?

“I created a Teen Curators program at Schomburg. I have a degree in art history from Princeton University and I was delighted to create a space where teens can study black art history in New York’s museums and archives while also studying the inner workings of the art world.”

 The students are responsible for curating exhibitions and for creating a show for the public. This full circle experience blends art, culture and black history. The program is in its 4th year now and the students are recruited from different schools.

The Schomburg Teen Curators Program

The Schomburg Teen Curators Program is a unique after school art history and curatorial program that enrolls up to 30 high school students each year. The year-long tuition-free program uses art education to increase the historical and cultural literacy of teenagers and promotes their intellectual and professional development through curatorial projects and aesthetic engagements with the Schomburg and other cultural institutions.


6. What other events can we look forward to from the collective?

“The upcoming BAM Black Comix Expo in February, Summer session workshops for teachers about using comics in the classroom, and we will be changing the event panels into talks and pop-up shops across the City.” The plan is to keep the conversation going with these pop-ups. The collective is currently looking into venues to do bi monthly talks where vendors can convene in community conversations about comic narratives. The pop-ups will be more small scale and intimate comic experiences and held more regularly then the panels.

7. How do you find artists and creators that you would like to feature or work with?

The collective finds talent through word of mouth, there is a big network of artists referring each other. Also social media is a really great bridge where people can find Deirdre or she find them. The collective is partial to comic & graphic novels but not limited to. They are constantly looking for emerging artists and storytellers.

8. How can people that are interested in exhibiting at your events be featured?

People can email the black comics collective and share links to their work. Curation space is limited but I like to give exposure to emerging talent and provide the opportunity to showcase their work. Email:   Facebook: @theblackcomicscollective  Instagram: @blackcomicscollective Twitter: @blackcomicscoll



Bitter Root Variant by Ashley A. Woods
Art by: Sanford Greene “Bitter Root”

Date And Time

Sun, February 10, 2019

11:00 AM – 5:00 PM EST

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Brooklyn Academy of Music

30 Lafayette Avenue

LePercq Space

Brooklyn, NY 11217

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*Photos courtesy of BAM/ Black Comics Collective

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