Healing Magic: Black Fae Day
“What kept me sane was knowing that things would change, and it was a question of keeping myself together until they did.” - Nina Simone
It’s a bit of an understatement to say that this Pandemic Era we’re living in today is a challenge for everyone, globally. But, when you add in the drama of political and racial unrest, things begin to resemble the very dystopian settings we so detest in fiction. Life, truly, imitates art. Fortunately, this creative law would mean some reprieve was soon to follow. For some, the balm to help with the healing came in the form of a hashtag, #blackfaeday. On March 10th 2021, I called for mystical and magical Black people all over social media to celebrate themselves in fantasy garb for a day of positivity and merriment. With the invitation set for May 8th, our journey had started towards the first ever Black Fae Day.
A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes
The first week of May has always been special to me. Great-grandma, grandma, and myself have birthdays just two days apart from each other (May 4, 6, and 8th). In recent years, it's been lovingly called the "May Flower Week". Everything is in bloom and everyone in my family knows that week is going to be lively. When it came time for me to turn 30 years old, however, I thought that was the end of fun birthdays. So, I made a promise to give myself a gift each year.
On May 8th, 2021, I wanted to be carefree and ethereal and invited others to join me. The goal was to flood social media timelines with positive images of Black people in fantasy and fairytales. To be honest, I knew my family would participate and possibly a few friends. They did dress up the year prior for a “CostZoom” party during 2020’s quarantine birthday. I remembered how fun it was to look at the wackiness we created in that Zoom meeting. How fun would it be to replicate that same fun for my community. We were hurting, bad. I’ve never seen so much death in my life and the freezing temperatures didn’t help with my Seasonal Affective Disorder. In other words, this particular winter was exceptionally depressing. Perhaps, I thought, Black Fae Day would be a light to thaw our hearts for a little while. The #28DaysOfBlackCosplay always seemed to put me in good spirits every February, this shouldn’t be any different. Right?
Black Fae Day Miracle
The morning of Black Fae Day I was an unraveling spool of anxiousness. Fortunately, I had spent the previous night at a lovely Bed & Breakfast and spent that morning sharing scones and tea with handsome company. My life partner, Carlos, flew in from Florida to Oklahoma to support me emotionally. Yes, it was my birthday and Black Fae Day, but there was a more pressing matter happening simultaneously. My younger sister was having brain surgery that morning at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
Carlos knew I needed a positive distraction and did everything in his power to support my fairytale campaign. Some of those efforts included an allowance to dress him up in horns, claws and makeup for a photoshoot. To my surprise, he transformed in both looks and demeanor. Suddenly the warm amber tones of his eyes turned to onyx black, as chilling as the River Styx. Carlos even elected to go barefoot to our shoot - he felt more beastly that way. I joined him, grounding myself to the earth. Without even knowing, I was seeing the first glimmers of my dream coming to life. The pressures of the day began to melt away.
I very well could have spent that day clutching my phone so tight my knuckles turned white, or I could allow myself to experience something serene in the land of make believe. My sister was in the very best care, I trusted that, but I also trusted the “red eyed demon fae” across from me that took me away in the night prior to play video games in costume. The morning of Black Fae Day, I trusted him again when he said, “everything is going to be alright”. He didn’t have to explain that he meant both my sister’s case and my personal project. I knew.
By the afternoon, we joined a young fairy in the park. We had never met Shaina before, but on her Facebook event invitation, I had been the only person to RSVP and I didn’t want to disappoint. I messaged some friends online that I was going (friends I had only known through a group chat of locals on Messenger) and they let me know they might come by. You know, the age old “who all gonna be there” question was up in the air and often the deciding factor of whether or not a function is worth all of the hassle. It didn’t help that it was a very windy day at the park. I looked at the three of us, myself, Carlos, and our host and I was content. Already, I was meeting one person I didn’t count on joining me for this new holiday. Just as I had resigned myself and began to settle in, more people began to show up.
Families! Little Black children frolicked in miniature wings, capes, and face-paint. Festive costumes adorned their parents as well. A humble gathering of a few, but magical, nonetheless. We shared food together, laughter, dancing, like we had known each other our whole lives. My heart swelled with the purest joy. These online acquaintances showed up for me - no, we showed up for each other. Just that quickly we became a community. Dare I say, faemily.
Eventually, I came back down to earth for a moment and realized it was time to check my phone. There was no news yet of my sister, just that her procedure was taking place. Carlos periodically excused himself to moderate the Black Fae Day Facebook groups we had made, but I didn’t dare look at them. Additionally, I didn’t want to be disappointed by my personal timeline that typically was riddled with arguments and bad news. So, instead of watching the hashtag I decided to go live on Instagram to thank our followers for celebrating with us and capture some of the beauty of our local gathering. “Baby, I really think you need to look.” Carlos so gently encouraged without giving anything away. There are no words that I know of that truly express what happened next, what I felt, or what I saw. We were trending on several social media platforms, even making it as high as the number 2 topic on Twitter! Before the day was done, I got word my sister’s surgery was a success. It was a May Flower Week miracle!
Spreading Love and Positivity
Fairies often look like they don’t have a care in the world. There are so many illustrations of a fairy napping while cradled in a flower or having joyful feasts with friends as they dance about with smiles that seem too big for their tiny frames. The fae are creatures who aren’t slaves to time and seem to understand the importance of the present moment. On Black Fae Day, and all through the month of May, participants simulated that very carefree nature we read about in storybooks. Nothing could touch us. We were ethereal, mysterious, alluring, and bold. Naysayers did not exist in this newfound realm we created together. And our mission to flood social media with positive images of Black people in fantasy was an astounding success! Whole algorithms were shaken up. There were many people, of all races, excited and relieved to see so much love and happiness on their socials. Conversations about representation and equity in the fantasy community began to arise but were being handled differently than I’ve seen in the past. Something about this movement made people approach the issue with more respect and kindness. We showed that children need not be stripped of their innocence simply because of the color of their skin. We illustrated the transformative power that Black men possess when they are allowed to be their whole selves, authentically. Black women, the creators, innovators, and trendsetters for generations will always rise above oppression with grace and wit while wrapped in an aura of self-produced magic and confidence. Eyes all over the world witnessed and acknowledged these truths, that Black people are magical too.
Today, the celebration has not stopped. In fact, other minorities were beguiled by our bold and unifying Black Fae Day. One group of women in the United Kingdom reached out to me about a day dedicated to their own culture and magic. Bella Kotak, Lillian Liu and Yinsey Wang felt compelled to create a day of solidarity for Asian people across the globe. Enchanted Asian Day, inspired by our efforts, took place June 12th, 2021. I thought this couldn’t have happened at a better time for a community that has felt a tremendous amount of hate during an already difficult time with COVID-19. Instead of highlighting the hate that guided much of the conversation in the media, they instead aligned themselves with positive representation of their cultures and unique allure. Black and Asian people often get stereotyped in fantasy. We’re always the sidekick, exotic lover, or worse! And when it comes time to tell our stories ourselves, we aren’t often given the chance. I love that today, we get to control the narratives. We’ve found, together, that everyone, no matter their race or background, possesses a unique magic that must be celebrated and represented. My hope is that we embolden other minorities to tell their truths without fear of retaliation. We are here and we deserve equity in fantasy.
The Impact of Change
When you are born and raised in a rural community, like me, you have to find inventive ways to entertain yourself. The Black community in my hometown of Clovis, New Mexico was mostly family. We were isolated from larger cities and towns that enjoyed the benefits of having several institutions run by or owned by Black People. Our schools were shut down and communities over policed just like in other spaces, but the impact is so deep when it’s the last middle school or our only park. My mind was my safe space. But as we know about adolescent years, our naive minds can easily be polluted with Eurocentric standards that few minorities can live up to. I escaped the pressure by daydreaming, writing, listening to the stories my friends would tell me. I heard stories from friends in the Navajo Nation who told me of people who could shape-shift. My latinx friends spooked me with tales of chupacabras and La Llorona. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya is still one of my favorite books about the mysteries of the desert and its people. But when it came for my turn to talk about the folktales of my culture, my mind went blank. All that would come up were bible stories and one haunting man but dare not utter his name - Candyman.
I have been searching for my own magic for so long. The indigenous folklore of my African ancestors was stripped away from their descendants across the diaspora. Like many cultures, these stories were handed down from generation to generation orally. There is a word from the Akan tribe in Ghana called sankofa and it means “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind”. Black Fae Day was my attempt of fetching those words embedded in my heart that my ears had never heard. Through congregation with my fellow Black fantasy nerds, I picked up the pieces of myself I was desperately trying to find and found, this was the same for others.
“…This was self care and some much fun for my mom and kids…I do this so that my kids can know that we don’t have to fit into one mold to be Black. I want my son and daughter to feel free to be blerds in any capacity.” - @the_memesnmoonbeams_goddess on IG
“From the crafting to the photo shoot, it really unified us and allowed us to represent as our true magical selves. Black Fae Day was an experience of beauty, joy, and celebration of what is possible for our family’s collective imagination. It was so important for us to be able to create, play, have fun, and frolic together. Our day was truly intergenerational and inspiring” - Joy Tabernacle
“Phoenix (6), Rayne (3), and Willow (1) love using their imagination and creativity but its hard to find books with fae characters that look like them. So, we decided to become those characters. They have been so inspired by the brilliant display of black girl magic that they are already planning their costumes for next year.” -Ajia Forde
I want to give a special thank you to Brown Sugar Fairies, one of the first collaborators to believe in this movement and champion my voice. I affectionately call Ms. Aiysha Sinclair a “Fairy God Sista” because of the care and kindness she extended to a complete stranger with big hopes and dreams. Now, to have the opportunity to tell my story and how this Black Fae movement came to be, I’m truly grateful. To all the fairies, ghouls, and chivalrous warriors out there, stay encouraged. There are people needing kindness, positivity, and honesty. These are recipes for my personal magic spell, and I give this knowledge freely. Enchant those around you and spread light to combat the darkness ahead. In the end, we are all we have. Humanity, as one. - Jasmine La Fleur (Creator of Black Fae Day)