Blacktober is a fairly new addition to the October art challenge landscape, which is already an artist’s dreamland filled to the brim with seasonal challenges, drawing competitions, and many other fun opportunities to interact with the art community.
So, what is Blacktober, what’s it about, and who can participate?
Blacktober is a fanart-based challenge where creators re-imagine their favorite (usually white) characters as Black, Indigenous, or POC. Even though it’s only two years old, Blacktober has quickly grown in popularity. Re-imagining familiar characters is a favorite internet pastime (Disney Princesses as Warriors or Disney Heroes as Villains, for example) and Blacktober encourages creators and audiences to picture a media landscape with a lot more diversity. However, Blacktober’s primary focus is on opportunities for POC artists to celebrate their heritage, show off their talent, and get recognition for their work.
Read on for a short history of Blacktober, some excellent in-depth articles that address the most common questions around Blacktober, and some of our favorite creations from years past!
History and Purpose of Blacktober
Blacktober began as a straightforward concept; take the “31-day drawing challenge” premise and make it more inclusive to BIPOC creators.
The founders of #blacktober, Cel Cottrell, Céli Godfried, and the Black Card Members, began the project in 2020. What started as a means to celebrate Black, Indigenous, and POC creators (and art as a whole) became an international movement.
Like most of us, BIPOC audiences like to see themselves in the characters on TV or beloved parts of their culture in the fantasy worlds we all enjoy.
Not only is Blacktober an opportunity for BIPOC creators to share their work more widely, but by reimagining well-known characters in familiar media, they can more easily show worlds where BIPOC people just… exist. Blacktober, as said by Francesca Miller, “Advocates for black representation in popular artworks that aren’t about race or identity.”
Who is Blacktober for?
So, how can non-BIPOC artists and art enthusiasts participate? After all, BIPOC aren’t the only people who would like to see more BIPOC characters in their favorite media.
While Blacktober’s rules don’t explicitly ban non-Black artists from creating artwork, the question of who can participate has been a divisive issue among the community. That’s because while yes, part of Blacktober’s purpose is to inspire diverse characters from all kinds of creators, the critical core of Blacktober is celebrating BIPOC creators and their work. Therefore, non-BIPOC artists using a challenge premise – one that originated from black creators – to get recognition for their own work is seen as being, at best, tone deaf. Worse, it’s the status quo that Blacktober is meant to oppose. Violet M. explains:
“Stealing ideas and the artistic creativity from Black people is not new. It has been going on for years, and as a result, White or Non-Black people take credit and reimbursements for our creativity. We want our recognition. This is partly what sparked the creation of what is known as Blacktober.”
How to participate in Blacktober
So what is the best way for non-BIPOC creators to support artists during Blacktober? Share their work! Like it, retweet it, and tell your friends. If you still want to create artwork, nobody will stop you; just make sure you’re doing so respectfully, and keep the above in mind before you share.
And that brings us to the most important part of this article – letting the experts talk.
While we here at CO2ign love this challenge and its purpose, we can’t claim expertise on this subject. Instead, we’ve collected some of our favorite articles from people who can speak to the experiences of BIPOC creators.
Take a look at the pieces below, whether you want to see excellent artwork, learn about Blacktober and its cousin(s), or get in on the action.
by Francesca Miller of Agora Digital Art
Summary: An incredibly well-crafted explanation of Blacktober and its history, along with superb artwork across a broad range of styles.
“What also sets #blacktober apart is that it is also about promoting different storylines and narratives for black characters. For example, Blerdy Girls is about black girls gaming. #blacktober advocates for black representation in popular artworks that aren’t about race or identity.”
“Last year was a particularly heavy year for the Black community, and the rising trend of only highlighting us through tragedy didn’t help matters much, either. However, for the month of October, this event brought a lot of joy to our timelines. Artists came together to share their work, and it really did help to offer some positivity in an otherwise bleak year.”
Summary: Why “blackwashing” isn’t a thing and a reminder that representation does not equal racism.
“Let’s clear something up: blackwashing isn’t a thing. It never has been. People would complain about blackwashing when a Black actor plays the role of a character who was originally White. Yet many of those same people will dismiss whitewashing of any kind.”
Summary: A plain-as-day explanation of why Blacktober matters and a response to those who disagree.
“Besides, this isn’t about creating parity; this is a ‘for us, by us’ initiative to create and curate our own space to be seen. Those who disagree — eat shit.”
Ultimately, Blacktober is a fabulous time in the art community. It allows creators whose work may be largely unseen an opportunity to shine, encourages needed conversations about representation, and provides a delightful glance into how the future of media might look.
The heart of Blacktober is representation and support. So if you’re a BIPOC creator, create. If you’re not, support those who are. Either way, don’t forget to have fun – this is an excellent movement about creation and possibility, and the joy it inspires should be spread far and wide.
To wrap up, we’ve collected some of our favorite artists and artworks from previous years. Here at CO2ign, we believe that artists of all sizes and backgrounds deserve recognition for their work, so we’re extra excited for movements like this. Check out these artists’ pages for the rest of their incredible work, and keep an eye on the #blacktober and #drawingwhileblack hashtags this October!