I’ve lived in South Florida for six years. It’s an Afro Caribbean melting pot. It gives you an insight on how potent Caribbean identity is, except of course when it’s time to market our products online. I was surprised to find the word Caribbean being heavily associated with the tourism industry. That’s why tropicalcomics.com decided to promote its content as Afro Caribbean.
THE AFRO CARIBBEAN CATEGORIZATION
Back in January 2017 I created Haitian Max as a Caribbean crime fighter operating in Haiti. I was puzzled to find no known marketable word besides Haiti to categorize my content. At least on search engines. It limits my outreach greatly. The word Caribbean when not hijacked by the travel industry usually points out to a geographic region. I felt the need to improve on that by labeling my comics Afro Caribbean.
To be fair, content with the African protagonist living in the continent of Africa don’t need to utilize this kind of precision. African American comics can be found associated with the word black. Afro Brazilian comics are not popular online enough while Caribbean comics are already numerous but we have to compete for attention.
The ease with witch you can find the content depends on the country/region. I just feel it is up to the Caribbean natives to push a specific term for our comics. That is why I’m backing the use of Afro Caribbean. It’s regional, it’s competitive, and it’s marketable.
WHY FOCUS ON AFRO?
It’s not obligatory. Anybody can dedicate a word to become synonymous to Caribbean comics just like the word manga focuses on its own region/culture. Haitians use the word TIKOMIK to refer to comics or animation. It remains to be decided what Caribbeans might want to choose.
I just thought ofon industries such as tourism and agriculture the single most common cultural denominator among Caribbeans, and our African heritage comes at the top. From history to music, politics, religion, racial demographics, it all points out to us being overwhelmingly black and brown Islanders heavily influenced by our African roots. So what we create is essentially Afro Caribbean. We’re just a big family having to compete for our family name.
THE AFRO CARIBBEAN FAMILY
I’m from Haiti. Our nation makes part of the Caribbean family. We are mostly small Countries and dependent territories with a rich heritage and comparable cultural characteristics. They call us the Caribbean Islands. Did I already say that we’re overwhelmingly black and brown? Below is a quick mesh of famous Afro Caribbeans from different islands.
We’ve conquered many things already yet nobody will advertise our achievements as Caribbean. When necessary they will associate us with our country of origin but we’ll disappear when tourism kicks in. On the web, it’s a struggle for me to call my comics Caribbean. I’m competing with Pirates of the Caribbean which is a Disney property with no cultural relevance to native Caribbean content. And who wants to compete with Disney? No thanks. Afro Caribbean gives us a unified cultural front with deep roots.
AFRO CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF GEOGRAPHY
We’re located in a region that includes the Caribbean Sea. Some countries border both the Caribbean Sea with the North Atlantic Ocean including the surrounding coasts.
Notice some of our flags:
The list of countries in the area goes as follows:
Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico.
United States Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Guadeloupe.
Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago.
Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire.
AFRO CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF BACKGROUND ENVIRONMENT
Geographically speaking Caribbean people grew up around the same flora and fauna. No wonder we have such highly comparable fashion sense, cuisines, political climates, temperaments, and entertainment styles. So our comics WILL feature similar environmental elements too.
All this makes a strong case for an entire new genre in comics if ever we decide to heavily promote Afro Caribbean uniqueness.
AFRO CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF HISTORY AND CULTURE
- They are Islanders.
- Grew up in tropical weather.
- The Caribbean Islands were the main destination of African slave ships.
- Those African slaves replaced the first inhabitants called Tainos.
- Most countries in the region are advertised today as vacation destinations.
- They eat foods like plantain, mango, coconut, rice, beans, goat, sugar cane, fish and crustaceans.
- The carnival is perhaps their biggest party of the year.
- A lot of rum is produce in the Caribbean.
- Machetes are like swords there.
- Their art, costumes, fashion, architecture are filled with primary and secondary colors.
- They dance to music genres such as Konpa, Soca, Merengue, zouk, Salsa, Reggae.
- They have strong sense of identity.
- Many black and brown people have been thriving in the Caribbean.
- Black and brown leaders make most decisions in Caribbean countries.
- Schools owners and teachers in the Caribbean are mainly black and brown.
- kids grow up mostly surrounded by black and brown friends.
- The people there are a combination of African, Indians, Chinese, Jews, European, Syrian and Lebanese cultures.
- Most Caribbeans are black with strong connections to their African roots by means of ancestral religions like Vaudou.
- As a region the Caribbean has registered the one and only successful slave rebellion in Haiti.
AFRO CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF STYLISTIC PATTERNS
Our comics feature black and brown Caribbean people almost entirely. Our experience along with our historical background are all over our creations. As we fight to include ourselves in the pool of content creators we must let the world know of our brand of comic books. Please take a look at the image comp below.
These pictures come from eleven individual Caribbean efforts from different Caribbean countries. There are outstanding similarities that unite all these styles. It shows that we have many things in common if we ever choose to market our content with the right keyword. The picture above showcases the Afro Caribbean style. So it makes perfect marketing sense to categorize ourselves as what it represents. Say it with me Afro Caribbean comics.
AFRO CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF RACE
We are forty million Caribbeans in existence, ninety percent of us are either black or brown if I’m not mistaken. Our African ancestry unites all of us.
Yet some might consider the term Afro Caribbean divisive. Others might wonder about all the mestizos of the Caribbean. Look everybody from that part of the world automatically falls under the Caribbean label. Many might simply not welcome the term Afro Caribbean because phonetically it puts the sole focus on one demographic. I say Afro Caribbean because it unites all of us culturally.
We just want the web to talk about Caribbean comics without the confusion. Our comics abundantly feature black and brown Caribbean people so be it. Even a white native of the Caribbean region will be almost entirely influenced by Afro Caribbean culture. Why not embrace this common denominator?
AFRO CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF RACISM
With Black and brown Caribbeans being descendants of slaves, racism and colorism are live and well in many of our countries. It has affected the way those with a darker skin tone have been living. Severely.
Afro Caribbean people go through racial prejudice. They embrace their African belief systems for important reasons such as resistance against their colonial oppressors. For others it means pride in where they came from, pride in their melanated skin. Some never even felt Caribbean for the same reason many African Americans never felt American in the first place.
In retrospect racism has defined contemporary societal structures ever since Europeans started colonizing the world. We can still see the effects of racism in how Haitians and Dominicans see each other. Afro Caribbean is a term that unites them.
Here’s a documentary by Dr. Henry Louis Gates highlighting different views on race by each country.
AFRO CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF AFROFUTURISM
We are in a new age of black fiction. There’s an influx of comics staring black or brown protagonists that is taking the comic book world by storm. Caribbeans want in.
With many works of fiction and Intellectual properties coming out of the Caribbean region some might be considered Afrofuturism material. The only difference is that they’re bringing the Afro Caribbean vibe to the mix.
African comics have already join the movement along with African-Americans. Let’s not forget about the Afro Brazilian comics as well. So the movement is growing. Now expect Afro Caribbean comics coming from places like Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba and many more to feature even more elements of Afrofuturism.
AFRO CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF THE CONTENT
Since we’re at it who get’s to tell me if my work is Afro Caribbean enough?
Quite frankly the Afro Caribbean people you represent by featuring them in your content. Maybe those readers who are well informed on Caribbean culture. Afro Caribbean critics?
Remember using Afro Caribbean as a marketing selling point carries a bit of history mixed with regionalism, and racial undertone which is not far from the comic books we’re actually seeing coming out of the Caribbean region. They almost entirely feature black and brown Caribbeans operating in Caribbean Countries filled with black and brown Caribbean people. It’s racial, it’s regional, it’s marketable.
Your audience will either embrace or reject these attributes. You just have to stay true to your roots. I just want Caribbeans to have a competitive way to market our comics on search engines. The more we identify with Afro Caribbean the better.
There’s no official Afro Caribbean quality control so aspiring creators will have to go through the regional body of work to study the trends. Personally I believe Afro Caribbean comics should feature black or brown protagonists operating in the Caribbean and facing Caribbean problems. You might simply be an Afro Caribbean author interested in other kinds of content. Use what works best for you. Just know that categorizing your work as Afro Caribbean carries its own weight. It’s not a fashion statement.
SUGGESTED GUIDELINES FOR AFRO CARIBBEAN COMICS
There are no strict guidelines to label a work Afro Caribbean. I’m proposing these five rules.
- Your main protagonist should be black or brown considering Caribbean demographics.
- The story must be happening in the Caribbean and must reflect Caribbean demographics.
- The work must have the Caribbean colorful art style all over it.
- You must heavily reference Caribbean culture in writing, environment, lifestyle, and fashion sense.
- Your work leaves readers with a positive impression about Caribbean people.
Meet four of these fives rules and I think you’re onto an excellent start. The rest is up to the culture to decide.
BECAUSE AFRO CARIBBEAN IDENTITY HOLDS CULTURAL VALUE
Cultural value holds financial power. In the billions. Embracing our Afro Caribbean roots through our marketing efforts has always been a win win situation. It helps people understand that we respect our heritage strongly enough to fully stand behind it. It also gives us a departing ground to make commercial moves. The picture comp below shows just how marketing campaigns exploit Afro Caribbean imagery.
It’s also important to understand that Afro Caribbeans ARE the identity of the region. We are the face of Caribbean culture yet we do not fully rip the benefits of it. We need to be mindful of that. The growing indie comic book movement is a great opportunity to market Afro Caribbean intellectual properties.
AFRO CARIBBEAN COMICS WILL ULTIMATELY TELL THEIR STORIES
As I’m writing this in 2017, many people still think of the African continent as a single country. Many assume that all black comic book characters make part of this gigantic homogeneous brotherhood. Many expect black or brown protagonists to face the same struggles while wanting the same outcomes. Afro Caribbeans have an opportunity to market themselves as who they really are.
Last but not least it’s important to notice that mangas have become successful by holding on to their cultural background. They are now the most popular comics on earth. Maybe Afro Caribbean comics are next. Who knows?
P.S.: Tell us what you think below and remember to purchase Haitian Max here.