Recently, MECCAcon Weekly had a chance to sit down and chat it up with founder of WOMEN IN COMICS NYC/INTERNATIONAL, Regine L Sawyer. Along with WinC, Sawyer is also the founder of LOCKETT DOWN PRODUCTIONS, her publishing company. I must admit, I’m pretty inspired by all that Sawyer is doing in this industry for women of ALL cultures. But what a feeling it is to know she looks just a smidgen like me, lol.
PROFESSIONAL NAME:: Regine L. Sawyer
Owner/Writer/Creator of Lockett Down Productions, Coordinator of the Women in Comics NYC Collective
PURPOSE FOR FOUNDING::
I created Lockett Down Productions as a means of publishing my own stories. Women in Comics NYC Collective was started to fill the need of promoting Women working in the industry and educating communities on the merit of the Comic Book Medium.
WHO WERE YOUR CREATIVE ASPIRATIONS AS FAR AS WRITING and/or FOUNDING::
There are many female writers that have inspired me along my journey. Ironically none of them write Sci-fi, but the creative connection is certainly there: Virginia Hamilton, Maya Angelo, Nikki Giovanni, Julie Garwood, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Norma Fox Mazor, and Jacklyn Woodson
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE STAGNANT GROWTH OF RESPECT FOR WOMEN IN YOUR INDUSTRY?::
It has always been my experience that respect is earned rather than given in terms of positions within any one industry. However, respect as a human being is another story. It should just be- I exist therefore I should be respected. In this case, I have been in the industry for almost 9 years. My business has steadily grown and in the midst of it I created a community based organization over 2 years ago. With that in mind, the two examples of respect I just spoke about should be automatic, but that isn’t always the case. That is something I have learned to expect. Women in this industry seem to not be taken seriously sometimes, simply because of preconceived notions of what our motives are in the industry and of preconceived notions of what our place is in the industry.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR BLACK WOMEN TO BE RECOGNIZED IN A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE MALE GENRE LIKE COMIC BOOKS?::
It’s important because we exist and have a story to tell like everyone else. Our stories, our culture matter, period. There is a need for our creativity in the industry. There’s an audience out there clamoring for it. They want to see books with a reflection of themselves in it; they are tired of their voices not being heard.
HOW WAS WOMEN IN COMICS NYC/INTERNATIONAL FOUNDED?::
‘WinC’ was started inadvertently. Ray Felix, the founder of Bronx Heroes Comic Con and the owner of Cup O’ Java Studios, had mentioned to me that he wanted a Women in Comics panel for his 2012 show and thought that I would be a good moderator. After doing the first one, Ray asked me to do a couple more at other events and I was amazed at the turn out. The stories from the panelists were riveting, the questions from the audience, particularly from young women, were thought provoking. I realized that this was needed, a collective of Women in the Comic Book industry speaking to communities about working in the industry and how they can make a living doing it. In 2013, I co-curated an exhibit with Ray as a companion to the panel discussion series.
WHERE HAVE YOU HELD PANELS?::
So far at the Bronx Heroes Comic Con, the Poe Park Information Center & Gallery, the East Coast Black Age of Comic Creators, the Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center for Research, and the New York Comic Con.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE MEMBERS?::
Alitha E. Martinez, Sara Woolley, Michele St. Martin, Vanessa Verduga, Jewels Smith, Barbara Brandon-Croft, Jodi Tong, Selena Briggs, Shawna Mills, Rica Takishima, Tara Nakashima-Donahue, just to name a few.
DO YOU THINK THAT SEXISM EXISTS IN YOUR INDUSTRY?::
It definitely exists. Any industry that whose origin is primarily male dominated has had certain degrees of sexism; whether purposeful or not.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED IT PERSONALLY?::
Yes. Not at extreme levels as compared to other women that I know in the industry but it has happened. The most frequent incidents of sexism that I’ve experienced is when I exhibit at conventions. I’m often mistaken for a Booth Model or when asked about my books someone will say ‘Oh you’re just the writer’. In both cases I have to politely correct them and say ‘no I’m the boss, I sign the checks. The artists work for me’.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL NEEDS TO BE CHANGED FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN IN YOUR INDUSTRY?::
I think women need to speak up for themselves more and use any incidents of sexism as teaching moments. It’s upsetting to experience circumstances such as these however, if we don’t talk about them and bring things to light, it will continue. Also, we must all band together as a community, (male allies included), and let people know that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. In addition, it also helps to have organizations that bring women in the industry together. Organizations such as Geek Girl Brunch, Women in Comics NYC International, Women Write about Comics, Girls Drawin’ Girls, Geek Girl Con, The Ormes Society and the Black Girl Nerds Network… They all foster support, provide resources, and encourage team building as well as income building.
HOW DO YOU THINK SOCIAL MEDIA EFFECTS YOUR BRAND, GOOD OR BAD?::
So far it has helped to build my brand in a positive way. It has helped to encourage women who are either fans, aspiring artists/writers, or those who have been in the industry for long time. Some of these women have felt isolated in an industry that has ignored their needs as consumers or professionals. My gender has also helped garner attention from podcasters and bloggers who have wanted my opinion on diversity issues in comics so I have been able to expand my reach in terms of marketing and press.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE TREATMENT OF WOMEN IN MANY SOCIAL NETWORKING GROUP PAGES, ETC?::
It depends upon what groups you’re talking about. There are groups that are really cool, supportive and diverse. They don’t treat women one way or another, it’s just about authorship, artistry, or reveling in all things geekdom. Then of course there are other groups/sites whose members are outright sexist, misogynistic, phobic of anything that is ‘othered’ because it threatens their existence as fans and/or creatives; and they feel free to express themselves because of the veil of ambiguity that the internet provides. I don’t participate in many groups or sites for that reason. I’ve gotten drift of many a facebook beef or twitter war and I refuse to be apart of any if I can help it. At the same time, I will address the most serious and public ones in Women in Comics Panel discussions in order to get broader opinions as well as creating a forum with a wider reach and a diverse audience so we can talk about issues candidly. Again, incidents such as these need to be used as teaching moments so we can move forward as a community. Women in this industry, whether they be a fan or a professional deserve safe environments in which to express themselves. They should not feel threatened or scared when participating in any type of social media; they are human beings, just like their male counterparts and should not be belittled or disrespected.
Women in Comics NYC/INTERNATIONAL has a lot of events going on this year. We have been invited by several shows to host panels: “First Contact” in NYC on 2/14, Toshi-Con in East Orange, NJ in June, and Dover Comic Con in Delaware in August. That’s the schedule for now but I am sure we are probably going to add to it as the year goes on. We also have two exhibitions scheduled so far; one at the Poe Park Visitors Center in the Bronx for the whole month of August and another at La Casa Azul in East Harlem spanning for three months in the Fall of 2015. Both gallery shows will include programing on the weekends. We also have an on going partnership with the Brooklyn Library System in which we host Artist workshops with grade school children to promote literacy through comics. We are on hiatus for the winter but will resume in March. As far as Lockett Down Productions is concerned, I will be exhibiting at the East Coast Black Age of Comic Creators in May, MECCACon in September, New York Comic Con in October, and the Urban Action Showcase in November. There may be more shows to come, if so I’ll have those posted up on the LDP website some time during the year.
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU ONLINE?::
I have a few locations: http://lockettdown.com, @LockettDown & @WomeninComicsNY on Twitter, Lockett Down Productions Publications & Women in Comics NYC Collective International on Facebook, and LockettDown on Tumblr. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ANY LAST THOUGHTS, SCREAMS, RANTS, PRAISES, ETC?::
Support Diversity and Women in Comics, its the way of the future. Accept it or get out of the way 🙂.
MECCAcon Weekly is a division of Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts – MECCAcon. MECCACon is an annual convention every SEPTEMBER, located in Detroit, MI.
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