#BlackFaeDay: When Black fantasy enthusiasts celebrate magicPlay
Once upon a time, in a magical land of Oklahoma, fairy Jasmine LaFleur wanted to create a hashtag to unite Black fairies all across the land. She only had 300-something followers on social media, it's true. But she's become somewhat of an influencer.
"It was really a miracle," she told Endless Thread.
A miracle because since 2021, on the second Saturday of May, Black fairy enthusiasts have united around #BlackFaeDay to show the world that Black fairies are real, and that there's space for them online and off.
In this episode of Endless Thread, we look into #BlackFaeDay, and how important it is to those who celebrate. And what we find isn't a hashtags to riches story, but a fairytale about how the internet can be a place where dreams bigger than your follower count can come true. Producer Quincy Walters also examines what it takes to become a Black fairy.
- Cosplayers And Content Creators Participate In Black Fae Day (Cosplay Central)
- ??✨BLACK FAE DAY VLOG ✨??
- Fairytale Gala: Royals is an early Black Fae Day celebration (TikTok)
- Rings Of Power Star Says You're RACIST If You Don't Like How Amazon DESTROYED Lord Of The Rings (Youtube)
- Good Morning America: New video shows suspected Buffalo shooter's arrest after deadly rampage (ABC News)
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This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text.
Ben Brock Johnson: The internet can be a sad, dark, scary place. This weekend will mark a year since an 18-year-old, radicalized in white supremacy online stepped away from his computer and walked into a grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo to murder people just because of the color of their skin.
ABC News Reporter Pierre Thomas: Tonight, authorities believe Gendron was living two lives. One in the pleasant suburb where he grew up, the other in the darkest reaches of the internet . . .
CBS New York Reporter Jessica Moore: And police also say the suspect used social media to livestream the attack.
Amory Sivertson: But the internet is also a place where there’s unity and magic and community. And today, Endless Thread is going to follow that thread. With help from Quincy Walters.
Quincy Walters: Yes. Because on that same day a year ago, in a dark twist of internet irony – something wonderful was happening. Black people around the world were uniting around a hashtag to celebrate fantasy. The hashtag is called Black Fae Day, a day where Black fairies populate the internet and woodland areas to frolic in magic.
Ben: Quincy, this is a trend that you have found to be growing, right? The Black fairies are multiplying?
Quincy: So, they are, Ben. Though just like finding all fairies, you kinda have to know where to look. So, earlier this year, I went to the most magical place of all to find them: the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
Quincy: I’m here reporting live from the convention room floor of PAX East 2023. I think it’s a videogame convention, but that’s not important. I see anime characters. I see videogame characters. I see Jedi. People walking around with big weapons. But I’m looking for a specific mythical creature. I’m looking for Black fairies and I don’t know where to go.
Quincy: Pax East is the annual convention held in Boston that centers around video games and anime. And it’s a pretty good spot for somebody to spot Black fairies in real life. Finding fairies, especially in a modern convention center, can be hard.
Quincy: Excuse me.
PAX East 2023 Helper: Yes. Hi there.
Quincy: Do you know where I can find this room?
Quincy: I bumped into an acquaintance of mine, Black comic book artist LJ Baptiste while on my search. And I told him about this hashtag.
Quincy: So, you don’t know about Black Fae Day?
LJ Baptiste: No.
Quincy: OK so Black Fae day this day where Black people get together and donning elfin ears and wings and basically have a magical day.
LJ: That’s incredible.
Quincy: Eventually I found who I was looking for.
Lala Novali: I’m Lala Novali. I founded Boston Black Faes, which is inspired by Black Fae Day. Black Fae Day is a hashtag that started on Twitter a few years ago.
Quincy: Lala, what does it take to be a Black fairy?
Lala: What it takes is to be number one Black most important thing. And number two, to just enjoy fairies. Like genuinely.
Quincy: So with that said, is it possible for me to become a black fairy?
Lala Of course you already are. I'm sensing it. All of you. You're giving like, the Black fae vibes.
Quincy: Really? In what way?
Lala: I'm just like, I don't know. I feel that joy off of you and your interest in this. Like the fact that you want to uplift this. Like you, when you first reached out to me, you'd never heard of like Black Fae or Black Fae Day and all this stuff. So I think just the fact that you heard of it and you're like intrigued by and you want to learn more like, you know, it's.
Quincy: You think it's part of my destiny to realize my Black fairyness?
Lala: Yeah. You're coming into your own.
Ben: Today, we are here to bear witness to Quincy realizing his Black Fairyness. Just ahead of the second Saturday in May, also known as Black Fae Day. I’m Ben Brock Johnson.
Amory: I’m Amory Sivertson.
Quincy: I’m Quincy Walters and you’re listening to Endless Thread. We’re coming to you from WBUR. Boston’s NPR Station.
Amory: A quick flitter down fairy memory lane here. The word fairy comes from fae, a magical being, and the English suffix -ery, so “of the fae” or “relating to the magical being.” The term dates back to the 13th or 14th century, but it’s around the 15th century that you see fairy used to refer to a magical being. They came in all sizes and forms and temperaments some with benevolent intentions, others did not, but they all possessed magic and a sense of enchantment. But Quincy, Black Fae Day is a 21st century IRL fairy event. But it’s also a bit of a fairytale of the internet, yes?
Quincy: Yep. Once upon a time there was a fairy named Jasmine LaFleur.
Jasmine LaFleur: Actually I'm really Black. I can't tell you enough. Like, there's a lot of fantasy around the wings and the ears and everything, but I'm still Black [laughs] no matter what.
Quincy: Back in 2021, Jasmine, who works a number of different jobs including collection preservation at public libraries, was sitting at home in a magical land of Oklahoma. All alone on the internet.
Jasmine: I didn’t have a big following or anything like that, but I've always been a fan of fantasy and it just so happened to be that I couldn't find a lot of people that looked like me in fantasy or depicted in fantasy in positive ways. So, I tweeted about it on March 2021, and I just said, you know, I love seeing us whimsical and magical. So let's dress up May 8th, 2021 and it'll be called Black Fae Day.
Amory: So, why May 8th, specifically?
Quincy: It’s Spring, her favorite time of year. Which, if you’re some kind of wood nymph kinda tracks. And Jasmine, her grandmother and her great grandmother all have birthdays around then.
Ben: Okay. So, Jasmine picks the second Saturday of May.
Quincy: Yeah and the hashtag kinda organically ballooned. It started trending on Twitter. And on TikTok.
YouTuber Malice Miya: So, you guys want to come see some fairies?
YouTuber Pryncessme: Black Fae Day is all about creating the representation that we want to see in fantasy. So, of course, I’m going to go overboard.
YouTuber ScifiCheerGirl: I have no chill when it comes to the fae. I will put on wings, pointed ears, hooves, horns and glitter at any point, anytime, any day for any event...
Quincy: Like any typical fickle fairy, as the hashtag blew up, Jasmine flitted between one emotional end of the spectrum, thrill. And another, anxiety.
Jasmine: Uh introverts nightmare sometimes, but no. It's really a blessing. I am sort of an influencer now, like I know that I can have this very strange power where I can endorse something and things, you know, happen in a positive way. Or I can say, I don't rock with this, and then drama happens. So, I have to be very careful with the things that I say now. There are many people who view me as like the one of the authorities on I'm Black fantasy right now. And that's terrifying because I'm like, I'm just the girl that made some hashtags.
Amory: So, if Jasmine’s an influencer, does this mean this particular Black fairy is…bringing in some treasure here?
Quincy: So, this isn’t a hashtags to riches fairytale. It’s one of those wholesome stories about building community.
Jasmine: It's so much bigger than me. It was really a miracle, I feel like, because I still don't even use Twitter that much. It's overwhelming to me. But for me to make a random Tweet in it, do what it did, anybody can do that. Anybody has the potential to just speak on what they feel in their heart and it manifests into something greater.
Ben: So, every once in a while, the internet is a place where almost overnight, wishes bigger than your follower count can come true.
Quincy: Yeah. And as Black Fairies trended across social media…Jasmine was eventually crowned. Empress Halcyon Crow. There’s a coronation video on TikTok.
But she wasn’t a lone magical beast in this effort. She was joined by her partner, Carlos Williams, who for the purposes of this story, he’s . .
Carlos Williams: Lord Strife, handler to guild mistress Empress Halcyon Crow.
Jasmine: Yeah I have some muscle behind me.
Carlos: My faesona [portmanteau of fae and persona] is that of a red-eyed demon. And, you know, you know, nobody necessarily controls Lord Strife. So, that was why I selected that of the red-eyed demon. And I'm also the, you know, protector.
Quincy: By the way, these names are called faesonas. Maybe you’ve heard of fursonas in the furry world. Empress Halcyon Crow and Lord Strife were actually setup by a mutual friend in a Cosplay Facebook group.
Amory: There’s a whole other world out there on the internet, friends.
Ben: Many worlds, in fact.
Amory: Many worlds.
Ben: Many separate worlds.
Quincy: There are so many online communities and, speaking of which, according to cosplaycentral.com, when Black Fae Day came on the scene in 2021, there were about 28,000 tweets for the hashtag, making it one of the top trending hashtags of that day.
Amory: A tweet with a hashtag feels like the 21st century equivalent of the Peter Pan “Clap if you believe in fairies” thing, which just kinda shows how far fairies have come! OK, so these are the 21st century fairies, but the idea of fairies dates back at least to the 13th century, and the term They came in all sizes and forms and temperaments, but they all possessed magic and a sense of enchantment.
Quincy: And Jasmine says, through Black Fae Day, she’s been able to enchant and educate.
Jasmine: Because a lot of people get the misconception that fantasy is just very European and you know, that's it, which we do understand, like some of the fairy tales and things that we do know are popularized, you know, come from European cultures and things like that. However, there's global stories of, you know, mythical creatures or fantastical beings in every culture.
Quincy: Jasmine loves going to Renaissance fairs and festivals. And she works with organizers to make sure those spaces are more inclusive.
Jasmine: And I had a conversation once where someone who identified themselves as one of the organizers for a RenFair in this country and had been in that arena for about 40 years, they said, 'Well, the reason why you guys aren't represented is just you don't have an interest in this history. You don't have an interest in medieval history and you don't have an interest in this and this and that. And it wasn't until we Disneyfied our festivals that you all started to come and attend. 'And she was like, 'It's okay that you like fantasy. But some of us want the historical aspect, you know? So it was this weird conversation. I'm like, 'Wait, what makes you think that I'm interested in medieval time? What makes you feel that way?'
Amory: Jasmine’s point here is that there’s an assumption being made about how interested Black people as a group might be in medieval history, yes?
Quincy: Yeah. Just because you’re dressed as a mythical beast doesn’t mean you’re not interested in real historical fact or the real historical backdrops in these events. So Jasmine feels there’s two levels of assumption here being made about people who look like her, which leads to not feeling welcome in the fantasy community more generally. Even if festival organizers have told her otherwise.
Jasmine: And then they say, 'Jasmine, there's no discrimination in fantasy. We love all beings.'
Ben: A space where there’s zero discrimination? Talk about a mythical fantasy!
Quincy: Believe it or not, discrimination in the fantasy world and the real world around fantasy is a consistent problem. Jasmine says she was warned not to come on certain days of RenFests.
Jasmine: Cultural Days, here those types like the the racist groups feel like that's their day to be there. So, you know, it might be a Viking Day or, you know, a Scottish Day or something like that. And it's nothing to say that that's inherently racist or that's what they're trying to signal in celebrating those days, because, you know, those are historical and cultural things that should be celebrated. But there's been some vendors that even told us look like, 'Mm Yeah. Most of the time the very safe but don't come on this day.'
Quincy: And so it was things like these that Jasmine was trying to bring to folks’ attention in real life. And online, she and Carlos the red-eyed demon were finding that in some ways, it was easier to find fellow Black fantasy fans and organize online. So, when they decided to start Black Fae Day in 2021, the clarion call, of course, had to come in online groups.
Amory: Hear ye! Hear ye! Meet us in the woods!
Ben: I love it.
Quincy: And that call to fairy arms worked.
Carlos: That's the story that we hear so much from people is that I needed this. I didn't realize how much I needed to be able to play, how much I needed to be able to go frolic and see other people who look like me. There is a woman who we call our fairy auntie who mentioned that they were into fantasy and stuff from the seventies, you know, on forward, but never felt like they belonged and never felt they had a way to express themselves in that realm until this came along.
Quincy: More fae play in a minute.
Amory: So Quincy, this is a story about inclusiveness in the fantasy world when it comes to Black people and people like Jasmine, Lala and Carlos trying to both make larger fantasy spaces more inclusive and welcoming to Black Fairies… and build safe spaces for Black fantasy fans.
Quincy: Yes, but Carlos made this deeper point, too. The ability to lose yourself in fantasy can be a bit of a privilege.
Carlos: It's something that we talk about a lot is as Black people having the ability and access to play as adults, something that we might have been either denied or had cut short as children because, you know, we have to grow up fast. You know, , you see the little white kids running around still in their tutus and their cowboy boots and their vests and everything running around the grocery stores, having fun. Meanwhile, you got to stay close to your parent. You got to keep paying attention, you know, for people around you, because it's so much danger in the world from every angle, from every direction. Even people who are supposed to protect you at times.
Quincy: Lala, the organizer at the Boston fantasy and video game convention… says the thing she likes about Black Fae Day is that it’s something that can unite Black people online without it having to be political or a protest.
Lala: Because I feel like sometimes for Black folks, we feel like when we take up space, it has to only be advocacy reasons or something in a way that we're being like tokenized and we have to represent something huge. But sometimes all that we want to represent is just joy and the things that we enjoy.
Quincy: And that’s what Black Fae Day founder Jasmine LaFleur had in mind when she made the hashtag once upon a time in a magical land called Oklahoma. Which really came into its own last spring when the online excitement moved offline and into the Black Fae Day Gala in Atlanta.
Jasmine: It was the fairytale gala, land versus sea. So we had mermaids, we had knights, we had performers that did like fantasy drag and things like that.
Quincy: It was a day where Black fairies and elves were really allowed to relax and be carefree.
Jasmine: We had just had a free park meet up in Atlanta at Freedom Park, and it was so beautiful. I mean, you could see little kids and grownups and everyone dressed as magical creatures, skipping and frolicking together.
Quincy: They were skipping and frolicking together. Some Black Fairies were giving massages to black knights. Other Black fairies were twerking.
Jasmine: We literally had a mass frolic in the park, and it was gorgeous. And so, you know, the sun had set and we were saying our goodbyes. And a friend calls me and says, 'Are you okay?' You know, they're frantic. You could hear that they had been crying.
Ben: And again, Jasmine experiences being not allowed to experience the fantasy world for very long.
Quincy: Correct. So, this was the second year of Black Fae Day. This time, it fell on May 14, 2022. And it had gotten bigger than the last so Jasmine had feared that someone had gotten at one of the Black Fae Day events.
[ABC News Reporter Stephanie Ramos: Then came back Saturday and opened fire. . . Capturing the shock and terror in the shooting’s aftermath as the gunman was arrested.
Cameraman: Oh my God, he shot so many people in there.]
Quincy: And while thousands of Black faes across the country were celebrating magic and being Black and escaping an anti-Black world, a white man broadcast a livestream of himself going into a grocery store murdering anyone Black.
Jasmine: And I know we're in a very hateful world. So it makes me more emboldened to spread joy and happiness and peace when we are a people who are constantly oppressed simply because of what we look like. You know, it sounds unreal when you put it that simply, but that's exactly how it is. We're hunted down like animals because the color of our skin. And when people see a Brown or Black Ariel or Belle, there's hate. And it makes no sense to me.
Amory: Fairies in literature are often targeted and persecuted by evil forces, right? Captain Hook and Tinkerbell.
Ben: People of the magical woods and cruel bellicose characters who go after them.
Quincy: Yeah. Allegorically, fairy people are often marginalized. But even with this similarity, Blackness in fantasy worlds is still somehow contentious and controversial. Jasmine says it doesn’t even take something as extreme as what happened in Buffalo last year to see the need for virtual space where Black people can find magical escape.
Ariel: Part of your world!
Poseidon: He’s a human. You’re a mermaid.
Ariel: That doesn’t make us enemies.]
Quincy: When the new "Little Mermaid" was revealed, incensed racists came out of the woodwork to extol bigotry on how a half fish - half person is plausible. But making them Black is going a little too far.
Ben: The recent example I remember, Quincy, was when when Amazon released it’s big money blockbuster "Lord of the Rings" origin story series last year and one of the show’s main characters, Arondir, was played by Ismael Cruz Cordova, nerds on the internet would not have that Black elf situation.
Ryan Kinel from RK Outpost: What people have a problem with is when you change pre-established lore, especially when you do it seemingly for identity politics purposes. And we have so much of that in this series. Not only with the casting decisions made for some of the elves and some of the harfoots and a dwarf, but also the way Galadriel is depicted. You know that’s agenda-driven. ]
Quincy: These conversations are about people accusing entertainment companies of forcing diversity into stories that have historically not featured Black characters or voices. But Carlos and Jasmine say a point of fact, is some of the research they’ve done suggests that the opposite has happened.
Carlos: So, we have essentially, I think, all of the Faerie books by Andrew Lang. Is it Andrew Lang?
Jasmine: Mm hmm.
Carlos: And in some of the books that have stories and tales that they gathered-- because they gather tales from all around the world and the different colored books-- and the one that has tales from black people, that even says in the foreword that the stories were edited to be made, what was it? More easily digestible or–
Jasmine: More palatable. Yeah, the white audience.
Carlos: It literally says that in the foreword. Our experience, our existence, our stories and our truth have had to be adjusted and modified to make others comfortable.
Q: Ben, Amory, esteemed audience, we started this episode by saying this story is a fairytale from the internet, so I guess now it’s time for the happily ever after. Through the hashtag #BlackFaeDay, Jasmine spawned an online community for Black fantasy fans that moved into real life. And, just so you know, a group of fairies is called a frolic of fairies.
Ben: Did you know that Amory? A frolic of fairies.
Amory: Aw. I love that. A frolic of fairies.
Quincy: I know. The things you find out on the internet. And Jasmine says the fairies are indeed multiplying. With more frolics coming out of the woodwork.
Jasmine: So, I know one trickle effect or ripple that happened on the internet was Enchanted Asian Day, which is celebrated on the second Saturday of June every year. And it happened very soon after Black Friday the first year. And some young ladies in the U.K. were like, 'We love what you did for your community, and we want to do that for the Asian community because we have lots of stories that we want to tell, too.'
Amory: Well, Quincy, thank you for taking us on this journey. Do you feel like you’ve realized your Black fairyness?
B: Yeah, hath you been sprinkled by the magic dust, Quincy ? Do you frolic in the long dewy grass amongst the saplings and the blossoms?
Q: [laughs] You know, I asked these questions to myself while I was in a magical land called Florida while I was in a swamp.
Quincy: So did Lala overestimate my capacity for magic? Or was she right? Was I a fairy all this time and didn’t know? I don’t really know. But I’m near a pond right now. And it’s covered in water lilies and there are birds singing to each other. And the idea of a utopia like this for Black people is really nice to think about. I wish it were real . . .
Ben: Wow, Quincy. I wish it were real, too. But I guess I think people like Jasmine are using fantasy to make real spaces for Black people to be together and be safe in their appreciation
Quincy: I'm reading a book about platform nihilism in social media and it says that the internet is a place is a place that needs more heroes. And I feel like maybe Jasmine is in a way making that mark for herself.
Ben: As a fairy hero.
Ben: I love it.
Amory: Apply that the whole world, not just the internet. For sure. I'm thinking of — I read this play in college called "No Exit". It was a French play. And there's a line from that play that's always stayed with me and that is "hell is other people." And that is true [laughs] I think. But --
Ben: [laughs] That's the opposite of my life mantra.
Amory: Well, that's the thing. I would argue that so is heaven — heaven is other people, too.
Amory: And so, there's obviously, a lot of darkness in the world. But there's also a lot of magic. And I'm so glad that they found a way to make that together.