In the first two parts of our Black Lives Matter series, we shared ways to get educated and show your support. Now it’s time to lift up more Black voices.
@sabrinafvholder via Twenty20
This article (written collaboratively with Jamie Alvey and Kirby Kellogg) is designed to shine a light on the work of many talented Black creatives and genre content creators deserving of your attention and support.
There’s no denying that horror as a whole has long been dominated by white voices. In recent years, there have been greater attempts to diversify the genre; streaming platforms and digital media make it easier for marginalized storytellers to get their work to wider audiences. But there is still much work to be done to create a space where people of all races, identities, and genders are on a level playing field.
What can we do, as fans and consumers of horror, to bring a wider range of voices to the table? Specifically, what can we do to amplify the work being done by Black creators in horror, who have historically suffered the most from racism and ostracism from within our own ranks?
The answer is simple: actively seek out Black horror.
We’re all familiar with Jordan Peele; the huge success of his films Get Out and Us has been instrumental in bringing issues of race to mainstream horror. Nia DaCosta is bringing one of horror’s most iconic villains, Candyman, back to the big screen. Gerard Bush co-wrote and co-directed the upcoming film Antebellum. The late, great Octavia Butler is one of the most important authors of sci-fi and speculative fiction. Read her books. Watch Peele and DaCosta’s films. Know their names, support their work continually, and talk about them with the same energy you would discuss David Lynch or Mike Flanagan.
These are just a few of the more well-known figures in the genre. Indie creators and those whose names aren’t instantly recognizable to people outside the horror community need our support as well. There is so much talent among Black horror creators that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
I’d like to shine a light on some of that talent. Here are twenty Black creatives — artists, writers, podcasters, and filmmakers — in horror for you to explore, follow, and support.
Destiny Kelly is a studio artist, designer, and filmmaker who recently graduated from California State University with a BA in Film and Electronic Arts. Her portfolio is full of stunning mixed media portraits of everything from classic monsters to modern horror masterpieces like Us and Tragedy Girls (yes, Tragedy Girls is a masterpiece). If you see something you like, be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram — prints are on the way and commissions are opening soon.
As a filmmaker, Destiny strives to “tell stories that are both fun and creepy.” She describes her upcoming short Pumpkin Fever as a “love letter to Halloween,” and it looks delightfully spooky. Check out her YouTube page for a teaser.
If you’re into wearable art, you need a pair of Andrew LaSane’s sneakers in your life. Based out of New York, Andrew imbues plain, boring Converse, Vans, etc. with incredible hand-painted details — and he specializes in horror movie art. Check out his Instagram for a look at his past work; he’s got Nightmare on Elm Street, It, Us, The Shining, even The Haunting of Hill House.
Though most of Andrew’s work is personally customized for each customer, due to popular demand you can purchase a pair of his “Voorhees Vans” from his online store. There you can not only commission your very own pair of shoes, but you can also buy Andrew’s rad Black horror directors T-shirt.
Layla J. Omorose
Layla J. Omorose is a dollmaker from New York who specializes in stunning doll repaints, many of them horror-themed. On her Etsy you’ll find a Barbie turned into Carrie, and a Pennywise that even someone as terrified of clowns as I am must admit is pretty damn adorable. Each of her dolls is handmade and completely unique. She even does custom orders, so if you’ve ever wanted your very own, say, Jennifer Check Barbie, this is the gal to go to.
Layla also has a BA in English from John Jay College and five published novels to her name. You can check out her books here and follow her Facebook.
Tales From the Stitch
If crochet dolls are more your thing, check out Tales From the Stitch. Canadian dollmaker, Chelsey Scully, known as The Stitchkeeper, has been crocheting since childhood and has been making dolls for over eight years. Her dolls are poseable, highly detailed, and 100% handmade.
You can visit the Tales From the Stitch shop to adopt one of her existing dolls — Veronica Sawyer, the Demogorgon, and Jack and Wendy Torrance among them — or you can commission one of your own. You can also subscribe to her Patreon; five bucks a month gets you amazing perks like monthly contests, coupons, and the chance to buy new dolls before they hit the shop.
Fred Cunningham is a self-taught painter from California. I repeat: self-taught. I am truly in awe of this guy’s talent and skill. A quick look at his art and you will be too. He has just set up a shop to sell prints of his work— that Tiffany painting would look beautiful framed, just saying. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram and keep an eye out for his work inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. 70% of the proceeds will be donated to various BLM-affiliated organizations.
Vicki Be Wicked
Vicki Be Wicked is a graphic designer and digital artist from North Carolina. Her art is full of queer goth girls, zombie girls, vampire girls — and they are all super colorful and amazing. Check out her Etsy shop to get stickers, buttons, phone cases, literally anything you could possibly want. You can also see some of her digital paintings on Twitter. Outside of horror art, she creates emotes and badges for streamers on commission and runs another Etsy shop, Afro Cutie Creations.
Dr. Robin Means Coleman
If you want to learn about the complicated relationship between Black identities and horror films, the first book you need to buy is Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from 1890 to Present. Originally published in 2011, Dr. Robin Means Coleman’s book is one of the most important pieces of scholarship on horror cinema, analyzing contributions to the genre by Black creators, representations of Black people on screen, American racial anxieties, and how they each inform each other. When her book was adapted into a documentary in 2019, Dr. Coleman acted as an executive producer.
Another noteworthy person who worked on the Horror Noire documentary is Tananarive Due, an award-winning author with twenty years of speculative fiction to her name. She’s also a screenwriter and co-wrote an episode of Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone with her husband.
In addition to her career as an author, Tananarive Due is a professor at UCLA, where she specializes in afrofuturism and Black horror. Her most popular class, “The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival, and The Black Horror Aesthetic,” which focuses on the film Get Out, is available to non-UCLA students as a six-week digital workshop.
Ashlee Blackwell is easily one of the most important voices in the horror community. In addition to being a co-writer/producer of Horror Noire and a Professor of Horror Studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Ashlee has created Graveyard Shift Sisters Archive, an incredible resource of analysis and scholarship focusing on “the experiences, representations, achievements, and creative works of Black women and women in color in the the horror/science fiction genres.” Her writing is consistently thoughtful and thought-provoking and shines some much-needed light on underrepresented voices in the genre.
If you’re looking for some great fiction, check out Yawatta Hosby, an author from West Virginia who writes horror and suspense novels. I recommend her book One By One, which follows a pair of siblings into the wilderness as they’re forced to revisit the scene of a family tragedy. One By One is available on Kindle as a boxed set with its sequel, Six Plus One. Another of her books, Plenty of Fish, is currently available for free on Kindle.
Yawatta has also had her short horror stories featured in two anthologies, When the Lights Go Out and Don’t Open the Door, and runs a blog where she shares insight to her “publishing journey.”
Jessica Guess recently published her first novella, Cirque Berserk, part of Unnerving Magazine’s Rewind or Die series. Set in the late 80s, Cirque Berserk is a slasher throwback with a carnival twist. Jessica also has a blog called Black Girl’s Guide to Horror, which she calls “the answer to the too white, too male, too cis, too straight genre that so many of us love but don’t see much of ourselves in.” Among her thoughtful reviews and analyses, I especially recommend “Erasing Rochelle: Importance of Black Female Representation in The Craft.”
Knight Light: A Horror Movie Podcast
We all want a group of friends to just sit around and talk horror with; if you don’t have those kinds of friends, the guys at Knight Light: A Horror Movie Podcast are your friends now. Led by Prince, The Head Knight, they’re a group of laid back buddies who turned their “passion for arguing with each other” about horror movies into a fun and insightful podcast.
There’s a new episode every Monday. If you’d like to support Knight Light — and their brother podcast, Good Knight, where they discuss other movies, TV shows, and video games — you can subscribe to their Patreon.
Nightlight: A Horror Fiction Podcast
If you’re into spooky stories that will keep you up at night, check out Nightlight: A Horror Fiction Podcast. Nightlight features a variety of stories written by Black writers and read by Black actors. There are plenty of ghosts and haunted houses to go around, along with vampires, post-apocalyptic tales, and author interviews.
You can listen to Nightlight wherever you get your podcasts, and you can support their work with a monthly subscription through Anchor or through their Patreon, where you’ll get exclusive content and a shoutout on the podcast.
Girl, That’s Scary
With all due love and respect to every other podcast on this list, Girl, That’s Scary is my new favorite podcast. Hosted by “your friendly neighborhood homegirls,” Jazz and Kat, GTS is hilariously entertaining and full of personality. I started with their Dracula Day episode and immediately fell in love with the hosts’ banter, sense of humor, and unique perspectives on the films they discussed. (Also, they gave some love to Dracula, Dead and Loving It, so they kind of have to be my favorite now).
There’s a new episode of Girl, That’s Scary every Thursday, and you can find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow them on Twitter and Instagram.
Your host for Nocturnal Emissions is Seattle-based babe Isabella von Ghoul. Nocturnal Emissions is all about “the weird, scary, chilling and strange things that happen in this amazing, mysterious world of ours.” The podcast features interviews, discussions of horror movies, short story readings, and much more. You can support Nocturnal Emissions by becoming a monthly subscriber on Anchor.
Isabella also has a YouTube channel about true crime, where she discusses “race, gender, politics, and the horrific in between.” This lady knows her stuff, so if you’re into real life horror stories, be sure to check her out!
Zena S. Dixon
Known as the Real Queen of Horror, Zena Dixon is a ray of sunshine in our dark corner of the world. You can check out her short films She and Peel on Vimeo; another short, Night of the Witch, my personal favorite, will hopefully be available for all to see again soon. I can’t wait to see what Zena does next.
While we wait, however, you can see more of Zena on her YouTube channel, where she posts reviews and what-to-watch lists. Her personality shines through in every video, and it’s no wonder there’s a bit of a movement on Twitter to make her the next big horror host on Shudder. She also has a blog and a recurring column on Dread Central called Zena’s Period Blood.
Monika Estrella Negra
Monika Estrella Negra is a filmmaker, writer, and co-founder of Audre’s Revenge Film (also on Twitter), which aims to create “horror and sci-fi by QTIPOC and Black women, and women of color, with a perspective of our own.” Her short film They Will Know You By Your Fruit was featured at a number of festivals, including Final Girls Berlin and Ax Wound Film Festival.
Her current project, Bitten: A Tragedy, is the story of Lydia (played by Monika herself) who discovers an underground queer subculture of vampires and embarks on a journey of self discovery. It looks incredibly stylish and gritty, and I for one am dying to see it.
LA-based filmmaker JD Dillard garnered quite a bit of praise last year when his feature film Sweetheart became one of the most talked about horror films of 2019. Sweetheart premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January and hit Netflix in October, bringing in rave reviews along the way. This heart-pounding thriller about a woman fighting for survival on a deserted island was produced by Blumhouse. With those kinds of connections, there are certain to be big things in Dillard’s future.
You can also stream Dillard’s other film Sleight, a “superhero” movie about a street magician, on Hulu, and check out some of his incredible essays.
Kellee Terrell is Chicago filmmaker whose MFA film thesis from Columbia College screened at multiple film festivals all over the world, including the Academy Award qualifying Cinequest Film Festival. Her film, Blame, is a gut-wrenching tale of rape, aftermath, and a family torn apart. You can watch it on Vimeo, along with another of Terrell’s shorts, Goodnight My Love, a Black lesbian love story set during the zombie apocalypse.
Another film, Gemma, a lesbian ghost/love story (yes please), was Pride Films and Plays’ 2017 LezPlay contest winner, and I hope one day we’ll all be able to see it. Terrell is also a writer who has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Shondaland Digital.
English filmmaker Dave Green co-directed Surprise, a delightfully blood-soaked, low-budget anthology that screened at many international film festivals. A group of writers gather together on Halloween to share stories, each one hoping to out-spook the other in hopes of winning a local contest. The film recently got some love from Mike Flanagan on Twitter — high praise indeed.
You can watch Surprise on Vimeo, along with Dave’s other works from Greenhouse Films, including Occupied, a short thriller that takes place in an airplane restroom.
A FINAL NOTE
This is just a small sampling of the amazing talent of Black creators in the horror community. There’s so much more where this came from. Here are a few Twitter threads full of incredible Black artists, writers, and other creatives to check out, follow, and support.