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  • Megann Horstead

Wakandacon a mecca for celebrating afro-futurism

Updated: Dec 17, 2020


Thousands joined forces last weekend to take part in the second annual Wakandacon, a celebration of fandom inspired by the popular Marvel film “Black Panther.”

The three-day event, held at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, centered on afro-futurism among comic nerds, pop culture buffs, big thinkers, techies, creatives, storytellers, gamers, science geeks, dreamers, makers, movers, shakers and anyone contributing to the culture.

New this time, the event featured hands-on movement and media-making workshops and panels covered a wider range of topics, including sexuality, mental health, tech, commerce and more.

Ali Barthwell, one of the co-founders of Wakandacon, said the event is still going strong in its second year.

“We had people who had never participated in fandom or nerdy-ness before, and the film activated them,” she said. “Now they can discover what else they are interested in.”

Last year, Wakandacon attracted more than 2,500 people, and organizers were hoping to draw in 3,000 this time around.

Karla Levy of Indiana roamed the grounds of Wakandacon with her daughter.

“I’m really excited about the culture, but somehow incorporating everybody,” she said. “We’ve seen people of all nationalities here.”

Levy said that making the trek to Wakandacon was worth it, in part, because it’s striking the way people of color are coming out.

“To see them as a comic book character, you didn’t get those options in my day and age,” she said. “You didn’t get those options to see yourself as Superwoman or a comic book character that has fierce powers, defending the world and its people, too. It’s nice to see. It’s also nice to show my daughter and her generation and to give her these options with liberal arts and the culture itself.

Elsewhere at Wakandacon, attendees took part in a new video gaming competition hosted by iPlay, and Lego sponsored a building space to help engage people in envisioning and building a future together.

Jermaine Chin of Miami, Fla., said he’s seen the film “Black Panther”, and it helped pique his interest in going to Wakandacon.

“I was there at the premiere and everything,” he said. “It’s cool that from the film, they came up with Wakandacon.”

Chin said there’s a lot to like about Wakandacon and what it aims to achieve.

“It’s good that there’s a lot of youth out,” he said. “It’s definitely a positive thing.”

Barthwell said Wakandacon strives to fill a unique void among fandom conventions.

“I don’t think there’s a space for people of all ages at other cons,” Barthwell said. “I also think that, here, your black-ness is a given. You don’t have to say, ‘I’m black Wolverine or I’m black Captain America, you’re just Captain America or you’re just Wolverine.”

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