Marvel’s The Black Panther did more than smash box office records this year. It inspired Wakandacon, a three-day
celebration of Afrofuturism at the Hilton Chicago that combined community
building with Blerd (short for Black nerd)
culture. With a closing ceremony that
even included a marriage proposal, the
overwhelming vibe that you got from the
inaugural attendees of Wakandacon is that
they want more Wakandacon.
“Why Wakandacon?” Lamar Wilson,
co-founder of the financial tech startup
Hijiro, asked rhetorically after hosting the
“Wacoinda” panel on cryptocurrencies.
“Because there was a gap in the nerdism
for Black folk, and Wakandacon is filling
that void. The fact that we can have Afrofu-
turism and a togetherness-type feeling—
hey man, I’m all for it.”
Chicago literary agent Nora Brooks
Blakely was curious about Wakandacon
when she first heard about it, and con-
siders attending it to be “one of the best
decisions in [her] life.”
“There’s just nothing like seeing a whole
group of happy, confident, intelligent and
invested Black people,” Brooks Blakely said.
“Wakandacon is awesome!”
Along with the cosplay parade and
appearances by actors from The Black
Panther and Get Out, Wakandacon’s
schedule showed the positive eclecticism
embodied by Afrofuturism with panels on
environmental justice, STEM education
and improv comedy.
“This is so grassroots here in Chicago,
and so authentic,” CNN host and former
President Obama advisor Van Jones said.
Jones came to Wakandacon not to host any
panels, but as a fan.
“I came to Wakandacon because it’s
called Wakandacon,” Jones explained,
“That’s enough right there by itself.
“I feel like Afrofuturism and the whole
kind of positive upsurge where Afri-
can-Americans are reclaiming technology,
spirituality, history, politics is one of the
most powerful things going on,” Jones con-
tinued. “The Black Panther film was able to
capture that and put it on a world stage, but
there’s a bigger movement that’s going on.”
Jones brought his sons to see Wakandacon.
“I asked my teenager if he would come back
next year, and he said ‘absolutely.’” Jones said.
“You know, teenagers are hard to please.”
Sheri Flanders is a comedian, actor, jour-
nalist and instructor in The Second City’s
musical improv program. She loves comic
books and has been seeing superhero mov-
ies with her dad since she was a little girl.
“This is actually my very first con, amaz-
ingly,” she said, beaming with joy after
Wakandacon’s closing ceremony and that
marriage proposal. “I will definitely be going
to more cons again, but I have a feeling that
this one will be the best one of them all.”
Like everyone else, Flanders wants more
“There were nerds of all colors of the
rainbow here, so everyone should definitely come and support Wakandacon again
next year,” she said.
Fortunately for everyone Meetings Today
talked to that weekend, the Wakandacon
website has already announced that details
for Wakandacon 2019 are coming soon.
“I’m very appreciative of the people who
took the risk to do this,” Van Jones said,
“and the people who put this together are
leaders in our culture.”
Bob Calhoun is the author of Shattering
Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and
Conflict on the Expo Floor. You can follow
him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.
RAVE REVIEWS IN EACH INSTALLMENT OF SHATTERING CONVENTIONS, AUTHOR BOB CALHOUN CRASHES A NEW TRADESHOW, CONVENTION OR CONFERENCE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO
FIT IN—EVEN WHERE
HE DOESN’T ALWAYS
SHATTERING CON VENT IONS
Wakandacon celebrates African-American sci-fi and
leaves everyone wanting more
By Bob Calhoun