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The First Ever Wakandacon is Happening Right Now in Chicago

Wakandacon Forever!

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Calling all Chicago-based nerds: Wakandacon is officially underway! The three-day fan convention and edutainment summit at the Hilton Downtown Chicago “celebrates Afrofuturism as well as black representation and excellence in film, STEM, tech, fine art and media.” Wakandacon is the brainchild of David, Ali and Matt Barthwell, siblings who decided to take their love for Marvel’s Black Panther to the next level.

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David Barthwell discussed the lack of representation of black people in nerd culture, and the othering it effect it can have on black fandom who long to see themselves represented in the content they love. “I would see people going to ‘Star Trek’ conventions or dressing up like ‘Star Wars’ characters and never got what they were so excited about. Until I saw Black Panther. When it was over I truly felt a sense of loss and separation anxiety after seeing this world that gave me characters to identify with and all these people coming together with this energy. My siblings and I wanted a way to recapture some of that.”

Along with his siblings, Barthwell recruited Lisa Beasley and Taylor Witten for the massive undertaking of launching their own con. After setting up a website to gauge fan interest, the team found themselves inundated with 10,000 people who wanted to be involved or simply attend. Ali Barthwell discussed the importance of Wakanda and the effect that the film Black Panther had on people of color.

“The question we kept coming back to as we were thinking about what we wanted this event to be is why does everyone want to go Wakanda, why does it mean so much to people? And I think something that resonated so strongly is that Wakanda is this place that’s free from all these other harmful, violent, damaging forces that affect black people in so many places in our lives. So we started by addressing the real things happening and reached out to people in the community about what they are doing to make our world a better place.”

In addition to the panels, booths and cosplay contests that all fancons have, Wakandacon has added programming to educate and uplift the community. The con includes a panel on STEM hosted by the Negro Justice League, as well as panels on activism, environmentalism, and representation. The con also features The Shuri Project, an organization that teaches black girls ages 8-12 how to create their own websites and develop public speaking skills.

The best part? Wakandacon is accessibly priced at $35 for the weekend. Are you hitting up Wakandacon? Tell us about it!

(via Chicago Sun Times, image: Marvel)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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