Wakandacon this past weekend: Lessons for Life

Chicago, Illinois – August 5, 2018: Attendees celebrate the 3-day convention on the last day of WakandonCon. (Olivia Obineme, ESPN)

Chicago, Illinois – August 5, 2018: Left to right: Co-founders and siblings Ali, David, Matt Barthwell poses with the official Wakandan greeting with fellow convention organizers Lisa Beasley and Taylor Witten. (Olivia Obineme, ESPN)

Wakandacon: a life changing event!

I spent this past weekend as a vendor sharing my debut middle grade novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes with 2,500 festival goers in downtown Chicago. No, not at Lollapalooza, but at Wakandacon, a three-day conference held at the downtown Chicago Hilton on South Michigan Avenue, billed as a “space for all people of all types to come together, educate each other, and celebrate all of our passions. It’s an event where we can dress up, dance, connect, support each other, and celebrate the entire diaspora looking past the present and into our future.”  Wakandacon is based on the fictional Wakanda Africa nation featured in Black Panther, the highest grossing superhero movie of all time. 

Wakandacon was organized in four months by a superhero trio of biological brothers and sisters: Ali, David and Matt Barthwell, three college-educated, fourth generation African-Americans who grew up in oak Park, Illinois. Their alma maters are Wellesley, Yale and Fisk. Hats off to the parents. These are the hidden figures, among thousands of others, ignored when the media seeks out stories to tell of people of color. The trio says it was after their tenth viewing of Black Panther that inspired them to mobilize to keep the high of Black Panther going within the African-American community, and other communities of color. Stay with me: if you don’t belong to either of these communities, know that there is still a role for you. Allies who envision a world of equity without regard for color or ethnicity, but a world of people recognized as individuals of worth and ethics, are welcomed. Hmmm…sounds a bit like the world Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, doesn’t it?

As a novelist who chose to delve into the world of science fiction/fantasy for my debut children’s novel, following in the footsteps of Madeleine L’Engle, Octavia Butler, J..K. Rowling, Stephen King and many others, I was in awe of this festival. I persisted. They quickly reached their limit for vendors. I appealed. I was accepted in.

I was fortunate enough to be able to join the 115 vendors in the Marketplace, sharing our creative wares to the Wakandacon attendees who showed up in the costumes and outfits of their favorite sci-fi/fantasy heroes, and in glorious African-themed attire. I was gratified by the hundreds of African-Americans, other people of color, and whites who recognized that the world is changing and their children need to read not only about children who look like them (mirrors), but those who populate the planet alongside them and have stories they should know (windows). Kudos to these enlightened parents.

A Black Panther actor was on site, (Mark Willis), along with a drummer, Jabari Exum, who worked with Chadwick Boseman (and attended Howard University with him), along with a cast of amazing, enlightened speakers. As a vendor, my time outside my booth was limited (kudos to my niece, Monnia Hartsfield (age 16) who held it down and encouraged potential buyers to return once the author was back in her space)!

So, my key takeways: Comic Cons are an essential pathway/roadmap as to how we should exist on this planet. Every human being deserves to be valued. Nerds are welcome. Individuals of all hues and cultures are valued. Children need to see adults valuing our African beginnings, both those who identify as being from the African continent, and those who have yet to make the connection, but also hail from Africa. Check into history. Colonization did a number on both the oppressor and the oppressed.

The camaraderie, the appreciation for all within the Marketplace, the sharing of ideas and experiences…Priceless. If you’d like to know what you missed, Google ‘Wakandacon’ and make sure your feet are in the place for Wakandacon 2019.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the love I was shown and appreciation for The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes at Wakandacon 2018. Let’s get this movie made!!



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