One thing I'm excited about with WakandaCon is this merch! Granted, we don't know what official con wear will be available unless you attend the convention yourself. However, they have a bunch of neat products that you can buy online wherever you are!
WakandaCon, as a reminder, is happening next month. August 3rd through the 5th, in the windy city of Chicago. While the convention is named after the fictional country in Black Panther, there is a reason why it isn't called Black Panther Con.
WakandaCon is so much more than Black Panther. With exciting STEM panels, amazing guests, and in-depth discussions, this con is about to be the definition of "All Black Everything"**
While there are many things to geek out about at WakandaCon, one of them is the merch that is available online right NOW!
My favorite? This mug right here. I don't even care that it's $16.00. It's worth every penny to have that in my cubicle at work.
There are a few awesome shirts out there as well. But this one is pretty cool. I'd wear it everywhere.
Listen yall, if the merch is this good already, imagine what it's going to be when the con actually hits! What do you guys think of the merch so far? Drop us a comment and let us know.
**and before you ask, yes, you can attend if you are not black. Jeez, guys.
I feel like my first foray into conventions warrants a blog post. Multiple blog posts. You have been warned.
About 3 years ago I wrote a blog post on the anxiety I feel about going to conventions. This never got finished and it never got posted. How could I explain to you guys the giant weight on my chest at the thought of going to a convention? I would be going by myself (my husband isn't into those things). I'd have to talk to people *shudder*. I'd have to figure out what I wanted to do, and how to do it. Nah bruh, cons weren't for me.
But this was 3 years ago (possibly more, I haven't checked the date on that draft). A lot of things have changed. My anxiety is a lot worse. However I also manage it. I have to. I speak with strangers every day during my 9-5. People look to me for direction. I feel like now is the time for me to step a pinky toe into the con world, and Gen Con seemed the optimal place to do it
What is Gen Con?
According to the website, Gen Con is the longest running gaming convention in the world. From what I have seen and my understanding they deal primarily in board games and role playing games (think D&D). It is (for now) located in Indianapolis, which suits my needs as I am located in Indianapolis as well.
Why do I want to go?
I like games. I like games a lot. I don't have much experience in board games however. I have played Ticket to Ride a whole lot. I'd also like to learn how to play D&D or even a card game like Magic the Gathering. This convention offers the perfect opportunity for that.
Also I think this is a small step into the convention world. It is local and it is downtown and I can get there with relative ease. I can also navigate downtown like a boss. Part of my anxiety stems from needed to know everything about where I am going. I am that person that can't take driving directions from someone, because if you tell me to turn 3 seconds from a turn I will hurt you. And also freak out when I miss the turn. I have control issues. Sue me.
I'd also like to meet different people. My friends are typically spread out across the globe. Maybe I meet some nice people around here that like to do somethings that I like to do. This seems like also a great place to network and spread the good news of this blog and our podcast (you are listening to our podcast right?).
What do I hope to take away (other than pins)?
Other than some swag, I hope to learn to play at least one game. I hope to hand out stickers (and possibly buttons if I can get my funds together to purchase some). I want to wander around downtown, take pictures with cosplayers, and eat a good lunch. Mostly I hope to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy myself. I want to come back with tons of stories for our readers here and listeners on the podcast.
Have you been to cons? Are you leery about going to cons? Do you have advice for me? Let me know!
As part of our Geeky Girls Guide to WakandaCon series, wouldn't you want to learn about the women behind the con? Cause let's face it. Con after con after con after con, female leadership can be, well, almost non-existent. But that's not the case with WakandaCon.
WakandaCon, taking place August 3rd through the 5th in windy Chicago, is headed by women who are almost as fierce as the Dora Milaje. But even more than that, they are inspiring. Don't think you can reach your dreams? Think you can't win in a game that's stacked against Black women? The road is hard and not without scars, but these three women have proved that you can battle your way to the top.
Wayment, ALL Y'ALL WORK IN THE ARTS??
Yes! Just before I was about to take that Theater Degree and toss it in a fire, I learned that Ali Barthwell (Co-founder, Social Outreach), Lisa Beasley (Producer and Media Relations), and Taylor Witten (Producer and Content Strategist) all graduated from college with arts degrees. Ali attended Wellesley College, Lisa attended LeMoyne-Owen College and Taylor went to Dartmouth College. All three women combined have experience in acting, production, writing, directing, and teaching well after college.
This is inspiring because, as an arts major myself, it's just so validating to see women, black women in particular, out here doing the damn thing
The Path To WakandaCon is Paved With Friendship
Each of them came to WakandaCon in their own way "Wakandacon is founded on principles that I feel are personally important to move our people and culture forward." Taylor says about the convention, "Blackness is a spectrum. Out with the old, and limited question of “are you Black enough?” We aim to shift what it means to be Black, culturally, personally, professionally, and expressively. No matter where you land on the spectrum - your journey and experience shape the culture. We want this to be a movement. We want to create more seats at the table, establish safe spaces for creatives of color, and amplify their voices. By joining the Wakandacon team, I felt like I had found my tribe."
Lisa didn't take much convincing to hop on the project, "My friend Ali Barthwell reached out to me and told me that her brother had an idea named “Wakandacon.” I really didn’t need any further explanation. I knew exactly what it was and exactly why she was telling me he had the idea. Honestly, it didn’t take much. I was on board when she said, “Hey, my brother has an idea.” I love helping my friends work out their ideas."
"My brothers and I were going to see Black Panther a lot and my older brother David came up with the name first: Wakandacon." Ali says, while I wonder if she beat me in the number of times she saw Black Panther. "He tried to pass it off to Matt and me to organize but we convinced David to lead us. As we started to build this idea, we realized that we needed more help so I recruited Taylor and Lisa who are friends of mine with experience in the areas we were missing. We’ve been creating and building this thing since that moment. There has been a lot of educating ourselves and learning from other cons and their successes and mistakes."
So...WYD Outside of WakandaCon?
Thing is, each of these women are out here living life, breaking glass ceilings, hell, breaking glass universes. Doors are opening for them all over the place.
Taylor thought she was slipping me a shameless plug, but I was gonna put her on blast anyway 🙂 She's got a film project in the works, called The One I Love. It's about a Christian couple who face trials and tribulations as they grow in their relationship and faith. Since Taylor is herself a woman of faith, her production of this Indie film comes straight from the heart.
Lisa is, to put it simply, changing the world. She is the co-founder of The Nova Collective which is a company that works to transform corporate culture. I wanted to know if there had possibly been an uptick in a need for this after...how do I put this lightly?...the shitstorm after the election. "The entire Diversity & Inclusion industry has increased due to the friction caused by the last election. Conversations are happening in the workplace whether people want them to or not and we help companies strategize how to have those conversations. The last election has put a magnifying glass on problems that have already existed in the workforce so I think a lot of the workforce is relieved people are finally talking about it."
I asked each of them "What's the best thing about being a black woman? what's the worst thing?"
Ali hits me with a simple but truthful statement, "The most challenging thing about being a Black woman is being a Black woman today and the best thing about being a Black woman is being a Black woman."
"Sometimes I can’t tell if people are not listening to me because what I’m saying is actually trash or because they are not used to listening to black women."Lisa tells me "I’ve often worked in environments where what I say is dismissed because of my identity but I’ve learned that that is also my superpower. Now I work in groups that value my expertise and experiences. The best thing about being a black woman. Oh geez. I love how I can bend and manipulate my hair in many different ways. I love the skin I’m in. I love being a black woman."
And lastly, Taylor is quite literally taking me to church with her answer. "The BEST part about being a Black woman," she says, "is that there is no limit to the type of woman I can be. Black women grace almost every part of the earth. We’re literally everywhere, doing all kinds of great things. It’s truly inspiring. The challenge is that most people don’t see us that way. I often come across people who have such a narrow view of who I should be and how I should act because I am a Black woman. My hope is that Wakandacon exposes us all to a new way of thinking about Black women and provides a better representation of our whole selves."
Lisa Stole My Dream Job, Y'all
Not really, no. She didn't steal it from me. But I was super jelly to learn that Lisa Beasley is a friggin' writer for Cards Against Humanity!!
"Super cool, right?" She says to my green-with-envy self "I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of the comedians and writers in the room. The head writers thought that I would be a good fit for the room. Because of my other projects taking off, I now work with them as a Remote Contributor."
If You Don't Read Any Other Part Of The Article, Read This
All three of these women have been out there making it happen for themselves. So I had to ask them one burning question:
How did you get to where you are today? How can someone like me succeed in this world? How? How? How!
Thing is, not only is Lisa working in the Arts, she is also making changes in Corporate America and has a lot of advice to give. "Big changes start with yourself. In attempting to save myself economically, I’ve been able to open doors for other people. The experiences that I’ve had as a black woman in certain industries led me to explore different career paths that could build spaces for people to do the work that they love to do. Selfishly, I wanted a place to work and found that a lot of my friends were having a hard time finding work because most jobs are just trying to fill a diversity quota and would only allow one of us at a time. So instead of waiting for someone to hire me, I created jobs for myself. If you’re a black woman and you want to make big changes, think about the why and hold that in your mind often. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing will get you through the tough times. Also, take care of yourself. We are so used to taking care of others that taking care of ourselves seems selfish."
Moving right along to Ali, who gives us the best advice on how to succeed as a black woman. "First, go to therapy" Ali scolds like a Saturday Morning Mama that tells you to get ready to clean all day "or find a restorative hobby." she continues.
"There will be difficult and trying experiences. You won’t be able to avoid them completely but remembering that your mental health and security is the most important thing. It’s very easy to think that our struggle fuels our creativity or as Black women, we should shoulder the burden and power through but you can’t create from an unhealthy place. You need moments to restore you that make you healthier.
I would also say that you are most likely two to three times better than your white counterparts. That’s just a fact. And if you’re anything like me, you probably work to be perfect before you even try anything because if you fail, there might not be a second chance. That desire to be exceptional only will help you. Don’t let that desire to be perfect hold you back from trying something new or become harmful. See why you’ll need therapy?
Lastly, rely on your networks. There are more people who are willing to give you advice, guidance, or an introduction than you realize. Asking someone for advice or asking them to tell you their story to success will make them feel important and they’ll probably want to help you. "
And lastly, Taylor leaves us with lasting advice that will get you through the entire week. Heck, maybe even the year. "I was really hoping to share some deeply impactful-life-changing Def Poetry Slam style advice," She says, "however, this is all that came to mind --- Decide. Commit. Succeed. Only you can determine your future and it starts with making a choice."
If these three women can make it, you can too. WakandaCon forever!
Supernatural was the reason I went to my first Comic Con. I loved the show dearly but hadn’t yet gotten into the fandom, so much like Jon Snow, I knew nothing. My ignorance resulted in one of the more painful failures of my fandom life.
I went down to San Diego on the Saturday, because I only had a badge for Sunday. After a boozy, successful evening bar hopping, I asked a friend when I should get to the convention center for the Sunday panel in Hall H (the largest hall in the convention center). It’s important to note that my friend had only been there as a vendor, not as an attendee. So he replied “I don’t know, an hour before should be fine.” If you’ve been to Comic Con before, I can hear your eyes pop out of your head. Or hear you guffawing. You’re incredulous, I get that.
Well, I thought I’d be extra safe and get there three hours before. I walked down to the convention center and saw that people had spent the night there and that the line stretched further than the eye could see. I decided to try anyway, and was shocked that I actually eventually reached the front of the line. But it was not meant to be. After hours in line, they literally let the person in front of me in and put down the rope right in front of my chest. Which, I knew was a risk. But then something happened that rubbed salt in the wound. As the last person to my left walked inside the hall, I heard them say “what is Supernatural?” That fan was there for the Twilight panel happening in Hall H after Supernatural, but SDCC doesn't clear the hall so unfortunately our fates were intertwined.
I won't lie, gentle reader. It was a bitter pill to swallow. I had gone to a lot of trouble to be there. The line security guy was apologetic. He assured me I could cry if I wanted to. He’d been seeing it go on all day.
I wasn’t going to let that happen to me twice. The following year, I dug in and learned how to master SDCC as a Supernatural fan. What I have learned is that there is no better fandom to belong to during the week of San Diego Comic Con. And if you know what to look for you will crush SDCC and leave with memories to last a lifetime. Here’s why, in no particular order:
7) Swag. Supernatural is a relatively small show. But the fandom is so passionate and committed, it makes an outsized impact. You can see that in the free swag at SDCC. First, the bags you get when you check in are usually designed with art from a limited number of new shows enjoying a big promotional push----and, Supernatural. Understandably, you don’t get to poke through all the bags when you check in. They have something like 150k people checking in. You take the bag you are given. But then you quickly look around and see who has a Supernatural bag that might trade with you. You want to do it soon, because later on, people have all traded and they have the bag they want.
There is usually also a Comic Con magazine with a Supernatural cover. Entertainment Weekly is good about doing Supernatural covers as well and I've picked that up at the CW booth in the convention. So basically, you can get exclusive Supernatural swag for cheap or free. Well, you stand in lines and do some begging. But no money exchanges hands.
I should also mention my favorite Supernatural merch here. CineQuest is owned by Supernatural fans, and their exclusives are always the best. They know what moments, characters, and relationships mean the most to us. Check out their exclusives ahead of time and visit their booth. They are really friendly and will talk Supernatural with you if they aren’t too swamped. And if you aren’t going to SDCC, you can still snag some good stuff, so check it out. They don't pay me for the plug I just love them.
6) Random Acts. As you may know, we have a Supernatural fan supported nonprofit called Random Acts. Random Acts always has volunteers come down for SDCC. They usually coordinate a donation drive as well as another service oriented activity. They are sometimes on smaller panels about fandom charity, doing us proud. I have worked with Random Acts on several volunteer projects. They are amazing. They work hard for free. And during SDCC they always bring us together. I just love to see their wonderful faces.
5) The big slumber party. I know this one is a matter of personal taste. But I always look forward to camping out overnight for the Sunday Supernatural panel. People look at you like you’re crazy. Or they feel bad for you. Who in their right minds would sit in a line for 27+ hours? Well, for me its part of the fun. I get to see people I talk to online all year but only get to see in person that one time per year. We bring card games, we work on art, we chat about our lives, and we gossip about the show. We organize line buddies so we can go get lunch or check out other panels. Then we all come back to get our wristbands and set up our sleeping bags at night. The weather is temperate and I love to camp anyway, so for me, Saturday night on the grass is a geek slumber party to enjoy.
Also, the cast and crew know we are there for at least 24 hours before the panel, so they often come say hi. I’ve seen Jim Michaels (producer) come over to chat with fans. Jared Padalecki came by one year at 3am after his parties and said hi. And Misha always comes by. He might jog by and give high fives. He might bring us coffee in the morning. He might just pull his happy ass up with a cart stacked with pizzas. You just never know. There are pics of him all over the internet of him visiting the SDCC line. I don't own those pictures, but feel free to share them if you have them!
4) Supernatural family at smaller panels. Supernatural has been on a damn long time. So there are a lot of past and present cast, writers, and crew. Many of them come down for SDCC for new or side projects. So who is your favorite writer? I bet they are signing or have a panel on some other project. I bet you would like that project too. Look at every panel and scan for names. Follow Supernatural family on twitter and sign up for their email lists. That way you don't miss them!
Maybe I’ll do a separate post just for SPNFam appearances! If you’d like that, then let me know in the comments or on twitter. It’s like Supernatural Pokémon. Catch ‘em all.
3) Wayward Cocktails. Jules Wilkinson, who runs the Supernatural Wiki and is a lovely human being, spearheads the annual fan party Wayward Cocktails. We take over a bar in downtown. There are Supernatural decorations, fan art vendors, drink specials, amazing swag, and all your SPNFam. If you work on Supernatural in any capacity, you get in free, so folks who work hard behind the scenes on the show will come and chat with the fans. It's our chance to thank them for their hard work.
Last year at the party, I spotted Bobo Berens (writer), and I went over to say hi and thank him for the great episodes and for being rad. The friend that came with him was a little surprised. He said something to the effect of..wait...you're famous here? These people all know who you are? I was like YES OF COURSE! AND WE LOVE HIM! It was really cute.
The actors of course get a lot of the glory because they literally personify the characters we love. And they absolutely deserve all the love they get. But the words they say? The sets we adore? The amazing props that become objects we cherish? Lots of people work hard on those and don’t always get the feedback from fans since they are behind the scenes. This is a super fun opportunity to meet them and let them know how much their work matters to you. You never know who is going to come, but no matter what, you have a great time with other fans.
2) Misha Collins. There are so many members of our cast that I look at and think ‘gatdamnit we are lucky bastards that this person is a part of our SPNFamily’. I feel that way about Osric, Kim, Lisa, Brianna, Rachel, and many others that have huge hearts and inspire us to do good, celebrate our diversity, and show kindness to one another. Misha Collins is truly one of those people, and he always connects with fans at SDCC. One year he tweeted us to meet him and have a cosplay contest, even though he wasn't even on the panel that year. Last year he did a scavenger hunt on the fly and the goal was to find him in downtown San Diego wherever he was. THAT warrants some detail.
We were in line for Hall H and someone came by with a basket of fortune cookies with the first clue. Of course we had no idea what was happening. He just springs these things on us. To join in the Misha fun, you have to be open minded and willing to drop everything you’re doing. I wasn’t going to miss out, so I took a clue, grabbed a wonderful line buddy and got moving.
The first clue led to us finding someone near The Tick pop up who gave us a task and a clue. So we started doing tasks, documenting them, and bringing them to the next stop which we would figure out via the clues. At every stop there were Supernatural cast members giving us the next clue and task. So we got to meet and talk to Osric, Kim, Brianna, Ruthie, and Alaina. We couldn't take selfies because it would spoil the clues so we kept it under wraps so that each person after us got to walk into a hotel or restaurant and see a cast member or two waiting for them. It was so lovely. And we did tasks like find the ubiquitous Jesus protesters and protest with them, find warriors, find cat costumes, I can’t remember the details but it was a ridiculously amazing ride, and Misha was the end of it with Osric and Kim in the park right across from the convention center. They chatted with us, took pics, and were just generally delightful. Those three, man. They are gems.
The moral of the story is, you can set your watch to it (do people still wear watches?). Misha is going to try to channel our energies for the greater good and build something bigger than ourselves. That’s our Mish. Set notifications for his twitter account.
1) The Panel. The Supernatural teams seem to understand that we go balls to the wall for Supernatural at SDCC, and they reward that with a great panel. They know we sleep outside. They know we wait around the clock. And they take that seriously and let us know we are appreciated. After all, SDCC is the most massive pop culture event of its kind in the world, and Hall H is the monster hall of the con. Not many shows can fill Hall H on their own. But Supernatural is not just any show. Fans do what it takes to show up for Supernatural. And every year we leave on cloud nine after our Sunday panel.
Here’s how it usually goes, based on my 6 years of SPN panels at SDCC.
About an hour before the panel they start letting us in to Hall H. We’ve all slept outside but by then we’ve given each other breaks to go brush our teeth and get breakfast. We’ve packed up our bedrolls and put them away somewhere. We are sleepy but excited. As we walk into the Hall, the staff give us high fives and we cheer. We made it into Hall H! Last year, they also tossed us each a t-shirt commemorating every year Supernatural has had a panel at SDCC. We speed walk through the massive hall to find a seat as close as humanly possible. We take pics of ourselves in front of the screen. We post selfies with our SPNfam. We make sure we get to the bathroom before the panel starts. We walk around saying hi to anyone we didn’t get a chance to see in line.
Then the room gets dark. We see new footage. A preview usually. We see the gag reel. Then we see Rich and Rob, who moderate all the Supernatural panels these days. They bring out Jensen, Jared, a producer or showrunner, and now Misha too. In the past there have been others, but always at minimum, it’s Jensen and Jared. They seem to remain so grateful and excited to be in Hall H. They come in taking footage and trying to look all the way to the back of the hall. And they start the panel which never fails to be uplifting and hilarious. Jensen and Jared are basically brothers. Their chemistry is a beautiful thing to watch and share in. If you have been to a SPN con you know. They finish each other’s sentences, they have perfect comic timing together--they could take their act on the road. They are consummate professionals with the fans -- warm, humble, and sincere, with the occasional gentle ribbing when appropriate. We are so fortunate to have these two guys leading our show. And the fact that the moderators are their close friends adds to the atmosphere of family and friends.
But last year there was more. Before the panel, when the room got dark, the entirety of the massive hall was ringed with screens with a special video presentation for us. It was overwhelming in the best way. And then the band Kansas came out and performed ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’. I put my phone down and just yelled the lyrics with everyone else. I had goosebumps! There were tears!
But even when we don’t get Kansas or t-shirts, we always leave on cloud nine.
That isn’t to say we always agree on everything. We do express our dissent when they do something awful the prior season, like kill off our one LGBT representation and love letter to the fandom Charlie Bradbury in the most disrespectful way possible--but I digress. Without fail, no matter our disagreements, we are always reminded why we are a part of the Supernatural family. We always leave stronger and uplifted. We saw our fandom family. We made new friends. We felt the love and appreciation of our cast and we were able to show our love and appreciation for them. We laughed at the gag reel together. We did something weird because Misha said it’d be a good idea. These are memories we will always treasure.
So if you’re going this year, please come say hi. You've definitely seen enough pics of my face now to find me! 🙂 I’ll be at Wayward Cocktails Thursday. I’ll be in that big ass line up and down the water on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll be wearing a Supernatural bag. But I’ll definitely be in Hall H screaming my fool head off. Let’s make some damn memories.