On June 11-12, 2016, something quite monumental and inspiring occurred, artistic creators, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade hosted the first ‘State of Black Science Fiction’ convention. Now I’m not saying that this is the first African Diaspora speculative convention but I will say that it was the first that I ever heard of and the one that I most certainly had to be in attendance at.
Taking place in Atlanta, GA, the event was held at the Fulton County Southwest Arts Center, a beautiful construct dedicated to the arts with a gorgeous theater, rooms dedicated to the arts, both performing and visual. While I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, I knew one thing: that I would not be the odd brown girl out! Having been to several sci fi/anime/gamer cons (where my introverted behind usually worked some sort of security) that sense of inclusion was never really present. I would have to say that from the moment I arrived at the convention however, a warmness enveloped me. Okay for those who know that I am guarded introverted fiend, it took a minute but eventually I melted a bit.
Everyone I met, stranger and associate alike smiled, nodded and the looks I got were ones of unity and relation.
So the other reason I went, was to suss out the community’s response to horror, paranormal and dark fic, as the moderator of the ‘Horror on the Black Hand Side’ panel at 10am on Sunday, so eloquently put it was the red-head-step child of speculative fiction. I wanted to see how receptive the community would be to works such as those displayed in Colors in Darkness. Yes, I am notorious for covert ops. I will say that on the first day I was thrown for a loop when this handsome, young vendor tried to sell me a romance title, when my attention was on the kickass werewolf title on his table, but there were scary goodies to be found around the con and you know what? Folk were buying them!
I purchased a lot at the convention, so giddy at seeing all the colorful wares, stories, art and creations with POCs. I wished that I had more money to donate to every project and creator, but I got a good amount of swag, nonetheless and I think most of all as a writer, I was reinvigorated by one of the true benefits of attending a convention…networking. Yeah, I suck at it but being able to have a lengthy discussion about ghouls (a rare and unpopular breed of monsters) with D.L. Russell (another one that wanted to sell me anything but the horror book he had stashed away, lol.) Being able to get the 411 on open calls for anthologies that are in the works from Jeff Carroll and being able to whine to Constance Burris about that diva Jade in her awesome book Black Beauty, was priceless. I got to meet Nicole Givens Kurtz, Steven Van Patten and Balogun Ojetade as well and it was such a pleasure to see Cerece Renee Murphy once again. I am kicking my nap needing self for missing out on Kyoko M. but as I was a bit foolish (not staying hydrated, staying at the Trap HoJo, not getting my necessary dose of caffeine because of said Trap hotel) and having low, introvert battery) I needed to decompress.
There was a good deal happening with all the panels and exhibits: They had martial arts demos, cosplay and movie screenings and more, that it was easy to get overwhelmed. Still there was more than enough for every age!
Despite having the potential to grow in so many ways; Having some kind of Con-based swag to sell or give out like personalized name badges, shirts, caps, totes, memorabilia. Having the event in a hotel that one never has to leave and is in possession of a bar/lounge for chilling out and long relaxed discussions and maybe a game room (not just talking about Magic, Yugioh and Spades but an Xbox or Playstation and maybe some creator gaming debuts), the convention was a raging success and I am so looking forward to attending next year should this be an annual affair…
As for that Trap Hojo…I so have something planned for that den of inequity.