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Home Entertainment At this Black nerd convention, ‘It feels like a family reunion’

At this Black nerd convention, ‘It feels like a family reunion’


Blerdcon, the celebration of Black nerd culture, buzzed Saturday in Crystal City, its attendees adorned with pink wigs, bedazzled wings and elaborate face paint designs, meticulously recreating the appearances of their favorite anime and animated characters. Here came Spider-Man. Over there was Sailor Moon.

Within the halls of the Hyatt Regency, the air was filled Beyoncé music and a consistent, echoing phrase: “Can I please take your picture?” For three days, ending Sunday, attendees are granted the opportunity here to engage with cultures, fandoms and genres that have historically lacked representation among the Black community.

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“It feels like a family reunion,” said David Crownson, who came from New Jersey to showcase his graphic novel “Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer.” “Like I’m just catching up with all my friends at this convention and people that I really look up to are all here. They’re all Black, and everyone is dope.”

He sold out his entire book inventory in the first two days.

Guests at this year’s convention include Cree Summer, known for her role as Freddie Brooks on “A Different World” and her extensive voice-acting work. Keivonn Woodard, who portraying young Sam Burrell in HBO’s smash hit “The Last of Us,” also made an appearance. Rachel True, renowned for her role in the cult-classic film “The Craft,” was there, too.

This year’s Blerdcon theme, “Fae’d to Black,” centers on the mystical realm of fantasy creatures often associated with nature, such as fairies, elves, satyrs, nymphs, and trolls.

Al Bunaugh, 39, who attended last year’s Blerdcon and returned this year, said the event holds special significance for the Black cosplaying community. Citing the music, food, and camaraderie of the weekend, he described the convention as a “homecoming.”

“If you try to cosplay as a character, and it’s not a Black character, you get a lot of pushback from general cosplay communities and things like that. So this is kind of a safe space, to be honest, for everyone to be inclusive because no one cares what you’re cosplaying as, like you are the norm,” Bunaugh said.

Or, as anime fan Amari Carter, 7, put it, attending the convention with her mom: “It’s so fun. My favorite part is seeing all of the costumes.”

Kai Mills, an educator from Detroit, said she first discovered Blerdcon through a Harry Potter Discord community for Black nerds three years ago. Now attending her third convention, Mills called it a family reunion, too.

Mills, 32, said she appreciated the event as a secure environment that allows her to blend her passion for academia with her love for nerd culture. At Blerdcon, she said, she finds solace in connecting with like-minded individuals who comprehend the multifaceted nature of being both Black and nerdy.

We’re always looking forward to the next time we could all be together and be elves and princesses. It’s like we get to take off the mask of everyday life and to carry this and sustain us within our day-to-day lives,” Mills said. “We kind of owe it to ourselves to recruit more people to find out about spaces like this, because I meet a new friend every year.”

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More than princesses: There was the queen. Queen Charlotte, to be precise, from Netflix’s “Bridgerton.”

Roshonna Rivera, 43, said she used her sewing machine to design the bodice of her costume, embellishing it with pearls, wedding trimming and intricate details on a previously plain dress. It ended up an elegant lavender gown reminiscent of the Victorian era, complemented by a gray wig.

“I chose this character because she has such grace and poise, and you don’t see many people of our color with royalty, so I wanted to make sure I brought that to the con,” Rivera said.

Rivera said it was her first Blerdcon experience, though she had attended similar conventions in previous years. She observed that this event stood apart because of its diverse attendee base. (On its FAQ page, Blerdcon lists the question: “What if I’m not Black? Can I attend?” “Absolutely!” it says.)

‘Afrofuturism’ navigates past, present and future of Black experience

One of the convention’s popular panels Saturday was “Black Heroes Matter: Afrofuturism and the Future of Black Creativity.” Created by the man known as Uraeus, the creator of the Black Heroes Matter campaign and design director for Knarrative, the panel included Pulitzer-winning journalist Karen Hunter; Howard University professor Greg Carr; Kevin Strait, curator of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture; and polymath/healer Sunyatta Amen.

“We have a lot of people who support us, but it’s not at a Black convention. So coming home to a convention like this, where we can have that same conversation, it’s like in our living room as opposed to somebody else’s house,” Uraeus said. “They gave us this huge room, we were able to fill it.”

POST AUTHOR: Corinne Dorsey

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