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art by Marcus Williams

This Weekend I Went To Blerdcon 2018, My First Convention Ever.

This may come as a surprise to you but I’ve been a geek for…ever? Anyway, one subject that’s come up occasionally is if I’ve ever been to a convention (con)or not. To be blunt, no convention has ever looked really inventing. — Yes maybe there’s shade to other cons in that comment.

However this all changed with the creation of Blerdcon. The convention was created as a celebration for people of color and all marginalized individuals. A space was created for us in mind to embrace our geekdom (all of it). So in its official second year, I took the advice of a friend and decided to attend the entire weekend.

Not seen my stylish chef Kirby tee shirt

This Is How Inclusion Works

It can’t be repeated enough; inclusion is important. It’s one thing to go somewhere and see a sea of people that look like you. That generates a feeling of I feel welcomed. Now, to be among peers whom are fully expressing themselves that look like you? With similar/adjacent backgrounds? That feeling is almost like being at a family reunion (which actually was the subtitle of Blerdcon 2018).

When you can fully appreciate who you are in a safe space, it’s a very wonderful feeling. This is a feeling of belonging different from hanging out with friends, a partner, or some family that get it. This is recognition of whom you are as a person and that being championed.

There was no need to explain or validate whom we are. Everywhere you went, rooms/halls were filled with amazing people of different shades, experiences, genders, identities and more. Because here we didn’t have to worry about demographics (you can guess whom I’m referring to) that normally aren’t so kind to our experiences.

It was a weekend devoid of transphobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, and any kind of anti-sentiment. I could write you a book explaining how therapeutic that feels. Yet, that probably still couldn’t fully grasp the experience. To be somewhere, physically (and emotionally) separated from online and irl (in real life) hate/bigotry/you name it— it is probably some of the best self care ever you can ask for.

One of many interesting panels

Real Talk

Blerdcon wasn’t just a celebration of our love for the all things geeky. It was a chance to learn/discuss very serious subjects surrounding marginalized folks and geekdom. Multiple panels spoke about self care, recognition of diversity, the lack of inclusion, unpacking frustrations, congratulation who we aware, and more…so much more

There were many great panels so it was hard to choose which ones to attend — this is a great problem to have. For example, a panel spoke about the lack of black women in videogames. Another panel spoke about what it means to be a marginalized person streaming on Twitch.

All the varying degrees/shades of problems/conversations were addressed by people of various ages, stages of life, skin tone, and etc. Every panelist was more than just a subject matter specialist or researcher. These same individuals were clearly heavily invested into the topics they spoke about. Again, no one had to question their credibility or credentials — which often comes up when addressing marginalized issues by certain demographics. A lot of statistical data was was provided but we really didn’t need it.

Side Note: Many topics panel topics were ones I’m fully aware of. I just barely have the chance to speak about them. Now, I (like most people) am apart of a number of groups/chat. Groups where I can talk about “anything”. I say that with quotation marks. Truth is, I can only have real conventions about marginalized issues in only 2 (yes I counted) of those spaces. The others…not so much. All due to a lack of engagement from others. Which was another reason why I attended Blerdcon.

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A slide showcasing the implications of when children don’t see themselves represented

What was really appreciative is that panelists tackled practically all subject matters.The best take away from all panels were that questions were given answers. Although some changes are close…others unfortunately feel far away. However, change takes time. Change can also happen much sooner when the revenue is there. Hello every sales threshold Black Panther has broken up until now.

The topic of support was mentioned at nearly ever panel. Naturally, tackling all these opportunities for inclusion require support to correct them. Some support being that we need to constantly draw attention to these issue. We also need to encourage ourselves to enter these spaces/careers for chances to change them. More to the point, we shouldn’t ever stop speaking about them.

Of course, all the support we can gain is highly beneficial. Support from anywhere will help. However Blerdcon reminded me again that not all of our “friends”(another story for another day) will be so supportive. Some may only do so on a performative level. Marginalized issues still feel as they tend to fall on deaf ears. A fun experience that PoCs, women, and LGBTQIA+ individuals often come into contact with often.

What’s very real is that we are often left to do the work ourselves. If we don’t take upon this labor to create real inclusion and representation no one else will.

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Creating Spaces

At the convention I had the opportunity to see a lot of my favorite artists, cosplayers, content creators, musicians, and etc. I also had a chance to met and befriend some new ones. More importantly, Blerdcon allowed me a rare opportunity to really have an honest conversation with some of them.

Side note: Wait, what I did first was thank each of them for their inspirational work. I’m a firm believer in letting creators know you respect their work.

So I decided to ask: What drives you? How do you get through the day? How do our experiences intersect with your successes? And other similar questions.

As you can imagine these are very opened ended questions. What I got naturally, were a number of different answers. However the sentiments were generally the same. For the most part we have to uplift ourselves. To show people whom look like you and are a part of the same communities they are completely capable and deserving.

Mainly, it’s a case of just being that face within those respective businesses and careers. Others see you and then become inspired themselves. They in turn stay motivated from others, it creates a positive feedback loop. Again, visibility.

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Others have shared, that creating art, celebrating, or speaking of our experiences can be thankless at times. It maybe questioned, it may seem foreign to others. What matters is that the world can the work we create and the spaces we are a part of. It’s a constant validation for those of whom don’t get the message they aren’t deserving or wanted often.

This then steered conversations into creating spaces. When those spaces don’t exist or aren’t welcoming we need to create them. The spaces we do deserve space and time in are quite frankly aren’t there. So we build them for ourselves and others. The support overlays and then we further validate our experiences and whom we are everywhere.

As someone whom isn’t in the career field I wish to be yet, I heard this message loud and clear. We very much deserve to be anywhere we imagine ourselves. Also, when given the chance to create a space for visibility, we should embrace it. No venture is without its speed bumps, so like all things it takes time and effort.

Side note: Blerdcon actually let me know about a possible future profession/skill I will be adding to my portfolio.

What’s Next?

Oh, before I forget to mention Blerdcon is welcoming to everyone. Even if you aren’t a marginalized person, we want everyone to feel comfortable. This allows us to better understand each other and our respective experiences. As well as remember what work we need to do.

I could go on and on about how it’s been the most inclusive space I’ve been in. Or how great it was to see literally thousands of colorful nerds.What I want to leave are a few thoughts.

First, I’m very thankful that Blerdcon exists for marginalized geeks of all shapes, shades, sizes and etc.

Second, will I now be more likely to go to other cons? Nope, probably not unless their like Blerdcon.

Lastly, will I return to Blerdcon next year? Absolutely. I’ll be dragging friends along with me.

I hope this has inspired you to go to Blerdcon and enjoy what’s to come. I came back home to Florida with a renewed energy and laser focus for my endeavors.

Now because I was in the DC area (first time), I’ll close out how I felt after this weekend with a song. I give you one of my favorite songs from 1 of my favorite DMV artists.

Black by Innanet James

Written by

I bat for PoCs, marginalized, equality, inclusion & geekdom. I'm warming the bench until coach subs me in. https://linktr.ee/jeffreyrousseau

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