We all know what’s going to pop off this weekend, but before we drink from that well of geekdom, New York City had its own happenings last weekend. From a blackout in Midtown Manhattan to Formula E racing in Brooklyn, NYC had a lot going on, but the true nerd highlight was Blerd City Con.
In the middle of con season, a week before San Diego Comic Con, now in its third year, Blerd City Con ran from July 12-14. Founded by filmmaker and educator Clairesa Clay, Blerd City Con is “…a blend of a micro-comic con with the intersectionality of social issues facing people of color.” Having gone to a con or two, I looked at this event not so much as a convention, but as a conference which showcased that fusion of art, technology, socialism, film, representation and general nerdom in the Black community.
For this third year the conference had a loose theme of Black Horror, be it the horror of vampires and monsters or terrors of gentrification and social injustices. On Friday, July 12th, Blerd City Con kicked off this 3-day event in Brooklyn’s Herbert Von King Park with a free screening of the 1973 Black Horror classic Ganja & Hess. This outdoor event was in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation as part of their Movies Under the Stars events.
For day 2, Blerd City Con transported vendors, panels, workshops, and screenings into St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn. Unlike my last con, I was on time and better prepared so as not to only cover this con, but too also enjoy and engage with the presenters and fellow attendees.
My first panel of the day was Code, Write and Sip a technology panel/workshop held by screenwriter creative gamer Laura Fielder and her partner coder/engineer Mekesia Brown. After a brief introduction they spoke about the importance of gaming and the need for engaging stories, merging creativity and coding, breaking down the game structure for understanding compelling game play, and knowing your audience.
Sweet For The Sweet a talk about the cult horror classic Candy Man by writer/podcaster Kennedy Allen. If you’ve never heard her on the Black Tribbles podcast or missed her at the Black Villains Matter panel at this year’s Black Comic Book Fest at the Schomburg Center, then the first thing you need to know is that she’s a straight shooter, breaking down and discussing early gentrification/environment within the trappings of a slasher film.
In addition to the panels and workshops, there was a Virtual Reality lounge set up by SidLocks MultiHop, attendees could play either a zombie shooter or the immersive story Masters of the Sun: The Zombie Chronicles based on the comic written by music superstar will.i.am and Benjamin Jackendoff, and illustrated by Damion Scott, this VR story used Queen Latifah as the main characters voice and the legend himself Stan Lee as moderator helping you navigate through this hip-hop environment.
Star Wars fans were treated to the fan film Dark Awakening, written and directed by Tia Cherie Polite, this short film is about the return of a resurrected Sith witch trying to unleash the Dark Side on the galaxy and the Jedi who must stop her.
Closing out the events at St. Francis was keynote speaker Dr. Jerry “Rafiki” Jenkins author of The Paradox of Blackness in African American Vampire Fiction where he gave an informative talk about the relationship between vampires and Black people throughout mythology and media.