Over the weekend the news came in that Maia Crown Williams, founder of MECCAcon, the MECCAcon International Film Festival, and co-founder and former executive coordinator of the Black Speculative Arts Movement, passed away following a long battle with breast cancer.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, MI, Maia Crown Williams was a woman of many talents – she listed her roles in one interview as an executive assistant, event planner, vegan chef, culinary instructor, African trade bead jeweller, and mother (to a son whom she affectionately called her “Sun”). Her motto on her websites was that she was “a ‘sistah’ with many crowns, and takes the size and fit of each one seriously”. She was a lifelong geek – a voracious reader as a child who was introduced to comic books through her older brother who used to read them to her.

In 2010 she set up and served as CEO of Amonyet Enterprises, an executive assistant, event coordinating, and mass promotion company that supports small businesses and creatives. The annual event MECCAcon was established in 2013 and its cinematic spinoff the MECCAcon International Film Festival began in 2014. MECCAcon became a travelling brand and has held partner events in many other cities in the US and abroad –  including Los Angeles, the Bronx, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington D.C, and St. Louis in the US; and Canada’s Toronto and Montreal.

The original MECCAcon – its full title the Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts – was set up by Williams as a focal point for Black and independent arts and culture based in the city of Detroit with a mind to inspiring the younger generation. In an interview with Robert Jeffrey at blacksci-fi.com she described its purpose in her own words:

“Midwest Ethnic Convention of Comics and Arts, aka MECCAcon, is a full arts convention, centered around black and independent comic books and literature. It also includes independent hip hop artists and deejays, as well as a registered independent film festival. The event takes place two days, at two different venues, all in the city of Detroit.  The goal is to make sure that culture stays prominent in the city of Detroit, even when it is being hastily erased.  I don’t want to wake up one day and have to SEARCH for events, venues, and companies of culture. I want the city of Detroit to stay diverse, from art to everything in between.

Her passions lay unapologetically with her community. In an interview with close friend and comic book writer Greg Anderson Elysée published in 2019 she said,

“Everything with my name on it is Black. Everything I strive for is Black. Every move I make is for the advancement of my Black nation. I’m unapologetic about it and will forever live within my truths. I am here to advance my nation in however I solely am able to do it, be it art or literacy, film or music. I’m here for the culture. Many say it, but I bleed it. Some change their ways after a while, but I’m still RBG ’til I die. I know no other way. My parents instilled in me the importance of cooperative economics at a very early age. They didn’t talk about it, they didn’t just walk it. They stomped the ground with it at all times. I’m here for these Black babies out here. Period.”

While she may have had a somewhat tempestuous relationship (and the occasional controversy) with friends and colleagues on the circuit, there was an outpouring of grief at the news of her passing over the weekend.