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Afro-Con Is Coming This Weekend

Artist and comics creator Keithan Jones, seen here in his home studio, in this file photo from July 10, 2018.
Katie Schoolov
Artist and comics creator Keithan Jones, seen here in his home studio, in this file photo from July 10, 2018.

Event is an offshoot of Afrofuturism Lounge

The first Afro-Con or Afrofuturism Convention will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA.

In 2018, "Black Panther" vividly placed Afrofuturism into the mainstream consciousness. That was also the year San Diego saw its first Afrofuturism Lounge. Afro-Con, happening this Saturday and Sunday, is an offshoot of the Afrofuturism Lounge (see video below about inaugural event).

Indie Comics Creator Brings AfroFuturism Lounge to San Diego

What is Afrofuturism?

"The term 'Afrofuturism' was coined by Mark Dery in 1993 in a collection of essays called 'Cyber Culture: Flame Wars,'" explained LaWana Richmond, co-founder of the Afrofuturism Lounge and now Afro-Con. "He basically was using it to describe science fiction, art, music, visual, creative arts that center the Black African Americans in the future, augmented by technology. The term entered the vernacular at that point, and then people started using it to also refer to world-building and creating visions of the future."

At its core, it was about inclusion because science fiction had not really included people of color at all. The future in books and films was almost always depicted as very white.

Afro-Con Is Coming This Weekend
Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

Richmond suggested, however, that a better term for the genre "would be 'Sankofa,' which is a West African concept that is represented by a bird with his feet planted in the present. Its head turned around, facing back to represent the past and an egg in its beak to represent the future. And it's really about how the past, the present and the future are all connected. And you can make better decisions to impact the future by understanding the past or present."

The "Black Panther" comics and film and the books of Octavia Butler are probably the best-known examples of Afrofuturism in the mainstream.

Afro-Con co-founder and organizer LaWana Richmond and marketing/promotion coordinator Cee Jay are preparing for the first Afro-Con this weekend. Aug. 29, 2021.
Beth Accomando
Afro-Con co-founder and organizer LaWana Richmond and marketing/promotion coordinator Cee Jay are preparing for the first Afro-Con this weekend. Aug. 29, 2021.

Afrofuturism Lounge to Afro-Con

The Afrofuturism Lounge began its incarnation as an idea for after party for Black artists and creators during Comic-Con. But then someone suggested making it open to the public and co-founder Richmond said, "We didn't change the name, but we definitely changed the framework and the vision for the event. That first year it actually became a mini-con. We just didn't call it that and didn't realize we were going to have such a huge turnout that first year we had, like, 700 people show up."

Over the years, the Afrofuturism Lounge continued to grow and change, and now it has morphed into Afro-Con, which is intended to provide an educational, entertaining, and informative space for creative and critical thinkers alongside community builders to experience speculative futures and the multiverse as an exploration of art as well as a world of opportunities.

The event is this Saturday (2 p.m to 8 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. For lack of a better term, Richmond said it "is a Black Comic-Con."

There will be comic book creators, directors, and producers, music, food, cosplay contest and after-parties.

Among the confirmed guests are "Underworld's" Kevin Grevioux, Kid Comics' Keithan Jones, professor and author John Jennings, as well as local artists.

Cee Jay is helping to market and promote the event. He was attracted to Afrofuturism before he knew the term to describe what he was drawn to.

"I met Dr. LaWana and she gave me the name of what I was looking at and we just continued to dialogue and continued to give me a better understanding of the movement and I thought a lot of other people would be interested and I was right."

In addition to the cosplay, Cee Jay said he is most looking forward to "the people's imaginations, just people coming up with future solutions to real-world problems."

The event is free, but there is a $10 entry fee for the cosplay contest, a $10 fee for the after-parties, or you can buy a $25 VIP pass that includes a T-shirt, entry to cosplay contest and other swag.