A group of attendees poses with Black Panther at WakandaCon. | Evan F. Moore/Sun-Times
This year’s convention features a Code-a-thon workshop to encourage minorities to explore and engage in the field of technology.
Wakandacon, the “Black Panther”-inspired fan convention, returns to Chicago this weekend to help promote a conversation on mental health issues within the black community, in light of Minority Mental Health Month.
The three-day Afro-futuristic convention kicked off Friday to celebrate art, community, technology and self-expression. Afro-futurism is a term coined by Mark Dery in the 1990’s and combines both African Diaspora culture with technology.
The convention was founded by siblings David, Ali and Matt Barthwell, along with producers Lisa Beasley and Taylor Witten.
David said last year’s event was planned very quickly allowing only three or four months to plan, unlike this year where there was time to choose a theme – mental health within the minority community.
“A lot of the workshops and panels we are putting on are centered around the idea that healthy minds create healthy bodies which create healthy communities,” David Barthwell said. “You need to be self-actualized and self-expressed in order to achieve a Wakandan ideal.”
Last year, the event kicked off its celebration at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan, and boasted more than 75 panel discussions with over 2,500 attendees, despite being across the street from Lollapalooza.
David said attendees told him they had never felt an environment like Wakandacon’s, and they were ready for the next convention.
This year, the event is moving to Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, 2233 S. King Dr. and features panel discussions among thought leaders in design, tech and wellness along with small black-owned business vendor mall, a cosplay parade, gaming competitions, art and theatre performances and much more.
One of the workshops, Shuri’s Room: The Official Wakandacon Code-a-thon, is inspired by Wakanda’s tech-savvy princess Shuri and is hosted by Gabrielle Crevecoeur. The workshop brings together several Chicago technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Chicago BAM and Black@Chi to teach attendees how to code and network with tech professionals.
Crevecoeur said having a coding workshop at Wakandacon is beneficial because oftentimes minorities aren’t exposed to the technology world and the jobs it has to offer.
“The local minority community isn’t getting all of the information it could be getting and Wakandacon is a great place to expose those skills,” Crevecoeur said. “I want them to know that there are people who look like them in the field.”
The Code-a-thon workshop is available Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Other workshops and panels include a discussion with Hamilton actor Akron Watson in which he discusses life as a black theater professional; a Jabari Warrior Stunt Workshop with Black Panther actor Mark Willis wherein attendees (kids 16 and under) can learn stunts and fight choreography; a conversation about mental health within the black community with a Hyde Park therapist, among others.
Also featured are a Wakandacon cosplay contest and marketplace.
Wakandacon runs through Sunday. For complete information and schedule, visit wakandaforever.com.