The first thing you need to know about Blerd City is that it isn’t a convention, it’s a conference. What’s the difference you ask, Blerd City was created by founder Clairesa Clay as a crossroads of geekdom and social issues that enhance or impact Black culture.
Blerd City 2.0 was aptly named as the conference had new dates July 13-14, a new home, St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, and with the panels and events in a more centralized location moving from one to another was easier then last years. In addition to the main events there were more vendors, a free arts and station for kids, and for the grown folk excursions to local bars for a brief talk on Bourbon or cosplay meetup.
Saturdays highlights started with A Black Space Odyssey: 21st Century Sci-Fi Adventure, a discussion on the influence of sci-fi and media with people of color presented by Darlena Mari of the Starbase Centaur 42-10 fan group. Members of the group have a passion for Trek and it’s message of being less hung up on race theory or as Darlena put it “At least on Star Trek you died because of the color of your shirt not your skin.”
Code, Write & Sip moderated by Nicole Franklin and Mekesia Brown teamed up to tackle social problems with technology. Using writing techniques to craft a narrative for the coding, this crash course was best for folks who have a background in coding.
As a fan of Star Trek, I was looking forward to the Son of Mogh panel, an indepth look at everyones favorite Klingon, Worf. Presented by the energetic and funtastic Kennedy aka Storm Tribble of the Black Tribbles. She covered everything, from his hairstyles over the years, to the politics on screen and behind the lens.
Normally I hate walking in on a movie that that’s already started, but for day two 2015’s Battledream Chronicle, an animated French film, was the exception with its digital animation and stylish character designs. In a world were most of the citizens are kept in a virtual universe, I was sucked into this mashup of The Hunger Games, the Matrix and Yu-Gi-Oh.
We love to talk about cosplay, unfortunately we don’t talk about mental illness, but thankfully Surviving as Womyn and NonBinary People of Color with Mental Illness in Cosplay did. Moderated by Mel Pellerano, panelist talked about how cosplay/geekdom helps with their various illnesses by giving them focus and momentum to move through the day. Adversely, it could also enhance their depression or lower their self-esteem, if costumes don’t come out as planned or people just being unnecessarily mean. My biggest takeaway was the obvious mental health has to be worked on, not so obvious, the work/selfcare that goes into it. These women should be commended for getting in front of strangers to open up and tell their stories.
An educator in her own right Deirdre Hollman’s Teens in Comics panel was a showcase of teens and their roles in educational comic workshops, being shown how to create structure for their stories. Also, part of this talk was the short film See You Yesterday by Stefon Bristol, a powerful sci-fi film about a young girl who keeps going back in time to save her brother from being killed by the cops.
As it did last year, the conference ended with citations being awarded, to deserving recipients who were acknowledged for their positive contributions to the culture. This years recipients were comic book artist Khary Randolph, Kyesha Ruffin, owner of Science in the City a NY based STEM program, educator and Black Comics Collective founder Deirdre Hollman and FUBU co-founder Keith Perrin Jr.
This was its sophomore year and like most conferences Blerd City Conference had some growing pains, but keeping the tech analogy going, things were updated on the fly and patches were put in place. The most important thing to take away is that this gathering of people geeking out, having fun, learning and sharing, is a worthy mid-season event for folks who like to shake things up. I look forward to Blerd City 3.0!
George Carmona3rd is an Artist/Writer, former Milestone Media Intern, former DC Comics paper pusher, current book lover, and lifelong comic geek. You can find his work at FistFullofArt.com or follow him on twitter at GCarmona3.