This weekend, hundreds of Black Panther fans from around the country gathered in Chicago, braving excessive heat and a Michigan Avenue crowded with Lollapalooza hooligans to attend the first ever Wakandacon. Founded by a group Chicago residents—Ali Barthwell, David Barthwell, and Matt Barthwell (you may recognize Ali as a regular A.V. Club contributor), along with entrepreneur Lisa Beasley and producer Taylor Witten—Wakandacon was a beautiful celebration of Afrofuturism, black creativity and innovation, and Black Panther. The A.V. Club was fortunate enough to be on the ground for the three-day event.
Absent of any partnership with Marvel or Disney, the Wakandacon team was able to bring in a few people involved in the movie, including choreographer Jabari Exum and stunt performer Mark Willis, and attract a number of high-profile guests, like CNN’s Van Jones, and Living Single’s Erika Alexander. All this coming together just four months after the event was officially announced.
No doubt, Wakandacon owes some of its success to the popularity of the film, which coincidentally surpassed $700 million at domestic box office this weekend. But more than just being a pop culture convention where fans can come together and talk about the their love for the movie, Wakandacon represented a space where black entrepreneurs, scientists, gamers, activists, and creatives could come together, learn from each other, and work toward building a community.