Open Thread: Is It Time For A Geeks Of Color Convention?

By Arturo R. García

This is just an idea that’s been kicking around my head for a few days, but I’d like to get everyone’s early take on it. Let me begin by listing reasons a POC-centric geek gathering should happen:

  • Because we’ve already seen Geek Girl Con and and Bent-Con step up for communities typically marginalized or exploited by genre-related industries.
  • Because Christina Xu’s GGC wrap-up raises questions that still need to be addressed:

in an age when superstar rapper Nicki Minaj name-checks Street Fighter characters and streetwear brands team up with comic-book companies like Marvel and DC, who exactly is the geek referred to in GeekGirlCon? To be a geek, do you have to prefer filk over bounce? Is it a self-identification?

I ask these questions because I’m legitimately curious; if fandom is the uniting factor, then the increasingly diverse audiences for all of our favorite geek media (video games, sci-fi, comics, etc.) should be offered a place at conventions like GGC. If, in fact, geekdom here is actually defined by a set of social norms and practices (or the lack thereof) that just happens to coincide with fandom, then geek communities need to have some serious internal conversations and own up to that.

  • Because, while San Diego Comic-Con and other conventions featured race-positive programming this year, that still doesn’t make them safe spaces.
  • Because you can still say the same about any number of fandoms.
  • Because in spite of this fact, there’s still members of fandom – consumers, creators and executives alike – who still won’t own up to the fact that there’s geeks out there who react with hostility whenever somebody points out a problematic portrayal of race.
  • Because there’s got to be creators and aspiring creators of color out there who need a place in which to meet and network outside of the “general population.”
  • Because, while it was great to read about DC Comics getting called out on the carpet at SDCC with regards to gender issues, I shouldn’t have to doubt that raising the same questions about race would get half as much discussion outside of sites like this one or Racebending.
  • Because the Akira adaptation is still happening, proving Hollywood didn’t get the message about The Last Airbender.
  • Because this might be the best way left to get those same industry forces to listen to our concerns, in a place where we can set the terms of discussion.

Again, this is just a kernel of a concept right now, but … what do you think, Racializens? Would you be up for a full-scale gathering?

  • http://twitter.com/DBChen DBChen

    Yes.  I think having a POC gathering, in numbers, will really highlight that we are here and not be overlooked.  I live in Atlanta and Dragon*Con is just huge!  It happens the same weekend as Black Pride and some college football game, so there’s a ton of people around and geeks of color don’t stand out at all.

    But if we were to have our own con, that would show that we aren’t a fringe group but a core group.

  • Onezumi

    Well, there already is kind of a geeks of color convention. :) I’m female and Indian/German/Polish. I started http://www.InterventionCon.com in 2010 for 3 reasons – to specifically address race and class issues in fandom, to educate and help people make their lives better with fandom, and to have the best party ever.

    We have a good number of all genders, races, and tax brackets. The friendly vibe is something to behold.

    I grew up without much money and fandom helped me rise above. This is my way of giving back. Our 3rd event is this Sept. 21-23, 2012. I hope some of you can come, see what we’ve built, and suggest new things for us to host. :) 

  • http://www.facebook.com/bianca.santaro Bianca Santaro

    Yes please! 

  • http://twitter.com/eshowman Friday Foster

    I am so down. Make it so!

  • Anonymous

    OMG, can we get something in going in the West or down South? All too often I get invites to things, they’re always DC- or-NYC-based. We’re everywhere, folks!!!

    I would be so happy. Also, are there POC geek conclaves in the UK? I may be relocating this year.

  • Buraq

    yesssssssssssssss

  • Buraq

    yesssssssssssssss

  • http://twitter.com/gabbysilang gabby

    This happening would improve my life SO MUCH. SOOO MUCH. I would attend the LIVING CRAP out of this sort of con.

  • Rebecca A

    Please, please!!! I beggg for this. A PoC convention will be the best thing in the world. 

  • Rebecca A

    Please, please!!! I beggg for this. A PoC convention will be the best thing in the world. 

  • Yvetteregrets

    Tell me when and where and I’m there! 

  • Scanoe

    That would be awesome.

  • Scanoe

    That would be awesome.

  • http://lovepeaceohana.dreamwidth.org/ lovepeaceohana

    Hell to the yes.

  • http://lovepeaceohana.dreamwidth.org/ lovepeaceohana

    Hell to the yes.

  • Samia

    IT IS TIME.  Please let me know what I have to do to make this happen.

  • Marena

    I’d definitely be up for checking this out. I don’t think it can truly be a safe-space since there are oppressions that intersect with race (speaking as a WoC specifically but others as well), and I would want to see that addressed. And, there are intra-PoC issues, differences and straight up hostilities that need to be taken into account as well (e.g. anti-black prejudice among some PoC). But, yeah, I’d love to see something like this come about.

    • http://silver-goggles.blogspot.com/ Jaymee Goh

      YES to this. If this con happens, I’d like to see a committee looking at policies dedicated to addressing this issue as it may crop up. And there ought to be an intra-POC engagement track as well. There’s SO MUCH to say about how we speak to and across and over each other; it’d be remiss if we didn’t address that, especially since so many of us would be interested in racial justice beyond fandom as well.

  • Marie Dee

    Yes please! I’m slightly geeky, but love the concept. Especially considering the comments about POC, women, LGBT on geek articles & sites, not to mention all the whitewashing going on with the properties that do feature POC. Would also love to volunteer to make this happen. Need help grant writing or with event organizing stuff? I’ve got lots of experience.

  • donna

    I’m a white gal living in Canada and I’m all for a geek con focused on POC. One of my favorite podcasts is the sometimes weekly “We nerd Hard” hosted by Elon James White (I love this man) it’s great to hear geek talk that doesn’t gloss over intersectional issues but discusses them openly and honestly with great humor (I am sometimes in pain from laughter during listening) it’s a welcome change from the privilege blindness in most geek communities, it’s so refreshing.

  • http://rvcbard.blogspot.com RVCBard

    I know I’d go, as long as I could get there.

  • Ladymorge

    yes! :)

  • Sarah

    Please! I’ve been really wanting to meet nerds who are feminist and race conscious. I live in Canada, but I’d still seriously consider attending this event, even if it was in the U.S.  I’m starving for critical dialogue that doesn’t involve saying , “come on, they CHOSE to dress up as slave-Leia!” So please, please do this. 

  • Anonymous

    I volunteer to argue with any geeks who voice ignorant, privileged objections. Just direct them my way. ^^

  • Anonymous

    As a white woman gamer, I was struck by the lack of POC I saw at this year’s PAX. At one point, I remember commenting to my SO that there was an actual black guy in a booth demonstrating a game. That shouldn’t be remarkable, but it was. I would love to see more actual inclusion within the mainstream geek cons, naturally. But I also support all kinds of “specialized” cons for people to gather and connect with others who share their same concerns. It’s important to feel connected in every way, and to feel understood more accurately in your cohorts.

  • Anonymous

    I would wade through fire and water to attend a POC convention! I’m so starved for the company of other POC geeks I can’t even begin to articulate it. Please please please let’s make this happen!

  • betsyl

    hello! my pasty white self thinks this is a great idea, and one that i would very much like to see happen. towards that end, i’d like to point out that sf3.org gives grants (http://sf3.org/grants/), that the carl brandon society (http://www.carlbrandon.org/) might be some people you’d be interested in talking to, and that con or bust (http://con-or-bust.livejournal.com/27994.html) might also be good to talk to.

    if you already knew about these; my apologies for pointing out the obvious.

    also towards that end, when there is such a thing, i’d love it if you sold what are frequently called supporting memberships, which is basically a donation in exchange for the at con publications of the event (program book, etcetera). because it seems like giving you money and staying home would be the supportive thing to do.

    • Lonespark

      Oh, the supporting membership idea is very good for this pasty white aspiring ally and huge fan of POC-created and -centered SFF

    • CicadaChick

      Thanks betsyl for mentioning The Carl Brandon Society (http://www.carlbrandon.org/)!  I highly recommend the annual WisCon – World’s Leading Feminist Science Fiction Convention in Madison, WI.

      http://www.wiscon.info/

        It’s an amazing group of writers, scholars/academics, readers, fans, artists, booksellers, editors, agents, etc. in one great city, and this year will be their 36th annual con!  They have wonderful Guests of Honor each year, including many well respected and beloved authors from across the field, including Samuel R. Delany, Ursula Le Guin, Nalo Hopkinson, Debbie Notkin, the late Joanna Russ and Octavia E. Butler, Jane Yolen, and many, many others over the past three decades.  

      The Carl Brandon Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating and supporting the works of writers of color in the genre–short story writers, novelists, and graphic novel authors.  They offer two $1000  awards each year to works made by writers of color and to writers whose work explores race in some significant way.  

      The Con or Bust group raises money to help people of color attend science fiction conferences across the country.  It’s a stipend that can be used to help with your hotel and transportation.  Some attendees have also chosen to share hotel rooms, which have also helped defray expenses.  

      WisCon (and Readercon!) is my favorite conference, and the stellar writers and volunteers who help host it have worked very hard to improve it each year.  SFF readers and fans are a pretty vocal, thoughtful, ‘particular’ community that rarely hesitates to offer criticism, suggestions, and feedback on what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be done (in their humble, diverse, often contradictory opinions) to make it better.  All that’s to say, each time I’ve managed to make it back to WisCon, I marvel at how much better it’s gotten–and that’s when it was already pretty awesome.  I think during my first visit I was pretty blown away that they had a whole separate programming track for children and teens–and the Consuite is so well stocked, that those arriving on a serious budget can enjoy the weekend without actually starving or going broke.  Besides just the fun of meeting other kindred spirits who love reading and sff as much as you do, it’s a place full of great discussion on a range of issues.  You can attend the most erudite scholarly panels, the most fangirl reader gush sessions, or a “Hell No, Not Another Racism 101 Panel” moderated by actual, real live writers of color.  I’m tripping there, but there’s something for everyone.  And of all the great things to recommend this conference for black (fill in the blank —) geekdom, I think the fact that now, after some pioneering efforts and word-of-mouth, you wouldn’t actually be the only one there.  The annual People of Color dinner that the Carl Brandon Society hosts is perhaps one of the most inspiring and welcoming improvement.  

      Get Thee to WisCon!

      • http://silver-goggles.blogspot.com/ Jaymee Goh

        I would also like to add Think Galacticon (
        http://www.thinkgalactic.org/ ) to this list.

        While I adore WisCon as well, I would still like to see a POC-led, POC-centric convention. Remember that just this year, Elizabeth Moon, who was slated to be a GOH at WisCon35, made racist remarks, and disappointintly, WisCon’s con-com took a Really Long Time to decide just how big a deal this was and act on it. Not to mention during the height of RaceFail, POC at WisCon still found themselves victims of racism. There’s a reason why the POC Safer Space exists. 

        Carl Brandon also provides the Octavia E Butler Memorial Scholarship for POC applicants to the Clarion and Clarion West workshops! Applications are now open, btw.

      • http://silver-goggles.blogspot.com/ Jaymee Goh

        I would also like to add Think Galacticon (
        http://www.thinkgalactic.org/ ) to this list.

        While I adore WisCon as well, I would still like to see a POC-led, POC-centric convention. Remember that just this year, Elizabeth Moon, who was slated to be a GOH at WisCon35, made racist remarks, and disappointintly, WisCon’s con-com took a Really Long Time to decide just how big a deal this was and act on it. Not to mention during the height of RaceFail, POC at WisCon still found themselves victims of racism. There’s a reason why the POC Safer Space exists. 

        Carl Brandon also provides the Octavia E Butler Memorial Scholarship for POC applicants to the Clarion and Clarion West workshops! Applications are now open, btw.

  • http://silver-goggles.blogspot.com/ Jaymee Goh

    If I had the monies, I would be there! Would definitely love to help out in any way as well. And yes, Bryan Thao Worra and I have been discussing a SEAsian steampunk not-a-con.

  • Herekitty

    Please yes! Please yes!

    I found this article about male privilege in nerd-dom the other day and died a bit inside reading the vitriolic comments: 
    http://kotaku.com/5868595/nerds-and-male-privilege. Gamers on my favorite site can’t even discuss women in gaming without getting pissed… people/women of color? The outlook is just so depressing.

  • Faiye

    This is a brilliant, and much needed idea.

  • ThatDeborahGirl

    Can I get a SQUEEEEE my sistah! That’s wassup! Is it weird that I, a 40 year old black woman, think I’m falling in love with Sheldon on the “Big Bang Theory”? Houston, we have a problem. If I met black folks I could geek out with…I think I might faint from squeedom.

  • Nina

    I was one of Christina’s co-panelists at GGC, and I’d love to see a POC-centric geek gathering. One of my other concerns about GGC was that much of it was aimed towards fandom, cosplay, and general consumption of geek media…but save for one panel, ignored those of us who are geeks by trade (seriously, is web development and programming not geeky enough?). I’d love to see something like this come together.

  • Allison

    If I had the money, I would make a way to get there, some way, some how. So absolutely, yes!

  • http://dont-read.blogspot.com/ Angel H.
  • http://dont-read.blogspot.com/ Angel H.
  • http://beyondvictoriana.com/ Ay-leen the Peacemaker

    I know Jaymee Goh has been in talks with people about doing an POC-centric Southeast Asian steampunk con for awhile now.

    I would go to a POC sci-fi con in a heartbeat too.

  • http://beyondvictoriana.com/ Ay-leen the Peacemaker

    I know Jaymee Goh has been in talks with people about doing an POC-centric Southeast Asian steampunk con for awhile now.

    I would go to a POC sci-fi con in a heartbeat too.