NOTE: This was written, edited, and proofread with my emotions firmly in the driver’s seat over a period of four days. It’s text heavy. I said what I said.
I don’t speak up because nobody gives a shit what I think. And that’s fine. I prefer surveys to social media posts because I don’t have time for the follow-up. One of my grade school tormentors called me “Mouse” because she said that I was too quiet until I’d get excited, at which point you could hear me squeak louder than anyone else. She wasn’t wrong, just an asshole. If you’ve ever had a problem with mice, you know that they will chew through your dwelling and get up to all kinds of mayhem in your walls, causing you to have to call in exterminators and general contractors to fix the problem. I’m more of a field mouse, but I like the idea that I could be a house mouse one day.
I have attended BlerDCon all five years. I supported this con’s written mission statement of inclusivity. I have always enjoyed the panels that I attended. I have met some of the coolest people at this con and felt myself nodding along as they shared the struggles that come with existing in the mainstream nerd/geek/pop culture space as racialized Black people. And every year, like clockwork, a situation is brought to light that makes me think, “Well, at least I bought some cool artwork.”
If you’re in the know, which I never am, event producers do some shady shit–harboring bad humans as guests, bringing on hugely underqualified “subject matter experts”, promising spots to guests under false pretenses, doubling down on “missteps”, accepting sponsorships from questionable entities, and not holding up their end of vendor contracts–and there are receipts out there if you follow the right people on social media. These showrunners span the gamut of racism, misogyny, and classism at every level of nuance imaginable. In what are considered to be the best cases, apologies and course corrections happen, and the number of people who call it quits pales in comparison to the repeat customers (Me) and the noobs who will throw money at the event in the hope that it will get better. So many times, we seek a familiar and comfortable space even when it hurts Us (in the community sense) because we’re tired of always moving house. With circumstances being what they were in 2021 versus this year’s event, this might be my stop.
Once upon a time, I received a DM from a creator informing me that a company I actively promoted as a consumer had been lying about the company culture and the conditions of their semi-public business troubles. The creator stated that they didn’t want anything other than to spread the information to customers that they remember from when things were good. I went ahead and archived my most recent post of voluntary promotion, removed the affiliate link from all of my platforms, and thanked the creator for the heads up. For a while, I’d ignored the gut feeling that something had been off because they were a small business, so it took no thought at all to take those actions. I didn’t need more products taking up space in my house, and the business had stopped advertising ages ago. No love lost there. In another instance, I received a DM from a fellow costumer informing me that someone I courtesy followed was exploiting a culture that is not their own for monetary gain. I was clueless because I had instantly muted the offender in the beginning because I wasn’t into the way they delivered content, but wanted to support a person with seemingly similar interests to mine. Again, this was framed as information rather than an explicit call to action, so I went ahead and unfollowed. When I was subscribed to a sewing site that flaunted recognizable industry mentors, (one of whom was a fan favorite, but rubbed me the wrong way) it took over a year for me to realize that my FOMO was overshadowing the internalized dread that engaging with the content triggered. The FB group was like every other group out there–full of people who have no chill on social media and refuse to stay on topic, and the monthly sewing circle jerks were helpful until they weren’t. This site had been recommended to me by a personal acquaintance (who I learned not to trust for an entirely different reason), and I had found value in the first month. After that it was just a waste of money. That being said, it took multiple fallings out, community backlash, and some lead time to grab screenshots for future reference before I finally canceled my account.
My point here is that I act on information as it is presented, not on the flow of the social media tide. I make decisions based upon how the knowledge will affect my experiences and the experiences of the people in my life. Waiting to make a decision is not always the right course of action, I rarely talk about what I might do, I just do it, and I certainly don’t expect a personalized DM before I act. But I’m also not going to risk my 9-to-5 paycheck constantly monitoring FB or waiting for Tweets to drop. I didn’t hear about last year’s BlerDCon cosplay contest debacle until I’d been at home a full day, staring at my unpacked bags in the corner. I didn’t attend the contest because they’re not my thing. It was the same with last year’s closing ceremonies wherein the 2022 theme was [arguably] co-opted from HBCU Con, founded by a black woman. So let’s go ahead and dive into where I’m at after this year’s installment, “BlerDCon: Homecomin’”.
What had happened was…
Communication with this con is the absolute worst at all levels. Based upon their FB posts, panel submissions were still being confirmed the week before the con. The poorly formatted schedule wasn’t released until the day before the con. Years ago, they had an app with panel descriptions, filtering options–the works. Unfortunately, nothing like that was available on the event website, so people who prefer panels for their convention experience had to guess. You can’t rely on FB events to reach the masses in this capacity. In my case, I had to bring my kids (11 & 8) because of babysitting shortages. If I’d known before the hotel mandated 48 hour cancellation period that there was no programming specifically for children, I would have canceled the whole trip. Yes, panels have to be suggested by volunteers, but stay with me. We walked around the gaming floor, ate way too much, and attended one panel as a family, the Black Fae Day Celebration on Friday. Little did I know the foreshadowing that it actually was.
And since I brought it up…
Why am I donating to the kids’ programming fund every year if there’s still nothing for my kids to do? Y’all had five years. Tell me you’re not about that family life without telling me. Where is it? Set aside a room for family programming only between 9am and 6pm. If you really want to send a message, put it in the Marriott with the cosplay prejudging and some vendors you don’t like. Yes, there will be those people who try to offload until dinnertime, but the majority of parents just want to see their kids happy for 50 minutes without starin’ at ass cheeks bordered by cow print. Seriously, no shade intended–I love that shit. Builds character. And while we’re on the subject, why do people hate kids so much? I remember how someone in the FB group asked about panels for families and the “Fuck dem kids” meme was the top comment. While me and mine were in the elevator on Saturday, a dude came on and waited for a rare, complete silence to tell a member of his party that he “fuckin’ hate[d]” them (his friend, not kids). He looked directly at my youngest before spouting off. No one chastised him. Not one person. Attendees roll their eyes and sigh loudly when kids are “in the way”. They glare at parents trying to navigate with strollers (mind you, they do the same with mobility device users). The disrespect that some people have for kids is astonishingly obvious year after year, and this was the first time [and possibly only time] I brought mine to BlerDCon. With the way things panned out, the con owns that anti-kid stance as well. Message received.
Speaking of the Courtyard across the street, I applaud whoever came up with the registration change for this year. The volunteers were at the top of their game first thing Friday morning and we had our badges in record time. The Hyatt on the other hand was up to their normal bullshit. They failed to provide the event discount in the Cinnabar for breakfast. They charged an additional $50 per night incidental fee in advance, with the promise of a refund after 5 to 8 days barring any unforeseen room issues. Housekeeping completely ignored the “No Thanks” option, even though I appreciate them leaving an empty dumpster-sized trash bag in my room during the two hours we were on the con floor before lunch. They made one bed and removed the used towels, but didn’t replace them. Like…wut? The roped-off check-in was a nice touch for traffic, too bad we had some delicate souls who knowingly ignored the signs because they “just had one quick question.” Lyin’ asses.
I appreciate Crystal City for photoshoots, the parking isn’t terrible, and the open lot next door really is a useful space for this event. Too bad it turned into a wet landfill overnight. Maybe hire out trash management next time? You know tipsy people aren’t going to go looking for a garbage receptacle that isn’t overflowing. Since we spent a chunk of time in the arcade area, I would have liked to see hand sanitizer and bleach wipes at each station. They do it at the gym, and I could see the sweat drippin’, so they should have had some kind of cleaning policy here. Maybe send someone around every hour to wipe down controllers and surfaces? The cleansing rain on Saturday certainly helped the hem of my gown. LOL–I have never seen so many butt hurt people who should have checked the weather report. The moping was at an alltime high, and I get it–I didn’t check the weather either, but some water wasn’t going to stop me from obtaining Thai Tea and sweet potato tots. Last year there was a good amount of outdoor seating and umbrella tables. Where did they go?
So, so good!
I would like to give a dedicated shout out to the prop check table. They are the nicest, most well-informed, considerate team that I’ve ever met year-after-year. Period.
When I arrived for hotel check in, Orlando Jones stood next to me and the kids. We exchanged head nods. It was delightful. He seems very nice. I’m not a celebrity selfie person. You should know this by now.
On the whole, I love the atmosphere of BlerDCon. I don’t walk in with my shoulders already up to my ears and my jaw clenched waiting for microaggressions at every turn. I feel completely safe putting stuff in my car in the parking garage at night, which I can’t say for any other nerd con I’ve attended in 20 years. If I even gasp like I might trip down the escalator in questionable footwear or people are blocking an entrance, complete strangers are on alert and ready to lend a hand. The community is what makes this con a good time for me.
With that out of the way, I want to reiterate that I am an attendee. I pay for my badges. I have not been and do not expect to be a guest. I do not currently have interest in the cosplay contest. I’m not the volunteering type. In all my years, the most I’ve cared about celebrity con appearances was springing for a Nichelle Nichols VIP package at a Philly con, the benefits of which I didn’t actually use. I don’t attend BlerDCon to network. I go to sit in on costuming and special interest panels, wear costumes (but not necessarily take photos in them), spend money on stupid stuff, and to be mildly debauched with food, alcohol, and dirty jokes in a blerdy environment. I do not have loyalty to this or any convention from a brand/business standpoint especially with other people’s manic feedback from previous years. And to further emphasize my vigilante status, I have no affiliation with any organized fandom, costuming group, or business association. I stand by my choices because I’m a lifelong learner of hard lessons.
Please believe that I truly am perplexed as to why they did Black Fae Day so dirty.
The announcement of next year’s theme included the words, “We are going to be working very, very closely with Black Fae Day and the founders and their group.” Too bad no one told BFD. The parallels between America’s founding fathers and the con event founders in the debriefs from this weekend (and previous BlerDCon weekends) just keep piling up. How you gon’ try to colonize a movement? First off, if you are going to separate yourself from “the Black Fae Community” and acknowledge that you know nothing about it, you really shouldn’t turn yourself into the villain by talking about “little meetups” and “last bastions”. Sir. I’ve been wearing fairy wings and fashioning myself in the Elven way for decades with no one’s permission. Do fucking not act like the fae haven’t existed in anime and video games and movies since literally the beginning. They are pop culture from the ancient days of human existence. No one owns it. But you taking a capitalist perspective with your “get onboard or get left behind” words is some master’s tools bullshit. Talking about yourself and your con as a big fish because you’ve been able to increase ticket sales every year despite drama, falls into your character profile of co-opting the work of smaller, black community events. Yes, fairies and dragons and gnomes and magic have always existed, but no one can deny that in the Blerd space, the recent uptick can be traced directly to Jasmine La Fleur, founder of Black Fae Day. She doesn’t need you to put Black Fae at “centerstage”. No one asked to be a part of your circus. You were supposed to be the one doing the asking. Announcing the 2023 theme as “Fae’d to Black” is clever, and like many, on my part there was an assumption of collaboration that doesn’t actually exist. No one business owns the fantasy genre, but lying about a business venture (Black Fae Day is a trademarked property and there is a proposal process with guidelines in place to ensure appropriate business alignment) is blatant and wrong. This is not a chicken-egg conundrum. There is no doubt that this is going to be played down as a misstep or a misinterpretation, but just like last year’s theme announcement, it was premeditated and is unacceptable. There was enough time to have a whole ass animated video for 2023, but no time to establish more than some exploratory DMs with a panelist who happens to be [spiritually] in attendance? Her courtly ambassadors were RIGHT THERE. In a panel. I watched it. And as the Queen stated, the Black Fae Day “mission is to increase positive representation of Black Fantasy enthusiast [sic] in mainstream media.” She is gracious. She is happy to see the greater proliferation of the theme. BlerDCon Management is in the wrong on this.
I honestly and truly hope that appropriate reparations for the lie are made by BlerDCon Management. I watched his response video. It somehow made me angrier, and I had to edit a whole lot of this post afterward. I know people who vend, guest, and run panels at this convention. I know people who’ve been personally wronged by BlerDCon and its Management–some have made amends, some have not. I’ve recommended this con to countless people over the years, and it would be impossible and disingenuous to try and retract now. People are still going to attend the con. One way to throw your support to the affected community is to toss them some money that folds. And if like me, you’re keeping an eye out for a new convention home for your super niche cosplay mashups, may the odds be ever in your favor.