Wakanda may be a fictional country, but the black utopian space was just brought to life in Chicago.
It started when, after several trips to the movie theater to watch the record-breaking superhero film “Black Panther,” Chicago native David Barthwell and his two siblings enlisted the help of their friends to create their own Afrofuturist utopia.
Barthwell wanted to create a space like Wakanda centered around people of color. “We found Wakanda to be a place of radical inclusivity, a place of feminism, a space where there is economic independence and a strong focus on community; a space of education and a focus on technology,” the self-described nerd told VICE News.
This summer, the group organized a weekend of black empowerment and creativity for the second time, dubbing it “WakandaCon” in homage to the fictional uncolonized African kingdom. The Wakandan ideals of self-sufficiency and innovation are central to the convention’s programming, which included a code-a-thon and marketplace featuring black businesses and creatives.
The “Black Panther” film’s influence at the convention is pretty clear from the cosplay and fight choreography workshops. But the real draw for the fancon’s mostly black attendees was the aspirational concept of Wakanda.
“There aren't many spaces where we can be ourselves without being policed by other people,” said Me’Lisa Lashon, dressed in an original costume as“Miss Wakanda 2019” inspired by her days in Texan beauty pageants.
WakandaCon is among a handful of conventions like Blerdfest and BlerdCon that formed over the past several years as a more diverse alternative to mainstream cons.
VICE News went to Chicago to see what a real-life Wakanda looks like.
Video edited by Daniel Card and Michael Shade.