MECCAcon, Another Upcoming Black Nerd Event to Get Excited About

Conventions are rapidly growing. For supporters of diverse representation in comics, there’s nothing better than conventions dedicated specifically to those ends. A sense of belonging is a curious thing in comics lately, and if you’re on this site you probably nerd hard in the paint and consider representation important. Enter: MECCAcon. You won’t find a better atmosphere and more opportunities to support your favorite writers, read diverse characters and meet spectacular nerds, so it’s obvious your trip to the Midwest should be scheduled for September.

Black Nerd Problems talked with Maia “Crown” Williams, the founder and organizer of MECCAcon, to learn more about your next favorite convention.

Black Nerd Problems: What is MECCAcon?

Williams: Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts – or MECCAcon – is a large comic book and artist convention held annually in Detroit. I started developing it October 2013. The primary reason MECCAcon was established was to instill knowledge primarily in the younger art culture. I also wanted to show Detroit that women know about this stuff, too. We read and watch other things besides romantic mumbo jumbo. It is my mission to make sure that children know that all “heroes” do not look the same; that many actually look just like them. It is also important to learn the origin of comic books, what the historical facts come from, and what the word “hero” actually derives from. I am very much into knowledge of self, and I love to share my knowledge, but in a fun way. Children in all communities love comic books and art. Unlike many “comic cons,” we don’t focus only on comic books. Art has several mediums, especially in Detroit, and we want to highlight them all. MECCAcon aims to highlight comics, science fiction, steampunk/steamfunk, fine art, music, graffiti, Black speculative fiction, DJ artists, handmade artisans, urban gardening, fashion, African martial arts and more.

BNP: What is the biggest challenge you face organizing a convention like this one?

Williams: Money is the biggest, and being taken seriously as a woman in this business comes second. Funding is crucial in all aspects. All of the finances weigh down heavily, especially for the simple fact that 90 percent of it comes from my own pockets. It can be stressful, and sometimes mentally draining at times. I like to focus on the children’s faces every time I get that moment of “what the hell was I thinking?”

To get information about MECCAcon and read more from Jordan Calhoun, Black Nerd Problems lick here.

Blerds’ Big Holiday Weekend: Black Comic Book Festivals – on Both Coasts – to Bring Creators and Fans Together

Comic book festivals and conventions are where faithful fans, creators, artists and writers meet. They are also a place where people can discover something new. Black comic book festivals carry an additional purpose — to focus on an underserved market. This Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Blerds on both coasts will have an opportunity to geek out over the latest in offerings from creators, artists and writers of color.

In Harlem on Saturday, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosts the third annual Black Comic Book Festival from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. In San Francisco, the historic NorCal Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation Celebration added the Black Comix Arts Festival [BCAF] to its list of activities, with events kicking off Sunday and continuing through Monday. Both festivals are free to the public.

John Jennings, co-founder of both events, will spend much of his weekend in an airplane — a sacrifice he’s happy to make to support Black comics creators and fans.SCHOMBURGposter

“Images are extremely important and so are the lack of them,” Jennings said. “It is very empowering to see ourselves reflected in the culture and society in which we participate. On the other hand, it is just as debilitating to not see ourselves. Our invisibility is sometimes deafening. It is vital for Black creators to have a voice and a space or resistance to this erasure. There’s a small contingent of Black creators in
the mainstream, but never as many as there should be. However, there’s an alternative, and now
with the access to various modes of publishing, there’s a movement happening.”

Jennings, an associate professor of art and visual studies at the University at Buffalo, has made comics his lifelong study, both as an academic and as a creator and artist and is quick to point out that the involvement of creators of color in comics is nothing new.

“For the last 20 years or so, there has been an independent Black comics culture brewing just beneath the surface. There’s now a loosely connected network of Afrocentric, alternative, diverse cons that are mostly situated on the East Coast, the Midwest and Southeast.” The network includes Yumy Odom (ECBACC), Joseph Wheeler III (OnyxCon), Alexander Simmons (Kids ComicCon), Andre Batts (Black Age Motor City), Maia Crown Williams (MECCA), and Preach Jacobs (ColaCon).

Jennings and colleagues Dr. Jonathan Gayles, Jerry Craft and Deirdre Hollman of the Schomburg Center pooled their resources together and created the Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. The festival has been very successful in bringing thousands of people from around the city to Harlem to see the work of a variety of comics creators and illustrators of color, including Mshindo Kuumba, Jennifer Crute’, Chuck Collins, N Steven Harris, Tim Fielder, Micheline Hess, Nigel Carrington, Shawn Alleyne, Stacey Robinson and Alitha Martinez.

“It’s a joyous event, however, there’s a lack of true connection with Black creators on the West Coast,” Jennings said. “That’s why we wanted to make a ‘sister’ event. We wanted to make MLK weekend a Black Comix weekend and have a bicoastal connection centered around comics and Black subjectivity. What better time to celebrate the power of dreams?”

Jennings cited San Francisco’s long history with comics, especially underground and independent comics and its longtime commitment to celebrating the legacy of King through the MLK NorCal Foundation, as important reasons why the city was perfect for the inaugural event.

“[San Francisco is] home to one of the best comics stores in the country — Isotope: The Comics Lounge, and Aaron Grizzell, director of the MLK NorCal, puts on one of the largest MLK Day celebrations in the country and brings in around 30,000 people a year to celebrate the legacy of King and the Civil Rights Movement. [The event] has a bevy of inspiring and entertaining festivals that all happen after a large commemorative march during the day.”

Jennings, Grizzell and additional co-founders Colette Rodgers, Ayize Jama-Everett, David Walker and Shawn Taylor put their miranda20mainheads together and came up with BCAF. Even though this is the festival’s first year, the stars and the comic book industry have already taken notice.

“I am so excited to see the creators of “Concrete Park” — Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander,” Jennings said. “They are just marvelous and generous artists. The amazing Kevin Grevioux, writer, producer and actor. He is the co-creator of the “Underworld” franchise and also the creator of “The Blue Marvel.” I am super excited to meet Eric Dean Seaton, the writer/creator of the high-flying adventure book “Legend of Mantamaji.” In addition to that I am stoked to meet the publisher and writer, Sebastian Jones, who is doing a new book with Amandla Stenberg, the young actor best-known as the character Rue from the Hunger Games film. I’ve never met Fred Noland. He’s a Bay Area indie artist and he’s on my panel! So, I am looking very forward to getting to know about him and his work. Nancy Cato. I’ve never met Nancy face-to-face and I can’t wait to do so. Also, the Love Brothers, Jeremy and Robert from Gettosake Entertainment. It’s always a pleasure to hang with them. Honestly, I am super excited to see everyone!”

Eric Dean Seaton, longtime television director, chose the BCAF to launch the 2015 leg of his book tour for his new graphic novel series, “Legend of the Mantamaji,” with an author conversation and book signing event at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Creativity Theater.

“The addition of the Black Comix Arts Festival to the selection of NorCal MLK events is an important one,” Seaton said. “Comics and graphic novels are touching every corner of pop culture, and while African-Americans are large consumers of the media, too often they are marginalized or left out of the story altogether. This event highlights the significant contributions creators, artists and writers are making, bringing true diversity in the medium. I’m very excited and proud to be a part of the inaugural event.”

Jennings sees the events as simply evidence of longstanding Black tradition.

“Alternative Black Speculative spaces like Afrofuturism, AfroSurrealism, EthnoSurrealism and others have been on the rise worldwide. We don’t have to beg the mainstream to represent us. We can do it ourselves and put it out there. We exist and we dream. The Black imagination is what helped our ancestors survive. What was Dr. King if not a Black Speculative creator? That mountaintop he spoke of wasn’t in this dimension, or time, or space. It was somewhere else waiting for us to find it.”

Source: Terreece M. Clarke at LifeSlice Media

8 Calls for Submissions for Blerd and Afrofuturist Creators

  1. Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany will honor science fiction’s living legend, the author of over 20 novels, approximately as many short stories, five notable memoirs and counting, and 10 essential books of genre criticism. What we’re looking for: We want stories and critical essays that relate in some way to the strength and beauty of Samuel R. Delany’s body of work. This relationship can be made evident through allusions to the author himself; through allusions to his work’s titles, characters, situations, settings, etc.; through evoking a Delanyesque atmosphere; or through analysis of any of these elements, in the case of nonfiction. We’re hoping for essays that elucidate his important, lasting contributions to literature; and for fiction inspired by these contributions.

Wordcount limits: 1,000 to 10,000 for prose
Pay: minimum .05/word up to $400 total per story/essay for original prose; minimum .02/word up to $160 total per story/essay for reprint prose.
Deadline: Dec. 1, 2014

More info:

  1. The Afrofuturist Affair 4th Annual Charity & Costume Ball has expanded space-time from one evening to a monthlong celebration of Afrofuturism. In addition to the 4th Annual Costume Ball on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, in Philadelphia, we will have events throughout November, including workshops, dance party, readings, book club, film screenings, art exhibit and more. We are seeking self-identified Afrofuturists to perform or display their Black sci-fi, spec-fic, and Afrofuturistic themed work at the Ball. We are also seeking submissions for workshops and presentations.

Submission guidelines: To share your ideas, talents, and proposed performances for inclusion in this year’s celebrations, please email [email protected] with Name, contact info, title and description of proposed performance/art/workshop, and website, and “Charity Ball” in the subject line.

           Deadline: Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014

More info:!events/cee5

  1. TU BOOKS, the fantasy, science fiction and mystery imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, award-winning publisher of children’s books, is pleased to announce the second annual NEW VISIONS AWARD. The NEW VISIONS AWARD will be given for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction or mystery novel by a writer of color. The award winner receives a cash prize of $1,000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first-time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500.

Submissions guidelines: The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published. Only unagented manuscripts will be accepted. Work that has been published in its entirety in any format (including online and self-publishing as well as other countries) is not eligible. Manuscripts should address the needs of children of color by providing stories with which they can identify and relate, and which promote a greater understanding of one another. Submissions may be fantasy, science fiction, or mystery for children ages 12 to 18. Realistic stories without a mystery or speculative component will not be considered.

Deadline: Oct. 31, 2014

More info:

  1. Literary Orphans Journal, a Chicago-based online literary magazine, is a collaborative writing and arts platform, designed to present original literary work of quality, illuminated by cutting-edge photography and visual crafts, while celebrating individualism with a belief that such exposure will instigate a flowering of personal agency, and contribute to new and progressive understandings of social diversity across geographic spaces. Literary Orphans Journal is proud to announce its upcoming “Black Thought” issue. Named after the lead emcee of the Grammy Award-winning group The Roots, the “Black Thought” issue aims to capture the fluidity of African-American literature, as reflected by its creators. This issue will publish literature from Black people who identify as queer or transgender, or are stout atheists, or who deal daily with mental illness, or who love fantasy and science fiction and comic books, who struggle with their identities within the “Black community.”

Submissions guidelines: Poetry – 3-5 poems per submission; one poem per page. Prose (Fiction and Creative Nonfiction) – All genres are acceptable. 500 – 5,000-word length maximum. Novel excerpts are acceptable. Art and Photography – All mediums are welcome. 300dpi minimum resolution, 1200px longest side. Title, Medium, Year (Skyfall, Oil Painting, 2014) Please include artist statement, if applicable. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable; please notify us immediately if submission is accepted elsewhere.

Deadline: Sept. 30

More info:

  1. Escape Pod is the premier science fiction podcast magazine. Every week we bring you short stories from some of today’s best science fiction stories, in convenient audio format for your computer or MP3 player. Diversity:  Escape Pod welcomes submissions from writers of all backgrounds. We are especially interested in seeing more submissions from people of backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented or excluded from traditional publishing, including, but not limited to, women, people of color, LGBTQ or non-binary gender people, persons with disabilities, members of religious minorities, and people from outside the United States.  Our goal is to publish science fiction that reflects the diversity of the human race, so we strongly encourage submissions from these or any other underrepresented groups.

Submissions guidelines: We’re primarily interested in short fiction. We want short stories between 2,000 and 6,000 words. The sweet spot’s somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000 words. We pay $.06 a word for new fiction at this length, $.03 a word for reprints. ($100 minimum payment) We do buy flash fiction, on occasion, and pay the same rates. ($20 minimum)

Deadline: Rolling basis

More info:

  1. Midnight Echo is OPEN to submission until Oct. 31. The theme is SINISTER. What does SINISTER mean to you? Is it a character; a shadowy, nightmare figure? Or is it an atmosphere; a foreboding air of doom? Does the word fill you with apprehension, or maybe excitement? Or is the vision in your head something we cannot begin to imagine? Kaaron Warren, our guest editor for Midnight Echo Issue 11, wants to know. She is open to any interpretation of the theme in any style, but she wants to hear original voices. Take a chance. Send us the story you’ve always wanted to write, but were too afraid to tell. There is a lot of freedom in this theme, which makes it both liberating and terrifying. The editor wants to be moved, surprised and impressed – why don’t you take that as a challenge? Sinister. Play with it. Enjoy it. Scare us.

Submissions Guidelines: Fiction, poetry, cover and interior art

Deadline: Oct. 31, 2014

More info:

  1. 5×5 is an online literary journal that publishes poetry and prose of 500 words or less. We publish 5×5 twice a year (Winter & Summer). From Zeit, meaning “time,” and Geist,” meaning “spirit,” Zeitgeist, the theme for the Winter, 2015 issue of 5×5, means “spirit of the age” or “time-spirit.” We are looking for works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction that explore this concept from any number of angles. Maybe you want to take a stab at “defining” the zeitgeist of the present era or of a past era, or maybe you want to examine an idea or a figure of the present or past you see as representative or symbolic of the notion of zeitgeist, or maybe you’ve cultivated a voice or technique that in and of itself evokes “the spirit of the time,” whether past or present.

Submissions guidelines: Poetry, nonfiction, fiction

Deadline: Oct. 15, 2014

More info:

  1. BLACKBERRY: magazine is an online literary magazine featuring Black women writers and artists. Its goal is to expose readers to the diversity of the Black woman’s experience and strengthen the Black female voice in both the mainstream and independent markets. We hope to illuminate the exceptional work of a newer generation while reaching back to those whose words may have been ignored in the past. New work is shared weekly thus we read on a rolling basis. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. Please notify us immediately if the work has been accepted elsewhere. We prefer work that has not been previously published. BLACKBERRY: a magazine asks for non-exclusive electronic rights. With all submissions, please send a 50 word bio in your Submittable cover letter.

Submission Guidelines: Please submit 3-5 poems not exceeding 1,500 words, in one document. All flash fiction and flash nonfiction should be under 300 words. We love spoken word and audio-visual creations. All other forms: no more than 2 pieces not exceeding 4,000 words. Artwork must be 2-dimensional, in color or black-and-white, 300 dpi or higher. If applicable, include captions.

Deadline: Submissions accepted on a rolling basis

More Info: