Inside Wakandacon, a Paradise for Black Cosplayers

Wakanda might be a fictional place but a version of it comes to life in Chicago every summer.

After several trips to the movie theater to watch the record-breaking superhero film “Black Panther,” David Barthwell and his two siblings enlisted the help of their friends to create their own Afrofuturist utopia.

“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,” said Barthwell in a VICE News interview.

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 “Black Panther” film’s influence at the convention is pretty clear – from the cosplay to fight choreography workshops.

But the real draw was the aspirational concept of Wakanda. Organizers say 3,000 people attended the second annual WakandaCon.

“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 “Miss Wakanda 2019”, partly inspired by her days in Texan beauty pageant scene.

WakandaCon is among a handful of conventions like Blerdfest and BlerdCon that formed over the past several years as a more inclusive alternative to mainstream cons.

VICE News went to Chicago to see what it looks like to recreate Wakanda.

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