*The first-ever WakandaCon was held in Chicago over the weekend and thousands of cosplayers gathered to celebrate the mythical African nation.
2,000 people reportedly attended the event, which ‘featured a costume parade, art demonstrations, celebrity panels and sessions on social activism, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, entrepreneurship and gender and racial equality in STEM fields,’ CNN reports.
According to the outlet, ‘all of the panelists were African-American — about half were women — and many of the vendors were local small businesses, who had never worked at a convention before.’
WakandaCon co-creator Ali Barthwell said she started planning the convention in March along with her brothers and two friends.
“[Wakanda is] a place free from racism, sexism and homophobia it’s a place of advanced technology,” Barthwell said. “We wanted to talk about the film, but we also wanted to answer the bigger question ‘How can we make a place like Wakanda real?’”
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— The Vixen (@TheVixensworld) August 4, 2018
Barthwell’s goal was to design a community event that was welcoming for fans of color.
“We had a lot of people who were cosplaying for the first time and kids wanting to dress up and it was really great,” she said.
Chicago math teacher David Mikel Etheridge rocked a different Killmonger costume for the 3-day event.
“I went as him for all three days because I wanted to stick with the Wakanda theme,” Etheridge said. “I am also a fan of the character and I think he is one of the best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
Like so many others, Etheridge hopes the group of five people who made WakandaCon a huge success are able to pull it off again next year.
Barthwell said WakandaCon was a tribute to the “Black Panther” film and not affiliated with Marvel or Disney.
“We’re doing this all out of love,” she said.
First pic not very clear, but closing remarks of #WakandaCon founders, understandably very emotional. ? Couldn’t find everyone’s Twitter handle, but @We_Are_Wakanda @wtflanksteak @lisabexperience please relay our appreciation to other team members for such an awesome experience! pic.twitter.com/cVrhasLCqL
— Constance Banks (@YouHavePurpose) August 6, 2018