Hilton George knew what his goal was for last year’s Blerdcon. It was the first year of the convention targeting blerds — that’s “black nerds” — and he had gotten guidance.
“I was advised to plan for 500. If you get 650, you’re golden,” says George, the event’s creator and chair. “So when we opened our doors [last year], we had 600 full weekend passes that had been pre-purchased and we were like, ‘We did it!’ Then the additional 1,200 people showed up.”
Blerdcon, in a larger form, returns to the Hyatt Regency Crystal City this weekend. Like many conventions, this one has cosplay and gaming (as in a 24-hour gaming room that never closes), as well as photo and autograph opportunities — four members of “Black Panther’s” Dora Milaje will be there to make sure you have a very intimidating profile picture. Still, as the name suggests, the focus is different from that of mainstream sci-fi, fantasy or comic conventions.
“I found myself enjoying all different types of conventions, and I noticed how diverse the fandoms were,” George says. “I started wondering if there’s a convention focused on the underrepresented populations in the fandoms. I was doing some research and I didn’t really find any, so I said, ‘Someone should create that.’ And I didn’t put my finger on my nose to keep myself from the task.”
George stresses that there is no singular blerd experience. “You can be a black nerd but also be disabled. You can be a black nerd and you can also be Latina. You can be a black nerd and a member of the LGBTQ community. You have to speak to the total blerd [community],” he says. “That bridge was not something that had been crossed before in a large-scale convention community.”
Starting a new convention is like “walking around a dark room with nothing but corners to stub your toe on,” George says. “You have to kind of feel your way around the room until your eyes adjust.” With one Blerdcon done and, George hopes, many more to come, the lights are switching on — one blerd at a time.
Hyatt Regency Crystal City, 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington; Fri., noon, through Sun., 3 p.m., $15-$35 per day, $50 for full weekend pass, photographs and autographs extra.
For the blerds
The Blerdcon schedule is packed with panels, discussions, dances and contests. Here are five events that highlight the convention’s scope.
Gals vs. Guys: A K-Pop Dance workshop
As K-pop starts K-popping up more and more, you need to know what you’re doing on the dance floor. Dancers of all levels are invited to learn a boy group dance and a girl group dance. Plus, you can use your moves at the Blerdcon dances on Friday and Saturday nights.
Fri., 3-5 p.m.
Cosplay vs. Cultural Appropriation
Cosplay is a way to celebrate nerdiness, but what’s the difference between donning a costume and a culture? This panel will discuss cultural appropriation, why it matters, how to avoid it and how people can educate others about what is and isn’t OK.
Fri., 8:30-10 p.m.
Villains and Vinyl: From Dr. Doom to Dr. Dre — A History of Hip-Hop and Comics
There’s a surprisingly deep relationship between hip-hop and comics — for example, Ghostface Killah called his first solo album “Ironman” and his record label is Starks Enterprises. At this panel talk, learn how the two art forms aren’t as different as they seem.
Sat., 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Men of Cosplay: What’s a Dance Belt?
Gentlemen: Do not cosplay in Spandex without this panel. If you’ll be donning some tights, you’re going to need to buckle down your, um, lightsaber. The panel and discussion will also include a general discussion about how men can get started in cosplay. This panel is 18 and up.
Sat., 10:30-11:30 p.m.
Anime Sunday Worship Experience
Feed the spiritual side of your nerdiness with an hour-long, non-denominational church service that puts sci-fi fandom on a level with, say, Jesus fandom. Find out how the word of God can go hand in hand with the word of Gotaku.
Sun., 11 a.m.-noon