The second annual Afro-con takes place this weekend at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA.
Afro Con evolved from the Afrofuturism Lounge that took place outside of Comic-Con in 2018. It was the year that “Black Panther” enthusiastically brought Afrofuturism to mainstream consciousness.
Afrofuturism is defined as a movement in literature, music, art, and film featuring futuristic or science fiction themes that incorporate elements of black history and culture. Afro Con focuses on Afrofuturism and provides an educational, entertaining and informative space for creative thinkers.
“People can expect to have fun. There will be comic books and cultural artifacts, as well as fun things in the exhibit hall. Then they can engage in discourse on critical topics that are relevant to improving society,” said Afro Con creator LaWana Richmond. industry by meeting other people who have common interests that they could potentially collaborate with and continue the creative process.
The convention will begin with a kick-off party on Friday evening at the studio of the keynote speaker and local artist Maxx Moses.
“Maxx Moses is Afro Futurism,” Richmond said. “He is probably one of the most handsome humans on the planet in terms of his ability to communicate and express himself visually as well as in conversation. And I think having someone next to me to talk to people about what Afrofuturism is and why it matters will be helpful overall.
In addition to Moses, there will be GTET Media developer Winston Shaw, music artist Kahlil Nash and concept artist, illustrator and music producer Tony Washington.
A panel featuring the Black Divers Scuba Snorkel Association will discuss the link between the genetic trauma of enslaved Africans forced to cross the ocean through the Middle Passage and the fear of swimming, and encourage people to recover water.
Other panels focus on mental well-being, divine femininity, and business opportunities in art and creativity.
New this year at Afro Con will be fashion and a movie. The film is the American premiere of “Ojanoma” by Diemiruaye Deniran. It’s a movie that combines familiar elements from fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” with African mythology.
“It’s a familiar thing, which means there’s nothing really new under the sun,” Deniran said. “It’s just the way we mix the ingredients. So there is magic in there. There’s also music because I grew up loving musicals and used to watch “The Sound of Music” when I was little. So I miss musicals, so I also put a musical element to it.
Deniran is building a world with the film and hopes to create a franchise that will use Afrofuturistic characters, creatures, and themes.
“One of the things is to see us in the future,” Deniran said. “Art shapes society and it has a very important place in society in our way of thinking. I use films to speak to people because we all have our prejudices, our beliefs, our traumas. But when we sit down and watch a movie, our minds are open and we can hear what someone is saying. So I use it to have conversations. I think Afrofuturism allows people to project themselves, especially for young people, to project and see themselves in different ways and to be who they want to be.
Doing “Ojanoma” was a challenge because Deniran basically had to do it twice.
“I actually shot it before and finished it in Nigeria first and then did it again,” Deniran explained. “I am Nigerian. My family is Nigerian. I was born and raised in London. But in Nigeria, I faced many challenges because sabotage delayed the project, thinking that if they delayed it, they could squeeze more money out of me. And so that led me to shoot it in a way that was more guerrilla than the way I wanted to shoot it. So after I finished, that wasn’t my vision and I said, I’m going to give it up. I didn’t know where I was going to get the money to do it again, but three days later I got a call from a good friend, and he asked me if I had a project that needed of financing. So it happened. But I think if I was content with what I had, I don’t think I would have gotten that call in three days.
“Ojanoma” will screen Saturday night at the UltraStar Hazard Center with the filmmaker on hand to answer questions.
Richmond is passionate about creating conversations about Afrofuturism in art and Afrofuturist thought.
“It’s important because we live in a time of great angst and consternation. People are looking back and shaking their heads in disgust, and people are dealing with current events that are, I will say, unpleasant and all of that is not going away,” Richmond said. “But I believe that if we want something different, we have to start with being able to imagine something different. And I think that’s important in terms of creating neural pathways that support the co-creation of better realities and inspire people to understand that they have agency in their lives. And once they imagine something better, I hope that they will then take the necessary steps to make something better come true. I think just seeing ourselves outside of the standard stereotypes allows us to be a bit more creative about what’s possible and what the solutions are and even beyond the solutions like what the opportunities are and how do we act us today to make this future vision a reality.
Richmond has a vision for the future of Afro Con.
“My vision is for it to become a cultural space that is also social, economical and continues to be entertaining,” Richmond said. “San Diego itself is becoming a hub of Afrofuturism. One of the things I didn’t realize when I started was how many creative people and prominent critical thinkers live here in San Diego and making a difference on a global scale and being pretty quiet here about what they are doing.”
Afro Con kicks off with a party Friday night with the convention taking place Saturday and Sunday at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA (located at 151 YMCA Road). You can register for free convention tickets or purchase satellite event tickets online here.