I am a proud Blerd who lives in the Pacific Northwest home. My dad had an interest in comic books and instilled a passion for them in me. After decades of being a Marvel Fanatic, I got sucked into the DC whirlpool that was The New 52 launch. Currently, I am moving more into various independent and non-mainstream titles. I am a proud supporter of local artists, comic book creators, and comic book businesses. My two goals as a writer for ComiConverse are 1) to highlight new, little-known, and/or diverse titles, artists and writers, and work that is coming out of the smaller publication houses and 2) to address issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation in comics and the industry.
The email signature line of Maia ‘Crown’ Williams, “BLOOM where you’re PLANTED…,” really says it all. Since 2013, the Michigan native has been the primary force behind the establishment of MECCAcon: the Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts which takes place in Detroit, a city that should be celebrated for the many positive things that are going on in its community.
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LKR: As a WOC and lifelong comic fan, I was surprised that I had never heard of this Con. How and when was it established?
MCW: Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts, aka MECCAcon, was established on October 1, 2013. I went full throttle that weekend, for a multitude of reasons I won’t list (lol). By the end of the week, I had a name, a plan, and a list of artists I wanted to work with to get things accomplished. I wrote a full-out business plan, and worked on each goal one by one. I knew a lot of people in the industry, so it wasn’t too hard to reach out to them to participate.
LKR: Part of the mission as noted on the MECCA site is “to make sure that children know that all ‘heroes’ do not look the same, and that many actually look just like them.” Does that mean that this Con is intended to be more of a family affair than some of the other Cons?
MCW: MECCAcon is very much a family affair. We have classes and workshops that are age appropriate for everyone. As far as what my mission is describing, I am basically saying that many children grow up even now seeing 95% of superheroes who are white males. From books to the movies, to television shows, it is mostly a white male role with a costume, here to save the day. While the industry IS getting a lot better at fixing that in the mainstream, we have very far to go. In mainstream we now have DC’s WE ARE ROBIN where it is very diverse. We also have the Marvel’s Ultimate SpiderMan, Miles Morales, who is a black/Hispanic teen.
However, youth, especially the teenagers, need to learn about independent properties. They need to understand also that AFROFUTRISM exists. I believe that is my biggest pet peeve (lol). There is a world outside of anime and mainstream for our young black youth. It’s ok to draw people who look like you. I just want the youth to understand how important art is to their future.
Art transcends into the community and helps community development.
LKR: What is your definition of afrofuturism?
MCW: Oh wow. My personal definition would be black art set into the future, mixed with science, mathematics, and knowledge of self. My favorite afrofuturism artists would definitely be Mshindo Kuumba, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings. They are the epitome of the term.
LKR: How else is this Con different from other conventions?
MCW: The biggest difference?
I’m the only black woman solely doing it. So that makes a lot of difference, all across the board. We have a real bona fide independent film festival, with all certified and registered short films. It will be curated by award-winning filmmaker, Ka’ramuu Kush. MECCAcon also features a hip hop and performance night. Hip hop is very prominent here in the city, so I have always wanted to highlight that. There will be hands on dj and beat-making workshops for all ages, as well as DJ sets and performances. We will be highlighting spoken word heavily, since I am a poet as well.
We are very gender inclusive. There are many women participating with MECCAcon, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We also have many workshops of various topics.
As far as being different from conventions in our state, well, let’s just say that we are a lot more diverse; there will be no need to have to search for a creator of color. We won’t be stuck in the corner somewhere. We are not 100% black vendors, either. We have a wide range of cultures participating.
LKR: How are the films selected for the film fest?
MCW: Between myself and Ka’ramuu, we came up with the nine official selections. I wanted to make sure many subjects were covered, from black love to hip hop to mental illness. Ka’ramuu helped me out A LOT (lol). I didn’t want it to just be a buddy’s film, or a favor here or there. I wanted a real, bona fide film festival.
LKR: The mission also mentions the importance of learning the origin of comic books. Can you tell us more about this?
MCW: Many people don’t know that the word “hero” derived from the kemet/Egyptian deity, Heru. The name as well as the characteristics of many mainstream characters all were built on Heru’s story, and origin Superman and Thor are the biggest examples. Many characters come from kemetic gods and deities. Wonder Woman, for example, is derived from the goddess Isis.
LKR: What are some of the panels that you will have at the Con?
MCW: I am so honored to have Women in Comics NYC Collective International participating this year. CEO Regine Sawyer will be hosting a panel, as she has curated panels at NY Comic Con, San Diego Comics Con, EcBacc, Black Comic Book Festival, and so many others. Griot Enterprises publisher, Jiba Molei Anderson, is also hosting his Complexions in Comics panel, which will highlight many facets of the industry. The panels will be held in the Friends Auditorium of the Detroit Public Library, as will the film festival.
LKR: While the acronym – obviously – stands for the name of the event, is it also intended to reflect another reference that is significant in the Black community?
MCW: All across the world, Detroit is known in the Muslim and Moslem (there is a difference) community as D-MECCA. This is where many things started, including the Nation Of Islam. I also wanted to name it MECCA as a play up on taking your pilgrimage to Mecca. Lastly, the obvious, this is a comics and arts convention. What comic con doesn’t have Mechas? Lol. This year, I had all of my artists illustrate MECHAS as our official art… and they slayed it! N. Steven Harris did our puzzle box mecha, for puzzle boxes were originally derived in Kemit, not Hollywood. They are actually anything but evil. Jason Reeves did our Merakba mecha. I am very heavy into meditation, and I need something to make sure I’ll be calm all day (lol). So that mecha is going to keep my show balanced. Shawn Alleyne illustrated his African mecha. It went right with the mecha he drew for us last year, and they both are outstanding. I have been overly spoiled. And I’m pretty ok with that!
LKR: When you say Mechas, are you making reference to the sci-if genre of machines controlled by people?
MCW: Absolutely. Think Voltron for example. They are a staple in sci-fi shows and movies. Voltron was one of my favorite cartoons growing up, and I wanted to pay homage to that.
LKR: What are Merkabas?
MCW: Merkabas (MER = light, KA = spirit, BA = mind) are basically mathematics and spirituality combined. They go hand-in-hand. Merkabas are used heavily in meditation, and I hold them dear.
LKR: What are some of the highlights of the Con that attendees can expect?
MCW: Well, the hip hop and performance night (September 18th) is going to be a ball! The children will have a chance to learn how to dj and make beats, so that’s awesome in itself.
Again, we have the film festival, and I am OVERLY hype about that.
Of course, we have the comics. We have major independent creators and businesses on the scene right now, including Jason Reeves, N. Steven Harris, Shawn Alleyne, Anthony Piper, and Black Science Fiction Society. We also are honored to have Peep Game Comix, which is a black owned version of online shop Comixology… just doper, (lol).
Dr. Sheena Howard, the only black person period to win an Eisner in 2014, will be joining as well, and I’m her biggest fan.
We have Kim Eggleston and Jen Slotterbock of Women Creating Comics.
There’s a long list. I’m just excited period.
LKR: What are a couple of the classes and workshops attendees can expect that might target younger children or families together?
MCW: We have many workshops throughout the day from many of the artists, publishers, and writers. They all are age and family appropriate. Classes include “THE ART OF STORYTELLING” with N Steven Harris, Steampunk character development with Aiesha Little, Manga Studios EX6 with Lloyd Cheatham, and many more. On Friday afternoon, we have all age dj and beatmaking workshops, headed by 5E Gallery and Spin, Inc.
LKR: Can you tell us a bit more about your background? Did you grow up in Detroit?
MCW: I was actually raised in the burbs (lol)! Three suburbs: Farmington Hills, MI. I was the only black child in my school from 1st through 5th grade. I was in predominantly all white schools most of my upbringing. That’s probably why I’m so militant (lol). My friends call me “the female Marcus Garvey.” I try to keep it tame, though. I’m just really 100% about the upliftment of my people in this society. Without cooperative economics and self-ownership, we will fail.
LKR: Are you still taking applications for participants or volunteers?
LKR: Where can tickets be purchased?
MCW: Tickets ($5 + $1 processing fee) can be purchased directly off of our Eventbrite.
LKR: If people are interested in sponsoring or donating to help support the event, what should they do?
LKR: Did you grow up reading comics?
MCW: Absolutely, but I wasn’t heavy into comics until I discovered black indie.
LKR: What are 1-2 comics that people should be reading or to which they should be exposing their children?
MCW: THE EIGHT by Abdul H Rashid, AJALA by N. Steven Harris, ONE NATION by Jason Reeves, EATING VAMPIRES by Regine Sawyer, Concrete Park by Erica Alexander and Tony Puryear, CYBORG by David Walker, just to name a few.
LKR: Many people cannot locate diverse comics at their local shops and may be too far away to travel to Mecca. Do you have any suggestions for them regarding how to access some of this material?
MCW: PEEPGAMECOMIX.com, which will also be at MECCAcon, is a very respected black owned website with over 100 black titles. That should be a necessity in every household. If prints are your thing, as they are mine, ask your local comic book shop to order it. If they don’t, you may need a new comic shop. If you don’t know where your local comic shop is, go on COMICSHOPLOCATOR.com. Facebook group pages like LeSEAN THOMAS are also great places to find many creators as well.
LKR: If people are traveling to MECCAcon, are there hotels working with you to offer discounts?
MCW: I have been working with a black owned bed and breakfast community that owns multiple units, as well as a beautiful urban garden. Rooms are only $50, and include vegan breakfast. The Hoye family.
Anyone interested can email me for that info, as well.
LKR: Thanks for taking time to ComiConverse with us!
Maia Crown Williams has definitely created an event that is blooming beautifully and making a difference in both the Detroit community and the comic book industry, as well.
MECCAcon’s Official Schedule
#MECCAcon2015’s HIP HOP NIGHT
FRIDAY, 9/18/15, 5p-10p
MBAD/ABA African Bead Museum (aka Dabls)
6559 Grand River, Detroit, MI 48208
5:30-7:00 DJ & BEAT MAKING STATIONS-
w/ DAN Z & DJ JUNGLE (dj stations), DJ HEAD & NICK SPEED (beat making stations)
6:00-8:00 SPOKEN WORD
8:00-10:00 HIP HOP PERFORMANCES
500 opening DJ set w/ MEL WONDER
610 Shaun Moore-Bey
620 Detroit Bleu
630 One Single Rose
650 Shah Blacq
700 Black, Ju, Mental, KnowledgeBorn
730 Black Tie Collective
800 MAHOGANY JONES
820 THE MICROPHONE MISFITZ
840 5 ELA
900 FATT FATHER
920 NICK SPEED & SEVEN THE GENERAL
940 DJ LOS closing DJ set
#MECCAcon2015’s COMIC BOOK CONVENTION & WORKSHOPS
SATURDAY, 9/19/15, 11a-6p
DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY, 5201 Woodward, Detroit, MI
STROHAM HALL (third floor)
11a-6p::: DEALER/VENDOR FLOOR
11a- 2p PEEP GAME COMIX registration/sign up
11:30-12:15 Eric Holman:: Comic Book Script Writing
12:30-1:15- N Steven Harris, THE ART OF STORYTELLING workshop
1:30-2:10- DYNAMIC ANATOMY
2:30-3:15- Lloyd Cheatham, Jr:: Manga Studios EX6 workshop
3:30-6p- PEEP GAME COMIX registration/sign up
3:30-4:15- Aisha Little:: STEAMPUNK WORKSHOP
4:30-5:15- SHAWN ALLEYNE, illustration workshop
#MECCAcon2015’s INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL
DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY, 5201 Woodward, Detroit, MI
(library’s theatre, basement floor)
11a-6p::: INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL & PANELS
11:15- INTRO/ WELCOME, Ka’ramuu Kush Detroit
11:30a- OYA: RISE OF THE ORISHAS, Nosa Igbinedion, Nigeria/UK (12min)
11:45- BOOK OF RHYMES, omar jones aka Distrakt (7min)
12p- OSIRIS, Donnie Leapheart, Detroit, (8min)
12:15 I AM ALI, dream hampton, Detroit, (19m)
12:40 NICK SPEED: A DAY IN THE LIFE, Nick Speed, Detroit (22m)
1:15p -3:15pm PANELS
1:15p- WOMEN IN COMICS panel, nationwide, curated by Regine Sawyer NY (45min)
2:15p- COMPLEXION OF COMICS panel (45mins), curated by Jiba Moleli Anderson Detroit
4p- INTRODUCTION by Ka’ramuu Kush
4:20 – 6:00pm
4:20p- BRICK AND LULU, Evita Castine, L.A., (8min)
4:35p- SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY, Dehanza “Daye” Rogers, Georgia, (19min)
5p- IF I LEAP, J.J. Stone, NY, (20min)
5:30- AND THEN, Ka’ramuu Kush, Detroit (30min)
Lydia K. Roberts is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on Twitter: @Lyderary