Universal FanCon: You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers
Since last Friday, there has been much discussion taking place on Twitter about Universal FanCon, and how shocked and infuriated people have been about it. And there has also plenty of discussion among people who had and still have no idea who or what a Universal FanCon is, and have been completely in the dark as to why this was being discussed all weekend. So with this post, we’re going to do what we can to answer many of the questions that some of you may have about Universal FanCon.
WHAT EXACTLY IS UNIVERSAL FANCON?: Universal FanCon is a pop-culture convention that was originally scheduled to occur this weekend from April 27th to April 29th. It’s basically Comic-Con, but with a greater focus on diversity, representation, and on making sure that marginalized communities got the attention and respect that they don’t normally receive at conventions such as these. From the official announcement made over at BlackGirlNerds.com:
The Black Geeks and Black Girl Nerds have partnered to host Universal Fan Con (UFC), with the mission of taking on the lack of representation in the geek community. The convention is set to take place in Baltimore, MD on April 27, 2018, at the Baltimore Convention Center and focusing on gaming, anime, TV shows, and Movies. “We are excited to present the very first large scale multi-fandom convention dedicated to inclusion,” announced the official Twitter of Universal Fan Con.
The core team bringing the con together consists of The Black Geeks, a multimedia company that serves as a source for “edgy and probing original commentary” on sci-fi, fantasy, and other entertainment coverage, and Black Girl Nerds, an online community promoting nerdiness among Black women & people of color. After many years of attending conventions, Robert Butler - CEO of The Black Geeks, and Black Girl Nerds creator, Jamie Broadnax, noticed a lack of diversity in the world of Cons.
“UFC hopes to fill the void of Diversity and give fans the chance to see the geek community through a diverse set of eyes,” said Butler. UFC aims to be a 24-hour convention; meaning that all day and night there will be a panel or event running. “We felt that the only way to ensure that as many groups as possible were represented, we have to keep it going, ” said Butler.
The UFC team is currently spending hours developing and planning innovative ideas to implement at the upcoming fan conference. One idea being explored includes using geofencing technologies that could lead to shorter waits in line and a seamless check-in process. “The team and I are always looking for ways to incorporate technology into UFC. We want to employ new technology that will make long lines a thing of the past,” said Butler.
Butler, also a disabled Marine vet, hopes to incorporate more tools for geeks with disabilities. UFC expects attendees from every walk of life to leave feeling represented. “It’s incredibly important to the Black Geeks and Black Girl Nerds that everyone, and I mean everyone, feels as though they have a place at this Con,” said Butler.
“We’re redefining what diversity is, and hope you will join us in 2018,” Broadnax expressed.
With over 900 Twitter followers, the buzz around UFC has already begun to explode on Twitter. Many users have shown their support for the convention via the social media site. “This is going to be amazing. I can feel it in my bones,” said one UFC Twitter follower.
WHO STARTED UNIVERSAL FANCON, OR HOW DID IT START?: Universal FanCon was started through a Kickstarter campaign back in December of 2016. When word got out and began to spread about this convention and what kind of convention it intended to be, especially since it was being put together by two popular and influential podcasts, Black Girl Nerds and The Black Geeks, plenty of people came forward with their support and contributed as much money to the campaign as they could to get Universal FanCon off the ground.
DID YOU CONTRIBUTE TO THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR UNIVERSAL FANCON?: Full disclosure: Yes, I’m one of the Original Backers for Universal FanCon and I did donate money to its Kickstarter campaign. Not much, just thirty-five dollars, which is why I was able to breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t spend more money than that once everything went pear-shaped.
SO I’M GUESSING THAT THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN WAS SUCCESSFUL?: The original Kickstarter goal that Universal FanCon was aiming for was at least $25,000. Thanks to all of the donations, Universal FanCon received over double that amount, so yeah. It was very successful.
WHAT EXACTLY DID UNIVERSAL FANCON HAVE PLANNED THAT GOT PEOPLE SO EXCITED?: Thanks to Jamie Broadnax, creator and editor-in-chief of Black Girl Nerds, and the many connections she was able to establish over the years through her Twitter account and podcast, Universal FanCon was able to invite many a well-known celebrity guest for a convention that was only in its first year. Orlando Jones, Phil LaMarr, Roxane Gay, Ricky Whittle, Yetide Badaki, Mehcad Brooks, Demore Barnes, Big Daddy Kane, Billy Dee Williams(!), and that was just the start. There were going to be lightsaber-dueling classes for both kids and adults. Orlando Jones was going to host a comedy show there. Anime screening rooms, fully-active 24-hour arcades, and plenty of fandom-submitted panels. And since Avengers: Infinity War moved up its release date from May 4th to April 27th, many of the attendees were looking forward to not only meeting each other for the first time, but also looking forward to the possibility of seeing Avengers: Infinity War and thirsting over Captain America’s beard together as a community.
DAMN! THAT ALL SOUNDS AWESOME!: It does. It really does. Which is why enthusiasm for Universal FanCon was so incredibly high, especially among Black Twitter, since many of them contributed to its creation, and many of them were planning to attend. As fans, as panelists, as cosplayers, as business owners looking to establish connections with others and also sell merchandise to people looking to purchase and bring home plenty of swag.
SO…WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED THAT MADE EVERYONE SO UPSET?: (takes deep breath, pours himself a drink)
IS IT THAT BAD?: Well…it certainly isn’t good. Let me try to explain this to the best of my ability.
On Friday, April 20th, Melanie Dione, Universal FanCon’s Entertainment Group Director, announced that morning on her Twitter page (@beauty_jackson) that she was resigning from her position. She didn’t say why or give any further explanation, which made her followers very curious.
Things got even more confusing later that afternoon when several people received e-mails stating that the reservations for their hotel rooms that they would be staying in during their visit to Baltimore for FanCon were cancelled. And when they sought answers, the confusion only grew from there.
Hello. We have been advised that the group has cancelled this event with the hotel. ^Jenn M.— Hyatt Concierge (@HyattConcierge) April 20, 2018
As more and more people began demanding clarification as to why their hotel rooms were no longer available and why they were being told that Universal FanCon was suddenly cancelled, Universal FanCon’s official Twitter account sent out a tweet to let everyone know that their complaints were heard and that an explanation would be coming soon…
We see your tweets, messages & concerns. We will have a full update later today on the status of the convention. We realize the immense severity of the situation and our teams will be working to address everything as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding— FanCon (@UniversalFanCon) April 20, 2018
…and that explanation came in the form of Universal FanCon telling all of Twitter that the event, which was scheduled to occur in exactly one week, was postponed until further notice.
It is with a heavy heart that we must announce that FanCon has been postponed until further notice. We deeply apologize for the disappointment, anger and feelings of lost trust due to this decision. We are taking the steps to reschedule the convention & will provide an update— FanCon (@UniversalFanCon) April 20, 2018
We recognize that people have poured time, effort and money into making this convention a success and many are in precarious positions as to their plans for the next weekend. We will do all we can to help establish some resolutions— FanCon (@UniversalFanCon) April 20, 2018
What happens next:— FanCon (@UniversalFanCon) April 20, 2018
1. Again we will provide full insight into the situation later today
2. We have a contingency plan for people who still will be in Baltimore/can't change their travel plans; to be shared later today
To reiterate: FanCon is postponed until further notice. It will NOT occur April 27-29. We will provide further details later today to address all concerns and questions and provide insight into how and why this happened. Inquiries can be directed to: [email protected]— FanCon (@UniversalFanCon) April 20, 2018
HO…LY…SHIT! THEY JUST…THEY REALLY JUST CANCELED THE ENTIRE CONVENTION LIKE THAT AT THE VERY LAST MINUTE?: Yes, they did. People were confused and disappointed, to say the very least, and considering how much money had been spent on hotel rooms and plane tickets…how people worked extra shifts at their jobs in order to earn the vacation time they had set aside to attend FanCon…how they were unable to attend family events such as weddings because they already scheduled their attendance at FanCon…there were so many tweets from people who had made room on their calendars and did everything possible to support and attend a convention that was two years in the making. And it also didn’t help that this postponement e-mail was sent to Original Backers only and not to everyone who purchased tickets. To make matters worse, the postponement e-mail was not sent out BCC, and ended up revealing the personal e-mail addresses of many Original Backers, myself included. So if there was someone whose inbox you wanted to constantly blow up with some bullshit that they didn’t want to read, you were in luck!
here is the email they send out. Pretty nondescript. pic.twitter.com/62pEEqO8F4— Jeremy Whitley @ MomoCon (@jrome58) April 20, 2018
So as everyone on Twitter talked among themselves about how and why this happened, they all waited for the official explanation to come from the organizers at Universal FanCon.
And they waited.
It wasn’t until midnight that the organizers at Universal FanCon finally came forward with an explanation/statement/FAQ as to why the postponement occurred. Some highlights, if you can even call them that:
Why are you postponing FanCon?
Currently we are in a financial deficit that will not allow us to operate the convention within budget. Accordingly, we have made the decision to postpone and reschedule FanCon so we can put forward the type of event our fans deserve.
Why did you wait so long to postpone the event?
The FanCon team worked really hard up to the last minute to put forward an amazing event. However, it became clear in our last team meeting that we would not be able to deliver the event the fans deserved without more time.
How long will the event be postponed?
Once we are able to fully assess our options, we will make an announcement.
Why didn’t you tell us sooner? I found out through Twitter/ my hotel / a friend / etc.?
Once we fully understood that we could not move forward, we immediately went into action in building proper communications, building our statement, and this FAQ so all of our guests, affiliates, backers, and attendees could be notified first. Notifications were set to go out the morning of April 20th. Unfortunately room cancellation emails went out to attendees in the FanCon room bloc before we could properly inform everyone the same day. We had no warning that the partner hotel would share their cancellation notice in this manner, and resulted in us having to scramble to get something out to everyone as quickly as possible.
When you have an event of this size, there are a lot of moving parts. There is a protocol and process that has to be followed in order to get the word out to everyone that is even remotely affected. Unfortunately we were forced to share basic detail as opposed to our full explanation as quickly as possible due to the abrupt nature of the hotel cancellations.
I just paid for a flight. What happens now?
We sincerely apologize for the efforts and resources that went into your travel arrangements when you had an expectation to be at this convention. We understand how much that hurts.
You may have options to recoup some costs-please contact your airliners directly as some will allow you to cancel your flight without penalty and/or use the ticket as credit towards future travel.
What happens to my hotel reservation?
If you booked with one of our partner hotels, your reservation may have already been cancelled. If you did not receive a cancellation notice or are unsure, please contact the partner hotel directly. If you booked with a different hotel or lodging service, please review your booking info and contact them directly.
Many hotels will allow for cancellations in advance of stay.
I took vacations days off of work already. What happens now?
We’re incredibly sorry that you have set time aside to take off for FanCon, and recognize that it may have been difficult to secure time-off in the first place.
Keep in mind that this was not the original statement/FAQ, because it was still being edited even after it was posted, largely because some of the original answers that were posted in response to the questions posed in the FAQ were…less than great.
To clarify: the picture on the right was published first. Then a correction was made— V. Vza Complex (@ValerieComplex) April 21, 2018
Not only did the original version state that all sales were final and that there would be no refunds (not for plane fare or hotel rooms), but it also stated that despite FanCon being cancelled, the Avengers: Infinity War screening that was originally hosted by FanCon was still a go, and that anyone planning to attend FanCon was welcome to attend the screening and receive further answers to their questions there.
THE ORGANIZERS REALLY THOUGHT THAT SEEING AN AVENGERS MOVIE WOULD MAKE UP FOR THE ENTIRE CONVENTION BEING CANCELLED?: 1) They seemingly did, until it was pointed out how foolish and tone-deaf it was to put that out there, as if it were anything resembling an appealing option. 2) When I say ‘organizers,’ I really just mean ‘organizer,’ as it seemed more and more obvious that Jamie Broadnax and only Jamie Broadnax had written the statement and the FAQ to explain herself.
They really invited everyone to still come see Infinity War tho. Like…really put that out there. "Yeah. Fancon is canceled. You aren't getting a dime back. But drive for 8 hours to come see a movie with us. Lol."— Ed @ WICOMICON (@itsedwilliams) April 21, 2018
👆🏽People have cause to slap the taste out your mouth for this.
WELL, WHERE WERE THE OTHER ORGANIZERS? WHY WEREN’T THEY EXPLAINING THEMSELVES AND APOLOGIZING FOR WHAT HAPPENED?: Don’t worry, I’m getting to that part.
For now, people were simply losing their shit over having to wait nearly all day and night for a reason as to why all of their time, money, and hard work had suddenly been flushed down the toilet, and the explanation they got did nothing to satisfy them or make them any less upset about what happened. Because none of this made any sense. And it also didn’t help that news of the postponement had largely been limited to Twitter and Facebook, so if you were planning to attend Universal FanCon and hadn’t been paying attention to all of the online discussion…well, the words ‘shit out of luck’ immediately spring to mind.
ALL RIGHT, SO JAMIE BROADNAX WAS THE ONE WHO APPARENTLY WAS WRITING AND THEN REWRITING THAT STATEMENT/EXPLANATION? WHERE WERE THE OTHER ORGANIZERS?:
The same day that news of the FanCon postponement broke on Twitter, Robert Butler, FanCon’s President and Executive Director, went on his Twitter page (@DarthGeekonius) that afternoon and posted a now-deleted thread of tweets apologizing and explaining how the hotel room reservations were unexpectedly cancelled and how the Hyatt Regency threw him and the other organizers for a loop, and left only one tweet remaining from that deleted thread insisting that he was to blame and that any anger and vitriol should be sent in his direction. As for Rob Gill, Director of Operations, the only thing he was willing to say and do on his Twitter page (@BigBabaRob) was ReTweet @UniversalFanCon saying that the event was postponed. Other than that…
…he has said absolutely nothing, not in his own defense or anyone else’s. And even people who were pissed at Jamie couldn’t help but notice that a Black woman was seemingly being left to twist in the wind while everyone else (specifically, her Black male colleagues) who were supposed to be standing besides her and shouldering the blame were either nowhere to be found or foolishly locking up their Twitter pages and going into hiding.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?: For some strange reason, Butler thought it was a good idea to not only lock his Twitter account, but also to change his profile pic to that of him looking like an evil Sith Lord, complete with red lightsaber and black hood.
Which probably isn’t the impression you want to give off when you’re accused of squandering people’s money and wasting their time by canceling the event that they were planning to attend. And after being called out all morning long, he finally unlocked his account and apologized for seemingly trying to get away from answering for his misconduct.
I apologize if anyone took my private tweets as me hiding. I put the initial thread out for some hours to offer some of my thoughts & apologies. Since then I have been actively looking for solutions and making calls. It wasn't to shut anyone out or to leave anyone out to dry.— Robert (@DarthGeekonius) April 21, 2018
I have no right to ask for your patience, or even understanding w/ this. Your anger & hurt is justified. Just know I'm looking for ways to lessen the blow to you all. And I also know words are hollow without action behind them, hence me making calls and trying to find solutions.— Robert (@DarthGeekonius) April 21, 2018
I have some thoughts I need to gather about this #FanCon #Universalfancon business. They're about inclusion, gatekeeping and cliques. Until then, keep this in mind. The men involved in this are hiding. @DarthGeekonius and @BigBabaRob while @JamieBroadnax takes the beating.— Asher (@ashermaj) April 22, 2018
They're going to do the thing that cowardly men do where they let a woman take the beating from the justifiably livid mob, and then reappear when people have worked their ire out. I am a nobody in this space, but I am loud and I do not like bullshit. THIS IS BULLSHIT.— Asher (@ashermaj) April 22, 2018
If Jamie Broadnax has to face the music, they do too.— Asher (@ashermaj) April 22, 2018
If Jamie Broadnax has to have her skeletons exposed, they do too.
If Jamie Broadnax has to end up in court, they do too.
We are not going to do that thing where we beat up on the woman and leave the men alone.#UniversalFanCon
And when it came to the organizers attempting to shift blame on to the hotels for cancelling reservations out of the clear blue sky without telling anyone, at least one person called bullshit on all of it:
Here’s a hot take on the Universal FanCon from someone who has worked in the hotel industry for four years: the only way that a hotel can drop a block of rooms is if payment in full is not received by the deadline outlined in the contract. That’s it.— Elizabeth Vlasoff of The Fandomentals (@ohemgeelizabeth) April 20, 2018
For an event this large, planned this far ahead, there is always something in the contract that protects the client from exactly what FanCon is claiming happened. Usually with financial compensation if it’s the hotel that breaches contract.— Elizabeth Vlasoff of The Fandomentals (@ohemgeelizabeth) April 20, 2018
Here’s what I think happened. The con defaulted on the deposit for the hotel, the hotel notified them that they must pay the balance or lose the room block, and after a grace period the block was cancelled because there was no money to hold the rooms prior to guest arrival.— Elizabeth Vlasoff of The Fandomentals (@ohemgeelizabeth) April 20, 2018
My guess is that’s what happened with the entire event. The organizer mentions drained bank accounts, and yea. That’s why the hotel cancelled your event. They didn’t just decide they were allergic to money, they decided you didn’t have it and so they are collecting it elsewhere.— Elizabeth Vlasoff of The Fandomentals (@ohemgeelizabeth) April 20, 2018
My greatest sympathies go out to vendors and fans who paid for plane tickets or other non-refundable travel expenses. That’s awful and I hope you’re able to recoup some of that cost. If you were going to attend, maybe put that money towards a vendor’s patreon or store!— Elizabeth Vlasoff of The Fandomentals (@ohemgeelizabeth) April 20, 2018
Lastly: it’s a small blessing the hotel notified guests of the cancellation, because otherwise they might not have found out until they arrived like with DashCon.— Elizabeth Vlasoff of The Fandomentals (@ohemgeelizabeth) April 20, 2018
There was also this thread which called into question how much money was being spent to hold Universal FanCon at the Baltimore Convention Center:
They were having that Universal Fan Con here in Baltimore at our only CC. The Kickstarter raised 60k. With personal donations & sponsorships covering the rest. That CC has 4 floors - depending on which floor they went for - it could’ve ran between $250k-to about $675k— James Amos (@seabethree) April 21, 2018
I only know this because our church uses that CC for convocations. And of course my bossy self is on the planning committee😂😂😂 Convention Center’s are huge cash cows for municipalities.— James Amos (@seabethree) April 21, 2018
An idea of that size and magnitude costs MILLIONS. And something that size should be quadrennial (every 4 years) until you are sure you can sustain it annually.— James Amos (@seabethree) April 21, 2018
DAMN! SO WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THE FOLLOWING DAY? WERE THERE ANY SIGNS OR INDICATIONS THAT THINGS COULD GET BETTER?: Unfortunately, no. Because…
1) It was soon revealed that one of the organizers of Universal FanCon was a man named Thai Pham. And it soon became even more clear as to why Universal FanCon turned into a complete and total mess.
So, Thai Pham who was until today listed as VP of Conventions Operation and Entertainment on the #FanCon site actually has a history of running kickstarters for cons that never happen.— Jaz (@jazmine_joyner) April 21, 2018
Thai Pham ran kickstarter for $15,000 to run an LGBTQ convention in Anaheim. Which was then cancelled, with no refunds for backers. https://t.co/C8Lq4Uw9U7— Jaz (@jazmine_joyner) April 21, 2018
In his #FanCon bio Thai Pham mentioned that he had arranged a convention that brought over acts from Asia which sounds a lot like the cancelled 2015 Akihabara Con 👀— Jaz (@jazmine_joyner) April 21, 2018
Akihabara Con was sponsored by an “Asian investor” and run by “Michael Pham” after selling tickets and promising multiple international acts the convention was cancelled due to accusations of the CEO misappropriating funds https://t.co/QMgpzPT2qF— Jaz (@jazmine_joyner) April 21, 2018
And 2) Later that day, Jamie Broadnax finally decided to post her own personal statement/apology/explanation on BlackGirlNerds.com. And that only resulted in people going from confused/disappointed/sympathetic and understanding to Jamie’s plight to furious and pissed the fuck off.
In lieu of posting a screenshot statement, as a matter of accessibility, I’m linking this full statement which I know will not remedy what has been done, but will hopefully be a step in rebuilding trust— Jamie Broadnax (@JamieBroadnax) April 21, 2018
Jamie Broadnax Statement on Universal Fan Con https://t.co/KLj5ZGzK5o
Some more highlights for your reading pleasure:
I am Jamie Broadnax, the founder of Black Girl Nerds and a member of Universal Fan Con.
HOLD UP! I’M SORRY TO INTERRUPT, BUT JUST STOP RIGHT THERE, PLEASE!: All right.
JAMIE IS A MEMBER OF UNIVERSAL FANCON? I THOUGHT SHE WAS ONE OF THE CO-FOUNDERS: She is or was, and identified herself as co-founder of Universal FanCon in her Twitter bio and on her pages for Facebook and LinkedIn.
BUT NOW SHE’S JUST A MEMBER? LIKE HOW MARK ZUCKERBERG IS A MEMBER OF FACEBOOK?: Apparently so. And also…ouch!
MMMM-HMMM! ANYWAY, PLEASE CONTINUE WITH THESE ‘HIGHLIGHTS:’ All right.
…I was brought on Director of Community Outreach for the FanCon Organization. My role was to spread the word and be a public facing liaison for the organization. I lent my brand Black Girl Nerds and invested my social capital into the mix which allowed for a large network of nerds and geeks to be exposed to this new event. I also leveraged my relationships with brands, studios, and celebrities to get them onboard and co-sign on this fan convention.
As I was working to spread the mission of Universal Fan Con, I did not involve myself with financial or legal matters. To be frank — I didn’t know what was coming in nor what was going out. I didn’t sign any contracts. And in hindsight, I realize that this should have been a major priority. However, I acknowledge that in hindsight, that does not remedy the aftermath. On April 3, a bomb was dropped on me about our finances. I was shocked that outstanding bills were not paid and that the likelihood of FanCon would be no longer.
I help oversee our Affiliates team — our team of bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, etc who are the cheerleaders that have helped to spread the word of Universal Fan Con. We discussed having an emergency Go Fund Me and I even created a video as a last-ditch effort. I was reluctant and didn’t like how it would look that I was being asked to be the face of the video, but I went with it anyway. However, I guess I was positioned as the leader and representative of the fandom community, and I recorded a video about our need for funds. After we had our meeting with Affiliates, most agreed a Go Fund Me would be a good idea. I had a secondary meeting with the FanCon board and we decided rather than putting the onus on fans and asking for money which we already did during the Kickstarter, I agreed that we should try to find ways to scale down the size of the space and try to defray costs. I also worked with a sponsor at the last minute to help us out that provided a generous donation that I thought would have us in a better position.
48 hours ago, I found out that we owed more money and that there was no way to run this con with the debt that was owed. I called the team myself and requested an emergency board meeting to discuss what we need to do and what went wrong. As it turns out there was a balloon budget that would make it impossible to run this convention by Friday, April 27. I was sick to my stomach, devastated and I’m still in shock by all of this because at the time I thought FanCon was okay. I had a press coverage meeting with my team a few days before and I was prepping my schedule as to what we plan to cover at the event. I was completely blindsided by this news and frankly still don’t understand what happened.
I owed more due diligence to the community and I did not know what was happening behind the scenes in terms of contracts and financials. I made assumptions that I thought were okay and that’s not how you run a business. I put my faith into others who were subject matter experts in various areas and assumed that everything was a well-oiled machine. I put my personal name and brand of Black Girl Nerds on Universal Fan Con knowing this would be a success and would help more Black women, fans of color, and so many marginalized groups get the opportunity to have a platform where they can see themselves reflected and feel represented.
All of you trusted me, I’m certain many of you decided to purchase your ticket and/or financially support this event because of me. And I understand completely that I have let you down. I have started meetups at DragonCon, San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con and opened it up to the community to participate. Communities that I have built a rapport with for years and online communities I’ve helped to build were a part of this mission. In no way, shape or form would I ever want to jeopardize what I have spent years building and creating and compromising many nights of sleep over, just to cash in on a few bucks. I worked for Universal Fan Con as a volunteer. I was never paid but was promised part of the profits.
My statement, recollection of events, and acknowledgment of responsibility will, unfortunately, do nothing for those who have requested time off, put their livelihoods in jeopardy, and spent money on travel, lodging, registration and more. I am personally devastated to have broken the trust of my community. I know that only time and concrete resolutions will regain your trust and I am prepared to work toward that and to honor that truth.
SO….I….BUT…HMMMM: Yeah, I know. I know.
CAN I HAVE SOME OF THAT LIQUOR YOU WERE JUST POURING FOR YOURSELF?: Sure, why not? I have plenty of it as I sit here and try to piece all of this together.
ALL RIGHT. SO…JAMIE IS REALLY TELLING US THAT SHE LENT HER BLACK GIRL NERDS BRAND, HER CREATION, HER BRAINCHILD, AND ALL OF THE INFLUENCE AND VISIBILITY THAT COMES WITH IT, TO PUTTING THIS CONVENTION TOGETHER? AND SHE WAS PAYING NO ATTENTION TO ANYTHING FINANCIAL ABOUT IT OR HOW THE MONEY WAS BEING USED?: (sighs) All signs point to ‘Yes.’
HOW THE FUCK DID SHE JUST LET HERSELF GET BLINDSIDED LIKE THIS? ALL OF THESE PEOPLE DONATED SO MUCH MONEY, AND THEY SPENT EVEN MORE TO BUY TICKETS! HOW COULD SHE NOT KEEP HER EYE ON THE BALL FOR A CONVENTION THAT WAS JUST GETTING STARTED? THAT SHE WAS HELPING GET STARTED?: Like she said, she trusted the wrong people. And she was just a volunteer.
A VOLUNTEER?! A VOLUNTEER WHO STILL EXPECTED TO RECEIVE SOME OF THE PROFITS IF UNIVERSAL FANCON WAS A SUCCESS? REALLY?!: Yeah….I don’t know what else to tell you.
WELL, TELL ME THIS. IS IS TRUE THAT SOMEONE DONATED FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS TO THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN TO HELP FANCON GET OFF THE GROUND?: Unfortunately, that is true.
….REALLY?! THAT WASN’T JUST SOME BULLSHIT?: Not according to this tweet:
I…I JUST…WOOOOW!!!!: Yeah, that about sums it up. And then there’s also this:
I shelled out $2,362.18 to build a civic engagement booth for #UniversalFanCon that would allow participants to register to vote, recruit their networks and other civic engagement activities— L. Joy Williams (@ljoywilliams) April 20, 2018
SO…HOW DID THE REST OF TWITTER RESPOND TO JAMIE’S STATEMENT, AND TO ALL OF THIS ADDITIONAL INFORMATION COMING TO LIGHT?: You know what? I’ll let the rest of Twitter answer that question for you.
Everyone who was in some type of leadership or higher-up or organizing role for #FanCon is stating that they either didn't know what was happening with the money or didn't know where it was going. pic.twitter.com/31wiJo8RNJ— Clarkisha Kent: Dragger of Scammers @ WICOMICON ✈️ (@IWriteAllDay_) April 21, 2018
This statement just says "I didn't know wtf was going on" in six different ways and…it just isn't a good look because:— Clarkisha Kent: Dragger of Scammers @ WICOMICON ✈️ (@IWriteAllDay_) April 21, 2018
a. people trusted you.
b. If you are going to basically be the FACE of something, you MUST demand to be kept up-to-date on business dealings.#FanCon pic.twitter.com/MnSxJC9cew
You know why? Because at the end of the day, YOU put your FACE (and by extension, all your social capital and good will) on this thing and if it were to blow up (which it did), you had more to lose here.— Clarkisha Kent: Dragger of Scammers @ WICOMICON ✈️ (@IWriteAllDay_) April 21, 2018
It's just that simple.#FanCon pic.twitter.com/5XnlTxBjGA
You go from Co-Founder to Member.— 𝓈𝒾𝑔𝓃𝑒𝒹, 𝒸𝓎𝓃𝓉𝒽𝒾𝒶 𝒻. (@cynfinite) April 22, 2018
You say you were working as a volunteer.
You said you found out it was impossible run the con 48 hrs ago but learned about the disaster in finances on April 3rd, which highkey made it impossible THEN, tbqh…
Because that shows that you are not capable of leading. It shows that when you had opportunity to consider your supporters, community, and "legacy", you thought poorly. So poorly, that it clouded your good judgement, if you had it to begin with.— 𝓈𝒾𝑔𝓃𝑒𝒹, 𝒸𝓎𝓃𝓉𝒽𝒾𝒶 𝒻. (@cynfinite) April 22, 2018
And to roll your poor decision making into a con you have no skills to run? To risk people's money like that?— 𝓈𝒾𝑔𝓃𝑒𝒹, 𝒸𝓎𝓃𝓉𝒽𝒾𝒶 𝒻. (@cynfinite) April 22, 2018
People who are not making six figures? Who live paycheck to paycheck? Who sometimes rely on gofundme's to help pay rent & buy food? People who struggle to SURVIVE? Bruh.
Jamie said she was "brought on" as the Director of Community Outreach, but this article shows that she's clearly a Co-Founder. A title she's desperately trying to steer away from. #FanCon #UniversalFanconhttps://t.co/WNSB86mCsT pic.twitter.com/Odpy3Jwj15— Shanti 🐻🏒🏳️🌈 (@Rashantitty) April 22, 2018
First off, the fact that we STILL ain’t got answers about who was in charge of money, where the KS, merch and ticket sale money is… pic.twitter.com/y7MhSfEe6A— Tanya Killmonger (@cypheroftyr) April 23, 2018
Now it is entirely shitty that Broadnax got left alone to take these lumps. But me? I’d be telling on everyone. Like this is who was responsible for money, getting celebs right etc.— Tanya Killmonger (@cypheroftyr) April 23, 2018
I could pile on and say how ridiculous it is that they’re expecting people to believe there will be another con, but I think they’re trying to extend the time so they can file bankruptcy.— shuri’s laboratory assistant (@heycheyennehey) April 21, 2018
There is no more money. Non-refundable costs for venues and hotels ate that. There will be no refunds because there is no money to give. It’s gone.— shuri’s laboratory assistant (@heycheyennehey) April 21, 2018
If everybody who bought a ticket for #UniversalFanCon can hold onto their ticket for the “rescheduled” event…where is the money coming from for the “next event”?— Darth Kriss (@insanityreport) April 21, 2018
You didn’t have money for this event and now are promising a new event with…even less revenue coming in? pic.twitter.com/BC5Ef8uV3h
what i wish the organizers of #FanCon would realize is:— Jenifer Daniels, APR (@jentrification) April 21, 2018
* the statement is unacceptable
* your respective brands are now damaged
* others planning Cons will be impacted (Wakandacon)
* future Kickstarters from folks #onhere will be scrutinized unnecessarily
y'all, fix this
Jamie, these statements are in contradiction to what it said on your LinkedIn, which was that you were in executive leadership and that you oversaw all final decisions made by the executive team. It’s really hard to square those claims with these. @JamieBroadnax pic.twitter.com/79KhlllE9y— wikipedia brown & the case of the missing chill (@eveewing) April 24, 2018
@JamieBroadnax you have had a lot of opportunities at this point to reflect and think carefully about what you want to say, and a lot of people who trusted you and looked up to you are calling on you to be honest but these statements are still contradictory.— wikipedia brown & the case of the missing chill (@eveewing) April 24, 2018
so…I honestly don’t think they were trying to scam. Everything seems like they bit off way more than they could chew and just had no idea what they were doing. https://t.co/40laBx9rdk— Darth Kriss (@insanityreport) April 21, 2018
So let’s jump into it. I came onboard as a volunteer to help them with their programming since I had experience in working for cons and programming and panels for over five years and they decided at first to put someone in charge of programming had never done it before— Kayla Marie - Hawkeye's Hospice (@Maria_Giesela) April 21, 2018
Well as someone that has worked for conventions before and put together panels I started asking the necessary questions about questions for panelists: getting there speaker passes, flights, hotels and every time we were met with well we have to wait to see— Kayla Marie - Hawkeye's Hospice (@Maria_Giesela) April 21, 2018
I too found out like everyone else yesterday that things were postponed and I call bullshit because there’s no way that you knew a week out that you were not able to pull this together and I put my life on hold for year and a half to help you because I believe in the mission— Kayla Marie - Hawkeye's Hospice (@Maria_Giesela) April 21, 2018
Now I may lose friends for speaking out about this but I just don’t feel that it’s right to be as flippant in your statement to people that backed you, myself included, I don’t want my $10 you can keep it— Kayla Marie - Hawkeye's Hospice (@Maria_Giesela) April 21, 2018
Staff got screwed, attendees got screwed and affiliates got screwed. And it’s unacceptable.— Kayla Marie - Hawkeye's Hospice (@Maria_Giesela) April 21, 2018
And believe me when I tell you: That is only just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how Twitter responded.
It wasn’t long before other writers and podcasters who were affiliated with Universal FanCon (or who had known and crossed paths with Jamie before) and were planning to lend their support in various ways began to distance themselves from Jamie, the convention, and its organizers as much as possible.
For the record…. pic.twitter.com/oFLg0B5XtD— NNN (@NerdgasmNoire) April 22, 2018
Nerds of Prey’s Official Statement Regarding Universal FanCon https://t.co/XLhFtYwbgc— Nerds of Prey (@nerdsofpreycast) April 21, 2018
I feel in the midst of folks legit anger about #UniversalFanCon, its been a situation where while the blame should most definitely land squarely on @DarthGeekonius @BigBabaRob @JamieBroadnax and others, alot of people have also been unfairly taking blame.— Blerd Dipset @WICOMICON (@3BlackGeeks) April 25, 2018
When you have people who are handling the money behind the scenes telling you everything is still gonna happen, you figure things were being handled.— Blerd Dipset @WICOMICON (@3BlackGeeks) April 25, 2018
So you can imagine how much of a gut punch it was to hear about the convention being canceled by other people before we even got the official email stating it was canceled. #UniversalFanCon— Blerd Dipset @WICOMICON (@3BlackGeeks) April 25, 2018
All three of us were in that meeting for a smooth 30 minutes before we just decided to be done with it. 15 minutes of it was me(CJ) basically saying that they need to be straightforward with folks on what happened cause of the goodwill that was lost.— Blerd Dipset @WICOMICON (@3BlackGeeks) April 25, 2018
All 3 of us ultimately are in "No Fucks Given" mode on this situation cause none of the higher up folks are stepping up to take responsibility and own up to it. #FanCon— Blerd Dipset @WICOMICON (@3BlackGeeks) April 25, 2018
We’ll just get right down to it. MEGASheen was brought on as an affiliate for #UniversalFanCon. We were honored to be a part and in the same group as a lot of our fellow blerds. We thought by lending our voice we could help bring more QPoC together.— MEGASheen (@MEGASheenpod) April 21, 2018
When the news broke we literally found out the same time as everyone else. We’re frustrated, disappointed , angry, and upset. We believed in the original mission. We believe that QPoC could be in a safe space among our fellow blerds.— MEGASheen (@MEGASheenpod) April 21, 2018
We know folks scraped together monies they didn’t have to the Kickstarter, for travel arraignments, for spending money. There’s not enough words to describe how sorry we are. And that’s not what we, MEGASheen wants to be identified as.— MEGASheen (@MEGASheenpod) April 21, 2018
To all the vendors, cosplayers, artists, Twitter friends, we are extremely sorry it ended this way. We understand the anger, resentment, and everything else you’re feeling and are right there with you. We’ll all get through this but it right now it hurts so much to even talk.— MEGASheen (@MEGASheenpod) April 21, 2018
Before the weekend was over, many of the writers and contributors for Black Girl Nerds had submitted their resignations and announced them on their personal Twitter pages. Despite some of them being reluctant and unwilling to speak out due to them fearing the possibility that Jamie could or would use her remaining influence to have them blacklisted at any other publications or companies, those departing writers soon learned that they had plenty of support in their corner. Twitter immediately began to spread the word that there were many talented writers who were no longer working for Black Girl Nerds and looking for work elsewhere, and that if anyone was able to hire them, they’d be wise to do so.
[THREAD] Here’s a list of BGN writers who’ve left today who are looking to freelance. Please take a look, hit them up, read their clips and hire these talented Black girls!— joi (@jumpedforjoi) April 23, 2018
There are a slew of amazing writers, podcaster, and media critics in this thread. Every website that covers geek shit should hire at least one. There is NO EXCUSE for you not to have a black woman contributor, anymore. https://t.co/Z0xb6Zrv5s— K Tempest Bradford is longing for Wakanda (@tinytempest) April 24, 2018
Worried about being blacklisted after BGN? Hi, hello, I have no problem helping you connect with other outlets to get your platform built so you can pay that threat dust.— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) April 22, 2018
My timeline is full of writers worried about their future after departing Black Girl Nerds following the #FanCon disaster. If that’s you, I’d like to hear from you. I’m going to open my DMs.— Jacob Hall (@JacobSHall) April 23, 2018
I see a lot of good writers looking for an outlet today. The Beat is looking for new writers! Reviews, news, recaps, convention coverage. Write to me at comicsbeat at https://t.co/DY1NreleId— Heidi MacDonald (@Comixace) April 23, 2018
Hey, Black Girl Nerds! If you are a black non male blogger/writer looking for different platforms to share your writing you should consider https://t.co/u4ue811XIz. We pay for featured print articles, we offer swag, we get press access to #NYCC etc.#Fancon #Universalfancon— Fabulize Magazine! (@FabulizeMag) April 23, 2018
Just want to make clear that I haven’t been blacklisted by anyone from BGN. But I know people who are fearful about it. I made it out and I know you will too. https://t.co/Fabx5reec3— joi (@jumpedforjoi) April 22, 2018
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW? OR WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN?: What I can say with absolute certainty is that the Black Girl Nerds brand has been severely damaged because of this Universal FanCon fiasco, and that Jamie Broadnax’s reputation and career may never be the same. Too many people and their livelihoods were horribly affected by the decisions being made behind the scenes, and the fact that there has been and continues to be little to no honesty or accountability only guarantees that the many bridges that Jamie helped build with so many others, especially Black women and Women Of Color on Twitter who met her, worked with her, trusted her, have been burned beyond repair. And those who are still standing by her side and defending her while claiming that others are being too harsh and unforgiving towards Jamie would do well to remember all of this instead of believing that her feelings take precedence over everyone and everything else.
As of this writing, Jamie appeared once more on Twitter and after extending additional apologies for hurting and betraying so many people, she announced that she would be stepping down from her position as Editor-In-Chief of Black Girl Nerds, and that someone else would take over in running daily operations.
Hey everyone. Poking my head out here to tell you that I deeply apologize for what transpired to everyone that has been impacted by Universal Fan Con. This includes Kickstarter backers, exhibitors, guests, registered ticket holders and the affiliates associated with the event— Jamie Broadnax (@JamieBroadnax) April 23, 2018
However, I am responsible for so many of you in the Blerd community and other marginalized communities being participants of this event. It is because of me and the brand of BGN that you had faith and trust in this convention and shared the vision of being in a safe space…— Jamie Broadnax (@JamieBroadnax) April 24, 2018
I, just like you am frustrated about what has taken place and the fact that I did not consider how much of an impact and damage this would bring the writers and women affiliated with BGN as well as the affiliates of FanCon and their respective communities…— Jamie Broadnax (@JamieBroadnax) April 24, 2018
I don’t know enough information about what Universal Fan Con is doing about next steps, but while I’m away, I am doing the best I can with the knowledge that I have to find out what happened.— Jamie Broadnax (@JamieBroadnax) April 24, 2018
DO YOU THINK IT’S POSSIBLE FOR THE BLACK GIRL NERDS BRAND TO OVERCOME THIS AND MAKE A COMEBACK?: Before I answer that, I think it’s obvious to everyone (or at the very least, it should be obvious to everyone) that the people who have been hurt emotionally and financially from all of this, and how they will be able to recover in the days and weeks to come, are of far greater importance than the Black Girl Nerds brand and whether or not it can pick itself up and dust itself off. That being said, to answer the original question:
I would say ‘no,’ but…Starbucks seems to be working hard to overcome its most recent controversy and make sure that something such as that never happens again (and as horrible as this sounds, it doesn’t hurt that the recent mass shooting at a Waffle House in Nashville, the wrongful arrest of a young African-American woman named Chikesia Clemons at another Waffle House location in Saraland, Alabama, and the Twitter account for Waffle House stating that the arrest was an appropriate one have all taken some attention away from what Starbucks was originally in trouble for), the Alamo Drafthouse theaters are still as popular and successful as ever, despite the fact that its CEO spent over a decade overlooking incidents of sexual assault and harassment and sweeping them under the rug, while also secretly employing someone who was recently accused of sexual assault, so who the hell knows? Anything is possible. And if enough work is done to restore the trust and prove to everyone, specifically Black women and Women Of Color, that Black Girl Nerds from this point on will be completely different from how Black Girl Nerds used to be, it could possibly return to something resembling its former glory. It’s not guaranteed to happen. But it is possible.
Apologies are not work. They precede work.— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) April 11, 2018
These last few days have also proven two things:
1) There have been Black female nerds before Jamie Broadnax created Black Girl Nerds, and that there always will be Black female nerds long after Black Girl Nerds becomes a distant memory. No one person or group should act as gatekeeper in making others feel or believe that there is one way for Black women to be nerds, and that there should be only one way for Black female nerds to come together, express their love and appreciation for the people and things that they care about, and also create content that will inspire and entertain others, especially Black girls and Black women, so that they know they’re not alone and that they’re just as capable of achieving greatness just like anyone else.
2) The community of Black nerds and of Black creatives is a brilliant and powerful community, and it can and will survive and overcome any hardship sent in its direction. It certainly wasn’t easy or pleasant to realize that the person/organization that brought so many of them together and gave them a sense of acceptance ended up betraying them and causing them so much pain and confusion. But they were able to come together, figure out what was needed and who needed help, and they did what they could to recover from this series of unfortunate events and let each other know that they were here for each other, that there were other things to do and other places to go where they could meet up, connect, hang out, network, and develop friendships and relationships that would only make their community a stronger and more successful one.
I am 100% not involved with or affiliated with #UniversalFanCon, but since I know what it means to have such a late cancellation for vendors & performers, if you tweet me your store, patreon etc links I will boost them. Add in pics, show off your work & hopefully make some money— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) April 20, 2018
.@Karnythia has the right idea. If you were going to speak at, table at, or perform at #UniversalFanCon, tweet me all your links and pics as well. I'll boost them as best as I can. And who knows, hopefully you can network with someone in my mentions. pic.twitter.com/VzOTVadyZZ— Clarkisha Kent: Dragger of Scammers @ WICOMICON ✈️ (@IWriteAllDay_) April 20, 2018
So #UniversalFancon decided LAST minute to cancel their show. Which I was suppose to be tabling at. I am out a lot of money. Would love if you guys would check out my online shops! I have Prints and Enamel Pins for sale!! https://t.co/wwmNUcwR8h— RootisTabootus (@RootisTabootus) April 21, 2018
I was a cosplay guest at #UniversalFanCon & the money earned there would have helped pay for my ♿️repairs, medical care & bills so this bad news has hit me pretty hard. Any donations or signal boosts are appreciated, thank you <3 https://t.co/3mWPKR3h7k https://t.co/nJRY9M1Dq8 pic.twitter.com/aQSV2CUamB— [email protected] ♿🇯🇲🏳️🌈 (@thatjayjustice) April 20, 2018
Due to #universalfancon now being postponed, here's my online store so you guys can still by prints even if it's not in person! All the sales will drastically help me recoup some of the costs I lost due to what has happened!! https://t.co/lk1KNY56nF— [email protected] (@Akakioga) April 20, 2018
Other (minority-inclusive) cons you can attend in 2018 that aren't #UniversalFanCon:— 24/30 Videos Posted. Check 'Em Out! (@Blerdabytes) April 22, 2018
- @BlerdCity [7/13]
- @BlerdConDC [7/27]
- @TxLatinoComics [7/28]
- @Wakanda_Con [8/3]
- @FlameCon [8/18]
- @ONYXCONtruth [8/24]
- @SPXComics [9/15]
- @GeekGirlCon [10/27]
- @IndigenousCon [11/2]
Yesterday was a disappointing day for many in our unique fandom. It is our hope that @UniversalFanCon will have a future should its fans want it to. But in the present we hope the below letter, and offer in it, can help ease the pain of this unfortunate situation. #GetURGeekOn! pic.twitter.com/5YeCsTVozS— Philly Comic Con! (@PHLCC) April 21, 2018
I’m seeing this idea that folks are scared to share their plans for events, cons, patreons because #FanCon blew up. DON’T BUY INTO THIS!— Kahlief gon’ give it to ya (@Kahjahkins) April 22, 2018
-Be detailed in your plan
-As much as you can, keep ppl in the loop
-Acknowledge mess ups & correct them
It's a small gesture, but for folks affected by the cancellation of Universal #FanCon, @FlameCon and @GeeksOUT are offering a free Sunday pass. It's in New York in August, but it's the best damn queer con in the world, and AGGRESSIVELY intersectional. pic.twitter.com/xP4vLDEfcg— Amber Garza (@AmberHardFemme) April 23, 2018
There will be more information to come in the following days and weeks about Universal FanCon. About the people who tried and failed to organize it successfully, about the people who were looking forward to attending it, only to find out that there would be nothing to attend (including the screening of Avengers: Infinity War, as that was recently cancelled with little to no advance notification)…
…and about the people who decided to speak their truth about their history with Black Girl Nerds and how the person who ran it proved that she was not to be trusted.
But for now, hopefully this post will answer any questions you have about the catastrofuck that was Universal FanCon. Any other answers that you’re looking for, Twitter will most definitely provide the rest.
Header Image Source: Universal FanCon
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