Griot Con 2021
Chad Eric Smith
On Saturday, September 26, 2020, an electrifying event, over a year in the making, was supposed to take place at the beautiful Civic Building at Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring, MD. The event is Griot Con, which aims to fuse the excitement and spectacle of a comic convention with the cinematic experience of an independent film festival. Of course, like most live events this year, it had to be pushed a year into the future due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, time is an illusion. So, Griot Con 2021 will be here in no time. Until then, what did two passionate storytellers do? We did what everyone else did. We went virtual.
Before I tell you about the success of our Virtual Kickoff and what our plans are for the Fall of 2021, let’s travel back to the beginning. Griot Con is the brainchild of William Jones of Afrofuturism Network and yours truly of MisterDuke Productions. The idea came to Will and me while we were sitting at Emmett O'Lunney's Irish Pub in New York City's Theater District on July 15, 2018. I remember the day distinctively because I thought it was clever to order a Manhattan cocktail while sitting in a bar in Manhattan. We had both traveled to NYC for Blerd City Con for a panel discussion on the various aspects of Afrofuturism and Black Speculative Fiction. Will was the moderator and I was one of three panelists. Prior to our panel discussion, Will and I met at that Irish Pub near Times Square and talked about ways we could work together. One of those ideas manifested itself a few days later when I produced the trailer for Will’s book The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King. The other idea was something we would have to mull over a bit, but was essentially the proposition of co-producing a convention/festival that combined his expertise and passion as a historian, writer, educator, and self-described “comic book geek” with my experience and zeal as an award-winning actor, screenwriter, film producer, and director.
We later met in Silver Spring, MD, to consider a location, a date, a venue, and, most importantly, an attention-grabbing name. Will thought of the name “Griot Con” right away and after about an hour and half of brainstorming other potential names, that’s the one we settled on. Griot perfectly summed up how we viewed ourselves and the value we place on storytelling. For those not familiar with the term, a “Griot” is the French name given to West African historians, storytellers, praise singers, poets, or musicians who maintain a tradition of oral history. “Storytellers Matter” became our tagline and it was off to the races.
After we announced our partnership and launched the Griot Con website, applications from excited prospective vendors and short films from filmmakers located all over the world began flooding in. And then it happened: the world was hit by a global pandemic. Suddenly, all our momentum came to a halt.
We made the shrewd decision to postpone Griot Con until September 25, 2021. In our press release announcing the news, we stated, “The physical health and peace of mind of attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and partners is a priority. We believe postponement will not only minimize health risks, but will allow us to recoup the momentum lost and ensure we are able to present the best and safest comic con & film festival possible.” But we didn’t want to fully disappoint those who had been looking forward to the event in 2020. So we decided to host a Virtual Kickoff on the day the inaugural Griot Con event was supposed to take place and welcomed special guests Greg Banks, V.R. McCory, Naseed Gifted, Bryan K. Turner, and Professor Griff of Public Enemy. Hundreds of people tuned in and for a little over 2 hours, we discussed the importance of storytelling, various creative projects we’re all working on, and our vision for the live event once large groups of people are finally allowed to convene like the good old days.
Watch our Virtual Kickoff!
Also, check out the official promo for Griot Con 2021!
We are now officially less than a year away from Griot Con 2021 and our excitement continues to grow. If you’re a comic book creator, author, filmmaker, or artisan, please visit www.griotcon.com to learn how you can get involved.
If you’d like to support Griot Con, monetary gifts of any amount are greatly appreciated and can be sent here: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/GriotCon. You can also apply to be a volunteer by CLICKING HERE.
“I am proud to be part of the movement that is aiding and allowing Black intelligence and creativity to flourish.” – William Jones, Co-Founder of Griot Con