In all industries there are pockets of hidden creators and leaders that help to shape the vision and future of the business. Most times you wouldn’t know they exist, as they are busy building monuments of brilliance. I spoke to one such creator, Maia Crown Williams, on her role in the comics and arts space, her convention focusing on black creatives and asked her for her thoughts on how to resolve some of the issues in geek and pop culture:
Who is Maia Crown Williams?
Maia Crown Williams is the fearless, shameless, bossy but sweet, busybody who needs more naps to stop popping off on social media trolls. She’s also the mother of a future doctor and scholar. The brotha is truly one of a kind, and severely loved by the comics/arts community.
What is MeccaCon? Who is MECCAcon?
Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts. The convention centers on black and indie comics, indie film, Afrofuturism, speculative fiction, science fiction, hip hop, fine arts, and more. The convention was established in 2013, and the the first event happened in September of 2014.
MECCAcon is my second born, under my sun, lol. While that might sound cliche, if you knew me well, you’d know that I treat her literally like she is my child. I birthed her, fed her, cuddled her, rocked her when she was upset, bandaged her when she was wounded, and more. She will be 5 yrs old this September. She’s bratty, loud, but has a huge heart. She has a lot of friends all over the country, as well as abroad.
What inspired you to create MeccaCon?
After working with another local convention for years on end, and contributing my time, resources, and energy, I decided it was time for me to do all of this for myself because, why not? I was working with a brotha here in Detroit for years, and decided that I could do it myself, basically, lol. It was a crazy and dramatic process. I received a LOT of backlash when I started MECCAcon. My name and business was slandered and smeared all up and down social media literally for the only reason that I had the nerve to try and do what they[other conventions] do. It was so insane, it was borderline humorous. It faded after a while, but then my convention started to grow, and it started all over again. Ego is a mofo.
Please share some of your history and background in the Black arts and comic book spaces.
I felt that with my talent and dire skill in organizing, I could do this on my own. I committed myself to accomplishing this, working day on end, and building a very strong network. It was and still to this day is a very hard thing to do, but it is also a passion. In January of 2016, I co-founded Black Speculative Arts Movement, and it grew into a global traveling convention. I’ve also been throwing comic book signings in local comic shops for almost 10 years now. I’ve networked heavily with many across the U.S. They are always fun and exciting to do, as well as give new creators that opportunity that they might not have previously gotten before working with me. My fave here in Detroit of course is all things Vault of Midnight. They have many locations across Michigan, and their staff is VERY warm and accepting of me, even when I drive them crazy, lol. Shout out to Curtis and Nick, they’re most definitely the MVPs of all of the things.
How has family (or close friends) influenced your love for the arts?
My mother was a very heavy influence. She surrounded me with African culture as well as my aunt. I was raised in the suburbs, so I believe they wanted to make sure that I always know regardless of my surroundings, I still needed to know SELF. She always kept me at various museums, galleries, and festivals, all year long. She took me to musicals and ballets, and it definitely encouraged my emphasis on blackness as I got older.
What are your ultimate passions and what drives you?
The youth is what drives me in full. I’m literally here for the babies, elementary, high school, and college. I’m here to help encourage and progress their creative minds by showing them creators of their own culture. My entire focus is on them. When I am working with others and see that that vision is fading, it is time for me to move on. I love adults, but that isn’t my center–the babies are.
What are your life philosophies? Any “words or ideals to live by”?
My motto is “Bloom where you’re planted”. It doesn’t matter where you were raised, what you went or are going through, there is always light. It might sound cliche, but it is what keeps me going.
What is currently lacking in pop culture/the geek community?
Support of smaller black conventions that have been around for decades, damn it, lol. Let’s start there. Do you know how hard we have to literally sit around and convince people to come to our events? I literally had someone trying to argue with me that they don’t go to black comic cons because there aren’t any in their area, yet when i went on her social media, they travel far and wide for predominantly white ones, even small ones. We literally have to sit here and convince people to support… SELF.
How do you think black women are viewed in this space?
The Help, lol. From a personal standpoint, I was literally looked at as the help, and on multiple occasions. I built conventions on my back, just to get credit pointed in every direction except for mine. I’ve also been sexually harassed, bullied, slandered, and more.
As far as [black women] creators, many have told me that they only get promoted when they are seen as an object of lust. If a brotha likes you in that way, you’ll get promoted to oblivion by the community. If not, well… yeah. This same thing goes for my conventions.
How do you encourage others to participate in group events/conventions?
I suggest that people learn to support black indie conventions. This includes the smaller ones, the ones without the glitz, the ones without the glamour.
Our readers often ask for advice into getting more involved in the industry–either as artists, writers or through other forms of creativity– what is your advice to them?
Social media and word of mouth are your best friends. There are so many fan pages on Facebook centered directly on the black comics, sci-fi, and speculative fiction industries. I prefer the women safe spaces, like “LeSean Thomas” and “State of Black Science Fiction” group pages the most. There literally is absolutely no drama on those accounts. I also get along very well with LeSean, Milton Davis, and Balogun Ojetade, the admins. All three are prolific brothas in their fields, and very accredited. They also make sure that the women who are members get the utmost respect, and I rock with that. Without Facebook, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. Twitter terrifies me, lol. I would log in, check my mentions and notifications, and dip right back off quietly. I also recommend having a website, even if just a WordPress. Make sure your work can be found, and in a professional manner.
Do you have a mentor/someone you look up to?
My mentor is my baba, Olayami Dabls, who is founder of the legendary MBAD/ABA African Bead Museum. He is one of by far my biggest inspirations when it comes to not only art, but African culture as a whole. He is globally known and respected, and took me under his wing quickly and efficiently. His museum is not only indoors, but also a very huge outdoor instillation as well, that spans building to building, as well as in the fields. It should be a requirement to see for anyone who comes to visit Detroit. Dabls is not only my mentor, he is also one of my greatest friends.
If you had the power to bring any entertainment project to life (i.e. a movie, tv show, animation, etc.) what would it be?
Hands down?? KID CARVERS! That needs to be picked up by Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, or Amazon STAT, family. KC centers around New Orleans twin detectives, Charley and Marley, and they’re just two AMAZING kids, flat out. They fight crime using science and mathematics (STEM), and i’m here for it! It’s also super heavy in culture, and i’m 100% here for Marley’s hairstyles. They’re the new generation of Billy Joe Jive and Sweet Suzie Sunset.
You can find Maia Crown Williams on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr at: @Meccacon. If you’re interesting in learning more about how to participate in MECCACon or the MECCACON Film Festival you can contact: AMONYETenterprises@gmail.com. The 2018/2019 MECCAcon season will include Portland, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and more.
The 5th Annual MECCACon will be on Sept 15 2018 at the Detroit Public Library. More info and tickets can be found at meccacon2018.eventbrite.com