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AfroCon is for all 'nerds,' no matter who you are

AfroCon is for all 'nerds,' no matter who you are

Board games have been bringing families together for years, ranging from everything from board-based word play games to strange, complex, card games with props.

The House of Afros, Capes and Curls started as a way for Omaha historian and teacher Jade Rogers to connect people who are transplants or live in different parts of the city.

“I wanted to bring people together to find out what they have in common,” she said. “A place where we can love, enjoy and celebrate all the nerdy things we are.”

Rogers has a special interest in tabletop games such as “Catan” and “Ticket to Ride,” so, in the beginning, she gathered people for game nights in her home. The group’s first major event was the premiere of “Black Panther” in 2018.

That got an overwhelming response, so Rogers created a nonprofit. It’s aimed especially at people of color because there wasn’t an outlet for them among people who are interested in “nerdy” pursuits such as sci-fi and fantasy gaming, role-playing, TV, movies and books.

The House, as Rogers refers to it, is presenting its third annual AfroCon — modeled after the legendary ComicCon in San Diego — this weekend. Like last year’s, it’s virtual. The first one was in 2019 at Metropolitan Community College.

Rogers herself gave the group its unusual handle, which speaks to her credentials as a self-proclaimed — and proud — “nerd.”

“The name of the group came from my love of ‘Game of Thrones’ and (British) Tudor history,” she said. “You have to have a house name, a house banner and a house motto.”

AfroCon grew out of the uncomfortable feeling Rogers got at similar conventions and her conviction that people of color are often excluded from nerd culture.

“For so long, there has been a stigma attached to being a nerd and another if you are a Black nerd,” she said. “Black people were marginalized even in groups of nerds.”

Rogers said she knows someone who played “Dungeons & Dragons” as a teen. He was the only person of color in his school and neighborhood, so he was playing with a White group.

He created a backstory for a Black elf, his chosen character, but his fellow players said he couldn’t do that because there was no such thing.

“So he played for years as a White character because they told him he couldn’t be a Black elf,” Rogers said.

In addition to giving nerds of color a safe space, she wants young people to know that if they have so-called nerdy interests, they can use that to their advantage.

If you love video games, for instance, you can turn your passion into a career by creating a game for profit. Same with comics and anime, though young people of color aren’t often pushed in that direction, she said.

AfroCon will address that with two presenters who are board game designers, Marcus Ross of Omaha and Eric Slauson. Both have games in stores and at Amazon.com.

Other sessions at the Saturday and Sunday event include meetups between fans of various pop culture topics as teen anime, “Star Trek,” magic, “Power Rangers” and more. There will also be storytelling and yoga, and each day begins with meditation.

Those who attend must have a ticket, ranging from $10 to $20 and available at afroconomaha.com. The event is geared toward all ages.

Rogers said speaking up about the lack of diversity in gaming has made a difference. “World’s Fair 1893,” a board game, was called out for having no Black characters, even though Black people were at the fair. That prompted the game’s manufacturer to add four people of color, she said, two men and two women, including journalist Ida B. Wells and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Omahans Miklos and Starla Fitch, who produce the YouTube show “Our Family Plays Games” with their teenage son, will present an AfroCon discussion about board games and bringing Black families into the hobby. They were instrumental in the effort to bring Black characters to “World’s Fair 1893.”

And lest you think you’re not a nerd and this doesn’t apply to you, think again.

“Even people who say, ‘I’m not a nerd,’ I say, ‘Do you read?’ ” she said. “I want to dispel the stigma around being a nerd.”


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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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