In mid-June, the streets of D.C. are expected to be flooded with people dressed as their favorite cartoon character and toting their favorite paraphernalia from classic comic books, movies and television shows. That’s because AwesomeCon, dubbed Washington D.C. Comic Con will be taking place June 16-18.
The annual convention is usually packed with a long list of celebrity panels, endless exhibits and flashy after parties. However, a group of Black podcasters is hoping to have their own convention in the shadows of AwesomeCon at RFD Washington, a beer bar a six minute walk away from the convention center.
Called NegroCon, the event will include a live show co-hosted by The Movie Trailer Reviews Network, Where’s My 40 Acres and The Black Guy Who Tips; three Black independent podcasts shows that each provide a unique perspective through music, politics, sports and entertainment along with random thoughts.
Although NegroCon is the first live event hosted by the podcasts, it took years to create the groundwork for it. In recent years, the podcast game has transformed into one of the most popular forms of media. What originally started as a taboo audio trend among a more tech-savvy audience in its earlier years would soon become a the next big platform for not only covering news and topics, but creating a platform for new voices.
“I just want us to be served,” Karen Morrow, co-host of Black Guy Who Tips, told the AFRO. “[At first] I thought podcasting was White because when you go to iTunes or Stitcher, you are normally suggested a bunch of White shows…we’re so underserved…We are a people that are into everything, so if there’s one thing that shows that we’re into these things, I think that’s beautiful.”
The three podcasts were around during the platform’s early rise in the 2000s, establishing their voice through their shows while also building relationships with each other. Their consistent growth and development would soon snowball into a family-oriented digital community. “People want to hear our views or spoiler reviews on the same topic,” Kriss Carter, founder of the MTR Network and co-host of the Insanity Check podcast, told the AFRO. “[All three podcasts] cover the same topics, but there’s three different funny versions of covering that topic.”
The combination of comedy and news coverage was popular among Black Twitter for years, especially now with each podcaster exploding with a growing audience from their hilarious and informal tweets on the social platform, and is now reimagining a historic idea of entertainers for a Black audience knowing one another deeply: The Chitlin Circuit. “Honestly, it felt like family and we were all independent [with our own] backing, and it was mostly referred to our Blackness,” said Rod Morrow, co-host of The Black Guy Who Tips.
However, there were still ceilings to break and one would soon be an inspiration for NegroCon. All three podcasts were invited to be panelists at AwesomeCon in 2015 and 2016 (WM40 didn’t attend 2016), and with both normal fans and interested attendees present, they had packed rooms back to back. “We wasn’t ready. We do what we do and we know we have audiences and we see the numbers, but it’s a difference when you see [fans and these different podcasters], and they’re actually looking in your eye, having a conversation with you and actually telling you ‘I love what you do,” said Morrow.
With two years of large turnouts behind them, the three podcasters reached out with the hopes of doing a New York Comic Con and another AwesomeCon panel for 2017. Unfortunately, their idea was rejected. “At some point, everybody talks about diversity, inclusion and wanting more Black people this and more Black people that…but we’ll do this and independently to bring their own fan base,” said Carter.
Although AwesomeCon didn’t work out, the moment inspired the three to do their own event, their way. The three podcasts always thought of doing a live show, but when the opportunity came up, they took advantage of it. Carter set the groundwork in D.C. by finding the venue for the show and all three podcasts promoted and worked on what the live show would sound like. The day tickets went on sale they immediately sold out.
With so much anticipation for the first NegroCon, all three podcasts have their own idea of what they’re doing. However, the overall message is to tear the walls down with laughter and push the idea of being Black-owned and independent as podcasters. “I don’t know what to expect,” said Phenom Black, host of Where’s My 40 Acres. “[It’s going to be] way more intimate, way more immersive, and way more f*cking savage.
It may be there first, but there’s already talks of doing another due to the outstanding turnout. “There’s so much we could do with NegroCon,” Carter said.