Learn About the Black and Queer Owned Anime Convention Coming Early 2024

Learn about the anime convention that's being put together for Black and queer people, by Black and queer people

One of the best aspects of the anime community is the unity. And there’s no better example of this unity than a convention.

Angelo Williams and his fiancé Terry Alexander are part owners of Otaku Detroit. A manga, anime, and Japanese confectionery shop located in Novi. After moving into the area, Angelo and his partner struggled to find places that sold pieces of Japanese pop culture. So, they decided to be the solution to their problem and opened their shop soon after. Over the past three years of business, they’ve quickly established themselves as a fixture in the alt and nerd community in southeast Michigan. Being both Black and queer. the two of them have made sure that their store is a safe place for those like them. That mindset has also translated to their events and pop-ups.

Angelo Williams (right) and his fiance Terry Alexander (left) in their store Otaku Detroit. Photo credit: Cody Yarbrough

“A little over two years ago, we started doing single-day anime conventions.” Williams told us during an interview, “Because ever since we’ve opened, people have been asking us if we plan on doing more events with the shop. We’ve done smaller events like Animal Crossing events, like Pokémon tournaments, and stuff like that. But everybody was asking us like, ’Hey, you know, we only really have like, one anime convention in the metro Detroit area. Are you guys going to do something?’

“So we thought, why not? A few years ago, and we did it. We got a bunch of local artists together. The video game company that we work with, they wanted to be a part of it as well. And we did our one-day shows at Beer Middle School in Warren and everybody enjoyed their time at those conventions.

“We started with like, maybe like two or 300 people who came to the first one, and then it was like 500, 800, and 900 at our last one. So we were starting to get overwhelmed a little bit. And a lot of people were asking, ’Hey, I think you can expand a little bit, go to a hotel, have maybe like a 3-day anime convention that we can go to.’

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“And that’s kind of how it all started. With IsshoCon, our main goal was to kind of create an inclusive environment. So that way, everybody can feel seen and to bring light to our underrepresented community. That’s kind of where our goal was after our first single-day show, we wanted to expand a little bit and give people a bigger convention to go to throughout the year.”

IsshoCon’s name comes from the Japanese word “issho” which means together, and togetherness is a theme that is just as important to Angelo and his collaborators as anime or cosplay. The uplifting Black and queer people can be seen throughout the convention lineup. From well-known voice actors like Zeno Robinson and Anairis Quiñones, to seasoned cosplayers like Clover Aura and Jade Aurora. Along with Black and LGBT solidarity, supporting the local creators is something deeply important to the owners of Otaku. Artists and from all over southeast Michigan will be in attendance in their artist hall, and local sponsors like Psychic Drive and Comix Wellspring will be backing them.

“I would say like all local support for this convention has been insane. Ever since we had our second single-day show, that’s when we were being asked heavily if we could expand to a 3-day convention, possibly get a hotel or a convention center. The support we’ve received, I can’t even begin to imagine, because when we started with like two, three hundred people at our first show and then at our last show ending with like 800-900 attendees in June was crazy. To see that middle school gym get packed as much as it was very cool. To see how our community can come together when we put something on.

”So one of our big goals is to kind of promote everybody local as we can because I know how it is to go to a convention and no one knows who you are. It’s hard to get your name out there, especially if you don’t have a big platform. So if we can shine a light on, local artists and local talent. If we can help other people out on our journey to become, one of the biggest anime conventions in the country, we would be happy to do that.”

The convention will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Novi from January 26th through the 28th, and the owners of Otaku Detroit have been working hard to make sure that IsshoCon is as big and as enjoyable as possible. Everything from gaming tournaments, to anime raves, to karaoke will be available over the 3-day period. Art, figures, posters, and all other kinds of anime memorabilia made by POC and queer creators will be sold in the vendors’ hall. And of course, the panels will be full of minority voices.
Angelo and his collaborators are excited to see all their conventions filled with lovers of anime and alternative culture. And to those feeling anxious and unsure about being around a large group of strangers, he has a message.

A wall of merch in Otaku Detroit. Photo credit: Cody Yarbrough

“Just give it a chance. We’ve had a lot of people who’ve come into the store who kind of feel a little ostracized from the community. And when they see an anime store, they’re not necessarily expecting it to be a welcoming environment. And that’s just anywhere. That’s not even just an anime store. You kind of have to take a gamble. Am I gonna be discriminated against based off of my skin color, who I am, my sexuality, my gender identity? So with our community, a lot of our customers have told us that the environment that we provide to them is a comfortable one. To where they don’t necessarily have to feel scared to come in here and scared to say, ‘Hey, I’m getting this for my fiancé or I’m getting this for myself.’

“We have Black and other POC staff members, panelists, artists, and vendors there as well. We have a bunch of queer people on staff who know what it’s like to, you be in an uncomfortable situation. Whether it be how you’re treated for your race or how you’re treated for your sexuality or your gender identity.

“We know how to handle those situations and we know how to make people feel comfortable and feel seen as well too. So my suggestion is just to give us a chance. If you can bite the bullet and make your way out here, I can promise you you’ll feel seen and you’ll feel welcome and we have plenty of panels and guests there that will make you feel celebrated.

“Just give us a try. You won’t be disappointed.”

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