BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Kami-Con packs more fun than one could have in a single day, and more costumes than one could make in a lifetime, into the BJCC every year.
On its website, Kami-Con bills itself as Alabama’s largest conventions in the realms of cosplay, pop culture, anime, comics, and gaming. And for all of these things to come together under one roof takes oodles of planning at the hands of Con-Chair Raymond Lenzner and the dedicated board. The organizers not only put together the events that make up the con itself but also invite well-known guests from all fields. Alongside the individuals, the con gives organizations a platform that they can use to help others.
The schedule is packed from start to finish with anime screenings where people can check out the Japanese animated series that they’ve always heard about, fan panels like “I Ship It,” where fans discuss their own ideas of fictional pop-culture pairings and appearances from voice talent of shows like Steven Universe or Azumanga Daioh, the landmark slice of life anime.
Not only is passive participation in planned events encouraged, but fans can also make their own fun in the form of cosplay, the creation of costumes to represent one’s fandom in real or fictional characters.
Aside from the expressions of fandom, the con itself intertwines with the outside world in ways that may not be so obvious at first. For example, regional billboard fixture and lawyer Alexander Shunnarah made an appearance at the event, where his line of admirers made navigation of the vendor’s room more than a little difficult. Shunnarah even has his own hashtag (#shunnarahatkamicon) that lets you follow his exploits throughout the day.
Besides Shunnarah’s appearance, other organizations throughout the state made an appearance to continue very important missions of helping others. Specifically, The Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club made an appearance with the goal of helping Alabama charity Blanket Fort Hope.
According to Merc Taylor Neal, the organization is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit with around 2,000 members that has a clear mission of helping others before they help themselves. On their website, they make it clear that their purpose is to “serve the global community by inspiring creativity, creating positive fellowship, and encouraging volunteerism in the local communities we serve.”
Neal joined the organization in 2011, having been a fan of the Star Wars series since he was about 7 years old. Though he describes the organization as a “labor of love,” he believes that they help fill a role in the community that’s larger than it may initially seem.
“It’s hard enough with what we’ve seen to believe that what’s there is enough,” Neal said.
The Mercs have an organization called Little Warrior International that serves as a fund set aside for the Mercs to help children in families in need in times of crisis, or during the holidays. In addition to their own charity, they team up with local organizations like Blanket Fort Hope to provide care for people where they can.
Blanket Fort Hope (http://www.blanketforthope.org) is a charity that makes an effort to provide a fortress of safety for child victims of human trafficking, which they hope will set them on the path to a brighter future. At the con, The Mercs ran a “Jail and Bail,” an event in which they would lock people up for a dollar per minute, where they raised over $1,000 for Blanket Fort Hope.
The con ended Sunday night, and as they prepare for another event, you have to wonder what they’ll bring to the BJCC next year. Not just the talent, or vendors, but the benefits that may seem intangible at the time that will help those in the con’s orbit long after the lights are out.