The inaugural Resistance Con took place at the Durham Convention Center in the heart of the Bull City. Throughout the all-day event guests with little red hearts stamped on their hands listened to poetry and panelist discussions, participated in interactive performance art and explored a ballroom full of vendors and representatives from local non-profit organizations.

“One of the best parts of today has been seeing a friend of mine, Amanda Ashley, as a panelist on trans issues,” said Katie Rowe, a guest at Resistance Con. “It’s been really awesome to see her in her element and learn more about her story.”

Resistance Con is the brainchild of Orange County resident Holly McKinney. In January of this year, McKinney joined the thousands of people who marched on the streets of Washington D.C. during the Women’s March. Brandishing a picket sign and wearing a pink hat, McKinney felt overwhelmingly proud and inspired. She realized that she wanted to bring that feeling and momentum with her back home to Carrboro.

“[The Women’s March] was incredibly touching and inspiring in its scope and tone. When I got back home, I felt driven, but also a little aimless,” said McKinney. “I know there are countless people in the community who are looking to celebrate diversity and to find a cause to personally advocate for. I designed the event to provide guidance, inspiration, solidarity and the tools necessary to effect change in the face of the overwhelming sentiment of exclusivity these days.”

McKinney wanted Resistance Con to be a place where people from all walks of life could gather together and learn how to peacefully and safely challenge exclusivity and social injustice. She drew the idea for a convention from her familiarity with the annual NC Comicon, an event that her husband helps organize in his capacity as the event’s creative director.

“Attendees will be able to go to panels discussing topics like intersectionality and coalition building, maintaining pride and strength in the face of anti-Islam and anti-immigrant sentiment, getting to the root of violence against transgender people, access to affordable healthcare and reproductive rights, knowing your rights when protesting, and diversity in comics,” said McKinney. “Each attendee will have the opportunity to obtain tools and methods for affecting change, will hear a variety of voices celebrating diversity, and will be able to interact with local nonprofits and hopefully find a cause that resonates with them to personally advocate for.”

Resistance Con looks and feels like a comic book convention. Yet, instead of having booths and tables dedicated to Spider-Man comics or action figures, Resistance Con had tables occupied by nonprofit organizations, activist writers and artists, like cartoonist Keith Knight.

“Originally I started my autobiographical strip, The K Chronicles, as an answer to a dearth of representation in the media, specifically cartoons. Cats have better representation in cartoons than blacks,” said Knight. “Cartoonists are the court jesters of modern times, we take complex issues and we address them in simple, humorous ways. So, hopefully, my best work explains things to people in a way that they may be able to get.”

According to McKinney’s Facebook page, a Resistance Con 2.0 may be in the works. After the success of this year’s gathering, the lessons learned from Resistance Con’s first iteration will help make next year’s event just as much a call to action as a way to connect like-minded people.

“I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface of the area’s social justice resources and activists, and there are certainly topics that need to be addressed that time didn’t allow for with this first event,” said McKinney. “The daily grind does a great job of lulling people into a state of disheartenment. Having a yearly event to rally the troops and introduce the public to local leaders of the movement can only be a good thing.”