Some comments regarding Katsucon and BBYO
I’m on a bus to go back up there, this is a bit of a rant post, so I apologize if it’s long-winded.
— Introduction —
Hi! My name is Sefam. I think before I start off this post, an introduction is in order. I’m a Canadian from Montreal who started going to cons in the US last year. I have done Anime Boston 2012, Otakon 2012, Nekocon 2012, AUSA 2012, Magfest 2013, and now Katsucon 2013. I decided to go to Katsucon after hearing good things about it from friends, and after experiencing the Gaylord experience at Magfest.
Due to the high cost of plane tickets (Would cost me 500-700$ to get a roundtrip ticket to Washington DC), I usually go down on a greyhound bus, it took me about 13 hours on an overnight bus to get from the Montreal Bus Station to Union Station in DC. Costs me 150$ if I take the round trip a while in advance. The badge cost me 60$ since I pre-registered, and the hotel cost me 120$ for the weekend as the room was shared by multiple people. It costs me 26 hours of traveling on a bus and 330$ to get to attend the convention, without counting miscellaneous items such as food.
Although the travel is arduous, it’s usually well worth my time. This time around however, quite a few issues popped up, making my personal con experience a bitter disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun time for the most part, but these issues undermined the rest of the con.
— Problems with the Gaylord —
I arrived at the Gaylord at about 4PM on Thursday. The group I resided with had reserved a suite almost a year ago. Our reservation supposedly disappeared from the system after the Marriot bought out the hotel. The same thing happened to this exact same group at Magfest, although it was dealt with quickly. This time around, it took the entirety of the evening to fix the problem, the hotel kept claiming we had no reservation, and that they overbooked the suites to the BBYO conference. We finally ended up with a suite and had to move all our stuff during the late evening. That was very irritating.
Also, some attendees I talked to instantly assumed the dress code amended on wednesday, and the rules concerning excessive noise and not bringing in outside alcohol were due to BBYO “because they are jews” (I’ll get on this one later). Already, things were not starting on a right foot. And started to annoy people.
— BBYO Conference Conflicts —
For those of you who do not know, we were sharing the convention center with a jewish youth conference (BBYO). For the most part, the youth conference attendees and most of their staff were awesome, and discussing with them was a great source of enlightenment. It was interesting to see and introduce a new community to a hobby that takes up a great portion of our time.
I don’t know when all of this went wrong though, tensions started to rise as soon as people knew the gazebo and direct access to the parking lot was blocked at some point on Thursday by what I assumed were hotel staff, but were actually rent-a-cops hired by BBYO. Katsucon investigated the matter quickly (I very much appreciated that intervention) to realize that both of these spaces were actually rented by BBYO, and then proceeded to announce it on the con website.
Certain people, including one of Katsucon’s guests, Yaya Han, were very unhappy and expressed their concerns at the situation; the iconic Katsucon gazebo being forbidden to all the people wanting to do photoshoots. From what I understand, all the complaining didn’t fix the problem and only made the tension worst. On top of the gazebo being closed, all of the attendees that had cars in the Gaylord parking lot were not able to get to their car directly anymore.
Later on, BBYO attempted to enforce segregation in certain parts of the convention, shoving the Katsucon attendees to one side of a hallway while their people moved on the other. What certainly didn’t help is that some BBYO staffers also rudely harassed cosplayers who had the misfortune to have BBYO attendees talk to them, being told to stop “impressing their kids”. One of the youth conference staffers was really rude to me because I was pointing my camera around, requesting that I instantly stop “filming their children”. I do not understand what caused the youth conference from being okay to being so protective of their attendees. (Again, I’ll talk more about this later)
Some people got fed up with this attitude really fast, this resulted in fist fights happening (Two against BBYO staff, if I recall well). BBYO probably realized at this point that sacrificing part of the gazebo to douse the flames was the best thing to do. Sure, we “got the gazebo” back, but at what price? This problem was not fixed until somebody got hurt.
I said I would come back to something earlier. I’ve talked to some of BBYO’s staffers, quite a few of their attendees, some of them even attended Katsucon in secret, leaving their BBYO badge and donning a Katsu badge after sundown as to not be spited by their conference peers/elders. Most of these people were super cool, they talked to us about how cool this event is, and how they think doing this too would help them really express themselves. Yet we had people going around venting their frustration on them (And sometimes preemptively assumed things about them because of their religion), rather than on the poor administrative and communication skills of a few leaders on their side (If they understood right off the bat that the gazebo was very important to the people here, and that they go there once a year to take photos of their costume, maybe all this wouldn’t have happened), there was people walking around, throwing pennies at the BBYO attendees, singing sensitive songs/doing things that they knew were sensitive for people of jewish religion, yelling slurs at the conference populace.
Sadly, some people who did absolutely nothing got caught in this escalating crossfire. I’m really unhappy about how this all turned out, and the only way we got to be heard as a group was through violence, and people on both sides got hurt because of inconsiderate individuals on both sides. In the end, I do believe all we’ve managed to hurt was ourselves, as a whole; the entire population of the Gaylord National this weekend.
— Conclusion —
When I was in high school, a holocaust survivor visited us, and told us of his story. His name is Martin Gray, he still lives to this day. He is probably the wisest human beings I have met in my life. Yet, even though he had beliefs not everyone agreed with, he was still a person, just like all of us here, even though anime is a big part of our lives, even though we are sometimes ridiculed for it, we are people too, just like BBYO’s members are. Being sort of stuck between two chairs, and reflecting on intelligent posts like this one( http://drunkaya.tumblr.com/post/43212159523 ). I’m rather disappointed by this situation, and having to travel so far and having view a spectacle like this sort of saddened me, it quite undermined my convention experience, on top of the issues with the hotel itself.
Just as a shoutout, for all the BBYO people who had the courage to talk to or even participate in Katsucon with us, you’re always welcome, and there is always a place for you, regardless of your beliefs; we are here for you. The same goes for all the Katsucon attendees who opened themselves up, regardless of the conflict that was going on, and shared their experiences with people from a different group. Thanks to all of you.
I hope that we do all learn a lesson from this, and that next time a situation like this occurs, we all fare because of what happened this weekend. I really do hope that this does not happen again next year.
REAL CONCERNS about the treatment of Katuscon deleted on BBYO's facebook page during The International Conference
Alright. Now that’s just wrong, deleting out commentary that should have been addressed by its staff and left up in terms of getting them addressed. I wrote something that I wish for someone over there to address: violence, assault, safety. Throwing a wall like that? Wow…
PLEASE BEFORE CONTACTING ANYONE, PLEASE CUT THE ANTISEMETIC REMARKS. Many who have attended Katsucon, with a lot of people who of Jewish faith and origin, have concerns on how BBYO acted. Any remarks of this nature will be removed (especially for this thread) as it would only cause roadblocks with our true concerns. People were assaulted. People were injured. People were sexually assaulted. Things were destroyed. People’s feelings and sense of security were shaken. It’s not just about the gazebo, it’s now actions that their staff and attendees have done to Katsucon attendees that has caused injury.
Remember that the organization in itself is lead by its youth (or at least in theory). The best way is to helping BBYO’s youth in realizing that the way this is strictly unacceptable. I’m sorry, I am not take this sitting down. Many people who have brought up legitimate concerns have a Jewish linage and are Jewish themselves. In response, I am suggesting as many people as they can to contact them. For those that know youth in BBYO or those that are in BBYO and have those concerns, the best bet is to have them pass our concerns up the chain alongside these.
Furthermore I will also recommend passing up tips to consumerist to “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
If you have additional contact information, that would also work too:
Hashtags used on twitter and tumblr (and other social networks that uses hashes): #azabbgic2013 , #bbyo , #katsucon
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/bbyo
Contact Form on website: http://bbyo.org/about/contact/
Address (Recommend Handwritten letters)
2020 K St. NW, 7th Floor
Washington DC 20006
Recommendations to bring up to Consumerist.com
Remember, this isn’t about religion, it’s about doing the right damn thing.
My letter to the BBYO
As a convention attendee of many years, who happens to be of the Jewish faith, I was highly disturbed and distressed to hear about what happened at Katsucon this past weekend. While I do understand that Katsucon-goers didn’t behave as they should, most of my shock was directed at the BBYO members who went out of their way to act as poorly as they did. This shocked me because it goes against everything this faith stands for, and the BBYO is supposed to be filled with youth leaders. I’m not particularly sure I’m happy with whose hands the future of the Jewish faith rests in. But anways, I decided to write a well thought-out comment to post on the BBYO page. Since the comment was deleted, I decided to finally get a tumblr and post it here so that my thoughts could be heard. Here is what I wrote and feel:
You know something? I was born and HAPPILY raised Jewish. I’ve had my Bat Mitzvah and got confirmed. There was even one point in my studies when I did in fact want to join the BBYO. HOWEVER, after hearing reports of what happened at the joint convention at the Gaylord this past weekend, I’m almost ashamed of my Jewishness.
I do attend those conventions like Katsucon, and the people who also attend are my family. To hear how one side of my family, the Jewish attendees of the BBYO, treated my other family, the attendees of Katsucon really just shocked me. My rabbi used to speak of peace to others no matter what, and this was just something that wasn’t practiced this past weekend. For those who didn’t understand the draw of Katsucon, maybe it should have been explained that it’s like a weekend-long version of halloween, or even Purim; a celebration that your youth “leaders” should have been able to understand.
Katsucon was created so that those of us who enjoy such festivities can do so with others of our kind, without the threat of physical abuse, degrading catcalls, items being thrown at very expensive and normally hand-made costumes, and the other serious offenses the BBYO stands accused of.
While I’m also sure that NOT ALL Katsucon attendees were on their best behavior, that is no excuse. From a very young age I was taught the lesson of Pirkei Avot. Something that always stuck with me is the saying, “The world is sustained by three things: peace, prayer, and acts of loving kindness.” While I’m sure prayer was done at the BBYO, I’m not particularly sure the other two were practiced as much.
I’ve heard reports of some of the BBYO attendess having civil interactions with some of the congoers, where there weren’t adults around. I applaud those people. I almost hope they are the only type of people invited that if the BBYO has another huge youth leader meeting at the same hotel and time Katsucon is going on. I hope this because right now the Jewish faith has sort of a bad reputation among the cosplayers and it really should do all it can to repair this reputation.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
A Jewish Congoer and Cosplayer.
P.S: Even if I wasn’t a part of the BBYO convention now or ever, I’d like to apologize as a member of the Jewish faith for the actions and rude behavior that were exhibited this past weekend. Truly, I am sorry.
My posts about the weekend of Katsucon and BBYO
I will continue to answer questions and concerns regarding BBYO and Katsucon and my personal experiences. I do not want anyone to be ignored. However, I will be posting normally again. It may not be the last you hear from me regarding the events of Katsucon 19, though.
Again, to those from BBYO that think that the organization is terrible, I apologize. My English isn’t very good, and I am trying to communicate that I am unhappy with the leadership and the “un-adult” actions that your adult chaperones did.
Both Katsucon and BBYO had their fingers in the pie and made a mess. I know myself, I have done wrong by saying things I do not mean, and being physically assaulted because I was trying to be a human being to someone that needed it the most. We as Katsucon attendees know we have done wrong and I continue not just profusely apologize for their actions AND MY OWN but condemn those who done such actions. However, it doesn’t hold those from BBYO blameless. For the most part though, it is the leadership and the staff. Not the young future leaders. I only implore such leaders to condemn what happened.
The biggest things I want out of this is assurance this wouldn’t happen again and maybe, in the future, something we can do together to show that we are not just two separate groups but in it for one world, together. We have a lot in common and it upsets me we could have learned a lot from each other, but we never did.
I hope those in both Katsucon and BBYO can understand and we can not just blow past the hate, but be stronger together.
Again, sorry all for filling your wall with this, but when you get injured and hurt and there is little recourse, you just gotta say something.
I'm officially overwhelmed.
IC isn’t new to me - I went to LA in 2011 and Atlanta in 2012. I was one of 700 teens, then one of 800, and now one of…
BBYO has never come even close to anything on this scale. And I can’t even describe how ENORMOUS IC 2012 felt. We couldn’t even get all of the participants in one hotel.
I just can’t comprehend 1500. That’s almost doubled from last year. And if you include staff and guest speakers and facilitators and the FAN conference happening simultaneously, there are probably going to be about 2,000 Jews wandering around the Gaylord hotel this weekend. We’re not even able to have our meals in one ROOM this year. And the amount of electives on the schedule? I actually can’t even.
I know this weekend is going to be amazing and insane and one hundred percent nuts in every way possible. I’m just realizing now how big this is going to be and how unprepared I was for anything of this magnitude.
I made that post before I saw everything that was happening with the bbyo staff, and all I had seen was people saying things like "I'm gonna be so mad if these bbyo kids judge me for cosplaying" so I just wanted to set people straight about that aspect only. I didn't address anything about the bbyo staff in my post.
Thanks. The experience I had was really awful and I’ve been posting a lot in hopes sane members of BBYO would address these concerns and never have this happen again with any group. I never had people do that in a long time.
What would be super great is you know, have a booth at the con next year, maybe even a panel, have some dialogue. Both sides were hurt, and air things out.
Edit: damnit i hit publish. … Oh well. I don’t mind people seeing this.