Hi! My name is Felix, and in the mid-2000s I began running a room party at Anime Detour in the Twin Cities with three awesome people - Eowyn, Gwen and Jo. Since the very first party, the Harajuku Arts and Crafts Room has been a relatively quiet place for people to come hang out, watch anime and do arts and crafts like drawing, personalizing paper fans and slap bracelets, and coloring. Ever since the get-go it’s been a huge challenge. As anyone can imagine, running an open house party out of a hotel suite with a guest list of thousands of people is daunting and we were doing it with a staff of four college-aged people and we only had our funds to use. I think it’s important to note here that everything in our party is free and is completely funded by us. We have never charged for anything, and we have never so much as put out a tip jar. That absolutely will not change - this is in no way for profit and we don’t regain even a single dollar we put into it.
Even with the odds stacked against us, our party has been a huge hit for many years! We almost always have dozens of people in there at a time and we absolutely love connecting with so many amazing people. Our party draws in convention attendees of all ages and backgrounds and we’ve gained a lot of name recognition in our community. In 2011 we expanded our party - we added one staff member whose name is David and we opened a conjoined party - the Harajuku Music Lounge where we ran Rock Band and had our first Rock Band competition. People really loved it, which made 2012 very challenging because we didn’t have the funds to have a second room and had to put both of our parties into one room! It was a tight fit.
Throughout our years running this party we’ve all really fallen in love with it. We love the people, the environment, the conversations, the awesome creations that happen in our room, watching our guests let out their inner rock stars and so much more! At least for me, running the party at Anime Detour is one of my greatest pleasures of the year. From running the party we’ve become a lot more connected to our community and to a lot of the individuals within it. Last year some of us were part of conversations taking place in our room in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and genderqueer people were expressing how amazing it was to come to Anime Detour because they felt like they could be themselves without the bullying and harassment that many of them face in their daily lives. At Anime Detour there’s a lot more freedom to hold someone’s hand regardless of your or their gender, and you can spend the weekend using any pronouns and name you want. At the same time, though, Anime Detour is like every community in that it’s by no means completely free of harassment. Gwen and I saw that our party space functioned as a safe place, a zone where bullying and harassment would be seen and stopped without hesitation, for a lot of people and that made us incredibly happy. At CONvergence, just a few months later, we saw their “Safe Space” and “Costumes Are Not Consent” campaigns and we were really inspired to take a more active role in creating a safe environment for everyone.
Our goal is to transform our room party into a Safe Space for everyone at Anime Detour. We won’t be abandoning any of our popular staples, but we do need to add and change a whole lot of things to make it possible. The small group of us cannot do this alone.
Advocates for Youth defines a Safe Space as “A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.”
To accomplish this we’ll be, first and foremost, publicizing our goal in the convention’s programming guide, with posters all over the convention, and through social media like Tumblr, Facebook and the Anime Detour forums.
We’ll also be implementing several rules which will be clearly posted in several places in the room. They are:
- No harassment of any kind will be tolerated.
- No hate speech, whether directed at an individual or group of people, will be tolerated.
- All imagery must be PG-13 appropriate - this needs to be a good environment for kids too.
- Discussions of sensitive or adult topics including but not limited to rape, abuse, sexual activity and drug use will not be allowed in the main room so that the environment is appropriate for kids and because those subjects can be very difficult for some teens and adults. Those topics can be freely discussed on the balcony.