(Graphics by Eliana Falcón)
Thomas Delfi‘s master’s degree prepared him for nonprofit management and exhibition research at museums, but his heart lives in a more exuberantly vibrant world.
In 2017 Delfi founded the Nerdtino community for Latinx pop culture creators and fans, and that year held the first Nerdtino Expo in Philadelphia. That expo was the first and still the only Latinx comic book convention on the East Coast.
We caught up with Delfi for a quick Q&A in advance of this year’s Nerdtino Expo, which takes place on Saturday, November 2, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Taller Puertorriqueño at 2600 N. 5 Street.
Generocity: Why and how did you start Nerdtino?
Thomas Delfi: Nerdtino began in response to the larger movement of diversity focused comic book conventions and geek communities across the United States. I realized that there wasn’t a community like that for Latinx fans and that we really needed our own kind of space.
So we first created the Nerdtino social media community dedicated to promoting the history and presence of Latinx creators and fans in pop culture. From there we decided to eventually build the Expo. With the support of local sponsors and a small team of volunteers, we launched our first show in 2017, again in 2018, and once more on Saturday November 2nd.
Generocity: What told you that you were ready to found your own organization?
Delfi: Nothing. I just did it and learned what I needed to. By all accounts I was in no way ready to launch this show, but after offering the concept to Latinx cultural organizations, I realized no one else really understood it.
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Generocity: What was the greatest challenge you faced?
Delfi: Honestly explaining the idea and its value to traditional Latinx cultural institutions. With focus on traditional mediums of art and music, there isn’t as strong an understanding of Latinx presence in pop culture, so explaining a Latinx Comic Book Convention is complex.
Generocity: This year is the third iteration of the Expo. What has changed? What are you especially enthused about?
Delfi: We have significantly expanded our roster of guests and activities. We now have a video game and board game lounge, we have featured guests like Cristina Vee, Master Daniel Pesina, but the focus on art and history remains the same.
Generocity: How do you pull something like this off in your spare time? Does anything you do at your day job help you with this?
Delfi: Currently I work outside of event production and really my day job is the most Zen thing I do all week. They are very supportive of what I do though and I am grateful.
Generocity: What has the response to Nerdtino been, and do you foresee continuing it for another five, 10 years? If so, what would you like Nerdtino to be then?
Delfi: Honestly raw enthusiasm and I am very proud to have it for our show. I don’t know what the next 5 to 10 years bring, but I hope at that point we are a recognized permanent Latinx cultural festival in Philadelphia.
Generocity: Any advice for nonprofit professionals who might want to do what you did, and turn an interest into recurring conference/convention that builds community?
Delfi: Be ready to take the bullet for your dreams and make sure you have a solid crew at your back. It’s a nitty gritty business and it’s not just you but the people you include-30-
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