Turbulence in Tulsa as ousted Tails and Tornadoes president starts new convention in same hotel
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tails and Tornadoes is a young convention that's been running in the Central U.S. state since 2019. Its premiere year was reviewed here on Flayrah by one-time contributor Koori Kitty. Like the weather system it was named after, the con has subsequently found itself in a whirlwind that's rattled its organization.
The first shakeup was one that affected most gatherings, in that its second year was unable to be held in 2020 due to COVID-19 closures. But on top of this, the same year brought in political fallout from the final year of Trump's presidency. Riots in the American Midwest soon spurred worldwide protests following the murder of George Floyd by a law enforcement officer, where the unarmed black man was strangled by a knee to his neck that was held there for over eight minutes. The entire duration of the strangulation was recorded on a smartphone and shared over the Internet.
The United States government, under the leadership it held, decided to go against the advisability of de-escalation in these matters and instead responded with hostile rhetoric. Given the shutdown of many non-essential jobs due to the pandemic, this created a perfect storm of vocal protests and rioting towards an unsympathetic system, sentiments that spread far beyond the Midwest where the murder took place.
Update: Correction made about staffing shifts from 2020 to 2021 in Tails and Tornados per Koori.
Getting caught up in the vortex
Problematic statements against Black folk would unfortunately be believed and echoed by some furry fans in leadership positions. One of those vocalizing these viewpoints was PeaceWolf, the head of Tails and Tornadoes' organization at the time.
Not true to her namesake, she ended up using rhetoric that called for increased violence against protesters. One of her liked posts on Twitter included a reworked Gadsden Flag (also known as the 'No steppie snake' flag by some in the fandom) which had the teeth of the snake sinking into a fist, a symbol of the protests at the time, with the words "You Were Warned".
As more issues came up, including one of PeaceWolf's previous friends coming forward with a story about how the head of the convention was perversely dismissive of a report she'd made about being groped, more pressure fell on Tails and Tornadoes to take action. After serving one year as its head, Peacewolf was replaced by Ace Shepherd in 2020, which was then handed off to Matthew for the return of the convention, held this September 2021. (Perhaps Koori, their Hotel Liaison and Volunteer Coordinator [Correction, they are now the Vice President], will do another write-up of the 2021 event for Flayrah, if they haven't forgotten about us during the long hiatus! [He has! Thanks!])
The taste of leading a community can lead some folks to do things that may seem fanatical. However, that's the essence of what the meaning of fandom is. Instead of taking the time to reflect upon her actions before climbing back upon the horse, a healthy thing that all of us have to do from time to time, Peacewolf instead decided to get back on the bronco and start her own rodeo.
Instead of starting another convention or furmeet in another part of the state, she decided to attempt to start a new convention called Free Fur All ("America's Anthro Convention") held at the very same hotel as Tails and Tornadoes, though not on the same dates. She would back this using her newly-founded organization named AWOO. Which stands for Anthro West Open Organization - or Anthro Western Open Organization - It depends if you're looking at the banner or the logo on their 'About' page.
It's easy to tell that the acronym of the organization came first, with the actual name being merely an afterthought.
Speaking of "What's in a name", while their acronym-loving idea might have been internally appreciated as being clever, it may not have been a strong marketing move. "Awoo" is a pretty common onomatopeia that's popular outside furry fandom, and "Free Fur All" is also apparently the name of a game made for the We Bare Bears series. So on search engines, We Bare Bears will be obscuring the furry convention. Isn't it ironic, don't you think, that a furry convention named itself in such a way that it ended up obstructed by furry media?
Not only that, the Anthropomorphic Writer's Outreach Organization took the AWOO acronym in the fandom first. Due to this situation, they had to make a distancing statement after PeaceWolf's organization made their Free Fur All announcement. It should be noted that because it's a writer's organization, the words used to spell out the acronym's letters actually make cohesive sense.
Still, even though the two conventions are scheduled during opposite points of the year, if Free Fur All actually comes to fruition, then the fact that they're being held in the same facility will shatter any previous records of furry con proximity. It's too bad these sister conventions are more of a literal Cinderella story, than just a figurative one.
A Cantina of the self-described "Cancelled"
Free Fur All has made itself out to be a welcoming community for a rogues gallery of fursona-non-gratas who have developed over years of furry participation on social media. Its first year, scheduled for 2022, includes 2 the Ranting Gryphon as an honored guest, a self-proclaimed comedian whose participation in early furry fandom likely helped push his career for hyuks further than it probably would have gotten otherwise.
The convention's own website acknowledges the social controversies surrounding their brand of entertainment:
"Unfortunately, in 2016, his excursion in comedy was considered 'canceled' after being accused of being a 'Homophobic, Transphobic, Misogynist, Racist, Nazi' for the usual sin of publicly declaring a belief and passion for the concept of free speech."
All that may be true, but I think some furs see him as villainous because he literally looks like if Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Dr. Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog had a baby.
2 also tried to run a convention in Southern California called Antheria, which only lasted two years. To be fair, it's not clear if this is because the gryphon's leadership style didn't work out, or if it was because the name they gave it sounded like a disease that would cause unstable bowel movements, so furries stayed away. There was no official statement on why it dissolved, so no one can say for certain.
This is why Peacewolf's convention has been calling itself a return to the "OG" fandom. It's led and guested by those who have found themselves left behind, through their own actions of punching toward the downtrodden, or from not taking steps to improve themselves or their fan community. The fandom, meanwhile, has continued to grow, discover, follow and enjoy new leaders and comedians. It has yet to be seen if the convention will actually have panels covering historical aspects of the fandom, or if it will perpetuate a myth of a once consequence-free fandom that never really existed for most of us.
It's the reason that many in the fandom have noted that the newly-announced convention is more than likely to become a wretched hive of scum and villainy, and to use caution.
I Tread on Thee
The fact that Peacewolf's new convention is to be held in the very same place as her old one suggests a motivation of revenge. Announcing her con the week before Tails and Tornadoes 2021 could be seen as coincidental, but it's certainly the best time to cause the greatest disruption to the proceedings of her old con. Non-local furry fans might even call the hotel to express their concerns about its furry con - not realizing there was another furry con already happening there. Distinguishing between the two would be essential to ensure that fans wouldn't unwittingly harm the reputation of Tails and Tornadoes.
Another source that points toward a desire for vengeance comes from an article written by Allie Capps, a previous President of the Furry Writers' Guild, citing an anonymous source that said that AWOO attempted (and failed) to get an exclusivity agreement with the hotel for holding furry gatherings:
"It has been confirmed to us by an anonymous source that [PeaceWolf] is the creative force behind the convention as well as by incorporation documents for Awoo Association. It was also revealed to us by the same source that Awoo Association allegedly attempted to get the hotel to sign an exclusivity clause which would have forced Tails and Tornadoes Fur Con to find a new host for their event, but the hotel refused to do so."
Tails caught in the Tornado
While those such as Allie Capps have expressed the desire to try to shut down Free Fur All, it's important to remember that they may not be successful. Hotels are in the business of trying to book as many gatherings as they can, to make up for lost revenues during the pandemic. It's why the Marriott is more than happy to have both events.
However, while they may want to avoid direct confrontation towards their ousted leader, Tails and Tornadoes are going to need to take preventative measures and gather fandom support to protect against further competitive wrath. The best way to take on Free Fur All may be to not deal with it in any manner that would give it more attention. Instead, perhaps the strategy would be to kill it with kindness toward Tails and Tornadoes.
Their hotel liaison should do what they can to make it clear to the management that Tails and Tornadoes is not represented by the actions of Free Fur All, despite being from the same hobby. Try to make it clear their convention is being led by problematic staff that was once on the board of Tails and Tornadoes.
It's very possible that the new convention, should they start to see a failure in the numbers they hope to reach in their first year, may aim to damage the hotel's attitude towards furry fandom on their way out. A sort of take-you-down-with-me approach; it wouldn't be too unexpected of someone who has a reputation for spitefulness. So building up excellent hotel relations is very essential to protect Tails and Tornadoes from any fallout that results from any pending free-for-all.
One of the best ways to segregate Tails and Tornadoes from Free Fur All would be to sever ties with their shared charity of Safari's Sanctuary, which PeaceWolf volunteers with, and to instead pick another local charity in 2022.
For the rest of those furry fans who would like to take action, this is the perfect opportunity for our fandom to make Tails and Tornadoes a stable and popular convention going into the post-pandemic era. You'd want to ensure that we treat the hotel staff like kings, and bring unbridled joy to them. This is especially important as the other convention, more aligned towards those with narcissistic tendencies, will likely look upon the staff as tools and treat them as such.
The more that Tails and Tornadoes flourishes without its "OG" leader, and the more her Free Fur All venture remains static in growth, the more she may have to confront the grave errors she made: in seeking vengeance, and in becoming controlled by the anger that social media can encourage.
If, however, you are someone that does decide to go to Free Fur All instead, remember this important fact. The convention is not political. Sure, it may be led by a person who was ousted from their position of power at the other convention held in the same hotel, but that's not political at all.
More seriously though, just treat everyone well, the way you would want to be treated in return. If you do that and you're successful then perhaps you'll have the rest of us eating our words. Prove us wrong.