Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Afro Commentary: SDCC Is Not A Place Where Fake Violence Reigns

I recently read an article in the New York Times that, as a part of the geek community, upset me. The article, written by Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, uses the stance that geeks consume violence-ridden media and we turned out okay, so there just can’t possibly be a correlation between it and behavior. I find the logic of this piece not only fundamentally flawed and ultimately crap journalism, but an insult to the geek community at large.

You are probably saying to yourself, “Well they are right, aren’t they? We are good little girls and boys and we watch stuff blowing up all the time.” That’s not the point. The authors, in their infinite wisdom and presumed good intentions, do us a disservice while using the backdrop of the San Diego Comic Con. Also, the stance taken that we are an exception amongst society is a misnomer; in fact, it has become quite apparent over recent years that we are becoming a majority.

In the article, we are depicted as a group that is very well mannered and nice. Well, aren't we being obvious. Of course there is no elaboration as to why or other adjectives added to this assessment, most likely omitted to service the prose of the article. Even more disparaging is that we are singled out not for who we are - a diverse community of intelligent and sophisticated individuals - or what we represent, but as an example to push an editorial agenda. There are reasons for our civility; ones that the authors neglect to go into in order to satisfy a stance.

First and foremost, we are a passionate and creative community. We may disagree with one another and have the occasional troll, but we are like minded individuals.  We are diverse, coming from all walks of life and look to experience new things from various cultures. At the end of the day, we understand that we do not want to be embroiled in conflict; that is what we have comics, TV and movies for.

But make no mistake; we are also legion when it is necessary. If we disagree with something, whether it is a Marvel editorial change or gay marriage, we do voice our opinion in unison. There are things we need to rectify within our own ranks (misogyny being at the top of that list), but we always make our voices heard when we feel slighted. More so than society gives us credit for.

SDCC is a time where we celebrate our culture and community as geeks. We do not celebrate violence at the convention. We celebrate our love for these properties. Some of us are more creative and up front about it than others (like cosplayers), but that’s the reason why we congregate like this. We do not care about the contents of a story unless it is produced well and it is riveting (Doctor Who is a big example of this.) We never asked the studios to be at SDCC and bring movies like The Expendables 3 or the Twilight series; they hitched a ride on the crazy train of their own free will long ago. So insinuating we go to SDCC or any other convention to project our love of MDK (Murder Death Kill for anyone who was born in the 90's or later) is an insult to our community. In fact, the authors completely missed the point of these conventions.

The authors also attempt to mention us and Elliot O. Rodgers (the Santa Monica assailant), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook shooter) and James Holmes (Aurora mass killer) in the same breath to prove a point. We take no responsibility for them. In fact, despite The New York Times writing an article regarding a major factor in these incidents -  unlike other US "news" outlets - Cieply and Barnes refuse to acknowledge it. It is the one detail that not only clearly sets them apart from us, but many in society in general. In all three instances (much like the kids in Columbine and others who perform these acts) the perpetrators were psychologically unbalanced. You have one who had Asperger’s (Lanza), one who was clinically depressed (Rodgers) and a third who is clearly a sociopath (Holmes.) All three disengaged from society for any number of reasons, their reality becoming so warped they felt their actions were not only justified but actually a good idea. Society does not care about those who have mental illness; it is considered a dirty secret no one wants to talk about. Such an unwanted topic in fact, that when these tragic events occur we start pointing fingers in the wrong directions. The news outlets automatically go into the hypocritical arguments of "This is the fault of <insert either media or guns>!" Not the fact that when people get to a certain low point they withdraw themselves from society and have no one to talk to without fear of being locked up. No, our society never reacts the way they should in these scenarios. We are quick to blame others than reflect on the causes or solutions to the problem. News agencies only perpetuate the behavior further with sensationalistic pieces like the one Cieply and Barnes wrote.

The geek community is the only one that I know who responds to such topics correctly. We care about what happens to our society in general, because we understand that if affects all of us as a whole. We do not wear blinders until a tragedy occurs. It was our community that had the right dialogs and responses after Sandy Hook. It was us who denounced James Holmes’ gruesome attack at the movie theater in Colorado. We are always talking about issues such as how society should be equal and strive to get others involved both within and outside of our community.

Cieply and Barnes questioned how we can be around such violence and not be affected. I have questions for them. Don’t worry, they are very simple. 

Where were you when our community took to social media to not only renounce the tragic act at Sandy Hook, but had a real conversation about how mental illness was the cause? When 50,000 gamers took a pledge to not play FPS’s for 24 hours in response to the Sandy Hook shootings? Or when the studies that came out before and after Sandy Hook which illustrate how video games are actually good for people by helping their eye/hand coordination, cognitive reasoning and decision making skills?

Where are you when girls and women are harassed or treated objectively at conventions? Where were you when a 17 year-old female SDCC attendee was found bloodied and unconscious on July 27th, possibly a result of an assault? Or when it was discussed on a Kevin Smith podcast that Cartoon Network does not care about having females watching DC/Warner Bros. Animation shows

Where are you in the discussion of the lack of people of color developing projects for a mass audience that are not racially stereotyped? That there are many non-white creatives out there who have great story ideas but are unable to break through into a general audience? That a recent study suggests that Hollywood movies do not reflect the diversity of the US?

Where were you when DC refused to allow Batwoman, a lesbian character, to marry her same sex partner? While we’re at it, where was the larger article when the gay Marvel character Northstar married his boyfriend? Why would you care at all, when you normally leave such news items to outlets that are apparently beneath you?

Ah, that’s right; editorial agenda. You are filling the need of your advertisers, the same studios that spent millions pushing their products on us at SDCC. 

Do the geek community a favor New York Times, and stick to journalism. If you really cared about what we think, then cover items or concepts that concern us like racial, gender and sexual equality. Don’t come to these here parts unless you want to write a real article about our community.

Monday, August 4, 2014

BLERD - Why Do Black Nerds Need The Word?

Black Nerds: Integration vs. Segregation

Black People have always been on the fence when it comes to integration or segregation. At times one seemed better than the other. Martin Luther King, Booker T. Washington, Fredrick Dougelass fought on the side of integration, believing that it was a more strategic road for racial equality. On the other side of the fight - Malcolm X, W.E.B. DeBois, and Martin Delany (founder of Black Nationalism) were part of the community that believed empowerment resided in building our own social and economic infrastructure.

Personally, I think integration won out because that was the solution White America could live with. And though it's never been perfect, Black America (and others of color) have been able to make headway into the mainstream. The most obvious evidence is our first African-American President.

The problem with integrating into the mainstream is that it's not very embracing of ethnicity. Cultural food, clothing, language, hair styles, and other elements that make a people unique, don't always have a place in what many consider the 'American standard'.

And let's be real, by mainstream I'm talking about an idea of White America. The reason I say 'idea' of White America is because many families that now consider themselves white shed their French, Italian, German, Scandinavian, Polish, British, Irish, Scottish, Portuguese, Spaniard and other ethnicity in order to embrace that 'idea'.  And not to generalize, because some still celebrate their ancestry, but many treat ethnicity as something foreign or 'old world'.

Not quite the case with African-Americans. Though we've been in America for centuries, our ethnicity is as much a part of us as the heavy doses of melanin in our skin (everybody has it, we have a lot). Part of it is by choice, but most of it is probably because 'Our Skin don't fit In'.  Don't get me wrong - we have made our way into the mainstream, but we as a people love our food, dress, linguistic flavors, hair styles and other aspects that make us unique.  So African-Americans aren't going to shed their ethnicity anytime soon like other groups have in this country.

And so here we are, striving to be part of the mainstream, and having succeeded in many ways, but still separated through choice or chance by our love of ourselves, our culture, our ethnic identity.


This is where I focus on my beloved nerds of color. The geeks and geekettes with a particular outer hue, and an inner urge to argue over STAR TREK and STAR WARS. Those exquisitely bronzed individuals that shred their hesitations and cosplay as Naruto, or Sailer Moon, or Black Panther. I'm talkin' about the Afro-Nerds, Black Geeks, Black Nerds - BLERDS. It is a term that's been around, but Donald Faison made it popular in SCRUBS.  It's a group that can be part of the greater because of their knowledge and passion for the geek universe. But also a group that has its own flavors and sounds and lingual flair that the larger geek culture just doesn't understand or embrace.

There are two choices for a black nerd:
One - leave your black culture separate and join in the general definition of a nerd. Many have done so, as nerds and in general. Results may vary.
Two - be a nerd, but continue to embrace your culture and identity as a black person, and have them complement each other. It's still a balancing act though.

It isn't as black and white as I illustrate, but there are obvious problems with the first choice - self-identity, dealing with occasional insults that start out as "I'm not racist but...". Choosing the second has its own issues, but it doesn't mean you have to accept the term BLERD. Yet and still, here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

Accepting Blerd

Up until the 90s, I've felt that black nerds were sporadic islands of afro-awkwardness, floating in the caucazoid seas of geekdom. It wasn't until around the 2000s, and being blessed with getting a job at an art school full of talented and nerdy artist of color, that my vision was cleared and I saw that we were many... well, several. In the past year I've discovered even more of the community out there, and also became acquainted with the term BLERD.  Personally, I wasn't too sure about the word at first. Then I started to see what other blerds thought, and how they identified with it.  I connected with sites like Black Science Fiction Society and Blerd Nation. Made friends with Black Girl Nerds and The Black Geeks and many others. After seeing what kind of celebration revolves around it, I embrace the word as much as I embraced my fellow black nerds.

It's Not About Segregation, It's About COMMUNITY

We have come out of our closets and Tardis' in great numbers, and Blerd is the banner that we march under.  But many black nerds ask each other "How can you be part of Nerd culture and separate or segregate yourselves from it also?" I, like many geeks of color, didn't see the need to have a word that defined black nerds as something separate from the nerd culture. The internal argument in my mind was "Aren't we separated enough? Aren't we outcasts from general culture already? Why would I want to identify with something that makes me an outcast even more? A nerd is a nerd, that's it!" Calling yourself a blerd doesn't mean you want to separate from anything. It only means that you are telling the world that you want to still identify with the part of you that makes you 'black'. And incidentally, the part that doesn't quite fit into mainstream culture as I pointed out earlier. It means that there's a whole community of black nerds and geeks out there that share with you some experiences others don't. Blerd is just a simple term that expresses the many facets of being black and nerdy. It's a signpost for other black nerds out there, that travel those dusty roads to Mordor, to see that there's a comfortable rest area for them to geek out at.

And blerd also serves as a social platform to discuss some of the issues that black people have in nerd culture - lack of representation in media, racist trolling and other topics. Groups like the NAACP were created to deal with those issues in the general culture, why not 'Blerd' for our geek culture The term "STEAMFUNK" seems to have been created in the same vein in dealing with lack of diverse story and representation of black people in the world of Steampunk.


Many people (even some of you reading this) state that if there was a special term for White Nerds (Wherds?) it would be racist. Well, if white nerds felt separated or under-represented in some way in nerd culture, then it would be fine. If white nerds believed there were issues of identity between being white and a nerd, then by all means Wherd should be a term. If a white cosplayer caught flack for dressing up as an anime character because of his race, with critics saying he or she "Just wasn't keeping with the true nature of the character", then Wherd would be a great way to call all the white nerds together for a discussion about said cosplay incident. Would it be racist? No. Unless the Wherds made their group exclusive and didn't embrace other nerds. Hmmmm.

From my experience so far, the groups surrounding the term Blerd aren't exclusive. On the contrary, they are actually very inclusive - inviting white and other nerds of color to the discussion. If you're reading this and haven't found Blerds in general to be very inviting, you better check yourself; the problem is probably not them.


Blerd isn't a separatists movement, but a cultural beacon in nerdism so that black people can know that they aren't as alone or isolated as they might have imagined. You would be surprised how many of us have felt or still feel that way. Yes, it sounds like a club, but there's no major cry for "Down with Whitey".

Blerd is a word shouting out in two voices - one to the whole black community saying "I'm a nerd, deal with it", and the other saying "I'm a Black Person, Deal with it" to his and her fellow nerds. You as a black nerd can accept it or not, and that's okay. But the way I see it, Blerd is just another way of being comfortable with yourself. Comments Below Please.


Above is a little something extra for you to enjoy. It is an episode of my night time podcast - GEEK SOUL BROTHER: AFTER DARK - where I asked my Five Nerdy Venoms and guests about how and when Geeks Segregate themselves based on race, gender, sexuality and culture. I think it compliments this post very nicely. Thanks so much to Big Baba Rob and Renaegade Storm of The Black Geeks, and Jamie from Black Girl Nerds for joining the conversation, and Inda Lauryn (Corner Store Press), Well of Truth and all the guests that participated in the chat.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Marvel takes us to the stars with this 10th installment of their Cinematic Universe - GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.  It's a colorful space romp where reluctant heroes come together to save millions of lives against evil forces.  El Camino from our Podcast predicted it would be this generation's Star Wars.  I wouldn't go that far, but you could consider this a Star Wars Jr. with 5 Han Solos, no slave Leia, and The Force whittled down to a purple gemstone.

For the adult audience, it was predicable but entertaining.  For a younger generation it should be even more enjoyable. But it may not be as memorable as other great space adventures.  It was lush with aliens, spaceships and dark villains, but underneath it was a little 2 dimensional. One reason is because the main villain Ronan wasn't really the main villain.  Just like Loki in the Avengers, Ronan played by Lee Pace, answered to another.  That took some of the malevolence away from his characterization. Where Loki was established as a major threat in the first Thor film, we didn't have that background setup for Ronan.  His monologue and motivations were somewhat glossed over, though we understood where his pain and zealous acts of violence came from.  This is not to say that Pace didn't give a genuinely good performance as The Accuser. Au contraire, he was menacing. It's just that your heroes are only as good as your villains.  Truthfully, he's probably the same in the comics so I can only criticize so far.

And speaking of the heroes, I did like Chris Pratt as Peter Quill a.k.a Star Lord.  His casting was probably spot on. I say that only because I'm not up on the newer versions of the GotG comics and don't know Star Lord like that.  But just coming from his performance, Pratt as Quill was entertaining and carried the film well as the protagonist.  Zoe was also decent as Gamora.  Though we've seen her reach more emotional depth in films like Avatar, there were some scenes where Saldana had good chemistry with the rest of the cast. Even Batiste was much better here than in his previous projects and delivered some great tongue-in-cheek comedic lines.  Groot and Rocket Raccoon were most certainly the heart of the film.  Especially when Bradley Cooper emotes through his voice performance the inner pain that Rocket feels from his tortured origins.  I liked the casting of Hounsou, Gillian and Reilly.  And watching Rooker as Yondu Udanta was as fun as watching Merle Dixon from Walking Dead if he were painted blue and running a spaceship full of pirates. 

Directors like James Gunn have an eye for mixing action and levity.  It was perfect for this film, especially with Chris Pratt as the lead.  The other aspect that set it apart from most other space adventures is the classic music in the form of Quill's Mixtape.  It's a signature sound that I think will help specialize any future GotG films and the MCU franchise as a whole where the Guardians are included. 

Though it's not quite apparent, the film did introduce or expound on several key elements from Marvel Comics into the Avengers movie story arcs that I was exited in seeing -
  • The Kree - A race and empire that span the galaxy.  This also connects with Agents Of Shield
  • The Nova Core - a space police force.  It's also where a character Nova comes from.
  • The Immortals in the form of The Collector
  • And the story of the soul-gems and how they figure into the cosmic tapestry. 
It also revealed more of Thanos by introducing his relationship to Gamora and Nebula

The good thing about the movie is there's so much landscape, or rather space-scape, presented that the stories could be boundless.  Especially if our motley crew don't focus on some giant story arc like an infinity-gem and do some smuggling or inter-stellar bank heists in the future.

For us that stay informed of what Marvel is up to with their Avengers Phases, this is a piece to the puzzle that leads up to a possible story in Phase three.  But the uninitiated into the Avengers cannon might look at the characters from Guardian as great but not that relevant.  On the other hand, Marvel has given us another group of heroes that we can cheer for and I'm sure the next film will have more character and story texture.  With the predicted success of Guardians who knows what will come next - Inhumans, Young Avengers, Marvel Knights... there are several to choose from.

I'm just waiting for Marvel and Fox to get off their little studio butts and give us the Kree-Skrull War that we deserve.  You can't have the Kree without having the Skrull.  Hopefully there are some young and nerdy executive producers from each studio that are having midnight pillow-talk conversations about how awesome it would be to have a collaboration between Marvel and Fox for a giant galactic war with the Avengers, Guardians and the Fantastic Four all teaming up. Throw in the X-Men also with their recent success. Yes the film would cost $500 million to make, but it would probably make $2 Billion globally if done right. Maybe a two parter would be better.

Anyway, if you're a fan of the Marvel films you will certainly like Guardians of the Galaxy. You don't have to know them from the comics.  But if you do you should be satisfied with the Quill and the others brought to life.  Geek Soul Brother gives GotG 4 out of 5 Cosmic Afros.

BONUS PODCAST REVIEW: Here is the review of Guardians with my co-hosts - The Five Deadly Venoms and yours truly.  We break down what we liked and didn't like about the film. @Illumeenous gave it such a low score that she was about to get thrown off the show.

GEEK SOUL BROTHER and the 5 NERDY VENOMS podcast airs 10pm eastern on Tuesdays for News and Movie and TV reviews on  Search for Geek Soul Brother in iTunes and subscribe to get up-to-date downloads of each episode.  And keep up with future episodes by subscribing on Talkshoe, or give us a 'like' on Facebook and get updates when a new show is scheduled.