GeekGirlCon ’14: Black Girl Nerds’ Jamie Broadnax
GeekGirlCon is excited that Jamie Broadnax, the creator of and content producer for Black Girl Nerds, is coming to GeekGirlCon ‘14! Jamie was kind enough to spend some time to tell me more about Black Girl Nerds and her expectations of GeekGirlCon ‘14.
Why did you choose the name “Black Girl Nerds” for your website?
I chose that term because that’s what I used when I went to Google one night to look up if there are any websites for women of my ilk. So, at the time, nerd culture was getting really popular. And there were tv shows happening, web series happening, a lot of mainstream websites, and I thought there’s gotta be a website out there that are for women of color or black women in particularly that speak to the geek and nerd community. So I just typed in “Black Girl Nerds” seeing what would come up, and nothing came up. Part of it is really just almost selfish reasons why I chose that term. I wanted to put a print in cyberspace with “Black Girl Nerds” so that going forward when you do type it in Google, you will find that term. So that’s why I chose that term for the site.
For those unfamiliar with Black Girl Nerds, it is a website full of nerdy, bloggy content AND a podcast. The podcast recently took a summer hiatus and returned on a new carrier, TWiBnation. Why did that transition happen?
Elon James White, who is the founder of TWiB, TWiB is the acronym for “This Week in Blackness,” he had been following me for awhile and over the summer I got an email from him. He was very interested in the kind of content I was putting out, not only with my own podcast, but on social media. He really liked the Jem live-tweet that I do every week with our followers. It piqued his interest, and he’s trying to build sort of a big media station, the TWiBularity, where he’s bringing in other podcasters along with his flagship show, TWiB Prime, and really hoping to build a community among black podcasters, which I think is really awesome, especially in a media driven world where people of color’s content is marginalized significantly. Yeah, he emailed me. I was very excited, I was shocked, and flattered. He brought us on and introduced us to a larger audience that wasn’t familiar with Black Girl Nerds prior.
When you say the Jem live-tweet, is that with Jem and the Holograms?
It totally is the 80s cartoon, Jem and the Holograms, which has kind of taken on a life of its own. So, yeah.
GeekGirlCon has obviously chosen the word “geek” and you have chosen the word “nerd.” How would you define each term, and in what ways do you see them intersecting?
Well, initially when I first started this site I didn’t even know that there was a difference. I always used those two terms interchangeably. So, it wasn’t until I started writing content about it that I decided to look further about the origins of each term, and found out that they actually are very different. So, not knowing that at first and using “geek” and “nerd” interchangeably on my site, I discovered that, you know what, there are differences. The “geek” term is for someone that is very interested in fandoms, they have maybe a very deep passion or you could even say an obsession with a particular fandom, or interest, hobby, industry, whatever you call it.
The term “nerd” really is more based off someone’s personality. Someone who may define themselves as being an introvert or someone who is a bookworm or things that are more in alignment with their own personality or their own sense of identity. That’s where I’ve come to learn where those two terms differ. And for Black Girl Nerds the term “nerd” was just a term used to define something in cyberspace, whether it be a geek site or a nerd site. Because I didn’t find anything in Google, I just stuck with that term “nerd.”
Do you think it is possible for people to be both a geek and a nerd?
I would say so. I consider myself to be a little bit of both because I have geek tendencies towards social media and online content. There’s various things I’m interested in, I love television and I geek out over my favorite tv shows. But then, I do have some nerd qualities about me where, I’m someone that I won’t really engage in a lot of social activities with people. I’d rather just be a homebody and a hermit, and I enjoy my solitude. And that kinda is in alignment with what some people would call a nerd, so, yes, you can be both. Absolutely.
Jamie will be on two panels at GeekGirlCon ‘14: “Feminist Community Building 101” and “Curious About Comics, We’ve Got You Covered.” What do you hope to do on those panels? What do you hope to convey, in general on the panels, and with your specific participation on them?
Well, first of all, I’m going to be very nervous because I’ve never done a panel. It will be a daunting experience for me.
But, what I hope to convey is really giving a perspective of a subculture within a subculture that really hasn’t been represented. I hope that people will get some perspective and understand why Black Girl Nerds is an important community, why geek communities of color are very important, why these niche spaces are created. That they’re not meant to be divisive or exclusive, but it’s really to help empower women that feel like they don’t have a sense of identity anywhere else. And that they can have a safe space where they can express their identity, embrace themselves, and also connect and build relationships with other women that understand their experience, that understand their cause. I hope that the panels that I’m on will be able to convey that very clearly.
The other panel that I’m on about getting started in comics, I hope that I can help folks that are getting their start. Because there’s a lot of women that are a part of my community that are just getting started in comics. I started reading comics when I was 10 years old and I stopped into my teens, late teens. And I started picking up comics within the last few years. So, in a sense, I’m kind of with everybody else who’s just getting started, I’m getting started again so I can help kind of get people on the right track of where to get started and not to feel intimidated, and where you can go, what websites are good for you to look at that kind of content. So, yeah, I hope I can give some really good feedback for folks.
I started reading comics in my teens, when I had funds to spend on whatever I wanted. I read X-Men because I really liked all the women in it, and how much they were strong female characters and vulnerable female characters and all of it. But I stopped in college when I didn’t have time or funds. I tried to start in again a few years ago, but it is almost overwhelming at this point. I feel like it was easier in the 90s when I was reading them.
It was. I guess, it was easier back then because that’s all you had to do, that’s all the time you had to do was just sit and read comics. And, gosh, if I had a job or if I had an opportunity to just read comics all day, I would love it. It would be the best thing in the world. I find that now I have to sneak it into my schedule when I get a chance. And usually it’s not a whole lot of time I can spend on it. But, I really love the nostalgia of reading through — I’m actually reading comics I read when I was a kid. I went out and bought like 50 issues of Excalibur , which I mentioned on the show, and I’ll mention it at GeekGirlCon. That is the perfect comic book.
I loved – Rachel was my favorite.
Yes, Rachel Summers was awesome. I loved Kitty Pryde, Shadowcat. And what I loved so much about Excalibur was the women outnumbered the men on the roster. You had Rachel Summers, Kitty Pryde, and Meggan. And there were only two guys, Captain Britain and Nightcrawler. And you had Lockheed and Widget, which they weren’t human. Even the very first issue, the women villains. They had a lot of women villains. Women superheroes, villains all in this issue, which is what really turned me on to the whole series at the time, was just very inspiring as a young girl. I didn’t read a whole lot of guy-driven issues like Batman and Superman. I was reading titles like Excalibur and X-Men because X-Men had a lot of female superheroines in it. So, that’s what really struck me.
Black Girl Nerds has a dozen or so contributors. Are any of your cohorts also attending GeekGirlCon ‘14?
Yes, Ashlee Blackwell, she’s pretty much like my sister blogger at this point. She’s the copy editor and she’s also contributed several pieces to Black Girl Nerds. She has her own website called Graveyard Shift Sisters. We were both featured in an article by The Root recently. She will be at GeekGirlCon speaking as well on “Not so Strange Appetites: Woman and the Horror Fandom.” She’ll be on that panel. She’ll be there so it’ll be good to be able to see her again. And we’re going to do New York Super Week on the 4th of October. So that’s the week before GeekGirlCon that we’ll be there. And we’ll be doing a live podcast from the event. And she’ll be there along with another co-host Latanya Barrett. So very exciting.
So then, what are you most excited about for GeekGirlCon ‘14?
I’m excited, first of all, to attend this event. Last year on the Black Girl Nerds podcast we actually did a live podcast. Two of your attendees, Rachel Brody and Jaz, both of them were at GeekGirlCon and they told us about the events. We went over some of the various panels that were going on. I was just really excited about what this convention had to offer. And I looked at the different kinds of panels that they had and I was so jealous. I was like “I wanna go there next year!” and she was like “Maybe you will be there next year and you should definitely be on a panel when you go.” So, yeah, it’s awesome to now a year later be able to do many of the things I was talking about and discussing on the podcast a year prior. So, I’m excited about meeting a lot of the panelists. I’m excited about meeting a lot of the attendees, and seeing an environment and a space that’s so women and female-empowered. I don’t think I’ve had that experience before at a con. So I look forward to seeing that part of GeekGirlCon.
What’s on the horizon for Black Girl Nerds?
What is on the horizon for us is really what I’m doing now with the two events that are happening in October. I really would like to see Black Girl Nerds being represented at more conventions. To be able to meet with fans, to be able to have meet-ups. So that’s really what I’d like to do, to go all around the country and just connect with people. There’s a lot of folks do want to have the opportunity to see Black Girl Nerds at their local city. That’s really sort of the next goal. I don’t have this structured, strategic plan of action of what I plan to do with Black Girl Nerds ‘cause I look at things in a really natural, organic sort of way. Whatever happens, happens. And that’s what’s happened with both of these events. They just happened to happen back-to-back in October. [laughs] It’s not something I searched for, it just happened. That’s just the way I kind of live my life right now. I just live it day by day and keep doing what I’m doing. Cause obviously people have found interest in it, the community’s growing. So, I’m not gonna stop what I’m doing to try to focus on other areas of trying to create something new or something different. I’ll just keep cultivating Black Girl Nerds as much as I can. Whatever opportunities happen, then I’m ready for them.
One thing we always ask at GeekGirlCon is what are you geeking out about right now?
So, I’m geeking out over a lot of great TV shows. As I mentioned before I’m a huge TV geek, so I’m watching The Strain, which is amazing. I need to get the Guillermo del Toro books, though because I heard the books are even better, which usually that’s the case. I’m excited for Walking Dead coming back, and very excited for season 3 of Arrow, and all of the new comic shows coming out with The Flash and Gotham. Really excited for what’s happening in tv. For comic book geeks out there, it’s really a dream. I’m gonna give Agents of Shield another whirl. I actually have not been a fan of Agents of Shield. And I know a lot of folks out there are like “No, it’s a really good show!” but I’m gonna give it another shot and check them out. They’ve brought in some new cast. I really love Lucy Lawless. Big fan of hers. I really like to see what she’s going to bring to this new season. And I’m looking forward to seeing Netflix with Agent Carter coming out. You know, these female empowered shows. Then Supergirl is going to have her own show so it’s exciting. It’s a really great time, even if you’re not a comic book geek, even if you’re someone who’s just now getting into comics. This is a perfect time. This is a really perfect time.
As far as outside of TV, with comic books, I got to reading on the Storm series. And that’s just awesome. So for women of color and black women to see Storm having her own comic book this is the perfect time for women to see themselves, for black women to see themselves, and to be able to embrace diversity in nerd culture. It’s an awesome thing to see.
We look forward to seeing you at GeekGirlCon ‘14, Jamie!
And we look forward to seeing you at GeekGirlCon ‘14, too! What are you most excited for at GeekGirlCon ‘14?