The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


For Your Consideration: A Second In My Blerd Life

My days as a undergraduate correspondent for the black alternative community in the 21st century are long gone, but never will the spirited pursuit of its ongoing legacy will depart my pop culture consumption. While I was making sense of the words “black” and “punk”  for my professors and peers, I stumbled upon a Village Voice article, The Rise Of The Black Nerd. It was an affirming piece that reminded me why I was choosing to discuss identity politics in my senior thesis. Afropunk was only a piece of the larger movement: balkanizing problematic race relations based on the perception of one’s assigned identity. I’m pretty certain it was the first time I considered the term “black nerd”, the very label that felt natural in a personal description.
Blerd for those of you in class requires some fluid exploration as its history is currently being written by a gaggle of those who care.
This interwoven journaling of citations is one of those blerd history moments:
Oh, Donald…
I’ve given into temptation late. Rendering the enticing critique’s of Donald Glover‘s alter ego Childish Gambino‘s lyrics innocuous because all they did was made me loop YouTube videos and dent my checking account via iTunes.
That’s right.
I always thought the kid (anyone younger than me is a kid) was kinda cute. But way too aware of the fact. And while I see how the lyrics to some of his music is causation for twitching side eye, my admiration stems from a space of being enraptured by the once called an Oreo sweet kid from Georgia who went to NYU, went on to create Toofer, and most notably, play every blerd girl’s dream and beyond in Troy Barnes on Community. I totally see why pulsating cartoon hearts would emerge in the aura of some of my black girl nerd co-horts.
It’s a bravado that’s confident yet vulnerable. With an understanding of context, your ears can’t help to forgo the beat for a second just to digest the words.
I’ve been listening to some mixtape tracks and Camp quite a bit. My interest truly lies in him ‘shouting out his blerds’. That’s the kind of hip-hop that pierces my inner 13 year old who was afraid of what the other black kids would say about the Green Day album in my backpack. And that means something to me. Because in 1996 in a more or less racially diverse yet segregated and hostile suburb outside of a major east coast city, my existence was a racial identity “problem”.

The Philosophy of Michonne
You pick and choose which television show “everyone watches” as a pop culture consumer and revel in the madness with everyone else like you’re all under the spell of a virus, right? There’s at least one. Even if it’s drenched in esoterism which in the firmly established internet age is becoming a less accurate description for anything. That show for me next to Scandal is AMC’s The Walking Dead. I’m elated I found it intriguing enough the first two seasons to have context for an amazing season 3 that has got everyone talking, even academics. MFA grad from Florida International University Andrea Dulanto has written one of the best, new essays I’ve read in quite some time titled, ‘Stranger Than Zombies: Power, Privilege & Lesbian Subtext in ‘The Walking Dead’. It beautifully unpacks the relationship between two female leading characters Andrea and Michonne but it also deals with their relationship to others and how those relationships represent wider and more insidious social institutions. Read it. You’ll feel smarter afterwards.
I Wasn’t The Only One Pushing “Black Girl Nerd”…
My moments with Black Girl Nerd‘s have been acknowledged and I’m deeply appreciative of that. It’s given me the opportunity to re-root with my black, nerd, and alternative roots by becoming an active reader of Black Girl Nerds, a site not just for the female of African descent “who plays Halo” but a dialogue opener about nerdom in general and the black experience within it. The innovators and producers of an identity constantly influx with modernist, anachronistic conceptions of blackness. Jamie and company have recently taken to podcasting every Monday night which is an extra treat!
My Love For Seemingly Offensive, Yet Truthful Commentary
Filmmaker I’m hoping will continue the her quest to be the ‘black Wes Craven’ Tiffany D. Jackson airs her unapologetic grievances with HBO’s Girls & Lena Dunham. Her acerbic yet humorous post just puts into perspective all the crit I’ve witnessed on twitter (I like to believe I follow reasonable, yet human-rooted people) and why the show is a big problem yet opens the window for female leadership in TV/Film and even the symbiosis of a healthy body image. Personally, I barely made it through 15 minutes of the show. An unawareness of self-indulgence is one thing. Penning uncharming characters who I have not one damn to give about is simply an abomination.
I am thankful that there are folks who refuse to treat the concept of “blerd” and its space within our cultural pantheon not as a token exhibit,  but as critical discourse for the universe. It takes me back to my discovery of that ambitious documentary about being black in the American punk scene and further, confirming the very human thirst for affirmation that we together represent a contradiction with a refusal to be unmoved. Being a problem in order to accept the solution.

About The Author: When Ashlee Blackwell is not wasting precious free time watching yet another Law & Order: SVU marathon, she's planning and organizing community events, co-hosting the Official Women in Horror Month podcast, and devoting her career-fu to the Viscera Organization, a space that seeks to give underrepresented female genre (horror, sci-fi, fantasy) filmmakers opportunities and exposure.


  1. BlackFemaleCodersMarch 7, 2013 at 12:01 AM

    Great post. From what I've read, it seems like many blerds seemed to have a moment where they finally realized and accepted their "blerdness." For me, it was getting more involved in the indie rock scene in high school and joining a Livejournal community (oh yes, I was __that__ kid) called Negroclash that was basically made up of other black indie scenesters. Best thing to happen to me at the time :)

    That's why I think it's so important that we have these conversations, in the hopes that other people can have a chance to "find their people" like you and I did. It was a beautiful thing when I hit the moment when I felt like I had connected with a part of my identity in that way and I would want other people to have the opportunity to experience that too.

    -- BlackFemaleCoders

  2. Thank you! It's sometimes nice to find balance with the past and present of blerdom.