Seeing characters that look like you, whether it be comic books, video games, cartoons, anime, or any other type of media with ties to geek culture, is important. Heroes like Black Panther, Storm, Black Lightning, and Iron Heart, have, as of the modern era, become icons for men and women when it comes to superheroes. Characters like Canary in Hunter x Hunter, Muhammed Avdol in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures, and many others have shown Black characters can thrive in anime. The idea of representation for African Americans to be welcomed in the world of everything geek is vital. On Comics Ground as a platform is looking to help Black nerds become more prominent and accepted with its brand new podcast Blerd Grounds!
“I have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of mainstream, I guess you can say acceptance of the modern black nerd.” said Editor-In-Chief James Portis. “I was picked on as a kid for not playing football and basketball games with the boys because of wanting to read comics. What’s sad is, even with things like a Black superhero movie being winning Oscars, that’s still a reality for nerds young and old that are the same color as me. So with this new podcast, we wanna give them a voice.”
Blerd Grounds will star some of the contributing staff of On Comics Ground. EIC James Portis, as well as Contributors Marcus Freeman, Aaron Jones, Jasmine Brown, and Travis Tucker. I sat down with these members of our staff to ask their thoughts on the idea of a show like this coming to fruition.
Kai Kiriyama: First a general question that anyone can answer. What does the concept of an African American Nerd Podcast mean to you?
Travis Tucker: It’s a platform to show other people of color some great comics to get into and to express what representation means to me. While exploring some issues within the industry and what it means for that representation.
Marcus Freeman: Most definitely. It also means a place where Black people and their opinions can be the center of discussion on our passions and not on the outside looking in. Our opinions matter and expressing them in a forum operated by us is important.
Aaron Jones: Folks don’t value characters that look like us. People don’t expect us to be fans. Characters like Black Lightning aren’t usually given first look for films because they think it won’t sell but there is a wave of change coming.
Kai Kiriyama: In your opinion Aaron, why does the superhero landscape need to change? We have Iron man, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther working together isn’t that enough?
Aaron Jones: Honestly, nope it’s not enough. Its almost cliche at this point to say that Black people aren’t a monolith. But we are not a monolith. There are Black women perspectives, there are Black LGBT perspectives, there are Black that we have yet to materialize that need to be told as well. And it could make a huge difference for folks who may think they have no voice but these stories give them a sense of community and belonging.
Kai Kiriyama: Wow. Very powerful! Now, what would you say to the question some may ask of what’s the point of a black nerd podcast? Why not just a nerd podcast?
Jasmine Brown: I think that Black people carry centuries upon centuries of culture within us and we look at things with different eyes, perspectives specific to either our own personal experiences or the experiences of our people. I think that perspective gives an angle to critiquing – and enjoying! – media that’s sorely lacking in today’s industry because the general consensus is that Black people can’t be “nerds,” can’t take up space in what is known to be predominantly white. Obviously, Black nerds exist, ’cause we’re people and we’re, y’ know, multifaceted. A Blerd podcast would provide that angle needed to discuss topics a “regular” nerd podcast wouldn’t even think to touch and, of course, start chipping away at the stereotype that Black people don’t read comics or watch anime or play tabletop games or podcast. There’s always a need for specific voices in media, and a place for them too, and this is ours.
Kai Kiriyama: Amazing! James your team seems to be very driven to make this be something worth the listen for many. What do you hope to contribute to nerd spaces by launching this podcast?
James Portis: Well one of the biggest things is the idea of women, black people, Hispanics, Asians, LGBT+, “forcing” ourselves to have a seat at the table of nerdom. That shouldn’t be a thing. It shouldn’t be a mentality of us having to push people out the way to get in. We want to remove that concept of forcing when there should just be an openness for us to come to the table and talk about the things we love.
Kai Kiriyama: Great! now last question. What kinds of hopes do you have for this new project?
Marcus Freeman: I definitely think this is an opportunity to show that being a nerd in the black community is something to be accepted. Even though time is changing and nerd culture is popular culture, there are still some ppl who don’t believe or understand that there are many black people who love and participate in nerd culture
Travis Tucker: Yea, I hope to spark deep conversations among my peers here. Not only about blerd culture, but about some social issue in society.
Kai Kiriyama: Thank you all so much for speaking with me!
Blerd Grounds will launch early this May. Make sure you follow our Twitch channel at twitch.tv/oncomicsground for the latest episodes. Make sure to follow the podcast on twitter @blerdgrounds. You can follow our cast on twitter as well. Jasmine Brown @CinderScoria , Aaron Jones @E1_Vi11ano, James Portis @jamesCportis3, Marcus Freeman @Despicable_Free , and Travis Tucker @OnyxRevelation .