There’s no shortage of black nerds a.k.a. blerds and there’s a bunch of black writers, actors, and artists, but there’s definitely a lack of representation in popular nerd culture–it’s been 19 years since Marvel has made a new film with a black protagonist–and in conventions. That’s where Clairesa Clay and Blerd City Con come in.
At the end of the month, a convention for all black nerdiness is coming to Brooklyn after nearly two years of planning. Clay got the idea to organize an entire convention around contributions by black people to all aspects of nerdom after attending New York Comic Con panels that discussed diversity in the nerd community and workplace. “We can have an all-focused con on being from the African diaspora,” she remembers thinking.
So she started organizing what is shaping up to be the first Blerd City Con, which will take place over the course of two days and across five venues in Dumbo.
For all the “but all nerds matter” sayers out there, Clay says she’s not trying to cause any division. Her press manager Kosi Harris said, “We’re not trying to exclude you [non-black] guys, we’re just more highlighting that we do matter. And I think Blerd City Con is a good example of that. Highlighting the creativity of people of color and I think that’s what it means. That people are more aware of what we’re capable of, what we can bring to the table.”
The convention will have panels on martial arts and on cultural appropriation in K-pop, a blerd dating discussion, film screenings, and panels on social justice issues like food deserts and mass incarceration in the black community. There will also be cosplaying for those with disabilities and special appearances by cosplayers including Brooklyn Bunny.
Some of the programming is still being finalized, but Clay is excited about the lineup she’s put together. She said she “wanted an area where there’s some fun and there’s some seriousness that both can be brought together.” She went on to say, “It speaks well of myself also. Meaning that they are things that I’m interested in in different ways. And to have it expressed through the conference, and there’s speakers on it that are leaders on it, is also wonderful.”
There will also be a live reading and discussion of Joss Whedon’s 2006 Wonder Woman script by Valerie Complex, a writer at Black Girl Nerds. “I saw some really wild stuff that could be interpreted as sexist, tone deaf, stereotypical stuff,” Complex said. “So there’s something in there to offend everybody. It’s almost like reading bad fan fiction.”
You can read the script in all its problematic glory here.
But most of all, Clay is excited about establishing the L.A. Banks award. Named after the author of The Vampire Huntress Legend series, it will be given to a surprise recipient and will also be Clay’s way of honoring a late friend who introduced her to the series. The award will also be given at next year’s Blerd City Con, which Clay says she has already started planning. “I have ideas for next year,” she said. “You can’t do everything in the first.”