OTW Guest Post: Jamie Broadnax

Graphic by caitie of an OTW-themed guest access lanyard

From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

Today’s post is an interview with Jamie Broadnax, founder of Black Girl Nerds , an inclusive site for women who embrace geek/nerd culture. Jamie is the Digital Vice President at the She Thrives Network and has written for Afropunk and Madame Noire.

What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about fandom blogging?

Having an opinion on a particular fandom and seeing how others respond to it. Whether they agree or disagree. I’m always interested in other people’s perspectives on things even if their point of view contrasts mine.

You started Black Girl Nerds after googling the phrase in 2012 and finding 0 results. In the past years, though, nerd culture has continued to infiltrate the mainstream. In your experience, is the “nerd” world moving toward racial/ethnic and gender inclusivity? And is inclusivity the goal, or do you believe we should focus on creating our own nerd spaces rather than fighting to be allowed into established ones?

Excellent question. I would love racial/ethnic and gender inclusivity in nerd culture. It’s very important that we see ourselves in comic books, TV shows, tech industries, science conventions, and several other industries that tend to marginalize women of color. However, I’m not completely against creating your own nerd space. BGN was created because of the lack of representation within our subculture. I believe taking the initiative to create your own space is what helps foster growth in spaces that are less diverse. I also think it is important that there are safe spaces on the web where people can connect to a community of individuals that identify and relate to them. It is a form of empowerment that is a basic part of the human condition.

Where in nerd culture or fandom hasn’t progress been made?

Mainstream nerd websites and TV shows like “Big Bang Theory”. I always find it interesting that by default nerds in media spaces are always white and usually male. The tech space also has a ways to go, but luckily more organizations like Digital Undivided and Black Girls Code are bridging the gap. There is still more work to do and having niche communities like Black Girl Nerds is just the beginning to helping diversify all things in nerd culture.

What do you think is the most important political/legal/philosophical issue in fandom right now?

Hmmm…that’s a toughie. I don’t necessarily associate fandoms with serious political or philosophical ideologies. However, one issue that comes to mind is the issue of race playing a factor in cosplay. Many cosplayers have chatted with me online and on my podcast about dealing with vitriol from non-Black cosplayers. My friend Chaka Cumberbatch, a well known Black female cosplayer, was questioned by white nerds as to why she was cosplaying as Sailor Moon.

The irony of this bitter criticism is, why are white girls cosplaying as an Japanese character?

Let that one simmer for a minute.

What book/movie/show/game/etc are you most excited about right now, and why?

I’m reading Greg Pak’s Storm comic which is awesome. She’s my favorite superheroine in the Marvel universe. I’m also interested in starting on The Strain book by Guillermo Del Toro. I’m currently a fan of the TV series and really enjoy live tweeting it on Sunday nights.

The Organization for Transformative Works is a fan-run nonprofit dedicated to preserving fanworks and advocating for fans. Do you believe that these goals are important? Do fans need advocates?

I love that concept! Absolutely fans needs advocates. I believe having a partner, team, group, or community that is willing to serve and help you makes us all better people. It helps us to grow, connect, and develop new innovative ideas and to overall just have fun with people who get you. It’s important, especially for nerds like us who are used to feeling isolated and excluded because many others didn’t share our same fandoms.