‘Black Girl Nerds’ Founder Jamie Broadnax On Being Black, Woman, and Nerdy
BYP got a chance to talk to Broadnax recently about the importance of a website devoted to giving black girl nerds a safe space to be themselves, the lack of women of color in comic book adaptations and more. Check out all of what she had to say in the interview below.
Keith Reid-Cleveland: For me, it came at a really important self discovery period in my college years, but when did you first realize that you fell into the “nerd” category?
Jamie Broadnax: Probably in my early thirties, late twenties, really. Nerd culture is something that is sort of this thing that’s become a part of pop culture. It’s the new cool thing. Even though it’s not a new culture, it’s not a new subculture; it’s being embraced in a very new way. I didn’t really consider myself a nerd because that was a thing that was not really anything, a label, that people wanted to identify themselves as.
Growing up, even though I was into “nerdy things” I never considered myself a part of nerd culture. Then as I grew older and really just sort of embraced my own identity and also just really frankly didn’t give a damn what other people thought of me, I did submerge and I fell into culture, and I did self identify as a nerd and that’s why I started kind of meandering through nerd spaces and the interwebs and reading nerdy content and looking for stuff on television.
KRC: I actually wanted to focus on your podcast a little bit. You’ve been doing this for awhile now. I believe your most recent episode was number 65 for Black Girl Nerds. Out of those, if you could narrow it down, who were some of your favorite guests?
JB: Those are always really hard questions for me because, and I know this sounds like a very diplomatic answer, but I really love a lot of the shows that I do. I love all of the guests that have been a part of the show in each of their own unique ways. If I had to narrow it down, definitely the Cree Summer episode just because I’ve been a huge fan of Cree over the years. I grew up watching Inspector Gadget and the fact that the voice of Penny was on my podcast and the fact that she was doing voices of many characters that I have loved over the years, without me even asking her, was great. She was a fun, entertaining guest who gave us a lot of great knowledge about her works. That was a fun show.
KRC: One thing Black Girl Nerds does well is remind people that not only do black girls or black nerds, but black girl nerds come in many different forms. That’s something I love that you all do because I can probably spend all day sitting here trying to talk about the different interests that can come in that category. How do you feel you’ve done about succeeding in that mission?
JB: I think I try to live out loud when it comes to that message because I don’t think that blackness is a monolith. I don’t that black women should be put into boxes. There are so many aspects of the black experience. I like the fact that Black Girl Nerds isn’t a typical nerd website. There’s so many nerd websites out there now, especially now, as opposed to even four years ago before I started doing this. It’s just like everybody’s got a nerd website now. Many of the nerd websites that are out here, they focus on one type of nerd fandom, like they only focus on comics, or they only focus on tech, or they only focus on fandoms that are towards Doctor Who or anime. It’s just very specific types of things.
JB: Black Girl Nerds, we try to have it not only based off of nerd culture, but also what it is to be a black woman, a woman of color, dealing with issues of race, of gender, social class, and also just things like relationships and things of that nature, and health and wellness. It’s a lifestyle site. We do talk about a lot of nerdy things, too. I like the fact that it is a hodge podge of just so many different topics and subjects. That way nobody’s left out of the conversation, nobody’s erased from the discussion, because I don’t ever want to ignore someone’s point of views simply because this isn’t a space that entertains that.
KRC: What kind of pushback have you had from people that may somehow be offended because they feel that your website doesn’t cater to them because it’s called Black Girl Nerds?
JB: Most of the criticism that I get is people questioning my nerd cred. That’s the biggest criticisms that I have to deal with, people just second guessing my authority as someone who’s a part of this web space as a blogger, as a podcaster. Recently, I went out and did a press conference for Batman V Superman and someone was like, “Why were you out there?” I was like, “Why the hell not? I’m a member of the press. I have a following of over 60,000 followers. I have a podcast. I have a blog. Why wouldn’t I be out there?” Things like that is what I have to combat, but no, believe it or not, people don’t feel this is a divisive space because I have a mission statement on the site about that.
KRC: A lot of people feel that we’re currently in the golden age of comic book fandom, which I will agree with. We are. We’ve never seen it be like before. But there’s still a lot of things we need to work on. For example, there are pretty much no women of color present these programs or in these movies. Are there any improvements you would like to see happen in the next couple years when it comes to comic book fandom in general?
JB: Yeah. I definitely feel like it’s few and far between. We’ve got a couple women of color on Agents of Shield and we’ve got Misty Knight coming on Luke Cage, but we definitely need to see more of us and it need to be addressed constantly because even though we are seeing Black Panther, and we’re seeing Cyborg coming out, and we’re seeing Luke Cage coming out, this is very exciting for black men to finally see themselves on the screen, but I would love to see Misty Knight have her own series. I’d like to see Monica Rambeau. I would love to see Storm. I’d like to see some black female characters get their shine on the big screen. Even women of color, can we get a Miss Marvel movie? Hello?
JB: I just think that we definitely need to be cognizant of the fact that the patriarchy is still a thing and that even though we are progressing when it comes to race in comics, adaptations from TV and film, that we also need to be aware that women of color are also being still marginalized in these spaces. As much as I’m a fan of Jessica Jones, and I’m a huge fan for Jessica Jones, it’s still problematic that the one woman of color in the TV show was killed off and fridged. I think that, again, we just need to see more of us. It’s definitely something that’s an ongoing conversation and that we should continue to hold those folks feet to the fire and hopefully we can get some sort of property out there sooner, hopefully in my lifetime I can see a solo film or TV series with a woman of color. That would be awesome.
KRC: What kinds of nerd content, as in TV Shows or comic books, are you really into right now?
JB: Daredevil, season 2 I’m super excited about. I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones. I look forward to that. That’s actually coming out on my birthday, the new season, so way to celebrate my birthday! I’m into Orphan Black, for those sci-fi heads out there, it’s like one of the best shows on television. For those drama geeks out there, I love How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal and those shows. Then comic books that I’m reading, I’m reading a lot. I actually got an advance copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther, which is awesome! You are going to love it, trust me. You guys are going to love it. Then I’m reading Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Saga I’m a big fan of.