Over the weekend, I attended the Black Nerds Expo sessions, a space for Black nerds created by Black nerds—a one-day event featuring sessions relating to all things nerd culture from Comic Books and NFTs, to STEM.
I started the weekend off learning about the history of Black people in Nerd Pop culture at an invigorating pre-expo event that touched on subjects of representation of Black people in science fiction. The main event was on Saturday 26th, which contained sessions from various Black nerds and STEM experts, including Mr. Shelby Jacobs, who was the engineer who created the camera that shot the iconic film of the first and second levels of the Saturn V rocket separating.
After the event, I had the privilege to meet two members of the event's planning committee, the lovely Ms. J.D. Banks and Mr. JahB Prescott; we sat down and talked about the Expo, Afro-futurism, the future of the Black Nerds Expo, and so much more.
Ms. J.D. Banks is a staff member at Miracosta University in San Diego, California. She's the creator and organizer of the Black Nerds Expo. She's a writer, artist, all-around creator, and nerd.
Mr. JahB Prescott is a Professor at Miracosta University teaching Introduction to English and African American Literature Studies; he's a writer, creator and Black nerd.
The Black Nerds Expo was an idea that was birthed four years ago when JD Banks was on the Black History Month planning committee at MiraCosta. She wanted to create a space for Black people to learn about and be engaged in STEM-related studies while also being immersed in the more entertaining side of Nerd Culture. She wanted to engage Black youths in STEM spaces without the traditional structure. These spaces have made it more fun and relatable.
When she came up with the idea for the Black Nerds Expo, she decided she wanted to flip the traditional convention model and make it accessible for both participants and vendors. This is a decision she stands firmly by because she wants to immerse people in the experience of these types of spaces without the burden of the cost you gather in the traditional settings of comic conventions and nerd culture spaces.
The theme, intergalactic Black nerd renaissance, was a theme all the committee members came up with as they all had aspects of Afro-futurism present in their minds. The forethought was that you can't be a Black nerd today without thinking of what it'll be like to be a Black nerd in the future and seeing the steps you can take to achieve that positive future for Black nerdism. It's a way of looking at what the future holds for Black people in nerd spaces.
During the fireside chat before the Expo, the conversation of representation was talked about widely amongst the people present, as it was one of the writing prompts for the short writing contest held at the Expo. They reiterated the importance of representation. Seeing people like you in those spaces on TV both on and off-screen makes you feel seen as an individual and normalizes the idea of people with your features taking up space in such places. They both keyed to the fact that they didn't have that kind of representation growing up. It's good that young people nowadays can see people like them in every sphere of life, making it easy to aspire to such positions beyond their role models.
The likes of ETAN comics, an African comic book company that wrote on African mythology, originally Ethiopian Mythology, but they've begun branching out. Also Sanford Greene, who writes African American comics and has collaborated with Chuck Brown of ComiXology.
The goal is to make the Black Nerds Expo the go-to space for Black nerd culture and a notable space while staying true to their values of being a free space to help Black nerds grow just like when it first started four years ago. They also want to open the area up to more STEM companies to engage with more youths and educate them while providing opportunities to them. They are also thinking of replicating the Expo across the US while partnering with other colleges and universities.
Overall it was an engaging Expo and conversation with JahB Prescott and JD Banks talking about spaces for Black Nerd Culture and Inclusion and representation in Pop Culture and what that means for the future. I can't wait for the next Black Nerds Expo and what they have planned.