My Name is Rob and I’m black. I’m a nerd. I’m a blerd. Now that I’ve declared my tribe let me explain. I’ve always had an interested in pop culture paraphernalia over sports. I’ve been more easily attached to watching cartoons and reading comics over throwing a football or dunking a basketball. And, for the longest time, I’ve been hit with this idea that “black kids don’t do that” – the crux of the Unofficially Black Podcast.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve suppressed my joy in geeky, nerd things to be cool. Being the cool guy mattered more to me that just enjoying what I liked. So those earlier declarations we’re a source of pride or even acknowledgment – it was a thing about me. Not until becoming an adult and recovering from corporate conditioning acting in a persona did I realise that I should just be myself and I’d have deeper, more fulfilling relationships. We all crave acceptance and be a part of something. To find our tribe.
Tribes are those groups we fit into – groups that accept us as we are. Podcasting is a community, a tribe I want to help enrich and cultivate in Baltimore. Black podcasters to refine that idea. That would be my prime tribe. Nerds – specifically blerds are my second tribe.
During the second weekend this July I attended Blerdcon in Arlington Va. Blerdcon is an annual three-day multi-genre convention held during July in Arlington, Virginia. The conventions name comes from the word “blerds”, a term for black nerds, and was founded by Hilton George. Blerdcon aims to be diverse and inclusive. That last part of the Blerdcon description is always a hassle for me to wrap my head around. Oftentimes, organisations use the concept of inclusivity to fit their idea of it. Inclusivity with parameters. Inclusivity that comes with tiers – i.e. my fandom is better than yours and the like. Not at Blerdcon.
Blerdcon was my best convention experience. Previously I wrote about how great Awesomecon is. That experience was wonderful. Blerdcon is something different and I can put my finger on it. It’s the beautiful black nerds. I felt at home with fellow blerds. Blerdcon was as nerdy and it was black. It is so appealing to me – Hilton, the organisers and the cosplayers made the convention one of a kind.
The run down
On Friday, DeAyres from the Mighty CoPlay Media and I attended on Friday night and Saturday. Usually Saturday is the biggest day for the weekend conventions, so our thinking was to get our passes and do a cursory check but mostly preparing for interviews on Saturday. We saw so many cosplays we’ve seen at Baltimore ComicCon and Awesomecon. The convention really felt like a family reunion. So much that I was offered ‘Elevator Henny’ a convention goer had a bottle of Hennessey that he was sharing with other convention goers. Oh, what a time to be alive.
Friday night we met the incomparable Beau Billingslea from Cowboy Bebop fame.
We attended a Blerdlesque – Blerd Burlesque show. Blerdlesque is a concept where the nerdy or blerd adjacent meets sexy. It was one of the most inclusive parts of the night that I attended. DeAyres ran into his buddies from the DC Anime Club. Again, it was like running a cousin or an old friend.
Everyone was at this convention – pretty much any swatch from the swath of personas was in attendance at Blerdcon. Also, that cool element was there. The element that I believe for so long wasn’t part of blerd culture but a part of black culture. There was a convergence of the cool, sexy and geeky. I found the lost tribe.
Saturday at Blerdcon was bonkers. The plan for Saturday was to get interviews, met up with our back up – my girlfriend, Ku, came down as well as D-MO from CoPlay Media to help DeAyres and I get coverage. In essence, work blended with fun. That’s always the best recipe.
My girlfriend purchased a few comics and was compelled to buy the next two installments of great, Tuskegee Heirs. The creators are great guys and it was special moment for me. I felt like I introduced her to creators of something she likes. Ku really likes the first issue of Tuskegee Heirs. Her quote “I can’t come to a convention like this and not support black artists. It’s irresponsible” resonated with me. It’s so important to support our people.
We took pictures of cosplayers, conversed with convention goers as well as got haircuts. Blerdcon had barbers! That’s one of the blackest things I can think of. The haircuts were dope. Lorenzo, the barber, is a good dude.
After that haircuts, we attended an amazing Q&A with Beau Billingslea. Later, DeAyres and I linked up with our backup and watched the likes of a group Sailor Moon Cosplay, Clovers from Bring it On and the ubiquitous black line dancing. It was great! Finally, we checked out the Anime Theatre – it was great to hang out and watch some new anime – getting away from the mass of people at the convention. Fire Force was dope.
Other highlights for Blerdcon
- Food trucks – there were at least 8 food trucks at the convention for the entire weekend. I bought some refreshing snow cones from one of the trucks.
- The Absence of the common Nickle & Dime – the convention had free standing arcade games that didn’t require quarters – they were unlocked! Additionally, there were water stations everywhere.
- Safety – conventions can be dicey and feel unsafe for women and children but there was none of that common, vile nonsense happening. I had the impression that respecting each other and protecting each other was in full effect.
- The DJs were top notch – let’s be honest you can’t have a ‘black event’ without great music.
In conclusion, I’ll go again in the future. I want to support Blerdcon in whichever way I can. Whether it’s attended as press, writing a blog or just going with a group of people. It’s crucial to support events that are for us. Blerdcon felt like an HBCU homecoming with nerds. There’s something very special with creative, weird and alternative black get together vibes.
Rob Lee, the King snake, Thulsa Doom, Lord Lee and the list goes on. The man has as many aliases as Method Man. He’s also a man with many interests from pop culture to human behaviour. He’s patterned his life after boisterous comedians such as Patrice O’Neal, fictional lovers such as Lee Plenty and Japanese weirdo wrestlers like as Shinsuke Nakamura. If you know who any of these people are, Rob Lee is for you. Check him out on Robcast and Mtrocast weekly on mtrthenetwork.com.