The Shadow League recently attended the First Annual Blerd City Comic Book Convention in Brooklyn where we sat down for a discussion with founder Clairesa Clay.
To say that it was just a comic book convention is something of a misnomer. Panel discussions, script readings, cosplay contests where people dress up as comic book and popular science fiction characters, martial arts, coding, and many more subjects relating to black artistic, futuristic, intellectual and pragmatic interpretation were explored throughout the weekend.
Though wrapped in a whirlwind of duties throughout the day, we were able to speak with Ms. Clay about the catalyst for the event and more.
The Shadow League: Why Blerd City?
Clairesa Clay: Blerd City because we need a space where we can actually celebrate our intelligence. It’s a pushback against negative stereotypes that people often have about us. We wanted to showcase and celebrate the intelligent and intellectual part of us.
TSL: What was your earliest blerd experience?
CC: I like to consider myself a fourth generation Star Trek lover. Because back in the time when you only had one TV and it was black and white, you had to turn it with the pliers..my father was an avid watcher of Star Trek. My family and extended family were also Star Trek watchers. I can trace it all the way back to then. Then, it was natural to do Star Wars and sorts of stuff like that. So, it attracted me early.
TSL: Why do you feel so many people who use their brains for a living are attracted to sci-fi and comic book culture.
CC: We needed a place to help us express our creativity. It’s almost like brain freedom. More so than anything else, it’s a place where we can be free. Comic books bring that freedom that we’re not having in society. There’s a safe space for your brain just to be free.
TSL: Blerd Culture also appears to be fertile ground for activism as well.
CC: What I was trying to include into the conference was social justice and social issues. So, we had Blerdful Justice yesterday, we had Right Not to Die and we had Prison: from Birth to Death. We’re trying to get much more into it.
But, logistically and everything else, you can’t get everything your first year. There’s a comic book called Black by Kwanza Osajyefo. They did an image of Trayvon Martin with the question ‘What if Black people had superpowers?’ I was like ‘What?’
It gives us freedom of thinking and a way to retaliate against what is oppressing us and brutalizing us in this country and he put it into an art form.
What is a “blerd” anyway? It’s a black nerd. And on July 29 & 31, the blerds take DUMBO and invite you to celebrate the nerd in you. Joining us to talk about the range of black and nerdy activities planned for the weekend are Clairesa Clay, Founder of BLERD City Con, Regine Sawyer, Owner of Lockett Down Productions and N.
TSL: Being able to create beautiful and inspiring things is one thing, being able to feed oneself is something else entirely. What about the paradigm between using art to protest the system while getting paid from the very same oppressive system?
CC: A friend of mine is a poet, his name is Tony Medina. He has a song called Capitalism is a Brutal MF. When capitalism is involved it affects everything. You have to get paid because why would you want to live on air? You can’t say certain things or do certain things because the reaction to us is swift and strong.
Capitalism in the African Diasporic community isn’t as strong as it should be. I was reading something that stated how when white males leave the prison system they have like four or five avenues to go get work. Their record of being in prison never stopped them. But in our community we don’t have those same avenues where our people leaving prison can go and have a job immediately. So, in a capitalist society that’s still owned by the one percent we don’t have that in our community.
Blerd City took place in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn last weekend and drew artists, intellectuals, journalists, filmmakers and activist from across the nation. The event was an overwhelming success and we’ll definitely being attending next year. Stay tuned for more coverage from Blerd City Con, including a piece on Fandom Diversified: The Changing Face of Nerd & Geek Journalism.