For Da Blerds

Black Nerds Unite

My journey into Nerdom began with Saturday morning cartoons and pro-wrestling as a child. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were among my favorites. He-Man, Transformers, Widget the World Watcher, Darkwing Duck, Duck Tales, Tales Spin, and Captain Planet also gave me my entertainment fix.

As a child, it was all about The “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Mankind, Shawn Michaels, Sting, and The Ultimate Warrior (#FuckHulkHogan), I marveled at the giants of the squared circle every Saturday afternoon as I faithfully tuned into WWF Prime Time Superstars. Hell, I’m still a fan of the pro-wrestling to this day.

On Sundays, I watched too many Kung Fu movies on WGN during their Samurai Sundays showcase. I begged for a Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo for Christmas as a young boy. Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog (I only beat part II with the cheat code), and Super Mario World were my jam.

Hell, I have rekindled my video game loving days due to the pandemic. But thanks to a childhood friend, I was introduced to the world of role-playing video games, and the American version of Final Fantasy III changed my gaming experience. But the 1997 hit Final Fantasy IV for Sony Playstation blew my mind. Sephiroth still reminds one of my favorite video game villains.

My older brother Jamie played those video games with me when we both were younger. But as he got older, basketball, and girls became his hobby. Well, mostly girls. I was still too afraid to approach any of my crushes, let alone get a date in high school. My freshman year, always having an interest in comic books and comic book art, I got my first edition of Wizard Magazine. It was a magazine that combined everything nerd from comic book superheroes to pro-wrestling to video games, and so much more.

I really thought I’d be the next Stan Lee. So, I definitely wasn’t a ladies’ man. But I did improve my art skills tremendously during those high school years. I practiced religiously sketching drawings from both Wizard Magazine and my long lost comic book collection. Hell, to this day, I don’t know how my mom afforded my subscription. I kept up with all the latest nerd news thanks to that magazine. (Oh, the pre-internet days). Comic-book artists like Leinil Francis Yu, Michael Turner (RIP), and Todd McFarlane become teenage my heroes.

Fourteen year old me wasn’t the popular guy in school…lol!

My favorite movies growing up were the Never Ending Story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the movie, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Blade, to name a few. I watched shows like Xena Warrior Princess, the Power Rangers, and the Outer Limits. I wanted to be a paleontologist (a.k.a Dino Scientist) as a kid. Until I learned all the dinosaurs were dead. It was a hard day for five-year-old me. I liked all things outer space and also wanted to be a space scientist, a.k.a physicist. But then I got to high school and took an algebra class. And had my hopes of being an actual scientist were dashed. But that still didn’t stop my love of space and physics. To this very day, I have read or listened to tons of books on physics, general science, and space. I even journeyed to NASA for my 35th birthday, thanks to gift from my muse.

My vision sucked, and I got glasses in the fourth grade. And nerd glasses weren’t a fashion statement like it is today. So, I have many nicknames from my peers at the time. Lor-nerd is one of them. It also didn’t help that teachers would add fuel to the fire. Like my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Williams, when she told the entire class she’d flunk every one of them except yours truly. Or Mr. Hayes for giving me the name 4.0. I even took it in jest when I dressed as the most famous fictional black nerd of all time, Steve Urkel, for Halloween in eighth grade.

If Freaks and Geeks was a show that featured little black kids from Chicago. I’d been one of the geeks. Comic books and video games didn’t make the ladies swoon. I was dissuaded by my working-class family that comic book artist wasn’t a realistic career goal. No one wants a starving artist as their child, I guess? I say, go for your passion, whatever it may be now that I’m older. You don’t have to become a millionaire doing something you love as long as you have the drive to follow your passion. That should serve as your reward. Who knows, I can still become a comic book artist after all?

The Nerdom never faded as I got older. In the early 2000s, I attended San Diego Comic-Con way before it became the center of today’s pop culture universe. Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the rise of superhero movie blockbusters, video gamers turning professional athletes, the explosion of Japanese Anime in the U.S, science documentaries airing in primetime, pro-wrestlers turned Hollywood superstars, and Disney Plus (basically the Marvel Comics channel) dominating the streaming airwaves. It appears geek culture is as mainstream as ever. Those thick coke bottle eyeglasses I dreaded wearing as a child is now a stable of hipster culture. Yes, nerdiness is big business these days.

Despite all my life changes over the years, I’m still a nerd at heart. And my luck with the ladies changed drastically over the last 20 years as well. These days I’m hitched. But I will still watch Blade or Monday Night Raw at the drop of a dime, to my wife’s dismay. I want to leave you with some cool blerds to acknowledge. So my fellow black geeks out all there to know they’re not alone. Here’s a few from my black nerd hall of fame:

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Hakeem Oluseyi

Hakeem Oluseyi. TEDFellows Retreat 2013. August 17 – 21, 2013, Whistler, BC. Photo: Bret Hartman

Janelle Monae (Her first couple of albums had a sci-fi backstory, she played a black scientist in Hidden Figures, and she has a video album called Dirty Computer, just saying!

MLK– (He earned a Ph.D. at 18 years old. He was a nerd, no disrespect to the King…lol!)

James Baldwin (He was a queer intellectually powerhouse of unforgivable blackness.)

James Baldwin, France, 1970

Moogega Cooper

These individuals come from very different walks of life, have taken very different paths to success, and have left their mark on the world in both big and small ways. I share with these individuals a passion for curiosity, a sense of justice, and knowing way too much about science, sociology, and history.
Last but not least, about me being a black nerd is that I even wrote a sci-fi novel with my partner called, Eve and the Faders. I bid this bit of advice to my fellow blerds, just be yourself, and maybe life will take you on an interesting journey. Black nerds, assemble!

Mama, we made it to the stars!

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