- What was it like growing up a nerd, but also being black and a woman?
I had a very weird childhood. My parents are lovely, my brother is lovely, but I come from no nerds. Like Bayana’s (Robyn’s cousin and Black Girls Nerd Out co-creator) dad is pretty nerdy. When X-Men came out we went and saw it together, but my parents have no idea who the X-Men are. My brother knows nothing; when it comes to Harry Potter his answer is either Hogwarts or Voldemort.
I go into my room by myself to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Specials. When I grew up, I knew I liked these things like a nerd did, but I didn’t have any nerds in my life so I just thought I was weird. I liked sports so I was like I’m a sports-person who’s just a little weird. It wasn’t until I was an adult and someone introduced me to Doctor Who that I realized that I wasn’t weird. Everything else I found organically, like I found Harry Potter at the Scholastic Book Fair. I didn’t go to a midnight viewing until I was able to drive myself; I had to pre-order all of the books and have them delivered.
- How did you come up with the idea for the Harry Potter podcast?
I was listening to Alohomora which is a similar thing, but I felt like something was missing for me. I always wanted people to go deeper. The conventions I went to, the conversations I had were always really fluffy. The Harry Potter series touched a lot of people and it needed to go in deeper.
Bayana was in college or just finishing college at the time and she was very interested in doing something from that perspective and I was really interested about learning more. I was also wanted to explore the diversity of Blackness.
We thought it was important to not shy away from our identities and to acknowledge that we read these books differently and we experience fandom differently. Even in terms of Doctor Who, Bayana and I talked about Martha (as a black companion) going back in time and they never really brought it up. The suspension of disbelief is higher for people of color in fandoms and I think there’s also a problem with talking about the “other” in science fiction and fantasy and not talking about the literal “others” you see every day.
So Bayana and I talked about doing our own podcast and we did a practice show and people really responded to it.
- What made you want to reach out specifically to the black nerd community?
Bayana and I are cousins, but we come from very different backgrounds. Bayana is from Oakland and her family was very immersed in black culture. I grew up in Anaheim and I didn’t have as much of the history or cultural awareness talks within my family. My family was very much like we’re black and we have a familial thing but there wasn’t that much history or criticism or cultural awareness about what being black really means besides shared and lived experiences.
I think that we agree on a lot of things, but she sees things through a lens that I don’t. For instance, we were watching the Hulk and Bayana said he literally turns into a person of color and I had never realized that it was problematic.
- What made you and Bayana want to get together and create BGNO?
I wanted to get back into creating — I’m a film major. I started film school at the worst time, during the writer’s strike of 2008, and I hated LA and went through some health struggles soon after. I started dabbling in creating again and I thought I’d start writing and filming, but for myself so I would feel creative again. Bayana came to me and said she needed to write during the summer so we decided to start a blog together. We called the blog “Life and Times of a Black Girl Nerd” and it quickly died because we were trying to post every day and it became too much. We decided to do BGNO and decided to go about it differently than the first time.
- What do you hope people get out of BGNO?
I really want to dive in and delve into things that I feel strongly about like Harry Potter and Doctor Who. We want people to see that you can think about things and think through this piece of fandom. I want people to be empowered to do the same and to challenge themselves to think about their fandoms and the problematic areas of them. People say they’re just books or just TV, but the things that you like and love they shape you and color your experiences so you should really think deeply about those things.
- Tell me about Hogwarts BSU?
We were talking to Bayana’s dad and he said wouldn’t it be cool if Hogwarts had a Black Student Union and what do you think that’d be like. We thought it was awesome so we took the idea and ran with it.
For example, we have a few stories submitted so far. One was written by you about Hermione and Ron Weasley’s daughter Rose and her experience going to the Yule Ball. We have another submission by Connie about Dean Thomas meeting other black wizards; with him being raised in the muggle world, would the same rules of greeting a black person someone apply? We also have two drawings by Tyler Wynne and Chenelle Massey.
Right now it’s our voices on the podcast and the weekly posts. I’m a community manager and I don’t want it to just be our voices. This can be an easy entry to write yourself into this world, thinking through what this world looks like from the position of other that is not a magical creature, and how all of these intersections work. Because we are black we wanted to give black people a space and we wanted that to be our focus. If someone of another race wants to do something, that’s not our space, but we do want to help others with their spaces.For example, we talked to Johnny J from a Tribe Called Geek about Native representation, but we don’t want to stray from our space and we want to maintain it as a safe space for black people.
- What are your plans going forward?
We are working towards getting more submissions for Hogwarts BSU. It’s hard because people have lives and they’re scared, but we would love to hear from more people. Want to encourage people to stretch their creative muscles.
We’re also working on incorporating videos and keeping reviews on our blog. We want to keep pushing out more in-depth content.
We want to be very open; like, if you have thoughts about something, then write about it and we’ll see if it works.
- What other nerd fandoms are you a part of?
I am a Whovian, I watch Orphan Black, and I am really into Dark Matter and Killjoys. I have been such a bad reader, but for Kwanzaa my aunt bought me a bunch of Octavia Butler books and I’m trying to finish Kindred. I’m also really into Welcome to Nightvale, but I’ve fallen off a bit.
- What are three things you would tell other black nerds that you wish someone would have told you?
I think it’s never too late to identify yourself as something, but just because no one else looks like you who likes the things you like there doesn’t mean that you’re alone. There’s someone out there and for other black girl nerds it’s important to recognize that if you’re a part of a fandom where you feel you have to hide a part of yourself, you can go out there and make your own community. Community is the most glorious part about being a fan and there’s something about going to a convention. I’m an introvert and coming to LeviosaCon (a Harry Potter academic conference), I know that you love a thing that I love, so there’s a common ground to meet people with. It’s made me more open and social even though I still struggle with it.
My three things would be: never deny a part of yourself to be a fan, be creative and open, and be critical always. I love Harry Potter and I love JK Rowling, but I’m going to continue to be critical about what’s coming out. I have high standards for her and for the content and I will continue to say if something’s wrong because I don’t want to deny my history or heritage for the story.
Tayci is a mother of 3 boys, a Ravenclaw, and a high school Biology teacher. In her spare time she writes and plays Fallout 4. You can find her work here and here and you can find her onTwitter and Tumblr @taycibear.