Author’s Note: The author would like to give a shout out to blogger Sharon Lynn Pruitt for inspiring this post with her blog post “My Patron Saints of Black Girl Geekdom“.
In the past year, I’ve realized that there are certain characters of color that I value a lot as a Black nerd. Some of these characters are people that I wasn’t exposed to often enough as a kid. Other characters are people that I’ve been relating to as a young adult.
Every nerd of color should have at least one character that lets them know that they can exist in a fictional world. This is especially important when people of color are often given stereotypical roles in mass media and complex characters of color are rarely seen. These are the characters who are helping me through young adult adulthood as my patron saints of Black nerddom.
Taranee Cook: The Patron Saint of Cleverness
W.I.T.C.H. was a short lived animated series that was on television when I was a teen. Unfortunately, it had a crappy time slot and I couldn’t fully experience this show until it was no longer on television. As luck would have it, I found it on YouTube two years ago.
Taranee Cook was the first Black female character I saw in a fictional fantasy universe. She made me so happy, because I was getting tired of seeing the same types of people and plots in fantasy fiction books. On top of that, she was the character I’d probably be in a fictional fantasy universe: a girl who learns to become comfortable with her special abilities while using her clever brain to help her fellow Guardians.
Taranee was also the first Black girl nerd I saw in mass media. For a little while, I would feel that I wasn’t a freak. Until I discovered Black Girl Nerds a year later, Taranee would let me know that I wasn’t the only Black girl nerd out there.
Avatar Korra: The Patron Saint of Spirituality
When the animated series Legend of Korra was announced in 2011, I was excited. Why? The main character was a brown-skinned girl like me AND she didn’t have the figure of a typical girl. As someone who rarely saw gender-nonconforming Black women in mass media, this was huge for me.
In addition to relating to Korra because of her physical features, I would relate to Korra’s struggle to become in touch with her spiritual self and become a fully-realized Avatar. While many people criticized Korra for being too hotheaded and angsty in the first two seasons, I was grateful that Korra was that way. She made me not feel alone in my frustrations and insecurities.
One of the most relatable episodes of LOK for me was “Light in The Dark”. In this episode, Tenzin tells Korra to let go of her false perception of herself and connect to her inner spirit. When Korra did this and unleashed the power of her inner spirit, she gave me hope that someday I’d find the power of my own inner spirit.
J: The Patron Saint of Awkwardness
If Taranee Cook is who I would be in a fictional fantasy world, then J is who I am in the real world. I’m awkward, quirky, and Black. Until I saw the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl late last year, I thought there would never be a Black female character like me. J showed me that I can OWN my awkwardness and be myself.
Static Shock: The Patron Saint of Life-Changing Events
Last year, I decided to watch the animated series Static Shock online to take a break from anime. Like W.I.T.C.H., this show originally aired when I was a kid and had time-slots that prevented me from seeing all the episodes. When I finally saw the series from beginning to end, I had a new appreciation for the it and the show’s title character.
The first episode of the show made me appreciate the jerks who bullied me in high school. If Virgil hadn’t been getting bullied by F-Stop, he wouldn’t have been blackmailed by the gang member Wade and participated in the event that led him to becoming Static. Likewise, if I hadn’t been bullied then I wouldn’t have developed the resilience to stay true to myself and I wouldn’t be the Black Girl Nerd contributor I am today.
Other episodes that I related to focused on Static’s deceased mother. Since I lost my father in late 2012, seeing my grief reflected in Static provided a new perspective on it. Static made me realize that while the pain of losing my father may never go away, I can still remember his spirit with a smile.
A final aspect of Static that I appreciate is that he showed that a Black nerd could become a superhero. The contrast between popular superhero films and Static is stark. Here’s hoping Static gets his own film someday.