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It’s not until you step onto that Big Con stage that you realize how little you truly know about anything, yet how much your simple presence will affect someone in your audience. After three years of attending C2E2 as an overeager fan ready to absorb the wit and wisdom bestowed upon us by the convention’s guests, 2015 marked the first year that I had been given the opportunity be the person on stage whom people came to hear. Despite having spoken at several conventions prior to this year’s C2E2, it still shocks the shit out of me that people not only want to hear what I have to say, but that they think that what I have to say is smart, insightful and/or inspiring. I suppose that this is the form which impostor syndrome has chosen to manifest itself in my head space; fighting the omnipresent indoctrination that everything about you is wrong and out of place in this cishet white male world seems to be an never-ending battle for many who are marginalized. I find myself fortunate that I head into that battle with amazing comrades and impeccable armor:

Nothing Wrong With Looking Good While Doing Battle

No Boob Window Here, Folks!

I arrived at C2E2 Friday afternoon covered in my red leather jacket and a subdued sort of anxiety. I carried my big con bag under a guise of false confidence right up to the Press/Registration Check-In Desk with driver’s license in hand, ready to prove that (1) I was who I was claiming to be; and (2) I somehow managed to legitimately finagle a speaker’s badge based on my accomplishments. The paranoia, of course, continued to garbled in the back of my head, telling me to anticipate some sort of problem at check-in.

Here’s what my brain was telling me:

I made the whole thing up. They never accepted my panel. I was just dreaming and I’ve been having a cognitive mix up between my subconscious desires and reality for 3 months. No one would show up for my panel. I’m going to have gastrointestinal attack and thoroughly embarrass myself and my panelists within ten minutes.

[For the record, anxiety disorders can go suffer seven lifetimes in a world full of Comcast monopolies and Robitussin-flavored doughnuts!]

Here’s what actually happened:

The volunteer checked my ID, handed me my speaker’s badge and sent me on my way with well wishes.

Holy Shitsnacks, this is for REAL!

Holy Shitsnacks, this is really happening!

For the record, I still can’t stop staring at it. The struggle depicted on this badge that this girl must have endured so she could reap her rewards resonated so deeply with the experience of how hard black women have had to fight just to survive in every single space in which we have existed. C2E2 may not have been the Promised Land, but for the sake of my personal journey, it definitely appeared as a scheduled stop.

Our Brightest Day

I can’t say that I can give a play-by-play of the entire panel. I was too wrapped up in the moment, too worried about stumbling over my words, too worried about making a complete ass out of myself by the act of my actual ass letting go of itself to tell you exactly what went down. I can only tell you how it went down. At the end of the panel, I can remember that a room that was 90% full was standing on their feet, clapping and hollering for joy; the kind of joy I used to see in the faithful at church growing up. I remember getting hugs from my panelists. I remember them all thanking me for putting this panel on and getting us together so we could share our experiences. I remember groups of black women crowding to the stage to thank us for getting up on it and showing them, reminding them that they were not alone. I remember one Latina woman coming to me for advice because she was determined to do exactly what I had done for her fellow Latina nerds.

That was when it hit me. I started something; something that I could not put into words at that moment. I am still having trouble verbalizing it even now, but the more that I think about it, the more I see that all I did was take a stand. Yet it’s more than that. I was given a stage, a stage in their world, to present myself as I see me, on my own terms. No compromises, no conditions; we were asked to be there in the Mainstream just as we are, which is exactly how it always ought to be.

…And Blackest Night…

There is a potential downside of taking a stand as one of the marginalized in the nerd community. Once every so often, you will come across those who claim to be in the same camp, but are actually more concerned with promoting their own name than promoting the cause. My panel, over which I sweat out anxiety-ridden shakes and tears for the last two years to get on the Big Con circuit, got caught in a Twitter-originated “trademark” controversy, courtesy of one inadvertent hashtag, an individual refusing to do their research before responding, and a bunch of attention-seeking trolls sinking the whole conversation into a spiral of stupidity. What pissed me off the most about this 2-day duration of side-bashing and identity politicking was that no one confronted me directly about this “sign of disrespect”, and I had been tagged in tweets to these people stating that I was the person who created, campaigned and presented A Black Nerd Girl’s Journey, so why not come at me with your accusations.

I am going to apologize in advance for the ambiguity of the following paragraph, but as I have said, despite aforementioned [and unmentioned] attempts, I was not, and still have not, been directly brought into this conversation, and I refuse to be targeted for bullshit allegations of libel or defamation against anyone. That being said…

I have been accused of some messed up shit in my life. I’ve even had a cishet white male call me a liar…over some shit that he had said. Out of all of the bogus accusations that have been thrown at me, I can at least say that the majority of them were thrown directly to my face. In those previous instances, I was at least afforded the courtesy of having my existence acknowledged instead of having a group of people go all Being Mary Jane and continue doing messed up shit on the sly while somehow rationalizing that their behavior was acceptable.

Multi-Tiered Pro Tip:

Tier 1: You can’t copyright an identity, especially not an identity that thousands of black women across America have been claiming for decades simply because you pick the most common, ubiquitous words for your brand.

Tier 2: You also cannot demand that respect and credence be given to you, and that permission for usage be requested, for an identity that you didn’t invent.

Tier 3: This is not Housewives of Atlanta. You don’t devolve into vague tweeting shit-talk about “respect” when you did not put in a single second of the work for my panel idea that I created for this particular convention in the first place.

At the end of the day, this individual, and a slew of others, literally showed their ass on social media [I’m going to have more to say about people who do this in a later post], and nearly put a dent in a conversation that desperately needs to stay alive in the nerd community. Now that I have that off my chest, I’m gonna move the fuck on because I am more concerned with doing the actual work than solely promoting my name and my catch-all brand.

Girl Bye gif

My peoples and I are trying to focus on making the progress within the nerd community that we all know still needs to be made. I’m not done fighting by damn sight. And let it be publicly known, I already have a title and description for my panel submission for C2E2 2016. You read that correctly. I am already gearing up for next year’s convention, if they deem my new idea worthy.

If you need me, I’ll be busy trying, attaining, and maintaining the ability, to lift this when the time comes:

Revised-Mjolnir-0c037

Image Resource: The Powder Room by Jezebel; Art by Russell Dauterman; Marvel Comics, Inc.

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