PERSPECTIVE — For Black. By Nerds. BlerdCon Is A Sacred Space For Blerds.

By Paul “Tru1P” Holston | @Tru1P | 5:15 PM EST, Fri., Aug. 23, 2019

After the weekend of July 12-14 at Blerdcon 2019, the experience, lessons, and memories all affirm that I am, indeed, a Blerd. 
Growing up, I was that biracial child who knew that he didn’t fit with the crowds, but had a hard time finding my own identity. I was a shy, introverted (but funny), young Black & Puerto Rican boy just trying to figure myself out in Summerville, South Carolina. When I wasn’t going to school, I was immersed into the video game world letting my youthful imagination run wild through the television screen with my gaming consoles and through my mobile gaming devices. You could say I was a video game junkie ever since I first recalled getting my first ever video game: Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo. From then, the love of video games carried me over from Super Nintendo to Playstation 1, Nintendo 64, various Game Boys, Playstation 2, Xbox/Xbox 360 to now the current Playstation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. I could go on and on in compiling every game I’ve played back then, but from 2009-2013 I took a big hiatus on gaming when I went into the military. While I began to slowly get back into it in 2013, it wasn’t until last year that I really re-immersed myself in both the gaming world and went deeper into beginning to educate myself about industry as a whole.
Over the last year, through social media platforms Twitter, Twitch, Discord, and Mixer, I have been able to connect with other Black and People of Color gamers that not only look like me, but all have a universal interest of enjoying video games through The Cookout gaming community organization. It wasn’t until I went to my first gaming convention (at least I consider it to be this type) that was BlerdCon that I realized that being a Black nerd is one of the coolest, most liberating thing that one can be.


If you didn’t know, according to their website, “Blerdcon is an event that highlights and celebrates Blerd culture and creates a marketplace of ideas where sharing that culture can take place with proper context, attribution and positivity in an inclusive environment. Blerdcon is derived from the term ‘Blerd’ which is short for Black nerd. Blerd culture encompasses creatives, fans, producers who are and have been contributing to every fandom, but don’t get the recognition or notoriety. Blerdcon celebrates our connection with LGBTQ, the disabled, PoCs and the international community!”
The entire weekend at BlerdCon this year was full of energy, excitement, love, laughter, and above all, Blackness. Granted, it was also an inclusive space, but to be quite honest, I’ve never seen so many Black anime, comic, sci-fi, and gaming people all in once space. I think the first day I really just observed my surroundings of seeing Black people of all ages be themselves…comfortably. And that’s really important through this small microcosm, compared to the entire peripheral of Nerd culture. The fact of the matter is that you don’t see a lot of the mainstream industry give opportunities for Blerds to truly be themselves in a public setting (and if they do, some Blerds are met with criticism of discrimination, sexism, and/or racism). Conventions can “try” to create these “diversity” spaces in order to check off the list that they’ve included the minority, but in terms of safe spaces, it is us…Black and PoC…who have to create these spaces. Point Blank.
Having the opportunity to not only meet, but spend quality time with over 30 members of The Cookout affirmed that we all are a part of the community for a reason. That reason truly embodies the purpose of the community in being “a safe space for People of Color; specifically for content creators of color to create dope content and help each other.” I look forward to continuing to build these relationships with this community and hope to see us in bigger numbers with each event that most of us are all able to come together to.
In terms of the business side of the convention, while BlerdCon exuded the expectation that it was Blerd-focused, there were some things that I wish could have been a bit better (this is constructive feedback that I hope they can take as such to help make next year even more successful). The two biggest things that puzzled me was a question mark on leaving full details of the panels, such as “Who” exactly were hosting these panels. While most of us who did go to these panels found out who they were while attending, it would have been nice to get their information beforehand to understand who they were and what they do. Also, I would hope that the venue will indeed have to expand in some sort of way next year (which is a good thing!) as for some areas, such as panel locations and community areas, just seemed way too congested at times.
At the end of it all, when walking out the venue and going back home, the entire experience indeed affirmed that I am, indeed, a Blerd. And let it be known that there are many variations of a Blerd…as we are all not the same. What I will say though is being a Blerd is dope. Being a Blerd is cool. Being a Blerd gives the world a little (or in my case a lot) of culture and inspiration for future generations to be who they are. 
In other words…Blerd out kinfolk! See y’all at BlerdCon “Chocolate City” 2020!
https://twitter.com/blerdconDC/status/1156407132343939077
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Paul “Tru1P” Holston is a multimedia journalist, photographer, and content creator residing in Washington, D.C. He is an administrator for The Cookout and a down-to-Earth Gamer with a passion on the intersections of Video Games, Race, and Culture. You can find him streaming at mixer.com/Tru1P or twitch.tv/Tru1P.
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REVIEW — "The Promised Neverland" Gives Perfect Anime Experience

By King Ether | @_kingether | 5:30 PM EST, Tues., April 9, 2019

“Surrounded by a forest and a gated entrance, the Grace Field House is inhabited by orphans happily living together as one big family, looked after by their “Mama,” Isabella. Although they are required to take tests daily, the children are free to spend their time as they see fit, usually playing outside, as long as they do not venture too far from the orphanage—a rule they are expected to follow no matter what. However, all good times must come to an end, as every few months, a child is adopted and sent to live with their new family… never to be heard from again. However, the three oldest siblings have their suspicions about what is actually happening at the orphanage, and they are about to discover the cruel fate that awaits the children living at Grace Field, including the twisted nature of their beloved Mama.” –Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland) Synopsis (Written by My Anime List)

The idea of a place where you don’t grow up into an adult world sounds like heaven to most children. That’s why Disney’s Peter Pan and his adventures in Neverland became so popular to both kids and adults who enjoyed the fictional story of the hero Peter Pan, as well as the other protagonist, Wendy Darling, and her brothers. CloverWorks’ Japanese manga turned anime series “The Promised Neverland” took this concept and put their own dark twist on it. The Promised Land television series adaptation premiered this past January to March of 2019.

STORY: 10/10

The Promised Neverland started great and got better as the debut season premiered. While not going into too much detail, every piece of the show from the visual artistry to the audio production did a good job working together to add more weight in each second of run time.  The show opens with what you would expect in a show that has “Neverland” in the title: Happiness. There seems to be nothing, but good times in this orphanage house with a surprising amount of land. That illusion is quickly short-lived as the main characters Emma, the typical happy shonen protagonist, and Norman, an intelligent and caring child, find out that all is not what it seems. The show does a fantastic job of giving just enough information to keep you interested while still remaining a total mystery. It’s very parallel to show gruesome violence.  The fact that you only see what the kids see and it doesn’t build much on the world around them gives you enough clues that make you want to learn more. By the end, the show didn’t bother to give viewers answers to many of the questions one might have had asked. The show’s intentions I believe wasn’t to answer lingering questions, but in turn, was something I didn’t find myself bothered by. With it all said and done, I felt satisfied with how the season ended.

ART: 10/10

The art in the series is very unique. With it being different, not everyone will have the same opinion on this I’m sure. For me, the slightly, deformed look of the characters threw me off at first, but after a while, I found myself enjoying the art style of the original character designer, Posuka Demizu. Her art really helped emphasize the moods of the characters…whether that be from happiness to pure terror. The visuals also really helped immerse me into their world. I was on the edge of my seat when the characters themselves were figuratively on the edge of their seat.
Since the animation was unique to the series, it made scenes with a lot of fast moment, such as running through the forest, look really good.  Another observation was that every character all looked very different from one another. The main characters look really fit them all in terms of presentation. From Emma’s bright, orange hair, which fit her happy personality, to Ray’s Black hair matching his Sasuke-like demeanor. While the computer-generated imagery (CGI) looked good, it showed up in the last seconds of the show. This didn’t make much sense to me since that was the scene that would take the least amount of effort to draw out animation-wise.

(Source: YouTube)

SOUND: 10/10

CloverWorks studio hit it out of the park with their voice acting selections. I didn’t feel myself being taken out of the immersion of the story by bad voice acting. Mariya Ise, who has worked in shows such as Fairy Tail and Code Geass, was slightly better than her peers for her portrayal of Ray, as I felt that it was a match made in heaven. I enjoyed the selection of “Touch Off” by UVERworld, as it helped set the mood for the show and was overall a good song in general. Especially in the tense moments, the background songs helped enrich the mood of the scenes. In particular, I found myself sweating with my heart beating fast along with the characters in those tight situations.

CHARACTER: 10/10

Every character that had a decent amount of screen time felt alive. The three main characters, Ray, Norman and, Emma, besides being drastically different in terms of looks, all were different in personality. Norman stands out as the character I enjoyed the most because of the way he logically thought and definitely cemented himself as a character that I won’t easily forget. While the main characters had their personal strengths and weakness, the character that shined the brightest was the caretaker of the kids: The Mom. Their humanization was something that by the end of the 12th episode, I found myself empathizing with them.

ENJOYMENT: 10/10

The Promised Neverland is a show I think everyone can enjoy. This show has replay-ability based on the characters alone and being able to see their growth was fantastic. The show could be easily compared to the abstract strategy game of “Go” with both sides attacking and counter-attacking. I think this show might even make into other peoples’ top 10 animes of all-time. As of right now, it is one of the top shows from this past winter season.

OVERALL: 10/10

The Promised Neverland hits every point just right. I felt fully immersed in the story. I was in that house with the kids trying to make sure we worked towards solving the problem. This show told its story very well and made it enjoyable to watch. Every single episode was fantastic and got better as time went on.
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King Ether is your everyday nerd just trying to write about the things he loves in life. You can find him streaming on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/king_ether.