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!
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 or

PRIDE: Tagging Your Allyship

(Photo Credit: Twitch)

By Bokchoi | @a_bokchoi6:50 PM EST, Sun. June 16, 2019
Happy Pride everyone!
For those who many not know how Pride Month came into existence, according to the Library of Congress, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposiums and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.”
Pride is always an interesting month, but even more so with the rise of social media as it is a conduit for voices previously unheard (or only locally accessible) for worldwide broadcast. If you have an internet connection and a keyboard, congratulations, you’ve got yourself a platform.
Thanks to this, even the most nonsensical voices are amplified. Every year, without fail, we see cries for “Straight Pride.” This is ignorance at its finest. In a world where being cisgendered and heterosexual is considered the norm—the default—there is an insistence on having the entire pie to themselves, when there is plenty of pie to go around. It is insulting because Pride is a protest born out of violence, a plea and a stand to ensure our right to exist. Yes, it involves being proud of who we are, but it is also a remembrance of those who came before us to ensure we are persecuted a little less and a condemnation of the violence that pervades our culture when someone is different.
Pride is also unfortunately used as a cash grab. Companies who have never been particularly vocal about LGBTQIA+ rights adorn profile photos with rainbows and fill their platforms with commentary on inclusion. “We see you,” they say, all while toting merchandise that screams “Yas Qween!” and other generic LGBTQIA+-isms they lifted off of a quick Google search. Once it hits July 1st, all of the rainbows and solidarity just vanish because it is no longer profitable. “You’ve had your month,” they seem to say, and then everything is business as usual.
It makes sense though. After all, being an Ally is the new Black; it’s in, it gives you clout, and in a world of woke culture, clout is a highly coveted, social currency. Especially amongst Internet personalities such as Twitch streamers, “wokeness” gives you the ability to build an audience and increases your shot at being an influencer.
Let’s have a quick chat about being an Ally, and the possible performative aspect of it by discussing usage of the LGBTQIA+ tag on Twitch. If you aren’t part of the community, I don’t agree with using the tag.
I’ve seen people using it for “Allyship,” claiming that they’ve created a safe space and are using it to advertise as such.
This leads me to ask: How do you personally know it’s a safe space? If you don’t share that identity and those experiences, how can you claim that you have a safe space for a marginalized community? Marginalized folks know firsthand what needs to be done to keep themselves and those around them safe.They know how to fight for themselves through lived experience. What do you know about the oppression and the violence we face?
Allyship doesn’t equal identity. You can use your platform to help others, but that doesn’t make you LGBTQIA+.
I view tagging as a method for folks to find people just like them. To use the tag, but not share any aspect of those identities, it almost feels like queer-baiting or a way to broaden your audience through inauthentic means. Allies are defined by their actions. Adding a simple tag does not automatically make you an Ally.
You are not oppressed in the same way. Don’t make your Allyship about you. Support the voices that need to be heard. You don’t have to identify as one of us to be an Ally, (that’s the beauty of being an Ally) but to assume a position of being our spokesperson instead of amplifying our voices is centering yourself.
You don’t have to use tags to prove you’re an Ally. That’s just disingenuous and performative.
You may ask while throwing your hands up in exasperation, “So then how can we support the LGBTQIA+ community?” After all, whatever you do seems to be lambasted by the community or labeled as not good enough. Take this article for example; here I am, criticizing the use of something as innocuous as a Twitch tag. Well, this exasperation is mostly due to an assumption Allies like to make. Instead of asking the affected community how to best serve them, most Allies tend to take a stab at what will help, resulting in a lot of showboating and little-to-no actual forward progression. They say, “Hey, I did something!,” in the hopes of hitting that feel-good receptor in their brains. If this upsets you, you may want to reevaluate if you’re truly an Ally. Your feelings shouldn’t come before our rights.
Here’s one suggestion: Instead of using the tag, have panels that indicate that your stream is a LGBTQIA+ friendly place. Have visible rules and actively enforce them. If you notice revolting behavior, such as transphobia or homophobia, strike that hatred down with an intensity as if you were wielding Thor’s Hammer Mjölnir. Boost our voices with your platform, but don’t make it about you.
As for other methods? Ask your LGBTQIA+ friends and family how to better serve them… and not just this month, but all year round.
A_Bokchoi is a jack-of-all-trades artist and content creator based in New York City. When she’s not daydreaming during her 9-to-5, she navigates the waters of adulthood as a Queer Korean-American and focusing on what it means to carry two cultures on her back (while also engaging in weebery and spitting out terrible puns). You can find her streaming at