If you’re like me (black, female, and a little too nerdy), you may have struggled in the past to find welcoming communities that have shared our odd quirks and affinities for all things nerd-dom. It goes without saying that the internet has been teeming with communities dedicated to niche communities since the 90s. But how often is it that we’re made to feel a little out-of-place in these mostly white spaces? As a quiet pre-teen obsessed with everything to do with mahou shoujo or superheroes, I personally struggled quite a bit to find a comfortable spot in online communities way back when I needed a friend the most. While my more privileged peers were able to find their empowered-nerd voices from the sixth grade onwards, I always felt quite awkward about my interests because I knew no one like me who shared them.
My alienation was compounded by something else: culture analysts have tirelessly looked into the disputed connections between online gaming communities and the alt-right, and into the vitriolic hate that the Star Wars and Marvel fandoms have spewed towards the perceived threat of “forced diversity” in their beloved franchises. With bigotry of this nature brewing in these spaces for so long, it can become easy to see why I felt as alienated as I did. Luckily, over the past ten years or so there’s been a slow boom of nerdy communities online that doubly act as activist safe-spaces—this because these communities have an incredible dedication to uplifting the voices of black women and other marginalized voices. Check out the list below to see the awesome online communities that are adding diversity to your favorite fandoms, and more.
Adorned by Chi
This clothing brand-turned-community is a personal favorite of mine. The brand initially specialized in putting out pro-black, feminine apparel inspired by soft colors and magical girl anime classics like Sailor Moon (the “Pretty Girls Like Anime” t-shirt is beloved on the website), but has since spawned into its own comic series, which has been praised for its revolutionary representation (think Sailor Moon meets Nigeria and Igbo-culture). The fandom that’s been created around the Adorned by Chi label is an extremely positive one, and definitely worth checking out—you won’t find nerdy, anime-esque messages of melanin self-love anywhere else.
Black Girl Nerds
After managing a popular Facebook group of the same name, Jamie Broadnax founded the Black Girl Nerds website in 2012. The website has spawned a bustling online community ever since, and acts as a safe space for the underrepresented geeky girl of color: “the concept of Black women as geeky-dorky beings is somewhat of an anomaly,” Broadnax writes on the website’s “About” page. “It’s against the order of things in the ‘Black Girl’ world. We represent a wide array of diverse women who embrace all cultures and refuse to conform to the status quo.” The website hosts news and reviews related to popular media, as well as its own podcast.
Well-Read Black Girl
By now, most black woman literary nerds are well-familiar with Glory Edim’s inclusive, literary powerhouse. Edim’s dedication to not only promoting diverse voices in literature, but to uplifting the diverse women who consume such literature remains unmatched. Her Brooklyn-based book club meetings and literary events are extremely popular, with national chapters of the book club planned to launch later this year. Perhaps most famous is Edim’s annual Well-Read Black Girl Fest, a Brooklyn convention that began in 2017 to celebrate black woman writers like Jacqueline Woodson and Tayari Jones, among many others. If reading is your niche, Well-Read Black Girl is a must!
Also available from Edim is the book Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, a collection of essays and interviews that demonstrate the “vibrancy of Well-Read Black Girl.”
Black Girl Gamers
In a fandom infamously known for well-ingrained racism and sexism, the online Black Girl Gamers community exists almost as a beacon of light among questionable commentators and consumers. Founded as a safe space in 2015, the Black Girl Gamers platform has effectively carved itself a cozy reputation in the online gaming community. With its addition of news, reviews, and commentary, BGG now seeks to alter the gaming industry as a whole by offering black women’s perspectives on the latest and greatest games of today, not unlike how Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series partially sought out to do with women’s perspectives on games in 2013.
Geeks of Color
The Geeks of Color community more broadly advocates for diversity in all types of media, from comics to TV shows to movies, as well as for more diverse creators. The website and its various other platforms are well-known as trusted news sources on all things nerdy, with special highlights relegated to media that present greater representation for marginalized individuals. GoC op-eds, reviews, and commentaries are also great resources for hard-hitting critical analyses rooted in today’s most-pressing social justice issues.
Professional Black Girl
Founder Yaba Blay’s message in celebrating what she defines as “professional” black girls is simultaneously simple yet profound: she wants to highlight the nuances experienced and shared by women in the black diaspora in a positive, uplifting manner. The acceptance of and pride in these types of nuances, Blay proposes, is what truly makes a “professional” black girl: “[our] assert[ing] an unapologetic identity in a world that too often tries to tell us how we ‘ought to’ act.” Blay’s community is ultimately one of self-acceptance, and the perfect space for a black nerdy girl to find deeply felt connections with other women just like her.
Professional Black Girl has additionally spawned a successful web series that relishes in the everyday, shared experiences of black women, and is definitely worth checking out.
Black Girl Magic
Would a list of essential online communities for black women be truly complete without CaShawn Thompson’s 2013 phenomenon Black Girl Magic? In case you haven’t seen the hashtags all over your social media, Thompson’s Black Girl Magic was created to bring attention to the beauty and accomplishments of black women all over the world, and to solidify black women as key culture-makers and influencers. A nerdy black girl just as any other is sure to find messages of overwhelming love and positivity through Thompson’s “magical” online spaces.
Relatively speaking, the amount of online communities dedicated to the niche affinities and general uplifting of black women are few in number. Now more than ever, the few spaces that do exist have become integral to giving black women a collective voice; to ridding them of a feeling of isolation that has been centuries in the making. When we black women are given the opportunity to see other black women just like us—just as funny, awesome, quirky, or nerdy as us—it instills within us an unspeakable sense of empowerment that has been robbed from us by oppression. Such is the power of representation.
If you want more representation and to see the communities listed above continue to thrive, be sure to share and follow them online, as well as support them through any of their available donation pages! A quirky black girl somewhere will thank you.