ARE YOU A WARRIOR, OR A WORRIER? – Overcoming “Fear”

OVERCOMING FEAR

Most people of Afrikan descent (i.e. Black folks) aren’t as successful as we could be, simply because fear is keeping us from taking action.

Whether it’s fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of our own people, fear of other people, or even fear of success, the end result is the same: we don’t take the risks necessary to make ourselves successful.

In actuality, this isn’t fear at all; it’s worry.

Fear is a natural signal that warns of impending great bodily harm or death. Fear is productive and life-saving. True fear is a gift that signals us in the presence of danger; and it is involuntary; it will come and get our attention if necessary.

Worry is the fear we manufacture; it is a choice. Worry is not a precaution; it is the opposite because it delays and discourages constructive action.

True fear and worry (unwarranted fears) may, at times, feel the same, but you can tell them apart. True fear is a gift that signals us in the presence of danger; thus, it will be based upon something you perceive in your environment or your circumstance. Unwarranted fear or worry will always be based upon something in your imagination or your memory.

There are five basic ways to overcome worry:

1. Increase Your Familiarity

The more you do something that scares you, the easier it becomes.  Take, for example, the common worry for writers: selling.  The only way to overcome this is to get out there and sell. Accept the fact that you will receive some rejections – maybe a lot of rejections before you get a sale; but how many sales will you make if you don’t get out there at all?

2. Rehearse Courage Mentally

When it comes to feelings, including worry, your brain cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imaginary. If you repeatedly rehearse something in your mind, while at the same time visualizing yourself as being calm, confident and collected, your behavior in the real world will imitate your imagination.

3. Reframe the Worry

Create a comparison in your mind that makes your worry seem trivial. For example: There are hundreds, maybe thousands of authors with half your talent and skill selling their books. Against that perspective, what have you got to be afraid of?

4. Reassociate the Worry

Have you ever been to an amusement park? If so, you probably paid a fair amount of money … for the privilege of being frightened out of your wits! Taking risks in business is, in fact, a lot like riding a roller coaster – except that you get to do some steering, so you’re actually a lot more in control. It turns out that worry you’re feeling isn’t really worry at all; it’s excitement! 

5. Make the Worry Useful

Although worry can be debilitating – when viewed from the right perspective – worry is actually just a call to action. If you’re afraid to ask for someone’s business, for example, it’s just your subconscious mind telling you that it’s getting close to the point where you need to ask for their business. Feel the worry, and then do it anyway.

Put the above techniques in your mental bag of tricks, and your worries – no matter what they are – will stop holding you back.

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For more in-depth study on Warrior principles, strategies and methodologies, read The Afrikan Warriors’ Bible.


7 Books for the Afrikan Warrior!

“Politics is war without bloodshed; War is politics WITH bloodshed.” – Chairman Fred Hampton

War is considered by many to be humanity at its worst. Some consider war to not be human, or even humane. Paradoxically, it is in war that many of us show the very best of ourselves.

War is often the result of greed, stupidity, or depravity. But in war is truth; in war, the character of men and women shines brightest.

I am not a soldier. I was once, but no longer. I am, however, a warrior – always have been; always will. As a warrior, I have studied the strategies, tactics and methodologies of war for a long time. I am not alone in this.

The greats have been telling stories, writing and reading about war – its causes, its effects, its heroes, its victims – since the dawn of woman and man. Some of our most powerful literature is either overtly about war or profoundly influenced by it.

The study of war is the study of life, because war is life in its rawest sense. It is death, fear, power, love, adrenaline, sacrifice, glory, and the will to survive.

As we say at the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute: “The mat is the truth and the sword decides all.” We must learn the strategies, the motivations, the offenses and the defenses of war. We must understand and respect the light and the darkness; the rewards and the consequences.

Here, I give you 7 books about war and warriors that you should read if you consider yourself a warrior. And that you should read to your children if they are very young, or have them read to themselves to help them become the warriors they were born to be.

Seven books is certainly not a comprehensive list – I chose seven books because 7 is the number sacred to Ogun, the Orisa “Force of Nature”) of Iron and War in the spiritual tradition of Ifa (pronounced ee-FAH). I am sure I will miss some great books you love, so please, suggest them in the comments.

The Afrikan Warriors’ Bible by Balogun Ojetade

The Afrikan Warriors' Bible

The long-awaited sequel to Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within

While a stand-alone book, The Afrikan Warriors’ Bible expands on the first, teaching the reader advanced techniques and principles that aid in the awakening and discovery of their Warrior within. 

This book applies the FTP/RBG Codes of Conduct to the lives and methods of REAL Afrikan Warriors and Revolutionaries. 
If you consider yourself a Warrior, read this book

And remember: Revolutionary WILL, without Revolutionary SKILL, will get a Revolutionary KILLED!

Message to the Warriors by Mwalimu K. Bomani Baruti

Afrikan Warriors

Message to the Warriors is a nationalist’s handbook, a warrior’s workbook, a nation-builder’s manual on the basics of how to develop the base for a strong, righteous character, knowing vision and uncompromising, enduring personal power.

All of these attributes are necessary if the Warrior is to fulfill his or her natural purpose in life – to assess, pursue and fulfill the interests and sovereignty of Afrikan people.

Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. by Chancellor Williams

Afrikan Warriors

The Destruction of Black Civilization took Chancellor Williams sixteen years of research and field study to compile. It was written at a time when many Black students, educators, and scholars were starting to piece together the connection between the way our history is taught and the way we are perceived by others and by ourselves.

Williams’ extensive study and research led him to the contention that many elements – nature, imperialism, and stolen legacies – have aided in the destruction of Black civilization. The Destruction of Black Civilization is revelatory and revolutionary because it offers a new approach to the research, teaching, and study of Afrikan history by shifting the main focus from the history of Arabs and Europeans in Afrika to the Afrikans themselves, offering, as Chancellor Williams said, “a history of Blacks that is a history of Blacks because only from history can we learn what our strengths were and, especially, in what particular aspect we are weak and vulnerable.”

Fist of Africa by Balogun Ojetade

Afrikan Warriors

Nigeria 2004…Nicholas ‘New Breed’ Steed, a tough teen from the mean streets of Chicago, is sent to his mother’s homeland – a tiny village in Nigeria – to avoid trouble with the law. Unknown to Nick, the tiny village is actually a compound where some of the best fighters in the world are trained. Nick is teased, bullied and subjected to torturous training in a culture so very different from the world where he grew up.

Atlanta 2014…After a decade of training in Nigeria, a tragedy brings Nick back to America. Believing the disaffected youth in his home town sorely need the same self-discipline and strength of character training in the Afrikan martial arts gave him, Nick opens an Academy. While the youth are disinterested in the fighting style of the cultural heritage Nick offers, they are enamored with mixed martial arts. Nick decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts to make the world aware of the effectiveness and efficiency of the martial arts of Afrika. Pursuing a professional career in MMA, Nick moves to Atlanta, Georgia, where he runs into his old nemesis – Rico Stokes, the organized crime boss who once employed Nick’s father, wants Nick to replace his father in the Stokes’ protection racket. Will New Breed Steed claim the Light Heavyweight title … Or will the streets of Atlanta claim him?

Yoruba Warlords of the Nineteenth Century by Toyin Falola and Dare Oguntomisin

Afrikan Warriors

This is a pioneer book on the Yoruba military generals of the 19th century, covering their individual careers, military alliances and the consequences of their actions on the society.

This book is divided into two parts. The first examines the life histories of the most distinguished among the Yoruba warriors. In the second section, the authors examine some of the Yoruba warlords’ strategies and the enduring consequences of their actions.

A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu by Balogun Ojetade

Afrikan Warriors

I put these books together because, while standing alone each book is a great action-packed story of triumph, determination and the warrior’s spirit, together, they are a powerhouse rarely seen in fiction.

A Single Link NEVER Breaks!” 

After suffering a brutal assault at the hands of a martial arts champion, Remi “Ray” Swan decides that, to gain closure and empowerment, she must face her attacker in the first professional fight between a man and a woman. 

Join Ray in this powerful, two-fisted adventure as she fights, not just for herself, but for all who have suffered at the cruel hands of those who would wreak pain, oppression, injustice and death! 

Step into the cage, where action, adventure, bone shattering fights, and even an examination of violence and how to handle it await you!

In Wrath of the Siafu, we discover the story is actually set in the very near future…

A young genius is gunned down brutally by the police. Remi Swan – our hero A Single Link – fights the police to avenge the little boy and herself. She is arrested, imprisoned, forced to fight and infected with an experimental virus that turns people into raging monsters…or worse.

Possessed with incredible – and frightening – new abilities, Remi sets off a war against a system that has long brutalized Black people; a war that, alone, she might not be able to fight. But now she is backed by an army…a powerful and deadly force of her own making.

Now, that brutal system will suffer the… WRATH OF THE SIAFU!

How to Build a People’s Army by Kalonji Changa

Afrikan Warriors

How to Build a People s Army is a guide to successful community organizing on a basic and practical level.

Over the years, the overall art of grassroots organizing has been lost. The failure of intergenerational communication, technological weapons of mass distraction and overly exasperated grand illusions of capitalism have sent our future towards a downward spiral.

Protocol, discipline, political education, loyalty and respect are absent from today’s liberation struggle.

How to Build a People’s Army breathes life back into the asphyxiating Black Movement. It is a basic training manual of sorts, filled with effective, tested and proven strategies and principles that “Arm the Masses” with proper information.

With How to Build a People’s Army in hand, without a doubt, victory is inevitable!

The Afrikan Warriors’ Bible is here!

The long-awaited sequel to Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within!

The Afrikan Warriors' BibleThe Afrikan Warriors’ Bible expands on the first book, teaching the reader advanced techniques and principles that aid in the awakening and discovery of their Warrior within.

The Afrikan Warriors’ Bible applies the FTP/RBG Codes of Conduct to the lives and methods of REAL Afrikan Warriors and Revolutionaries.

If you consider yourself a Warrior, read this book!

And remember: Revolutionary WILL, without Revolutionary SKILL, will get a Revolutionary KILLED!

The SOBSFic Con Schedule!

Earlier, we gave you a sneak peek at our tracks for SOBSFic Con, the epic Black Speculative Fiction convention coming June 17-18, 2016. Then, we presented the Youth Track.

Now, we give you a look at the Programming. And yes, it is a Blacktastic, fun-filled two days packed with all the Steamfunk, Sword and Soul, Afrofuturism, Afroretroism, Rococoa and Black Speculative Fition you can stand…and then some!

Check it out:

Friday, June 17, 2016 [Vending starts at 10am]

12pm

Media – SF&F Shorts

Screening Room

2pm

Media – SF&F Feature #1

Screening Room

2pm

Children – Afrikan Music and Movement

Panel Room 1

Teens – Video Games We Love

Panel Room 2

We Want the Funk: Afrofuturism in Music

Panel Room 3

Reading Octavia Butler and LA Banks

Panel Room 4

4pm

Children – Create Your Own Comic Book

Panel Room 1

Teens – Teens Talk to Authors

Panel Room 2

Media–SF&F Shorts

Screening Room

Black Southern Folklore in Horror Literature

Panel Room 3

The Pinnacles and Pitfalls of Self Publishing

Panel Room 4

6pm

Teens – Steamfunk Style

Panel Room 1

African-Centered Worldbuilding

Panel Room 2

Afrofuturism and Literature

Panel Room 3

Black Craft and Consciousness in Comic Books

Panel Room 4

8pm

The Mahogany Masquerade

Saturday, June 18, 2016 [Vending starts at 10am]

10am

Children and Teens – Hair Braiding

Panel Room 1

Horror on the Black Hand Side

Screening Room

Traditional Arms, Armor and Martial Arts of Africa

Panel Room 2

Author Interviews and Readings #1 (4 authors; 30 minutes each)

Panel Room 3

Marketing Black Speculative Media to the Masses

Panel Room 4

12pm

Dark and Stormy: Black Horror Film Screening

Screening Room

Children – Story Time

Panel Room 1

Teens – We Love Anime

Panel Room 4

Indigenous African Martial Arts Workshop

Panel Rooms 2 and 3

2pm

Ki-Khanga: The Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game Tournament

Screening Room

Children – Black Speculative Trivial Pursuit

Panel Room 1

Teens Talk to Authors

Panel Room 2

Author Interviews and Readings #2 (4 authors; 30 minutes each)

Panel Room 3

Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa: The Remixing of Black Histories and Heroes

Panel Room 4

4pm

Children and Teens – Magic Show

Screening Room

The Big, Beautiful, Black Roundtable!

Panel Room 1

6pm

The Pauline Hopkins Award for Achievement in Black Speculative Fiction / Closing Ceremonies

Screening Room

8:30pm: Vending Room Closes

Check back often for more updates and check out the SOBSFic Con Website for more details.

SOBSFic Con

SOBSFic Con Adds a Youth Track!

SOBSFic ConStudies have shown that, in the general population, Science Fiction and Fantasy has an impact on the teaching of values and critical literacy to young adults. Science Fiction challenges readers to first imagine and then to realize the future of not only the novel they are reading but, also the future of the world in which they live.

Looking at the most visible popular examples of Epic Fantasy – J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and bestselling authors J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan – a casual observer might assume that big, continent-spanning sagas with magic in them are always set in some imaginary variation on Medieval – and, sometimes, even modern – Britain. The stories include the common tropes – swords, talismans of power, wizards and the occasional dragon, all in a world where Black people rarely exist; and those who do appear are decidedly peripheral and usually work for the bad guys.

That same casual observer might therefore conclude that Epic Fantasy – one of today’s most popular genres of fiction – would hold little interest for Black readers and even less for Black writers. But that casual observer would be wrong.

SteamfunkChildren and young adults of African descent can – and do – relate to the experiences in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Indeed, they crave these experiences and read speculative fiction just as voraciously as young adults of other races. But the lack of self-images in this literature can have a negative effect on the psyche of young readers and can, indeed, contribute to negative behavior. We derive our perceptions of self by what we hear, see, and read and our perception directly affects our actions.

The Process of Action works as follows:

Perception (precedes Thought)

Thought (precedes Impulse)

Impulse (precedes Action)

Action

If the Perception of ourselves is a person who lacks courage, integrity and goodness – because we do not see ourselves possessing heroic qualities in most books – the Thought creeps into our minds that we lack those heroic qualities, so we are – by default – villains. The Thought grows into a strong Impulse to be the villain; and finally, the Action of villainy takes place.

However, if – through Fantasy and Science Fiction written with Black characters as the heroes – our youth begin to perceive themselves as heroic…as hard working…as good…they will begin to act in accord with how they perceive themselves.

With these facts in mind, the Founders of SOBSFic Con have added a Youth Track to the programming.

We have broken the programming down to offerings for Children and for Teens. Check them out:

Children (ages 6 – 11)

Afrikan Music and Movement

The children will learn traditional dances and traditional Afrikan drumming and the history behind these enriching traditions.

Create Your Own Comic Book

 Participants will learn how to make comic books, from beginning to end, story board to final page.

Hair Braiding

Learn how to braid hair in beautiful and traditional fashions from Afrika and throughout the Diaspora.

Story Time

Guest readers read their favorite Black speculative fiction picture book and children enjoy juice and cookies while listening.

Black Speculative Trivial Pursuit

Children compete against their peers for the title of champion of Black Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror trivia.

Magic Show

The children will be treated to an amazing magic show.

 

Teens (ages 12-17)

Books and Authors We Love

Teens talk about their favorite books and authors in this open discussion.

Reading and Q&A

Come hear short readings throughout the convention by YA authors, followed by an opportunity to ask questions about their writing, their experiences, and their careers.

Video Games We Love

Teens talk about their favorite video games in this open discussion. Video Games creators will be on hand to join the conversation.

Steamfunk Style

What makes a costume “steamfunk?” What props do you need to do it right? How do you create a steamfunk persona? Teens will receive the answers to these questions and more from our panel of Steamfunkateers.

Comics Creators Panel

Our panel of comics creators talk about their work and answer questions!

We Love Anime

Teens talk about their favorite anime and manga in this open discussion with anime and manga creators. Part of this discussion will highlight Black characters and creators in anime and manga.

Teens Talk to Authors

Authors talk about what they like to write and listen to what teens like to read.

Let’s Draw a Comic Strip

Work together with other teens to create a comic strip that tells a story without words. How are comics made? How does graphic storytelling work? Join in and find out!

Hair Braiding Workshop

Learn how to braid hair in beautiful and traditional fashions from Afrika and throughout the Diaspora. Brothers – this is not just for the sisters! Learning to braid your friends’ hair will make you very popular and maybe even a little cash on the side. Come try it out!

SOBSFic Con

HELL and STAGECOACH MARY: Excerpts from the Steamfunk novel, “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 and 2)”

EXCERPT 1: I am Harriet Tubman

Harriet crouched low in the thickets. She counted five – no, six – adults in the house.  Four men; two women. They were at the supper table, eating a grayish-brown mass from wooden bowls with their fingers.

A constant, dull thump emanated from the rear of the house.

“Must be the child,” Harriet whispered.  Harriet reasoned that the girl was bored and was pretending to skip rope, with the heavy chain she was tethered to.

Harriet crept towards the back of the house, but a familiar voice made her pause. She looked skyward. “I ain’t one to question yo’ Word, but is you sure, Lawd?” She nodded. “Thy will be done, then.”

Harriet stood and brushed the dirt from her dress. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.  The night air cooled the sweat on her forehead, and the flickering flame in her gut.  She opened her eyes and locked her gaze on the house.

In three strong bounds, Harriet was standing at the front door of the house. She pounded her tiny, brown fist on the rotting wood.

The thumping of the heavy chain ceased.

The door was flung open wide.

And the stench of sweat and spoiled milk assaulted her nostrils.

“What you want, gal?”

Harriet quickly peered into the house. Everyone, except for the wiry man standing before her, was still sitting at the table. But they were no longer eating and their eyes were fixed on the doorway.

The man in the doorway spat onto the porch, the bilious sputum just missing Harriet’s boots. “You hear me, nigger? I said…”

The web of flesh between Harriet’s thumb and forefinger struck the man’s throat. She glided past him as he fell to the floor, clutching his crushed windpipe and gasping for air.

The men at the table jumped to their feet and rushed toward her, as the two women ran toward the rear of the house.

Harriet exploded forward, pummeling the nearest man to her with a flurry of elbow strikes.

Blood erupted from the man’s nose and mouth as his face collapsed under the force of Harriet’s swift and powerful blows.

Massive arms wrapped around her waist, jerking her into the air.

Harriet threw her head back forcefully. A crunching sound followed and then a scream.

She felt something warm and wet soak the back of her bonnet.

The grip on Harriet’s waist loosened slightly. She took advantage of the opportunity, bending forward and grabbing the man-mountain’s leg with both hands. Holding on tightly, she rolled forward.

The momentum of the roll forced the giant to tumble over onto his back.

Harriet landed on her back, with the giant’s leg between hers. She thrust her hips forward forcefully, ramming her pelvis into the man’s knee, as she yanked his ankle back toward her shoulder.

The man-mountain’s leg made a loud, popping noise. Harriet tossed the badly twisted leg aside. The giant screamed as his leg flopped around on the floor, no longer under the goliath’s control.

Harriet sprang to her feet. 

She was met by a powerful punch toward her face as she stood. Harriet shifted slightly to her right and the punch torpedoed past her.

Harriet countered by slamming the heel of her right foot into the man’s solar plexus, which sent him careening through the air.  He came to rest on the supper table. Slivers of wood and chunks of gray-brown mush sprayed into the air.

The last man turned on his heels and ran toward the door. She kicked an overturned chair. The oak chair flipped through the air and struck the man in the back of the head. The man’s head split open like an over-ripe plum. Harriet turned from the dying man and walked to the rear of the house.

The back door was wide open.

The wind had extinguished the candles, but the moon bathed the room in a silver-blue incandescence.  The women were – wisely – long gone, but the girl was still in the room, crouched in a corner. An iron manacle was locked to her right ankle. The manacle was connected to a heavy, iron chain, which was screwed into the floor.

Harriet crouched before the little girl, and placed a gentle hand upon her shoulder. “You alright, baby?”

The little girl perused the room, as if to ensure they were alone, and then nodded.

“You Margaret, I reckon.”

The child nodded again.

Harriet rubbed her hand over the girl’s matted, light brown curls. “We gon’ get you outta here and get you cleaned up. Gotta have you presentable for yo’ daddy.”

The little girl’s eyes widened and the corners of her mouth turned up in the hint of a smile. Yet the act of smiling seemed to strain her, as if she had not smiled in quite some time. “My daddy? He sent you for me?”

Harriet pulled an L-shaped, sliver of metal from behind the ribbon in her bonnet; and slid it into the back of the manacle around Margaret’s ankle. “He sure did.” The manacle clicked and slid open.

Margaret caressed her bruised and swollen ankle. “Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking…”

“Go ‘head, child.”

“Who are you?” Margaret asked.

Harriet stood, and helped the little girl to her feet. “Me? I’m Harriet. Harriet Tubman.”

EXCERPT 2: And Hell Followed

Harriet parted the dingy, white lace curtains and studied the villagers as they marched – with heads hung low – in a long queue toward the church.

They would bury Father Ramon today and – if the Lawd saw fit to let Harriet have her way – she would bury John Brown today also.

Harriet turned away from the window and resumed her search of Sinai’s cabin.

Argentine blades and bullets, used for killing lycanthropes, were in abundance; as were stakes of sharpened oak; and axes and swords of cold steel – common tools of the trade of one who hunts monsters.

Inside a silver box, tucked under Sinai’s bed, Harriet found what she was looking for – the Bello Mule – a .48 caliber revolver that possessed two barrels and a drum-like cylinder, with twenty chambers arranged in two rows – a monstrous weapon with which to fight monstrous foes.

Baas had given the Mule to Sinai for his birthday a decade ago. The old monster-hunter had put the weapon to use many times.

“Lawd, let me wield this half as good as old Sinai and I’ll be satisfied,” Harriet whispered, slipping the Bello Mule into its massive, leather holster, which she now wore strapped across her chest.

Harriet scooped several fistfuls of silver .48 caliber bullets from the box that housed the Mule and tossed them into leather pouches on the belt she had secured around her waist over her charcoal-gray, cotton blouse.

She stepped out of the hot shadows of the house into the cool breeze that blew across the oasis in the desert that was the village of Punta Blanca.

The warrior woman hopped into Sinai’s cart and inspected its contents to ensure she had not forgotten anything important during her hasty packing of the vehicle. “Two shotguns…crate of buckshot…bag of jerky…barrel of water…I don’t think we missed nothin’, Lawd, so I’ll be takin’ my leave now. I ‘magine you’ll be showin’ me **** *****’s whereabouts soon, Lawd and – as promised – I’ll be sendin’ him on down to perdition, where he belong.”

Harriet looked toward the horizon. A large dust cloud rolled toward the village. Harriet reached inside her overcoat and withdrew her goggles. She slipped them onto her face. The bronze and leather eyewear cooled her cocoa skin.

And then the world tumbled…tilted…fell…whirling around Harriet like a maelstrom, filled with ire and spite.

A giant human skeleton, with two snarling heads, burst from the spinning chaos and landed before Harriet.

The monstrous relic sported a cape fashioned from dirt and a sword forged from the putrid corpses of Mexican soldados – the plumed helmeted soldiers Harriet faced three days earlier, in Punta Blanca. The skeleton’s heads laughed and then the creature slashed toward Harriet’s neck with its corpse-sword.

The whirling of the world stopped.

Harriet rose from the floor of the cart and hopped into the drivers’ seat. “Yah,” she shouted, snapping the reins she clutched in her fists. The twin horses bolted toward the church.

“Your guns!” Harriet screamed. “Get your guns an’ get ready!”

The villagers turned toward Harriet with puzzled expressions.

“Get ready for what?” A nun asked.

Harriet pointed toward the cloud of dirt rolling toward them. “Hell.”

EXCERPT 2: Harriet meet “Stagecoach” / “Black” Mary Fields

The procession of vehicles came to a halt.

The smell of freshwater and the sound of gently breaking waves told Harriet that she was at the Mississippi River.

“Get the vehicles on board and feed the horses,” she heard Kleinhopper say. “Then, rest well, my children; we head upriver in the morning…oh, and dump Madame D’Oliva’s remains in the river, please. Goodnight.”

Harriet felt a slight bump, followed by the intermittent sound of wood pelting metal as the wagon, under which she hid, traversed the steel bridge.

A few moments later, the pelting sound gave way to the sound of the heavy, wooden wheels of the cart rolling across a wooden floor.

The cart shook as man-sized and toddler-sized  knolls exited the vehicle. Massive legs shambled past Harriet, shaking the deck with each step.

A few minutes later, all was quiet. Harriet lowered herself to the floor. She lay there for a moment, stretching her aching back and stiffened fingers, and then rolled from under the cart.

Harriet scanned the area. All was still.

Crouching low, she crept toward a spiral staircase that rose before her.

Harriet paused, taking a moment to study her surroundings. She was on a riverboat of incredible craftsmanship. The floor and walls were constructed from ebony. Etched into the hard, dark wood were symbols similar to those tattooed upon the face of an old Chinese assassin she once encountered. Harriet wondered if Professor Kleinhopper would be as difficult to kill as that assassin.

Harriet crawled up the stairs, her light steps further muffled by the plush Persian carpentry that ran up the center of each step.

At the top of the stairway, Harriet quietly dropped to her belly and perused her surroundings. The floor was covered in the same rich carpeting as the spiral staircase. The ebon walls were covered with paintings of – and, most likely, from – exotic Eastern lands, of which Harriet had dreamed of visiting since she first heard tales of such places from Baas Bello. Baas had visited nearly every country in the world. Harriet recognized – from Baas’ vivid descriptions – an armor-clad Japanese samurai striking a red-faced demon with his gleaming katana; a Maori queen, riding upon the back of a giant blue whale; a pair of boxers from Thailand, fighting from the back of an elephant…

An art aficionado, eh?

Harriet whirled around toward the voice.

No one stood before her.

She snapped her head upward.

Clinging to the high ceiling, like a spider, was Professor Amschel Kleinhopper. “Unfortunately, you will soon be dead, so you purchasing a piece is not an option.”

The Professor dropped from the ceiling. His billowing frock and Plague Doctor’s mask gave him the appearance of a bird of smoke and shadow.

Harriet leapt upward, grabbing Professor Kleinhopper’s neck in mid-air.

Upon their descent, Harriet snapped the Professor’s head toward the floor with a powerful jerk.

Just before The Professor’s skull met the hardwood floor, however, he vanished in a puff of black smoke.

A swishing sound came from behind Harriet. She rolled forward, barely evading the pulverizing strike from Professor Kleinhopper’s cane.

Harriet peered over her shoulder. Professor Kleinhopper knelt on one knee. A spider web-shaped crack in the floor extended from the tip of his cane.

“You have chosen to purloin from the wrong gentleman, Miss…”

“Tubman,” Harriet replied. “Harriet Tubman; and I ain’t come to steal; I came to settle a score for a dear friend.”

“Wait…you are the woman who accompanied Baas Bello,” Professor Kleinhopper said.

“That’s right,” Harriet replied.

“You are quite…talented,” Professor Kleinhopper said. “I have no quarrel with you. Baas Bello – and that fool son-in-law of his – were my intended targets.”

“Why? Why Talltrees? Why Baas?” Harriet asked.

SteamfunkBecause he is an envious child.”

“Baas Bello!” Professor Kleinhopper hissed, turning to face the old genius.

“Are you okay, Harriet?” Baas asked, pointing his Bello Rifle at Professor Kleinhopper’s throat.

“I’m fine, Baas,” Harriet replied. “I was just about to kill The Alchemist, is all. How you be?”

“No, Harriet, this one is mine,” Baas replied.

Two shots rang out from below them, followed by a ghastly scream.

“But, please,” Baas continued. “Mary can use your assistance downstairs. It would appear the knolls have awakened.”

“Mary?” Harriet said, shaking her head. “Black Mary Fields?”

“That would be her,” Baas replied. “Now, please, if you will…”

Harriet darted past Baas and scurried down the stairs.

Black Mary was busy dodging blows from the twin toddler-sized knolls, a pair of man-sized knolls and a giant knoll as she fired her twin revolvers.

A hammering backhand to her chest from the gargantuan knoll sent Mary sliding backward.

As she slid past Harriet, she nodded and smiled. “Evenin’, Harriet.”

“Hello, Mary,” Harriet replied dryly.

Mary’s back slammed into the wall behind her. She bounced off the wall and leapt forward, slamming her elbow into the clockwork that was the heart of a charging knoll. Gears, chain links and a haze of steam flew into the air. The knoll fell.

A squad of toddler-sized knolls charged toward Harriet.

“Catch,” Mary shouted, tossing one of her Colt Dragoons to her.

Harriet plucked the pistol out of the air and – with blinding speed – fanned the revolver’s hammer as she repeatedly squeezed the trigger.

Knoll after tiny knoll fell, screaming in agony as oil, dirt, gears and stone peppered the walls and floor.

Suddenly, a massive hand of grass and soil grabbed Mary and plucked her from the floor, hoisting her high into the air.

A loud, cracking noise came from within the gargantuan knoll’s fist.

“Mary!” Harriet screamed, fearing that the cracking noise was the sound of Black Mary’s bones being crushed to dust.

Oil dripped from the creature’s fist and it unleashed a wail that shook the entire riverboat. The giant knoll’s injured hand sprang open, revealing a smoking hole made by Black Mary’s Colt Dragoon.

Mary wrapped her muscular arms around the giant’s thumb and then forcefully arched backward as she raised her arms high above her head.

The giant knoll released what could only be described as a gasp of shock as it was turned upside down, its feet leaving a trail of dirt and grass across the ceiling as it careened through the air.

The creature landed on its back with a tremendous thud. A torrent of steam erupted from its mouth.

“Lawd,” Harriet gasped, impressed by Black Mary’s tremendous strength.

Mary landed on her feet next to the giant corpse’s head. She raised her fists to her chin. “Come on, y’all; I’m just warmin’ up!”

I hope you enjoyed reading these excerpts as much as I enjoyed writing the book.  If you desire to read more, the book is available through Amazon and my website.

The State of Black Science Fiction Presents: SOBSFic Con!

The State of Black Science Fiction, the popular collective of authors, artists, filmmakers, comic book creators and cosplayers who create works of science fiction, fantasy and horror by, for and about people of Afrikan descent, are bringing us the State of Black Science Fiction Convention – also known as SOBSFic Con – in 2016 on June 17-18.

This Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror convention by and about people of Afrikan descent, will take place in Atlanta and is expected to draw creators and fans from all over the globe.

Here is a glimpse at the programming thus far:

AFRORETROISM TRACK

The Afroretroism Track presents programs about current and classic alternate history writings, exploring trends and issues in Steamfunk, Dieselfunk, Rococoa, Sword and Soul and other alternate-history genres expressed through a Black / African lens. Panels include discussions of race and ethnicity in alternate history; fabricating all the necessary accouterments for Steamfunkateers; Traditional African Arms, Armor and Martial Arts; Black Heroes in History and more!

Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa: The Remixing of Black Histories and Heroes

This panel discussion explores the literary genres of Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa, which feature Black heroes and heroines, and marries our history with science fiction, fantasy and Black cultural aesthetics.

Traditional Arms, Armor and Martial Arts of Africa

This panel discussion explores the traditional weapons, armor and fighting principles and techniques from throughout the continent of Africa.

Indigenous African Martial Arts Workshop

Expanding on knowledge gained in the Traditional Arms, Armor and Martial Arts of Africa panel, this interactive workshop teaches the use of indigenous African martial arts for self-defense, film fight choreography and as a reference for comic books, novels and graphic novels that want to feature authentic African combat techniques.

AFROFUTURISM TRACK

The Afrofuturism Track features programs about the cultural movement of the Diaspora that uses technology, science, and science fiction to explore the Black experience. Our panels discuss trends and themes in Afrofuturism and its subgenres of Cyberfunk and Spyfunk.

Afrofuturism and Literature

Our panelists discuss the emergence of Afrofuturistic literature; the differences and similarities between Afrofuturism and Black Speculative Fiction and recommend their favorite works.

We Want the Funk: Afrofuturism in Music

Afrofuturist musicians such as Sun Ra, Janelle Monet, Parliament-Funkadelic and Deltron 3030 tell stories of future worlds in their songs. Panelists play & discuss Afrofuturistic music and its impact on speculative fiction and society.

Emerging Subgenres in Afrofuturism

This panel explores the funky new genres of literature dubbed Cyberfunk and Spyfunk. With anthologies, novels and films in development, these subgenres are sure to take Afrofuturism to even greater heights.

BLACK HORROR TRACK

The Black Horror track spotlights Southern Gothic Literature, ghost stories, and vintage tales of terror by authors and filmmakers of African descent. In addition, the track features television shows in the genre, classic horror movies, and musical interpretations by and about Black people.

Horror on the Black Hand Side

This panel discussion, featuring horror authors of African descent, highlights horror fiction and dark fantasy genres, with a distinct Black point of view and cultural references.

Black Southern Folklore in Horror Literature

From the African Diaspora to Christian fundamentalism to Hoodoo, Southern literature has been haunted by powerful and mysterious religions, practices, and superstitions. Explore how writers use the folklore and belief systems of the Black American southern traditions to add to the disturbing dimensions of horror and Southern Gothic fiction.

Dark and Stormy: Black Horror Film Screening

This program spotlights some of the most exciting short and feature horror films created by Black filmmakers. After screenings, engage in a panel discussion with the creators.

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION TRACK

This track explores why we love Science Fiction, Fantasy and comic books, the craft of writing speculative fiction and how to get our books, teleplays, comic books scripts and screenplays published and / or produced.

Reading Octavia Butler and L.A. Banks

If you’ve never read Octavia Butler or L.A. Banks, where should you start? Our panelists share their favorites and discuss the influence their work had on the genre and on social justice movements.

African-Centered Worldbuilding

Our panelists discuss techniques for worldbuilding utilizing African settings, cultures and folklore. Learn how great Sword and Soul stories are developed and told.

Black Craft and Consciousness in Comic Books

This panel focuses on the evolution of Black protagonists and cultural references in contemporary comic books and graphic novels. It also examines the emergence of Black consciousness in the comic book industry and the growing community of artists who use illustrations and comic books as tools to explore Black culture.

The Pinnacles and Pitfalls of Self Publishing

Self publishing is no longer the stigmatized concept that once evoked thoughts of vanity presses and unprofessional writing. Today it is a growing and exciting avenue for authors to take control of their works and careers. What are the pros and cons? How do you successfully take a book from concept to completion? What happens after your book is released? This panel will explore what it takes to publish, market, and build yourself as an indie author.

MEDIA TRACK

The Media Track showcases the best Black independent short and feature films, animation and web series from throughout the Diaspora, specializing in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres.

We will screen these works throughout the duration of SOBSFic Con.

 

SPECIAL EVENTS:

The Mahogany Masquerade

Come dressed as your favorite character from a Science Fiction or Fantasy book, movie or television show or, even better, create your own costume and persona and enjoy The Mahogany Masquerade: An evening of Sword and Soul, Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa!

No costume? It’s cool. Come anyway to meet, greet and party with your fellow Steamfunkateers, Trekkies, and other lovers of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror!

Ki-Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game Tournament

Join in the fun and play the hottest and most unique pen-and-paper role-playing game on the market! Build your character and compete against other players in the Fighting Pits of the magical and mysterious world of Ki-Khanga.

Interviews and Readings

Come out and meet Black Science Fiction and Fantasy authors as they discuss Black Speculative Fiction and read from their works.

The Pauline Hopkins Award for Achievement in Black Speculative Fiction

This award will be given to two creators of great Black Speculative works in fiction, film, animation or comic books.

The Big, Beautiful, Black Roundtable

Some of the most exciting speculative fiction on the market today is coming from Black viewpoints. Anyone following the latest debates in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror knows that diversity also has become a controversial topic. This centerpiece discussion circle brings together the most creators and fans of Black Speculative Fiction EVER in one discussion to tackle the issues of diversity in – and the emerging global view of – Black Speculative Fiction!

 

Helmed by authors and event planners, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade, a call has gone out for volunteers and managers of the five Programming Tracks. Each Track will also feature special programming for the youth.

We will continue to update you as SOBSFic Con develops.

What would YOU like to see / experience at SOBSFic Con?

SOBSFic

STEAMFUNK IS…

STEAMFUNK IS…

life 9Life lived in a fabricated Age of Steam.

To fabricate means to “invent or create.”

Thus, Steamfunk, at its root, is the invention or creation of a story set in the “Age of Steam”. For the authors of Steamfunk, this Age is not limited to the Victorian Era (1837 – 1901). A Steamfunk story can take place in the past, present or future, as long as steam technology is the dominant technology in that story’s world.

life 7The novel, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, is set in late 19th Century North and South America. My story, The Hand of Sa-Seti is set in 12th Century Kamit (A nation akin to ancient Egypt), while Nandi, a short story that will appear in the upcoming Black Pulp II anthology, is set in 1973 California.

All are Steamfunk; all are very different from one another.

As far as the “blackness” in the stories within the Steamfunk anthology goes, co-editor and publisher, Milton Davis says “In some of the stories, the main character happened to be Black; but, in others, the main character had to be Black.”

One story in which the main character had to be Black is Benjamin’s Freedom Magic by Ronald Jones. Benjamin’s Freedom Magic is based on the amazing life of the very real Benjamin Montgomery, an enslaved genius who was also one of the greatest inventors in modern history.

life 1Born in Virginia in 1819, Benjamin was owned by Joseph E. Davis, older brother of future Confederate president, Jefferson Davis. Benjamin was a mechanic who used his skill to invent a propeller that allowed steamboats to maneuver through shallow water with greater ease and safety. In the late 1850s, he attempted to get a patent for his invention. According to author, Ronald Jones “Not surprisingly, the U.S. Attorney General’s office refused to grant a patent to a slave. When the Davis brothers tried to patent Benjamin’s invention, they were denied as well, due to neither being the true inventor; how ironic that, when Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederacy, he enacted a law making it possible for slaves to patent their inventions.”

life 10Upon the end of the Civil War, Joseph Davis sold his plantation and other properties to Benjamin and Benjamin’s son, Isaiah. The sale was made based on a long-term loan in the amount of $300,000.00. Benjamin and Isaiah decided to pursue a dream of using the property to establish a community of freed slaves.

Like Benjamin Montgomery, Ronald Jones – one of the greatest Military Science Fiction writers in modern history – used his skill and genius to fabricate a story from a man’s amazing life that is even more amazing; one filled with intrigue, action and wondrous gadgets.

life 6Steamfunk is… Life lived in a fabricated Age of Steam.

And the heroes and heroines in every story in the Steamfunk anthology live those lives with great pain, weariness, vigor, ambition or zest.

Steamfunk is a life, or, for some of our more zealous Steamfunkateers, Steamfunk is life; however, it is somehow larger than life; more wondrous; more…funky.

And, for the record, the life that is Steamfunk is not “Black Steampunk”; no more than Steampunk is, well, White Steampunk. Steamfunk offers a look at Steampunk through a different set of goggles. Goggles with colorful lenses.

But, alas, I wax poetic. If you really want a great definition of Steamfunk, pick up the Steamfunk anthology, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective, or From Here to Timbuktu. They can provide a much clearer definition than I ever could…and you’ll have the time of your life reading them, too!

life 5

The Year of Rococoa is coming!

Rococoa2016 will be the year of Rococoa with the release of the first anthology from ROARING LIONS PRODUCTIONS!

Where Sword and Soul ends and before Steamfunk begins, there is the Age of Spring Technology and Clockwork.

RococoaThink Three Finger’d Jack; the pirate, Black Caesar; and the Haitian Revolution. Think the Black Count, Nat Turner, and the Stono Rebellion…that is Rococoa!

Time for those stories to be told, y’all! What say you authors? Are you in?

If so, Roaring Lions Productions is seeking completed stories between 2,000 and 10,000 words.

Writers will be paid $25.00 upon release of the anthology.

Each story will have an attached illustration, in addition to the stunning cover!

The deadline for submissions is August 31, 2015.

Release will be in e-book and paperback formats.

Here are the Submission Guidelines:

GUIDELINES

  1. Submissions must be set between the latter part of the Renaissance Period (1600s) and the end of the Age of Enlightenment (1780s).
  2. The story can be set anywhere in the world.
  3. Technology is a combination of mundane technology of the era and retrofuturistic sun, water, or spring powered gear device (i.e. “clock”) technology.
  4. Magic and mysticism are acceptable.
  5. The main character should be of African descent / Black.
  6. Submissions must be double-spaced, in 12-Point Times New Roman or Courier Font.
  7. Include a cover page, with your legal name, pen name, mailing address, phone number and email address.
  8. Send to chroniclesofharriet@gmail.com.

 

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE II: The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth!

What exactly is a “nerd”?

A nerd is defined as a person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.

Nerdiness exists on a continuum. Some people are a little nerdy, while others are very nerdy. The more nerdy you are, the more oblivious of yourself as a social object you tend to be, which leads you to behave in socially awkward ways, such as dressing badly, or failing to take subtle hints.

The onset of nerdiness tends to come early in life and people often grow out of being nerds; rarely, if ever, does someone become a nerd later in life.

Because nerds are awkward and un-smooth, they tend to be rejected and isolated by peers; because it is emotionally painful to experience such marginalization, nerds tend to push themselves to be excellent in aspects of life that do not require social skills.

If they are at all smart, they tend to go whole hog into some intellectual pursuit. Computer science is a favorite, but any non-social intellectual pursuit will do.

Nerds can become very good at their chosen fields because they have very little to keep them from devoting all of their energy to those fields.

These are not balanced people with rich social lives. Instead, these are people who spend holidays writing papers.

I am painfully aware of this because I used to be one of these people.

One Christmas holiday, while visiting my oldest sister, my brother-in-law and my nephews in sunny California (I was born and raised in Chicago), I spent seventy percent of my waking hours writing adventures for my Dungeons & Dragons campaign, twenty percent was spent writing raps (yep, I was an avid fan of hip-hop too), eight percent was spent eating and bathing and the remaining two percent was spent chatting with family and thinking about what I was going to write next.

By the time my “vacation” was over, I was dead tired because, as an extrovert, I am actually energized by social interaction.

Some people’s nerdiness is a function of a condition called Asperger’s Disorder which is a mild pervasive developmental disorder on the same spectrum as Autism.

Asperger’s Disorder involves language and communication deficits which have a basis in neurological deficits. The prototypical person with Asperger’s learns language reasonably well, but doesn’t seem to experience language the same way as a normal person. Some quality of emotional transmission is missing.

People with Asperger’s often talk in odd cadences and/or they may fail to understand social reciprocity such that they may manifest an eccentric and one-sided social approach to others (e.g., pursuing a conversational topic regardless of others’ reactions).

An alternative kind of nerd is someone who develops a condition known as Schizotypal Personality Disorder. To say someone has a personality disorder in general is to say that they have grown up with some important part of the normal human coping toolkit missing or undeveloped.

People with personality disorders are developmentally delayed in important social-emotional ways that cause them to be “one trick ponies” who can only react to the world in a narrow and rigid set of ways.

When such a person is in their element, all is fine (because they know how to cope with their element), but when they go out of their element, they lack the flexibility to know how to cope appropriately and experience significant problems as a result (or for some personality disorders, other people experience significant problems).

Schizotypal Personality Disorder is characterized by a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships, as well as by cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behavior.

Recall the character of Kramer from the television show Seinfeld and you’ll have a good idea of what this looks like. People with Schizotypal PD are thought of as eccentric, weird, strange, or different. People tolerate them and may find them amusing but always tend to consider them an outsider.

Having a diagnosable disorder such as Asperger’s or Schizotypal PD might qualify a person as a nerd or a geek in some circles, but the reverse is not true. There are many nerds who don’t qualify for any diagnosable disorder. They may be the way they are for other reasons.

One primary reason that could push a person towards nerdiness is the presence of simple but profound social anxiety.

Social skills are learned through interaction with other children and adults during childhood and adolescence. If you are a very anxious child and avoid developmentally important social interactions, you will tend to remain delayed in your social-emotional skillfulness.

If, because of your social anxiety you cease to push yourself to interact and instead channel your energy into socially avoidant pursuits, the problem becomes compounded. Not being a member of intimate relationships means you are cut off from important feedback such as how to dress appropriately or when it is not good form to wear a backpack.

The true nerd will rationalize his or her odd social behavior, for defensive purposes. It is simply very painful to admit to yourself that you are essentially incompetent in this very important aspect of life.

Origin of the Nerd

And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo

And bring back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo

A Nerkle, a Nerd and a Seersucker, too! 

From If I Ran The Zoo, © 1950, Dr. Seuss

The first documented use of the word Nerd is in the 1950 Dr. Seuss story, If I Ran the Zoo, in which a boy named Gerald McGrew makes a several extravagant claims as to what he would do, if he were in charge at the zoo.

Among these was that he would bring a creature known as a Nerd from the land of Ka-Troo. The accompanying illustration showed a grumpy humanoid with unruly hair and sideburns, wearing a black T-shirt. A fitting image, these days, for a nerd.

The second documented occurrence of the word comes only a year after If I Ran The Zoo. The October 8, 1951 issue of Newsweek states on page 16:

In Detroit, someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd, or in a less severe case, a scurve.

On page 14 of the St. Joseph, Michigan, Herald-Press printed on 23 June 1952 it reads:

To ‘Clue Ya’ To Be ‘George’ And Not A ‘Nerd’ Or ‘Scurve’…If the patois throws you, you’re definitely not in the know, because anyone who is not a nerd (drip) knows that…

Once more, “nerd” is tied to “drip” and “scurve”; and from a city not far from Detroit, at that, just 8 months after the first sighting.

In the February 10, 1957, issue of the Glasgow, Scotland, Sunday Mail, the “ABC for Squares” column gave the definition as: Nerd – a square, any explanation needed?

The 1961-62 “Hamburg Show” featured a character named Millard Fillmore Nerd whose problem is that he is a square, having broken not a single rule.

All but the original Dr. Seuss give it the meaning of “a square” — a dull or boring person.

Geeks


Like nerd, the term geek was originally an insult.

It was the word used to describe a carnival sideshow “freak”, whose peculiarity was behavioral rather than physical.

The denizens of the “geek pit” would do things like bite the heads off of chickens. The folk who played these roles were often of a similar physical type – tall, gangling men with prominent Adam’s Apples, big mouths and noses, and bug-eyes. Thus the phrase “pencil-necked geek”.

Thus, as an insult, a geek was originally someone with unbecoming habits and few social graces, whereas the nerd was dull and boring – a square. Both were outcasts, but one was hopelessly conventional, the other bizarre and outlandish.

Not surprisingly, as the terms became more common, they meshed with each other. The square not merely wore thick rimmed glasses, but repaired them with adhesive tape. His dull hairstyle became a generation or two out of style and he was not merely non-athletic, but clumsy, and perhaps gangling or slovenly.

Blerds and Bleeks

When I was in high school and college, the last thing anybody wanted to be was a nerd. Today, due to strong media attention and the election of a Black President who – along with his wife – is a professed nerd, nerdy is the new sexy in the Black community.

Thankfully, gone are the days of Steve Urkel as the poster-boy for Black nerdism. When I first laid eyes upon Urkel – played by actor Jaleel White – back in 1989, I said “there goes the death of young, Black male intellectuals”.

Why?

Just watch an episode of  Family Matters and witness the over-the-top nerdy antics of Steve Urkel – who was never given the time of day by his long-time love interest, Laura Winslow, until he morphed into his “cool” alter-ego, Stefan Urquelle – and you can see why many Black boys in the inner city did not want to be smart.

And it appears that Steve Urkel’s influence is quite far-reaching.

Take these recent statistics, taken from a study released in 2010 by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, for example:

Only 47% of black males finished high school for the school year.

Out of that number, only 28% of black males in New York City finish on time.

I am confident, however, that this will rapidly change, as Blerds – or Black Nerds are being touted all over the web as the new cool. College-aged and older Blerds are coming forth and reveling in their nerdy Blacknificence. I imagine our teens and tweens will soon follow suit.

Blerds, by nature, are not typically as extreme as their non-Black counterparts. They embrace and celebrate both Urban and Geek cultures. A Blerd may collect comic books, engage in Steamfunk cosplay and have a collection of the latest hip-hop music, or maybe even rap themselves.

 When I – and author Milton Davis – announced the coming release of Ki-Khanga: the Sword & Soul Role-Playing Game, we did so without losing any “street cred” or facing social alienation from the popular crowd. In fact, a whole host of people I did not think even knew what a Role-Playing Games is came forward with enthusiastic support and eagerly await the game’s release.

Blerds in the Media

Actress/writer Issa Rae’s brilliant web series, The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl, about a nerdy Black girl and her many humorous escapades, has become an instant classic, popular with Black (and other) males and females, ages 13 and Older.

Another web series that is wildly popular with Blerds of all ages is Angela Tucker’s Black Folk Don’t, which explores the notion of stereotypes about Black people both without and within the African American community.

Theo – the black nerd at the center of Hans Gruber’s plot to steal $480m in bearer bonds in Die Hard – is both badass and master of technology.

Witty, empowered and shamelessly nerdy, Theo – played expertly by Clarence Gilyard, Jr. –  leapt from the screen and stole the show. “You didn’t bring me along for my charming personality,” he says, “…though you could have.”

Hip Hop producer/artist Pharrell of the Neptunes – an avid skateboarder, a professed lover of video games, a fan of Star Trek (he named his record label Star Trak) and a student of the works of astronomer Carl Sagan – named his quirky band N.E.R.D..

Andre Meadows, founder of http://www.blacknerdcomedy.com and known as The Black Nerd, blogs,vlogs and delivers a unique and very humorous perspective on racism, the workplace, entertainment, science-fiction, political correctness, and his own personal life.

The Black Nerds Network, hailing from the UK, is a collective formed to readdress the words, Black and Nerd. According to their website, they seek to connect with “fashion thinking, book reading, kite flying Nerds.

Blerd Warrior Syndrome

One’s strength can often be one’s weakness and many a Black Nerd has fantasies of being a superhero. While these fantasies are great stress relievers, Blerds must be careful of those fantasies, which are often nihilistic, becoming desires for martyrdom.

In a recent meeting with friends – all martial artists, athletes and intellectuals – one friend – a forty year old man of African descent – confessed that he wishes he was a real-life superhero in opposition to a powerful government or secret cabal; that he often prays for civilization to fall, so he can reinvent himself as a man who – armed with his wit, will and weapons – brings justice to a world of injustice and sculpts order out of chaos.

I confessed that, until I reached thirty-one years of age, I, too, had the same desire and, in fact, believed that I would die fairly young in an epic battle with an opponent of equal skill, intellect, experience and will. I was actually disappointed, at the time, to discover I was to walk a different path.

These escapist fantasies – often associated with being a “nerd” – are not unique to those classified, or identifying, as such.

These escapist fantasies are not unique to my small circle of friends and me – all of whom could be classified as “nerdy jocks” (Or jocky nerds? Sounds like a bunch of pocket protector wearing, taped-glasses sporting, little equestrians) – either.

In my research in the fields of psychology and sociology, I have found that a vast number of people of African descent – who do not identify as nerds, blerds or geeks – also long to escape into brave new – or old – worlds.

Related to this is the fact that, throughout the African Diaspora, fantasy and science fiction are rapidly growing in popularity.

Why?

In a world in which we have been marginalized, vilified, misrepresented and miseducated; in a near-dystopian world with a stranglehold on society, science fiction and fantasy books, games and movies create arenas for the “controlled decontrolling” of emotions.

It is not socially acceptable to hit your racist boss in the throat with a crushing elbow strike and destroying a wall of your duplex with a trebuchet when your landlord locks you out of your apartment for a late rent payment will land you in prison – and on some government watch list for owning a trebuchet in the first place.

So, escaping to worlds of magic, anachronistic technology and fantastic creatures allows us to do the things we wish we could do and to be what we wish we could be or – unstifled by an oppressive society – what we know we truly are.

Cosplay – “costume play”, the wearing of costumes that are the likenesses of characters from a certain era, film, television, comics, video games and novels – and role playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft and Ki-Khanga: The Sword & Soul Role-Playing Game are perfect avenues of escape from mundane and profane lives. “Blerd Heaven”, my daughters call it ( and yes, all seven of them – and my son – are Blerds).

Escaping to another dimension or reality is normal. In fact, most people spend about half of their time daydreaming and fantasizing.

Daydreams and fantasy play a vital role in everyday life – inspiring us, regulating our moods and helping us contemplate future possibilities.

This includes the possibility of violence and, indeed, even evil. 

Parents who rail against games like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed do not understand that idolizing villains such as Darth Vader and Agent Smith can be liberating.

Play and fantasy gives our youth the opportunity to practice what they will be later in life – as well as what they will never be.

For decades, fantasies of physical conflict and danger have been called “violent” by people who don’t trust or understand them, but such fantasies are valuable tools for the hard work of growing up. Black people, who arguably suffer the greatest anxiety about taking risks and the greatest reservations about exploring their own strength and destructive potential, have the most urgent need for fantasy.

Adults also often turn to fantasy for stress relief. With Blacks suffering from the highest rates of hypertension, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes of any other ethnic group, fantasy and science fiction can literally save our lives.

For Black people, the most beneficial heroic narratives depict essential human struggles: betrayal, revenge and overcoming great odds.

In everyday living, we re-enact the classic conflicts and victories of the hero. We may not be real vampire hunters, but the monsters in our lives and psyche pose no less a threat.

So embrace that inner Blerd. Hell, give it wings and let it soar!

And take your place among the Blacknificent in The League of Extraordinary Black People!