Photo courtesy of Kwame Shakir

BooksFilm / TV

Being a Black nerd helped me through the darkest times of my life

June 5, 2018

By Kwame Shakir, AFROPUNK Contributor

I will admit that I am a black nerd aka blerd and have been one since my childhood days when I used to watch The Original Power Rangers and play video games such as Mario and Sonic.

Growing up back in the day, if you identified yourself as a nerd in the black community, you would often be subjected to bullying, harassment, and being ostracized by your peers while it seemed more acceptable back then and even today to be an athlete, entertainer, rapper, or singer. Even The Original Black Power Ranger Walter Jones revealed in a 2016 interview with The Young Turks that he personally chose to be the black ranger instead of the blue ranger because the blue ranger was written as a nerd.

Prior to me becoming a black nerd, I went through what I call “the darkest period of my life” from 1990 where I almost drowned to death at a swimming pool during a field trip and then in 1991, my oldest brother was shipped off to prison on a nonviolent nondrug related offense and my youngest auntie died from a massive drug overdose, and finally in 1992, my second oldest brother was shipped off to prison on an armed robbery charge that left me personally and mentally damaged.

But then on August 28, 1993 came a huge turning point in my life when I watched the very first episode of The Original Power Rangers. After watching the pilot episode, I was immediately hooked on the show. I actually credit this show greatly for saving my life, fighting a sense of powerlessness and making me grow up wanting to be a Power Ranger.

My all-time favorite Power Ranger is Zack Taylor because he was the most charismatic, stylish, and the most badass of all the Power Rangers in my view, and he was truly a source of black boy joy for many young black boys in the hood like myself back in the mid-1990s that grew up being big fans of his character especially when he was beating down the baddies on The Original Power Rangers back in the day.

And then I started playing video games later on that year with The SNES version of Tecmo Super Bowl. I remember vividly playing as The Miami Dolphins and my older brother was playing as The Houston Oilers and he straight up beat me down in a glorified squash exhibition game 63-0 and I remember feeling so humiliated and was heavily crying that day.

Then I started playing The NES and The Sega Genesis and I realized that I became a video game genius immediately upon playing Mario and Sonic so much so that my grades in school had gotten much better during my 4th grade school year because I took what I learned from P.E. and especially from playing video games like Mario and Sonic and applied it to the classroom that it led to me getting my first ever A-B Honor Roll during my 5th grade school year which is one of the most proudest moments of my life.

Fast forward a few years later, my love for animé started in 1999, when I managed to watch a new series on Saturday morning called Digimon and I was instantly hooked as I was used to watching cartoons like Thundercats and X-Men. I was amazed at how magnificent the drawings and the detailed animations of the anime characters are. Anime is so amazing.

I also used to watch animés like Dragon Ball Z, Outlaw Star, and Big O during the peak of the old Toonami era when it used to be on from the 3-6 pm cst slot from 2000-2006. My favorite all-time animé shows are Gundam and My Hero Academia because these anime shows don’t just focus on the main characters, they also focus on giving character development to the supporting characters. They also bring intense fights that are so unpredictable unlike DBZ where the writers picked The Circus Clown in Kararot to go over most of the villains from the anime and I absolutely hated that.

I remember being so good in DBZ Budokai 3 for The Sony PlayStation 2 back then that I played in a DBZ Budokai 3 tournament at the old Game Zone location and I remember basically steamrolling through my first two opponents until I fought against a 5 year old Asian kid who was a video game genius just like me and that match was so intense until the kid pulled a few lucky shots on me and defeated me and despite losing to him, that was my favorite match of the entire tournament because it was the most intense match of the entire tournament.

Fast forward to the current period. I noticed that being a black nerd nowadays is slowly becoming more acceptable in the black community, but there’s still more progress to be made for black nerds like myself. I am happy for that.

I’ve been to two amazing comic conventions here in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama and they were so amazing because I got to play Super Mario Bros. under the Super Mario All-Stars game for The SNES, not to mention I managed to personally meet my two former childhood heroes from The Original Power Rangers in Walter Jones last August and Karan Ashley this past March who I personally got to speak to at the second comic convention here in Montgomery.

Photo courtesy of Kwame Shakir

Here’s the excerpt from my short interview with Karan Ashley:

Me: “You was actually my childhood crush from back in the day”
Ashley: “What?!? Did I fall off?”
Me: No, because I enjoyed seeing your sassy and tough personality”
Ashley: I didn’t wanna be this girly girl, I wanted to be someone who spoke my mind as well as being a tough girl”
Me: You was more beautiful and tougher than The Pink Becky Ranger played by Amy Jo Johnson. Me: I wanted to be a Power Ranger growing up”
Ashley: “which one?”
Me: “The Black Ranger”
Ashley: “yay!!!”
Ashley: “I actually loved the shirt that you wore to the event today”
Me: “Thank You”

The Conclusion – If you are a proud unapologetic black nerd, don’t be ashamed of who you are and what you represent. Don’t let society tell you who they want you to be. I am a #TeamBlackNerd member that still loves animé, comics, manga, and video games to this very day.

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