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SISTEM one-on-one with Ms. Jamie Broadnax, Founder of Black Girl Nerds: An online community for women of color.

Jamie Broadnax

Jamie Broadnax started blogging in 2007. During that year she collaborated with her co-worker and future writing partner at a lousy student loan company. While receiving email inquiries from college students, she was blogging about the New York independent film scene. The blog NYIndieSeen (www.nyindieseen.blogspot.com) was birthed and open the doors of opportunity to a myriad of film festivals in the city such as the Big Apple Film Festival, Hamptons Film Festival, and the Tribeca Film Festival. Unfortunately the economic collapse of 2008 led her to the unemployment line and she could no longer live in her expensive zip code of 10012.
She moved back home to the place of her childhood Virginia Beach, VA and started a second blog called VAIndieSeen (www.vaindieseen.blogspot.com) about the Virginia independent film scene. The blog was short lived and never gained the momentum that her New York blog had. In 2010 Jamie relocated to Wilmington, NC due to a job transfer and birthed NCIndieSeen (http://www.ncindieseen.blogspot.com) (you can see where this is going right?).
In February 2012 Jamie decided to launch the blog Black Girl Nerds (blackgirlnerds.com). After an evening of boredom Jamie “Googled” the term Black Girl Nerds and nothing came up in the world’s largest search engine. It was that night that the blog was born. There was a Facebook for BGN that was launched a year before the blog was published and a large number of Facebook fans have supported the blogsite. Jamie has written for Madame Noire and The Mary Sue and has been recognized by the Black Weblog Awards as the New Blogger on the Block. The Black Weblog Awards also awarded BGN in 2013 for Best Podcast. In 2014, Jamie was accredited by MSNBC The Grio.com’s Top 100 list for being an online community builder in the tech space and innovator for Black women to feel comfortable with embracing their nerdiness.
In the September 2014 issue of Marie Claire magazine, Jamie was recognized by TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow on Twitter. She was also acknowledged by AT&T’s The Bridge as one of Four Black Techies To Follow On Twitter. You can check out more press related features of Jamie and Black Girl Nerds here: blackgirlnerds.com/press. Jamie has a Masters Degree in Film and Marketing and considers herself a social media geek. In her spare time she likes to write, read books, and live-tweet TV shows (yes it’s a new hobby folks). She loves watching shows like Sleepy Hollow and Scandal. Jamie spends a significant amount of time on Twitter connecting with the BGN online community and when she’s not tweeting, she enjoys reading comic books and traveling to conventions to meet and greet fans.
You can follow Jamie on her personal Twitter @jamiebroadnax (https://twitter.com/JamieBroadnax).
 

Q:    Please tell us about yourself and the path that led you to Black Girl Nerds. What challenges did you face and overcome?  

Broadnax: I’m an introvert that loves to consume pop culture in the form of TV, novels, and comics.  As a kid I was exposed to animated shows which featured comic book characters and then I started collecting them.  I also consider myself a TV and film junkie and decided to go to film school to learn more about filmmaking. One day I was bored and went on Google and did a search for "Black Girl Nerds". Nothing came up. So I created a blog site that day. The challenge at first was doing this on my own and overtime with guest bloggers, contributors, and podcast hosts it feels like a community of women all down for the same cause which is awesome. 

Q:     Tell us about Black Girl Nerds: its creation (who created it and why) and its programs/initiatives.

Broadnax: BGN is an online community for women of color.  It was created by Jamie Broadnax. My motivation was built upon the fact that I noticed nerd/geek culture was growing, but most of the people in this subculture were white faces.  I didn’t see any faces that looked like mine so I did a Google search with the term Black Girl Nerds and nothing came up. It was at that moment that I decided to create a website with that term.  It evolved when women were contacting me to become contributors to the site.  There was also a demand to do a podcast and not even knowing what a podcast really was at the time, I decided to fulfill the need. 

Q:     The Black Girl Nerds’ website states: “…the concept of Black women as geeky-dorky beings is somewhat of an anomaly.” Can you please elaborate on this statement?

Broadnax. Bottom line is you don't see us, which is why Google couldn't even find an imprint for the term when I searched it.  We are a heavily marginalized group and at times people wonder if the Black girl nerd archetype even exists. 

Q:     In your view, what unique challenges African American girls and women face in STEM studies, careers and businesses that are specific to both their gender and race?  Secondly, why are they not more prominently represented in STEM careers?

Broadnax: I think representation has a lot to do with is.  When you are in a space where there are not that many people who look like you, that can feel a bit daunting.  Representation shapes who we are and who we become.  If we don’t see ourselves in a visual medium, we don’t see that we have value or relevance.  We feel dismissed, ignored, and erased.  It’s incredibly difficult to have a great deal of self-confidence when you don’t see yourself as a superheroine or a protagonist that has an influence on pop culture.  I think companies don't take the initiative to hire people of color when we are here ready and waiting for the opportunity

Q:     In your view, what are today the top 3 challenges facing African American girls and women in general?

Broadnax:

1. Erasure In Media (lack of representation)

2. White feminism (non people of color who stand for women's rights but dismiss and erase Black women)

3. Opportunity (Access)

Q:     What are the critical steps policymakers should undertake to increase the number of African American girls and women STEM studies, academia and businesses?

Broadnax: Create diversity and inclusion programs for corporations and small business that solely focus on community outreach.

Q:     What words of wisdom or advice do you have for young African American girls and women in general, and specifically as it relates to study STEM to pursue a STEM career or becoming an entrepreneur?

Broadnax: You are not the only one.  There are tons of women out there who are in your shoes and are ready to support you.  You have options and if you are rejected in the STEM industry, start focus on how you can create your own business and work for yourself.  In the digital age any Black woman can become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs.

 

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