The Joy of Black Nerdom: How Diverse Voices Are Transforming Geek Culture

When somebody thinks of a nerd or a geek, the image that most likely comes to mind is a white dude in front of his computer, gaming or maybe watching the newest Rick and Morty on his three-screen monitor. The reality is that what it means to be “nerdy” or “geeky” is so much broader than that.

So many different kinds of people nerd out about their special interests, and Black girls are no exception. From Megan Thee Stallion’s well-known anime obsession to Issa Rae’s YouTube series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, there’s a plethora of Black nerds at varying levels of stardom.

Another well-known Black nerd is Amandla Stenberg, star of Disney’s newest Star Wars series, The Acolyte. Their character, Mae, became a formidable warrior due to a traumatic childhood event, and unseen forces have guided her path. She strives to honor and uphold the legacy of her heritage as she grows into the warrior she is today.  

“I love Black geeks,” Stenberg declares to EBONY. “Black geeks make the world go round for me, and we deserve to have those spaces that are full of whimsy and fantasy and creation and imagination.”

Starring in one of the most prolific sci-fi space fantasy franchises has made the actor even more aware of the diverse audience that tunes in. “I think that so many Black girls already geek out over the (sci-fi) genre,” Stenberg says. “I think that there is an army of Black girl geeks and Black geeks in general.”

Since their breakout role as Rue in the first Hunger Games movie, Stenberg has used their platform to shed light on social justice issues like racism and gender equality. 

“The Black community is already so creative,” Stenberg says. “I think we’re such a creative people…and the world of sci-fi and fantasy is a place where we can explore concepts that in reality are challenging to tackle. But because we have metaphors…we can tackle those concepts and speak about them while also maintaining our joy and sense of wonder.”

Luckily, the science-fiction genre is also becoming more diverse, and the diverse casting of The Acolyte, which includes Charlie Barnett and Jodie Turner-Smith, is just the beginning. As representation in the genre slowly but surely increases, Black nerds across the world finally get to confidently engage in the geeky and nerdy activities they’ve always loved.

The Acolyte is currently available for streaming on Disney+.

Updated: June 25, 2024 — 12:03 pm