5 ‘Must Go’ Tech Conference Happening This Year


The Strange Loop

The Strange Loop conference will meet in St. Louis on Sept. 24-26. The goal is to make connections with the creators and users of the coding languages, libraries, tools and techniques at the forefront of the Web industry. The prices for the conference start at $150 to $600 depending on the type of service you want.

One Girl’s Journey of Learning to Embrace Her ‘Nerdiness’

I spent more years than I’d like to admit being … myself. If you know me, you’d know that means an amalgamation of bad jokes, lame interests and awkward encounters. This also at one point included anime, video games (“Spyro the Dragon” to be exact), tinkering around with my mini toy microscope and spending all of my free time daydreaming about my alternate life as a mermaid.

In 2006 when high school struck, I realized that there was no room for anything I was remotely interested in. It seemed the only thing anyone really cared about were “jams,” basketball and trap music (which, of course, differed from my musical tastes at the time). As much as I don’t like publicly confessing, I had only recently been introduced to R&B and hip-hop in middle school, and still went pretty hard for bands and movie soundtracks (shout out to Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer).

I didn’t realize it wasn’t cool for my then-15-year-old self to rush home after school to binge watch the Family Channel. I didn’t know mimicking Tyler Perry’s Madea character in public was actually embarrassing. I sure as hell didn’t realize openly admitting I had read each line in the entire Twilight series, but had never opened up a Harry Potter book, was considered social suicide.

The thought never crossed my mind that there might be other brown-skinned girls in the world who’d, like me, seen all the Lord of the Rings movies and attempted to learn how to speak Elvish in The Fellowship. For the longest time, I’d accredited my borderline nerdish tendencies to my older half-brother, who introduced me to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy and alternative Christian rock. In fact, up until then, I’d tried my hardest to hide my secret love for these things under an urbanite blanket of social acceptance. But as they say, all that is done in the darkness [of my basement] would surely come to light.

Now here was my dilemma. I was always under the impression that there was a specific type of nerd. The ones who got good grades, were a part of the science clubs, spoke to no one unless it revolved around schoolwork, and were the apple of their parents’/teachers’ eyes. No one ever mentioned to me that you could be neither of these things and still feel the effects of “nerdom.” I was almost never compatible with any of my peers and never fit in with anyone. My grades weren’t high enough for the geek squad, but good enough to be scrutinized by the more popular crowd. I felt like an outsider when I tried to join my school’s business club run almost entirely by students of East-Indian descent. To the Black kids, I was much too alternative to sit at their table. And for my brownies, I quite simply did not make the cut.

Read more from Lindsey Addawoo at Black Girl Nerds

Nerd — The Other ‘N’ Word That Has Scarred Too Many Young Black Kids

I don’t utilize Facebook too often. Between the cumbersome privacy settings, multiple birth and/or divorce announcements and interrogations from family and everyone else I fit into either of those categories, I choose to avoid rather than engage. However, on one of my rare visits during the holidays, there was a post recently that caught my eye – a cousin recounting her 16-year-old son’s reaction to being on the receiving end of that n-word – Nerd.

According to her, the label comes not from his close friends, but rather a large group of acquaintances who made the assessment based on the following:

He follows the rules.
He enjoys and is very successful in school.
He never talks back to adults.
He never uses profanity.
His use of proper English.
His musical preferences compared to those of his peers.

Sigh. This sounds all too familiar. High school, how I don’t miss it so.

I’ve always observed the wonderful job she did at raising this well-rounded young man. He’s an attractive kid, excels academically, plays sports and has his own finely crafted sartorial sense. She says she’s “teaching him that all the degrees and education in the world don’t equal intelligence, and intelligence doesn’t equal wisdom.” Given her career as a mental health professional, she notes that she doesn’t “think he internalizes any of it because of how he’s been raised and his closest friends have his back. He’s more insulated from serious teasing.”

When her observations take on more of a Mom tone, she says, “At times, I can see some of the comments getting to him.”

She got words of wisdom and support from friends and other family to pass down to him, and, ultimately, the discussion ended with the following question: Surely, that labeling and teasing stops – or at least tapers off – after high school, right?

Answer: Hold that thought.

Same holiday break, I posted a photo of the Christmas gifts my husband and I exchanged on Twitter and Facebook. For him: T-shirts from the video games Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption. For me: a Doctor Who calendar, a Grand Theft Auto V-themed T-shirt. For us: an Xbox One and a few games. Great haul, no? We surely thought so.

Minutes later on the non-Twitter site, there was one lone comment under the photo – Nerds.

Read More at Black Girl Nerds

‘Fight Like a Girl’ First Issue Review

In the first issue of “Fight Like a Girl,” we are introduced to Amarosa. She’s a witty, spunky, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer Black girl heroine. Her brother is sick, and she is about to undergo a series of nine (potentially fatal) trials set forth by a rather mysterious council of gods (Greek, Roman and Norse) in order to save him. The gods are divided about letting Amarosa attempt the trials but ultimately send her on her merry way, secretly hoping she’ll become the next Artisan. The gods don’t say what an Artisan is, so that is left up to your imagination for now.

Amarosa gratefully accepts their permission and starts the trials. They are a series of doors, and behind each one is the next trial if she successfully completes the previous one. Along the way, she has a “friend” of sorts in a flying sprite who offers tips, tricks and hints. But will they be enough to help her survive? After seeing the first trial, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Amarosa behind the rest of the closed doors.

I really enjoyed Soo Lee’s use of color in this comic, which help to drop little hints about each person’s personalities. From the vibrant colors of Amarosa’s clothing against the drab background of the Pantheon that speaks to her spunky spirit, to the richness of the tropical location she lands in for her first trial, the spectacular colors combined with Lee’s richly-detailed environments makes for art that compels the reader to continue flipping the page. Lee also gives each of the gods colorful clothing that relays little hints about their personalities such as royal purple for Loki’s cape and helmet, Tartarus’ red pupils, and white-gray hair and a maroon cape for the grizzled Chronos.

David Pinckney’s writing is a force to be reckoned with in this comic. His use of witty dialogue between Amarosa and the sprite will have you chuckling to yourself with joy that in the concept that Amarosa can manage to find a silver lining in this predicament. Equally as amusing is the tongue-and-cheek way that she approaches her first subject. This flippant banter hides the true nature of her feelings, which progress from unsure to terrified to more resolved as the battle continues. Despite it all, Amarosa retains her compassion, and I get the feeling that this will be more and more important as the trials wear on.

Read more at Black Girl Nerds

Lack of Black Representation in the Green Community

A wise frog once said, “It’s not easy being green.” That rings true for a lot of us. Especially for the Black community. My counter to that has always been “Why?”

Over the last few years, to no surprise of my mother (she’s always thought I was a little different), I decided to start implementing green changes in my life to be more eco-friendly. At first it was simple things like recycling more, being mindful of my water waste and volunteering with environmental projects. Then it escalated to calculating my carbon footprint, shopping at farmers markets, repurposing discarded items I found and then eventually reaching a level where I was using reusable feminine hygiene products, sewing my own curtains and dumpster diving.

During this green journey, some people in the Black community have side-eyed and even poked fun at me for one reason or another. While non-POC (People of Color) seem to take it more in stride. I carefully thought back to all the times I was at Whole Foods or doing a downward dog in my yoga class or just reading a magazine on green living. There was little to no representation of Black people let alone Black girls.

Had they been living under a rock during our natural hair movement? Didn’t they realize that snake-oiling us with toxic chemicals for our hair wasn’t going to work anymore? Were they expecting us to stop there— to give our hair the naturally needed attention it deserved but let our bodies and inner well- being hang by the hydrogenated trans fat wayside? I know there are other Black girls out there trying to live more green, but they feel isolated in their attempt to do so for one reason or another.

There are some who will read this and say, “Who cares what the media thinks! I’m doing my own thing,” and while that’s great, there are others who rely heavily on the media to tell them what’s “in” or those who are at an age where it is an extension of how they are learning about the world and the people in it. Going green is an act some might not be aware is an option.

Read More at Black Girl Nerds

Blerds’ Big Holiday Weekend: Black Comic Book Festivals – on Both Coasts – to Bring Creators and Fans Together

Comic book festivals and conventions are where faithful fans, creators, artists and writers meet. They are also a place where people can discover something new. Black comic book festivals carry an additional purpose — to focus on an underserved market. This Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Blerds on both coasts will have an opportunity to geek out over the latest in offerings from creators, artists and writers of color.

In Harlem on Saturday, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosts the third annual Black Comic Book Festival from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. In San Francisco, the historic NorCal Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation Celebration added the Black Comix Arts Festival [BCAF] to its list of activities, with events kicking off Sunday and continuing through Monday. Both festivals are free to the public.

John Jennings, co-founder of both events, will spend much of his weekend in an airplane — a sacrifice he’s happy to make to support Black comics creators and fans.SCHOMBURGposter

“Images are extremely important and so are the lack of them,” Jennings said. “It is very empowering to see ourselves reflected in the culture and society in which we participate. On the other hand, it is just as debilitating to not see ourselves. Our invisibility is sometimes deafening. It is vital for Black creators to have a voice and a space or resistance to this erasure. There’s a small contingent of Black creators in
the mainstream, but never as many as there should be. However, there’s an alternative, and now
with the access to various modes of publishing, there’s a movement happening.”

Jennings, an associate professor of art and visual studies at the University at Buffalo, has made comics his lifelong study, both as an academic and as a creator and artist and is quick to point out that the involvement of creators of color in comics is nothing new.

“For the last 20 years or so, there has been an independent Black comics culture brewing just beneath the surface. There’s now a loosely connected network of Afrocentric, alternative, diverse cons that are mostly situated on the East Coast, the Midwest and Southeast.” The network includes Yumy Odom (ECBACC), Joseph Wheeler III (OnyxCon), Alexander Simmons (Kids ComicCon), Andre Batts (Black Age Motor City), Maia Crown Williams (MECCA), and Preach Jacobs (ColaCon).

Jennings and colleagues Dr. Jonathan Gayles, Jerry Craft and Deirdre Hollman of the Schomburg Center pooled their resources together and created the Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. The festival has been very successful in bringing thousands of people from around the city to Harlem to see the work of a variety of comics creators and illustrators of color, including Mshindo Kuumba, Jennifer Crute’, Chuck Collins, N Steven Harris, Tim Fielder, Micheline Hess, Nigel Carrington, Shawn Alleyne, Stacey Robinson and Alitha Martinez.

“It’s a joyous event, however, there’s a lack of true connection with Black creators on the West Coast,” Jennings said. “That’s why we wanted to make a ‘sister’ event. We wanted to make MLK weekend a Black Comix weekend and have a bicoastal connection centered around comics and Black subjectivity. What better time to celebrate the power of dreams?”

Jennings cited San Francisco’s long history with comics, especially underground and independent comics and its longtime commitment to celebrating the legacy of King through the MLK NorCal Foundation, as important reasons why the city was perfect for the inaugural event.

“[San Francisco is] home to one of the best comics stores in the country — Isotope: The Comics Lounge, and Aaron Grizzell, director of the MLK NorCal, puts on one of the largest MLK Day celebrations in the country and brings in around 30,000 people a year to celebrate the legacy of King and the Civil Rights Movement. [The event] has a bevy of inspiring and entertaining festivals that all happen after a large commemorative march during the day.”

Jennings, Grizzell and additional co-founders Colette Rodgers, Ayize Jama-Everett, David Walker and Shawn Taylor put their miranda20mainheads together and came up with BCAF. Even though this is the festival’s first year, the stars and the comic book industry have already taken notice.

“I am so excited to see the creators of “Concrete Park” — Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander,” Jennings said. “They are just marvelous and generous artists. The amazing Kevin Grevioux, writer, producer and actor. He is the co-creator of the “Underworld” franchise and also the creator of “The Blue Marvel.” I am super excited to meet Eric Dean Seaton, the writer/creator of the high-flying adventure book “Legend of Mantamaji.” In addition to that I am stoked to meet the publisher and writer, Sebastian Jones, who is doing a new book with Amandla Stenberg, the young actor best-known as the character Rue from the Hunger Games film. I’ve never met Fred Noland. He’s a Bay Area indie artist and he’s on my panel! So, I am looking very forward to getting to know about him and his work. Nancy Cato. I’ve never met Nancy face-to-face and I can’t wait to do so. Also, the Love Brothers, Jeremy and Robert from Gettosake Entertainment. It’s always a pleasure to hang with them. Honestly, I am super excited to see everyone!”

Eric Dean Seaton, longtime television director, chose the BCAF to launch the 2015 leg of his book tour for his new graphic novel series, “Legend of the Mantamaji,” with an author conversation and book signing event at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Creativity Theater.

“The addition of the Black Comix Arts Festival to the selection of NorCal MLK events is an important one,” Seaton said. “Comics and graphic novels are touching every corner of pop culture, and while African-Americans are large consumers of the media, too often they are marginalized or left out of the story altogether. This event highlights the significant contributions creators, artists and writers are making, bringing true diversity in the medium. I’m very excited and proud to be a part of the inaugural event.”

Jennings sees the events as simply evidence of longstanding Black tradition.

“Alternative Black Speculative spaces like Afrofuturism, AfroSurrealism, EthnoSurrealism and others have been on the rise worldwide. We don’t have to beg the mainstream to represent us. We can do it ourselves and put it out there. We exist and we dream. The Black imagination is what helped our ancestors survive. What was Dr. King if not a Black Speculative creator? That mountaintop he spoke of wasn’t in this dimension, or time, or space. It was somewhere else waiting for us to find it.”

Source: Terreece M. Clarke at LifeSlice Media

How White Rappers Continue to Exploit Hip-Hop Music

It’s 2015, and the No. 1 consumer of rap music is white teenagers. Of course, there are going to be white rappers. But we can’t group all white rappers together. Sure, there are good white rappers, and there are bad white rappers. But that’s not the only way we should sort white rappers. There are two paths a white rapper can take. They can either embrace or exploit Black culture. It’s really simple.

Black people created a lot of genres of music. But this is about rap music. Rap music or hip-hop is a special case. The word struggle is thrown around a lot, but hip-hop was truly born from the struggle. No matter how simple the early lyrics were, they all touched on the same things, dreams of wealth and the struggle that we faced as Black people. As time went on, hip-hop demonstrated the struggle of different people. Gangster rap, popularized by the West Coast in the late ’80s and early ’90s by groups like N.W.A. and Bone Thugs N’ Harmony, wasn’t about going out and shooting people. It was about being born into that lifestyle with no choice. Conscious rap popularized by artists like Common and Nas wasn’t about trying to be the smartest. It was about trying to build bridges as Black people instead of burning them down. No matter the sub-genre of hip-hop, it all encompasses some form of struggle, from Childish Gambino’s loneliness and alienation to Jay Z’s need to create a legacy and use his wealth to support his family and friends, it’s all a struggle Black people face.

There’s nothing wrong with white people wanting to rap at all. The problem is that not all white rappers are willing to understand or even recognize the struggle that Black people face. I’m not saying white rappers need to each drop a 40-minute apology for slavery. I’m just saying some white rappers have to recognize that their skin is the reason they have the success that they do. You can be a great white rapper, but the fact that you’re a white rapper will also be a great help. Recognizing it is the first step. That should be the obvious step. Then there are two ways you can go. You can take a path and embrace Black culture. You can give back or you can speak out.

Read more at Blerdsonline

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lands National Geographic TV Show

Neil deGrasse Tyson is venturing into late-night television.

The astrophysicist has landed a TV show on National Geographic Channel called Star Talk — based on his popular podcast.

The TV gig comes on the heels of Tyson’s work on the TV mini-series Cosmos: Spacetime Odyssey.

Cosmos allowed us to share the awesome power of the universe with a global audience in ways that we never thought possible,” Tyson said in a statement. “To be able to continue to spread wonder and excitement through Star Talk, which is a true passion project for me, is beyond exciting. And National Geographic Channel is the perfect home as we continue to explore the universe.”

Set to premiere in April, Star Talk will explore various cosmic topics — from space travel and extraterrestrial life to the environment. It will include interviews with comedians, scientists and celebrities, too.

The weekly series will tape before a live studio audience from the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium in New York.

Source: CBS News

3 Comics with Black Female Protagonists Who Deal with Real-Life Issues

There are a lot of comic book genres, and getting away from the commercial success of the super-hero titles can be a risk. The appeal of the super-hero comics for girls can be attributed to the story that a regular guy or gal experiences some life-altering occurrence and has to find the balance between these newfound responsibilities while just getting by. The Spider-Man comics are one of my favorites. After all the spectacular powers and beautiful women, he struggles to finish college, hold a job and hold his relationship together. You know, life stuff. But Peter Parker learns the hard way after the death of his uncle that with great power comes great responsibility. The idea of a greater responsibility to others is the universal truth that transcends.

This list is presented by a guest blogger from Black Girl Nerds


‘Concrete Park’

Among my various issues of spider-somebody and x-folks, I try to support efforts in representing life from other than the majority community’s perspective. In Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander’s “Concrete Park R-E-S-P-E-C-T” (Dark Horse Originals), you are presented with the idea of survival. Crashed on a distant world, Isaac Clay finds himself in the middle of a gang war. Luca, one of the gang leaders, finds him and introduces him to the dynamics of Scare City. There is a sweetness to Luca’s efforts to protect her people. I wish that there was something also redeeming or uplifting with her or Isaac’s struggles in Scare City. The cover of the first issue appears to include a group of folks with an intense Latina, covered in splotches of blood, flashing a gang sign. The comic is boldly drawn and inked with authentic-looking men and women of color — including a green guy. The story presents a glimpse into the dynamics of urban gang life: Someone kills someone else. They vow revenge. Then another person tries to kill someone else. You know the story. Unfortunately, too many of us live this story.

As a black woman, I hope that eventually our lives will remove the shackles of merely surviving and return to the potential of old, where we were the builders of some of the greatest and most majestic civilizations on Earth. Our artistry and intelligence built pyramids that have endured for thousands of years across the continent of Africa. This title, thus far, has an engaging story, but the idea that in our future (or a version of the future), minorities are still fighting gang wars on a distant planet, really doesn’t give me much hope … and still I rise.