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The magic of being a Black nerd in Black History Month

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Black History Month is here with its education and celebration of Black culture. And for the group Black Nerds Create, it means the celebration of Black Magical History Month. It's a month-long digital celebration of Black fantastical stories, characters, and it's a space for the people who love them to celebrate, like when "The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power" released posters of their new queen, a Black woman.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "TOLKIEN BLACK FOLKS")

BAYANA DAVIS: Ever since they dropped those teaser posters, where her hands were brown and plump and dimply, I was like, I think this might be my new queen. Like, I am so ready for the queen of the dwarfs. Like, let's go.

SUMMERS: That was from the aptly named "Tolkien Black Folks," one podcast by Black Nerds Create. The group's co-founder, Bayana Davis, joins us now to give a preview of Black Magical History Month. Bayana, welcome to the program.

DAVIS: Hi. Thanks for having me.

SUMMERS: Thanks for being here. OK, so I want to dig into all of the things that Black Nerds Create has planned for the month, but I just want to start by asking you - how did Black Magical History Month come to be?

DAVIS: Yeah. So I founded Black Nerds Create with my cousin, Robyn Jordan. For a long time, we were just kind of doing blogs and, like, podcasting and just kind of, like, hanging out together. But we kind of inadvertently ended up growing an audience and wanted kind of a specific time to really, like, celebrate all the things that we love with them, and Black History Month was a great time for us to do that, especially because we wanted to celebrate Black characters, specifically in the fantasy realm.

SUMMERS: Can you give me some examples of the types of characters that you're talking about? Like, who really grabs you personally?

DAVIS: Yeah. So I am, like, really heavy on books right now, so I would say Bree Matthews from the "Legendborn" series. I would honestly - like, "Lord Of The Rings" is huge for us right now, too. So like, there are a lot of new Black characters in the "Rings Of Power" television show that just came out. More books - "Amari And The Night Brothers" is a really amazing story that we're currently reading on one of our podcasts, "WizardTeam." And then, like, you know, throwbacks - so like, "That's So Raven," or, like - you know, you just - you can go back into a lot of stories that we all loved growing up, and then now, like the ones that are coming out.

SUMMERS: OK. Let's talk a little bit about what's happening this February. Give us a couple of examples of things or events or campaigns that you all are really excited about bringing to people.

DAVIS: Yeah, so we are super excited. We have an interview on our Instagram Live on February 3, as part of our "The Plot Thickens" series - it's book reviews and interviews with authors. And then we'll be having a Twitter Spaces conversation on February 11 just about fantasy and how it can be both an escape for people who are, like, reading or watching but also can be a mirror and kind of reflect a lot of the, you know, issues and experiences that we deal with in real life. And then we'll be hosting a double feature - so the 24, we'll be watching "Black Panther," and then on the 25, we'll be watching "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" in our Discord. And then also we'll do, like, a live tweet as well - so lots of different things.

SUMMERS: So because we're talking about fandom, I just want to ask you - is there a character or characters that comes to mind that you feel like really informs the way that you walk through the world or that inspires you or that you might even think of, say, in challenging moments in your life?

DAVIS: OK. First, I would say maybe, like, Queen Ramonda from "Black Panther." You know, I'm sure, like, everybody's (laughter) - maybe not everyone, but a lot of people have watched "Black Panther" at this point. But just, like, her character arc in the last movie, "Wakanda Forever" really resonated with me, and - I don't know. It was amazing, and so sometimes I definitely think about just, like, the internal strength, going through hardship and still kind of moving and doing what needs to be done. That really resonated with me. Nonfictional, still magical - I would say Beyonce. I feel like every time she drops something, I feel, like, galvanized to do more of what I'm doing. Like, I'm not a singer. I'm not - like, I don't want to be in her lane specifically, but just, like, the work ethic and the creativity inspires me all the time. So, yeah.

SUMMERS: I love that. Thank you so much for joining us.

DAVIS: Yes, thanks for having me.

SUMMERS: Bayana Davis is a co-founder of Black Nerds Create. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Juana Summers
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.