I had the chance to catch up with Will Evans of Black Nerd Problems (BNP), an awesome website that quenches the thirst of African-Americans nerds across the country. Will and his business partner in crime, Omar Holmon, followed their dream on building BNP to create a home for all the cosplay freaks, gaming buffs, and comic book geeks! He gave me the scoop on his definition of being a “nerd,” the stressors of having a creative career, and his favorite Game of Thrones character. Let’s pray it’s not a Lannister!
Growing up, how did you know you were a “nerd”?
To be honest, I didn’t know that I was. Was I into nerd related hobbies as a kid? Absolutely. But up until a few years ago, when someone called me a nerd, I’d say “whatever” and shove it off. It wasn’t about being ashamed of the title as much as wondering if I truly qualified. In retrospect, I definitely was. My father got me into J.R.R Tolkien books early because he loved them. I had toys and action figures I imagine like a lot of kids did, but...when my parents could afford them, I had them all. He-Man was that dude, had Castle Grayskull and all of that. That’s when I became a mini collector. Video games were my area of expertise. I’ve been a big gamer since Commodore 64.
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What does it mean to be a nerd?
I think the definition has morphed and transformed so much, especially as being a nerd has become more mainstream. Essentially, I think it’s the ability to be passionate about some niche interest. At Black Nerd Problems, we focus on pop culture, but you can be a nerd about anything: math, war memorabilia, political knowledge and of course science. Some of the biggest nerds, in my opinion, are in sports. So much of the game is moving towards analytics, nerds are prospering in being associated with athletic teams.
What was the turning point that pushed you to start Black Nerd Problems?
It’s funny because Omar Holmon (co-founder of Black Nerd Problems with me) and we can never really pinpoint THE THING that made us start down this path. However, we’re pretty sure it was just us being fed up with seeing such a lack of representation not only in the things we loved and nerded out over but in how it was being covered. It might have been the whitewashing of a comic book character. It might have been some on-line outrage over a black actor being cast as someone traditionally white in the source material. Probably all of those, but together we started wondering how we could make lend our own voice into the narratives we felt overlooked us.
How do you juggle being a father and a businessman? Any tips for work-life harmony?
It helps if you’re a vampire and don’t need to sleep. My comrades at Black Nerd Problems often say that my mutant power is time manipulation, so I might not be the best one to ask. Seriously, I just work at being really efficient when possible. I have a day job, so I write the majority of my content for the site during my downtime there. I juggle a lot of other things too (poetry related stuff takes up a lot of my time) so I just prioritize things I want to get done and then hammer those things. For the first time, I’m learning I can’t do everything and that’s a hard lesson to learn. But my life has rhythm. I know between certain hours I won’t be doing anything else because I’ll be busy letting my daughter climb all over me like her person jungle gym. Or that I’m going to go dark on the site to hang with my wife, because the moments of either of us not having some work commitment or a Phoenix-powered three old running around happens as frequently as an eclipse sometimes. So I’ve learned to let go of not being able to do everything, all the time. And having a good team, especially with Black Nerd Problems, makes that a lot easier.
Which Game of Thrones character do you most identify with?
Ok, I’m gonna cheat again, because my favorite character is Arya Stark. I just love everything about that character and whether it’s reading the books or watching Maisie Williams kill that role on TV, I’m always most interested in her storyline. The character I identify with the most is probably Jaime Lannister, BUT WE GOTTA TAKE INCEST AND CHILD MURDER OFF THE TABLE, lol. I’m a first born son to a brilliant father who had/has high expectations of me. Unlike Tywin, my dad is very nurturing, but like Tywin, my father is often the smartest guy in the room. And like Jaime, I had a singular skill (him sword fighting, me sports) that I was really, really good at. And once I stopped playing sports, I had a tough time carving out what exactly my identity was once I was no longer a high level athlete and how I would navigate through the world. Jaime’s arc is really compelling throughout A Song of Ice and Fire and his transformation, not just necessarily on being an evil dude to being more honorable, but in adapting to be an impactful man after the skill that defined him is gone, is one I can relate to.
What's your advice for all the nerds out there that desire a creative and impactful career?
Finding your voice is not an easy task and it rarely happens overnight, so don’t be afraid to experiment and keep testing the fences for weak spots where you could break through. Being creative and being niche has never been more lucrative than it is right now, but it takes some work to get there. [bctt tweet="If you are passionate and interesting in what you have to say, somebody is going to listen."]
Well there ya have it, Will relates himself to a Lannister. But since he’s cool, we’ll give him a pass! His journey from nerd on the block to Head Nerd-in-Charge should inspire everyone (nerds and normies) to do what they love and express themselves fully. Nothing, not even our differences, can stand in our way of chasing that dream job; the one that doesn’t feel like work. So check out Black Nerd Problems and get your fill of nerd culture, artistic content, and a sense of community!