Art & Entertainment, Culture, Feature Story

The Ghetto Nerd: Meet B. Van Randall the Creator of Therians The Awakening

By Jennifer Hamra

Today’s interview is part one in a two-part blog series with Detroit writer B. Van Randall the creator of Therians The Awakening. 


When I discover a new Instagram account, one of the things I like to do is read the person’s or company’s bio. I just love when people take the time to write something intriguing or witty about themselves.

For me, the social media bio is something I struggle with and I don’t know why! As a writer, you’d think writing my own mini-biography would come easy for me. I can write bios for other people, but I just can’t seem to think of anything clever to say about myself.

So when I find someone who can create an attention-grabbing bio in just under 50 characters, I am amazed and instantly think they’re a genius! 

At least, that’s what I was thinking when I stumbled upon Detroit-based writer B. Van Randall’s Instagram (IG) account @theghettonerd.

B. Van Randall, or Van as his family and friends call him, is the creator and writer of Therians The Awakening. It’s a new graphic novel series that Van has also turned into a motion comic film.

Therians The Awakening is a comic series created by B. Van Randall. 

THERIANS THE AWAKENING’S POSITIVE GROWTH

So far, Therians The Awkaening chapter 1 of volume 1 has been released in film format.

In September 2018, the film was screened at the first annual BedStuy Film Festival in Brooklyn, New York.

Detroiters and Metro Detroiters also had the special opportunity to see Van’s comic film on October 8, 2018, in Bloomfield Township, Michigan at the Maple Theater. The private screening in Bloomfield sold out!

Since the two screenings of the motion comic film, Therians continues to receive positive recognition and reviews. As of November 28, 2018, Therians now has over 4,800 views on YouTube! 

Van has also been busy sharing his graphic novel series and film project with other media outlets in Detroit, such as Real Talk: The Skeeter Murray and 910 AM Superstation with Monica Morgan.

On his creative work, Van says, I tell everyone this is my Star Wars. This is my Harry Potter series. I got a lot of writing to do, but the story is already written. It’s just a matter of me putting it on the pages.”

Meet B. Van Randall aka “The Ghetto Nerd” 

SO WHAT ABOUT THAT IG BIO?

The IG handle @theghettonerd alone drew me in, but when I read his bio, I thought to myself, “Oh, this is a person who has something to say.”

Turns out B. Van Randall aka @theghettonerd has a lot to say and what he has to say is something worth hearing.

From the ghetto, didn’t fit in, moved 2 the burbs, still didn’t fit in. So I created my own world 2 exist in!

@theghettonerd (B. Van Randall)

FINDING CULTURAL IDENTITY

Another reason why I liked B. Van Randall’s Instagram bio is because it also spoke to me on a personal level. 

As a biracial woman whose mother is Caucasian and father is African American, I connected with Van’s bio. When I was younger and throughout my teen years, I felt like I didn’t fit in with the black or white culture. I honestly didn’t know where my place was in both cultures. It was an identity issue that I struggled with even into my 20s and early 30s. 

But the mini-bio of Van’s Instagram account is only a snippet of who he is as a writer. To understand the meaning of his social media bio, you would need to first know the backstory behind it.

During our phone interview, I just had to ask Van how he came up with his Instagram bio. Laughing, he told me he woke up one day and told his wife Dana, “I feel like the ghetto nerd.” 

Agreeing with Van’s name choice, Dana said, “I like that.” Van replied to her, “Yeah, I think I’m going to run with that.”

The Randall Family: Van with his wife Dana and their children at the private screening of Therians The Awakening. 

As Van was reflecting on his life that day, he reminisced on his upbringing in the inner city and his family’s transition to the Detroit ‘Burbs. 

Born and raised in Detroit, Van’s family first lived on Detroit’s East Side near the Detroit City airport by Connor and Gratiot. “It was a very humble beginning,” he said to me. “I’m kind of over the whole humble beginning story.”

He laughed as he explained why he’s over it. “It seems like everybody has to come from this beginning of struggle, right? Everybody wants to tell the story, but I tell it a little bit different.”

I told you he had something to say. 

“The way that I tell it,” Van continued, “is that I don’t tell it to make people feel like I was just so triumphant or anything like that. What I like to say is that being in that environment, I didn’t fit in there. I was always thinking differently than a lot of people that were around me, and my interests were different.”

“I wasn’t really big into sports, and being in a predominantly so-called African American community, sports was what it was– basketball, football were the thing. I like playing these things, but I don’t want to dedicate myself to these things. I didn’t really fit in with a lot of the philosophies that were in the community that I was in.”

Dana and B. Van Randall at the private screening of Therians The Awakening in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

LIFE IN THE DETROIT ‘BURBS

Later, Van’s father sold their home and the family moved to Harper Woods. Moving to Harper Woods meant Van had to switch schools and he started attending school in the Grosse Pointe School District.

“It was a completely different environment,” Van told me. “So I had one environment where there was not the so-called white person in sight (referring to his former school in Detroit), and then I go to another environment where there is barely any so-called black people in sight (referring to Grosse Pointe School District.) So the vast majority of the school is predominantly the so-called white people.”

“So I’m in this school, and I’m like, okay, academically the school is much better, hands down. I couldn’t even compete with the academic level. It took me a lot of after-school sessions [and] before school sessions to finally get myself up to the status to what the students at Grosse Pointe North were performing. That’s how subpar the Detroit Public Schools were, but I still didn’t fit in.”

Van said he tried very hard to fit in his new suburban culture. He found that the philosophies of the ‘Burbs were not philosophies he agreed with. He said as he became more educated, he started to learn how to read– “for real read”. 

Van with his wife Dana at the private screening of Therians in Bloomfield Township, Michigan.

R.E.A.D.– REALIZE EVERYTHING IS ARTIFICIALLY DESIGNED

Yet, when Van says “read” he is not referring to the act of just reading books. Instead, the writer created an acronym of read: R.E.A.D.  

R: realize

E: everything

A: (is) artificially

D: designed

“I came up with the acronym,” he explained to me. “I started realizing all this mess is artificially designed and someone else is designing it. Someone else is using their words to create a world or to create a matrix that I’m supposed to fit into– that I’m supposed to have boxed myself into. If I’m black, I’m supposed to be Democrat, right? I’m supposed to like hip-hop music, which I do, but I’m just saying I’m supposed to like hip-hop music or I’m not real.”

Van didn’t agree with the different cultural rules saying, “I don’t adhere to these rules. I don’t subscribe to these rules. I want to create my own world so I’m going to use words. Words create worlds so I became a Wordsmith and got my English degree.”

After graduating high school, Van attended Wayne State University and he majored in English. Despite majoring in English, Van discovered he had a great passion for history.  

Referring to himself as a “fan of history”, Van explained, “It’s funny to me,because they say history is told by the conquerors or the victors. But the funny thing about the victors is that they still allowed truth to exist. You just have to be willing enough to go out and find it. Because even they [the victors] want to know the truth. Even though you’re fed a lie by the victors, they know the truth, and it is in knowing that truth that they sort of empowered themselves, you see.”

Van said he loves searching for truth on his own. As we were talking, he told me, “You could really go out and find the truth about what happened and find out how we became what we are. Why are people black? Why are people white?”

“You know, this is not anything you have to go down into the cauldron or the crypt to blow dust off of a book to find out. This is readily available information, and I just love it. It’s empowering knowledge. And really knowing things is very empowering. It can be depressing at times, but it’s very empowering at the same time.”

THE WORDSMITH CREATES HIS OWN EXISTENCE

They say our words have power, and it’s because of that great power we have to be mindful of how we use our words. For Van, he chose to use his gift of writing to create what he calls his own existence and share his beliefs with others.

“I feel like I’m creating my own existence” he explained to me.  “I’m creating my own world, and in my world. things are a lot different.”

Van is even using his gift to break down racial stereotypes and birng more of a positive light to cultural values, such as parenting stereotypes in the African American community.

Van says he heavily advocates against corporal punishment, i.e. spankings or what my generation is more familiar with: whoopings.

“The so-called black people are supposed to beat their children– I advocate against that heavily. I get a lot of backlash for it, but these are things that people believe that you’re supposed to do because you are this thing and I’m like: no, I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in beating on my children.”

And it’s not just Van who feels this way about physical punishment in the Black parenting community. Writer Calvalyn Day shared her views on being stereotyped as a Black mother who’s supposed to spank her children. 

In her piece “Yes, I’m Black and NO I Don’t Spank My Kids”, Day writes:

“For the record, spanking is not a part of my heritage or the Black culture which I know and love. I can choose to love my Blackness and reject what doesn’t work for me.”

Calvalyn Day, Family and Business Coach

Just like Calvalyn Day, Van is also using his gift of writing to show others the what it means to be his own person and not conform to societal stereotypes.

“I’m utilizing my words and my platform to create a world for myself where things are going how I want them to go,” he explained.

That world in which Van speaks of is also a mix of fantasy and history as Van introduces the world to Therians The Awakening


Stay tuned next Friday for part two of this blog series where I will share the second part of my interview with B. Van Randall!

In the second article, Van will share with you why he created Therians The Awakening and how he used fantasy and historical fiction to create his new graphic novel series!

Special thanks to B. Van Randall for taking the time to interview for Good Life Detroit. You can follow Van on his Instagram account @theghettonerd and make sure to check out Therians The Awakening on YouTube! 


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