The woman who created BLACKLANDERZâ„¢- Meet VIDA.

I would like to welcome you to The #LOVELANDER Project. 

3 years ago, I interviewed different members of the Outlander fandom to spread what I coined as ‘ABOotlander love’.  The time I spent getting to know and sharing those great women with the rest of the fandom was a joy.  (Look for links of the previous interviews at the end of the post).  I chose to resurrect this concept during this 2020 Droughtlander. I feel the world needs some levity, some love and distraction and for my part – I am doing this. The L🖤VELANDER Project.

I like sharing the people behind the fan accounts we see and interact with every day. Perhaps I will introduce you to accounts you may not be aware of.  It is my hope to reach out to those who have made it their mission to add touches of entertainment and share their knowledge with a uniqueness that makes our fan experience better ones.

My first guest with The LOVELANDER Project is the creator behind Blacklanderzâ„¢.  Vida is from Houston, Texas yet the members of Blacklanderzâ„¢ are from around the globe, let’s talk to her!

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Sit right here, we got stuff to talk about.

Vida’s interest in the world of Outlander started after she watched the first season on STARZ, afterward, she read the books.  When watching the show, the inspiration for Blacklanderzâ„¢ was born.

“When I began watching the show and asked family members, friends, and colleagues if they had heard about it, none of them had. Once I explained what it was about and ensured they would witness one of the best shows (series) ever made for television, more people began to watch.

Then, I wondered why more Blacks were not watching the show. In doing a cursory search, I realized most news outlets that cater to Blacks (e.g., Ebony, Essences, TV One, BET, The Root, and a few Urban News Outlets, etc.) did not cover Outlander. At the time, they mostly covered those shows that highlighted Blacks, such as Black-ish, Power, Empire, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, etc. So, how would most Blacks find out about it if these sources do not cover it?

Now, do not get me wrong. I liked those shows too and were glad they are on, especially when there had never been a time in television history that had as many shows catering to a wider diverse audience. However, Blacks are not a monolithic group and I like diversity in my entertainment on a level that challenges my intellect and provokes discourse on a deeper level! And, if these outlets could cover shows, such as Game of Thrones (another favorite), they could also cover Outlander! Rather than wait for other outlets to do it, I decided to do it myself!!

 

“Then, I searched #Outlander on social media, other Outlander fan groups on social media and did not see any that had Black people in them, yet there were Blacks who watched the show. I also wanted to create a website/blog and decided to focus on Outlander and other entertainment shows/movies. So, I created Blacklanderzâ„¢ after S1. By S2, I added more members and decided we would have a conversation (Convo) about the episodes rather than do a recap.”

It was always Vida’s intention that Blacklanderzâ„¢ was not about her but about the community she was building and remaining an entertainment account. She has done a spectacular job staying behind the curtain and pushing others toward the stage. I, however, am a bit of a pain in the ass and begged just a little for a glimpse at the woman who seeks no credit yet is constantly working to create the content we see coming out of the Blacklanderzâ„¢ hub.  Hold onto your britches and your bonnet’s because if I had this resume, I would be running around yelling LOOK AT ME! I am FREAKIN AMAZING!

 

 

Vida is an award-winning author and researcher. She has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Educational Policy Studies.  She has been in the educational field well over 25 years, as a former teacher and adjunct professor she writes grant proposals to fund educational programs. 

When I found out about Vida’s history in education, my brain popped a little because it made so much sense. In the last few years I have followed her pretty closely (not in a creepy stalkerish way but in a ‘man, I have so much I can learn from you’ way). I was right. She educated me all right and I will go on to talk about that later in this interview.   

Vida is also a daughter, sister, aunt to 14 nieces and nephews and 10 grand nieces and nephews, a godmother to four and mother hen to ALL! It is no surprise, Vida is the type of woman that exudes love and inclusion.  She loves to travel with her favourite place being Florence, Italy.  It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that she is an avid reader – nonfiction, fiction, Black history, high fantasy, science fiction, paranormal (but not too spooky) and historical fiction. Oh, and she LUVBS movies and televisions shows of the same genre. 

That love of history and jazz makes her heart sing. Give her a musical like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or the Greatest Showman and you will have her attention.

 

Now because Vida is an Outlander fan just like us, she has had some pretty fantastic fan experiences herself. I love enjoying these through others so I asked her to share her most memorable encounters with us.

“I have had the privilege of two memorable encounters as a fan. First, I secured VIP seating for some of our members who were attending the NYCC and, at the last minute, I decided to go! It was the first time I had ever attended a Comic-Con. I finally met some of our Blacklanderzâ„¢ members, other Outlander fans I had connected with on social media and attended the Outlander Panel. The attendees for the panel included Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Duncan Lacroix, and David Berry, Executive Producers Ronald D. Moore and Maril Davis, and Diana Gabaldon. It was great being there for a live panel. I also met and hung out with Sera-Lys McArthur (Johiehon, Outlander S4), who is one of the sweetest people. Thanks to Courtney (OutlanderBTS) for that connection. I was literally there for 24 hours and it was the best decisions I have made in a long time.”

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Vida (bottom left) Cathy Harmon (top left)    Sera-Lys McArthur (right)

“The second memorable encounter was when I attended Wizard Con in New Orleans this year. We thought it was going to just be a panel with Sam Heughan, but they also brought out Maria Dole Kennedy, John Bell, and Ed Speleers. Again, I spent time with some more of our Blacklanderzâ„¢ members, other Outlander fans, and took a picture with Sam. Man, does he have a tight grip!”

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Vida with…hmmm…who is that SAM!? 😘

I’m not jealous, Vida. Nope. Not even a little. I’m just glad everyone knows me well enough I’m lying like a rug. Onto more important things.  I became very interested in Vida when some uncomfortable discussions began happening. I knew they were uncomfortable because… I’m a white broad. *gasp* I KNOW, RIGHT?! But really. I had some work to do and this really intelligent woman was forcing me to look at some things I never had thought of before. I live in a pretty privileged bubble. I know that. I didn’t always know that. My ignorance wasn’t a benefit to anyone, especially me. So…I shut my mouth and opened my ears – just like I used to tell people I was training to do. I learned so much from Vida and the other members of the Blacklanderzâ„¢ group, I feel it has been one of the most valuable connections I have ever made, not just in this fandom but for me as a human.  I am not saying I was a trash-talking racist before, I wasn’t. I would have defended myself with a hat full of clichés to prove how racist I wasn’t. I learned that was just as gross.  I shared this with Vida and asked her if those were maybe some of the things she hoped would happen within this fandom with the creation of Blacklanderzâ„¢ – or perhaps what the importance of having the voices they do, in the Outlander fandom. 

“Wow, that is a dissertation, in and of itself, but let’s see. I want to thank you for saying that and I appreciate it. Yes, that is one reason I wanted us to have a voice in this fandom.

We all know Diana’s books contain heavy topics that are difficult to discuss. However, I knew there would be topics that we, as Blacks, could shed light on that no other group could or would. There are several important topics we were able to speak about such as indentured servitude vs. slavery, slavery, and slaves at River Run.

First, there was a discussion on indentured servitude. When Murtagh and the other prisoners were sent to the colonies as indentured servants, many in the fandom kept labelling it ‘white slavery’ or the same as slavery, and that is incorrect. I, along with other members of Blacklanderzâ„¢, had several discussions explaining the difference. In that, indentured servants had a timeframe, a period with a contract, a few years they had to serve – usually four to seven. Although a lot of them worked on farms in the South, it was not the same as Blacks who were slaves. Once the indentured servitude contract expired, they were released from their service. Blacks, who were slaves, did not have that luxury. They were taken from their homeland, stripped from their families, their culture, language, identity and dignity. They were perceived as chattel, were forced to work from sunup to sundown, and lived in inhumane conditions. Blacks were slaves for life (not four or seven years) over many generations (almost 10), until they were emancipated, 250 years later. Today, most Blacks cannot trace our ancestry passed four or five generations because of slavery. *Please readers, do not mention AncestryDNA® to me.* *You say anything about it to her…Imma AT you.HARD*

 

“When people repeatedly said indentured servitude was white slavery or the same as slavery, it not only minimized what Blacks went through during that time but also diminishes what, we as a people, dealt with and continuously deal with in this country as a result of slavery (e.g., segregation, Jim Crow Laws, institutional/systemic racism . . . the list goes on and on). So, it really boiled my blood and I (we) had to speak about it.

The second issue that I (we) spoke about was how slavery was handled or eliminated from discussion on the show. Yes, in S4, we saw numerous slaves in the field at River Run and what happened to Rufus, which was hard to watch but necessary. However, as the season progressed, it was as if all the slaves disappeared, except for Ulysses and a few others in the house. There was no more mention of them. They also portrayed Ulysses and the other house slaves as servants, which sanitized the reality in which slaves lived. Speaking of Ulysses, though I love Colin McFarlane’s performance, I also felt a need to speak up when people kept inferring that Ulysses and Jocasta were ‘lovers’ when there was clearly an imbalance of power, regardless of manumission papers not signed by the Assembly or that it was in the book. It is incongruous with the reality of that time and place. These types of issues cannot be shied away from just because it was written that way in the book.

There was the instance when Jocasta signed over her property to Jemmy. Jamie just mentions that River Run has a ‘new master’ and puts a period at the end of the sentence. He did not mention that Jemmy was going to be master of a plantation that housed who knows how many slaves. Coming back from the 60s/70s particularly 1968/1971, Claire (having Dr. Joe as a friend) and Bree (having Gayle as a roommate) would have discussed this quandary and it was simply ignored. I (we) pointed out this discrepancy.

Last, though I will not go into too much detail, there were several other topics we spoke up about such as 1) what the symbolism of a burning cross, Celtic or otherwise, means to some Blacks; 2) Jamie and Claire leaving biracial Bonnie with the Browns, during that time and place; 3) the stealing of land from Native Americans and giving it to immigrants such as Claire/Jamie, regardless of what happened in the book and 4) that Governor Tryon granted Roger and Bree 5,000 acres of land for the ‘accidental’ hanging of Roger. However, when a slave, once emancipated, s/he was to receive 40 acres and a mule yet received zilch for building up people’s largesse, which Forbes almost killed Jocasta over, wealth and the country.

What other groups would bring up these types of issues, let alone discuss them?

She speaks the absolute truth and it’s important that we have these conversations. When it comes to this kind of dialogue, it isn’t about opinion, it’s truly about facts. POC, have those facts, live those facts and those of us who only see from the other side, need to start listening. I speak all the time about seeing the world from our perception, our lens. It is impossible for a white person to see the world from their lives. We must allow them to tell us. When we get uncomfortable, feel like we need to defend ourselves or history – that is when we really need to stop and listen. Those are the biggest indicators we have that we don’t get it. We need to explore their world, through their eyes, their experiences and believe what they say. That is our job, that is how we tap into our empathy and start to understand. That is why I believe this group is so important to our fandom. Vida agreed.

“Because we view events/issues through a different lens, we open a space to have such discussions, as mentioned, regardless of whether they are difficult or in the book. (Note: I keep mentioning the latter because that is the reply from a lot of fans when we have brought up discrepancies or issues.)

Another major importance of our group is that a lot of people in this fandom have never been around Black people or communicated with a Black person before. I have received so many DMs asking me what I (we) thought about a scene, character or event in the show or how I (we) interpreted something that happened in the book or the show, which is a wonderful thing to happen.

Additionally, Blacklanderzâ„¢ is a very diverse – culturally and ethnically – group of people, not monolithic; and, that is the beauty of it. Although we all love the books/show, we have a wide range of differences (e.g., professions, backgrounds, upbringings, experiences, and interests), even in age. If you have noticed, we analyze everything in the show, not just what is happening in a scene/episode, but e-v-e-r-y-thing! Certain people focus on certain aspects because that is where their interest lies. We each bring a wealth of knowledge, intellectual wisdom, enthusiasm, something special to the conversation and that is what makes our Convos so rich with discussion. Oh, and we ALL have a keen sense of humor and are funny as hell!”

Yup, that is the thing about reading the Blacklanderzâ„¢ Convos. Each personality is so unique, you are sure to connect with someone and the humour across the board is relaxed and not mean spirited as has been seen elsewhere. Truthfully, if you want to challenge yourself, learn something and have a laugh…you will find your people with the Blacklanderzâ„¢ group.

Changing gears … this is an ABOotlander must ask because I’m a bit of a boob, everyone knows it. We have invited Vida for a meal in Alberta, up here in Canada (pretend we opened the border, just for her) and we are giving her a choice of these Albertan delicacies.  a) Moose Droppings b) Beaver Tails c) Prairie Oysters d) Taber Corn       

Which would you choose & why?  That is an easy one, Moose Droppings. I (we) are Blacklanderzâ„¢ after all, and I love chocolate!

 See? So smart! She knew what moose droppings were with no help (I made her promise not to use the google machine and I trust her).

I wanted to tap into Vida’s brain while it was still lit up to see if she could give us some tips on how to get through this Droughtlander. I wasn’t disappointed. 

“Yes, Cathy, runs our sister account, SoulsSisterz , Black women who love and support Deborah Harkness and her The All Souls Trilogy and A Discovery of Witches TV show. Although I have seen S1 of A Discovery of Witches, I have not read the books. I plan to read them before S2 comes out. There are three books and that will take up some time.

Also, fans could reread A Breath of Snow and Ashes. That is what I plan to do so I will be ready for our Convos whenever S6 comes out. The books are a blur and I try to make sure we stick to what is happening currently on the show and not have spoilers from future books.

Another tip is to take the time to learn how to do something or find a hobby that you would enjoy. Droughtlander is too long and life is too short not to appreciate whatever time we have!”

That final line was another reason I asked Vida to be a part of #TheLOVELANDERProject.  She is a delightful human and I hope you feel you were able to get to know the woman behind the account a little more and love her a lot more.  I want to personally thank Vida for agreeing to allow me to interview her. I know she prefers to stay in the background and as much as I respect her for that, I do believe we all are better people for knowing her just that little bit more. 

If you have any questions/comments for Vida you can comment here or on our twitter post or directly to her on her Twitter account HERE.

The LOVELANDER Project will return soon! Thank you so much for taking part.

Sher xo

LOVELANDER

ABOotlander L🖤ve – Previous Interviews –  Julia LeBlanc/VideoQueen  Summer & Ginger from Outlander Podcast  CastDr.Joe Abernathy/Wil Johnson  CastAdrienne-Marie/Suzette Beth Wesson/@PixieTwit  Connie Verzak@ConnieBV  Karmen @OutLandAnatomy          Jane @RRankinFans  CastSera-Lys McArthur /Johiehon CastCarmen Moore /Wahkatiiosta CastKikkiFleming/ Lesley