Jessie Blount (she/her) is a queer woman of color, an INTP, a Sagittarius, a sci-fi and fantasy nerd, a witch, and an incredible cook. Jessie works for a rad non-profit in Detroit, where she lives with her girlfriend, Nicole, and a beautiful Slytherin cat princess, Winnie. She spends her time learning survival skills for the impending apocalypse and collecting Harry Potter memes.
Black Girls Create: What do you create?
HUMOROUS YET RUTHLESS
I create primarily audio-based media themed around the critical analysis of my fandoms. I do this mainly through my podcast The Gayly Prophet, a queer analytical chapter by chapter reread of the original 7 Harry Potter books that I do with my co-host and good friend Lark. Our bi-line is ‘humorous yet ruthless’ because while I’ve been a fan of the series since before book 4 was out, there are a lot of deeply problematic things in the text. One of the biggest inspirations for the pod was Witch Please, a feminist analysis of Harry Potter by two “lady scholars,” which was great, but sadly went book by book rather than chapter by chapter. While there are a ton of Harry Potter podcasts, there were not any that specifically looked at Harry Potter through a queer lens.
On The Gayly Prophet’s Patreon I create on-the-spot fanfic round-robin style with Lark and post various multi-fandom fanfiction that I’ve written. I also discuss my other fandoms in some of our other Patreon exclusive content, like our “Editors Cut” where we talk about things like time travel, or my biweekly link roundup, “Muggle Studies.”
BGC: Why do you create?
I don’t really consider it an option, more of a necessity. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and I struggled a lot with the reality of racism and feeling different than a lot of kids I grew up with. Books and television were my friends, not just as an escape but as a way of dreaming of what could be. This is what drew me to sci-fi and fantasy, but as a child of the ‘90s, I didn’t come across many Black people or women in the stories I consumed. Like a lot of hardcore readers, I dreamed of being a writer, of creating my own story that was as majestic and beautiful as my inner life that had the kind of people I knew, complexity, and strong and weird and queer and POC characters. I cut my creative teeth in fandom, writing a lot of terrible, half created fanfics to go with the poetry that I wrote in my teens. The Gayly Prophet is really an extension of this passion, of my belief in the importance of fun, deep, textual analysis with other people.
BGC: Who is your audience? What do you hope your audience gets out of your podcast?
When I envision our audience, I think of other angry BIPOC queer nerds like me who love a thing so deeply that we want to rip it apart. I think to love a work of art is to examine it from all sides, rediscovering that love but also questioning its limitations and highlighting its flaws. More personally, I hate talking about myself, a holdover of my not-great childhood and deep social anxiety. I’d much rather talk about and listen to people’s thoughts about books and TV and movies. I’ve never gotten tired talking about Harry Potter, as 50 episodes and dozens of hours of The Gayly Prophet can attest to. The gaps in canon are staggering, especially as it relates to marginalized people, and filling those in is something I’m never bored of. I want to have this dialog with our listeners, hear their thoughts and feelings and headcanons. It’s also a bit like group therapy. I talk a lot about childhood trauma and neurodiversity as it related to HP because there is so much built explicitly into the canon and discussing it helps me verbalize and process these things in my own life. At heart, I want our audience to not feel alone. I also want them to laugh because there can never be enough laughter.
BGC: Who or what inspired you to do what you do? Who or what continues to inspire you?
I’m perpetually inspired by Black nerds, especially folks who are older Millennial/Gen X Black nerds. Being a Black nerd didn’t used to be cool and acceptable. I was a weird kid growing up, consuming sci-fi novels like water and videotaping the X-Files on my grandparents VCR. When I got to college, I was lucky enough to start digging into race and women’s studies, and I was particularly interested in how that relates and informs art and media. One of the biggest influences for me was “The Oppositional Gaze” by Black feminist theorist bell hooks, where she says:
Critical black female spectatorship emerges as a site of resistance only when individual black women actively resist the imposition of dominant ways of knowing and looking. While every black woman I talked to was aware of racism, that awareness did not automatically correspond with politicization, the development of an oppositional gaze. When it did, individual black women consciously named the process. Manthia Diawara’s “resisting spectatorship” is a tenant that does not adequately describe the terrain of black female spectatorship. We do more than resist. We create alternative texts that are not solely reactions. As critical spectators, black women participate in a broad range of looking relations, contest, resist, revision, interrogate, and invent on multiple levels.
I take this to mean that nothing I consume is merely passive escapism, nor do I accept the prevailing white supremacy of much of the media I consume. It’s a complex consumption for me, I love stories and pleasing aesthetics and music and well-written prose. But everything I consume I interrogate, I analyze, I think on the possibilities of what if someone like me was at the center of the narrative. This way of looking has parallels in fandom, in the embracing of Black Hermione, in shipping, in headcanons, in examining canon and discarding and adding at will.
I also grew up listening to NPR and had this dream of having my own radio show where I just talked about books I loved. Podcasting is honestly a blessing in this regard because I bought a mic and invested in recording software and a website, and now I am living a dream that my sad teen nerd self could have only imagined.
BGC: How do you continue to be inspired especially in these specific times?
Joy and laughter and critical thought are, I think, the best way to survive these trying times. I spend a lot of my time thinking about injustice, racism, and our broken system, and it would be very easy to give in to the feeling of being crushed by a system that actively wants me dead. Thinking of silly Harry Potter puns or playlists for soft bi werewolves gives my endlessly running mind something fun to think on and makes the perpetual tightness in my chest ease a little, because, at the very least, my co-host Lark will laugh and then I will laugh and that’s something that I did, that I created.
BGC: Why is it important as a Black person to create?
Honestly, creating is what has gotten Black folks for generations through all the shit that America has wrung us through. There is a reason that anything good in American culture was either created by or made better in Black hands. Music, food, art, clothing, dance, acting, poetry, social change, sci-fi, even the best parts of Al Gore’s internet. And within this, there are countless Black women and Black queer folks who are nearly forgotten. Basically, everyone we know from the Harlem Renaissance was not straight. Disco and house music came from Black and Latino gay club scenes. Even ‘internet speak’ is from Black trans women and folks in the ball scene. It’s part of our culture to thrive in this world by creating something beautiful.
BGC: Are there other creators that you admire?
My top faves are Black ladies in sci-fi. My number one fave is the late great Octavia Butler, I think everyone should read the Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. Janelle Monáe is out here living a peak queer nonbinary Afro-future nerd life, and I am so happy that young queer nerds get to grow up having someone like them (Janelle has not yet said what pronouns to use). Someone needs to give her all the money to make Afro-future sci-fi films. And, to paraphrase Issa Rae, I’m rooting for everyone Black who’s creating podcasts and writing fanfic and making YouTube vids and TikTok, especially the younger folks.
BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
I work a full-time job that often has me working extra hours, so I don’t do as much for the podcast as I would like. Lark has a bit more relaxed schedule and TBH the podcast would not be half as good without him. My girlfriend is also very supportive, which helps so, so much. I schedule everything I do in Google calendar to make time for recording and the extra bits of running a podcast and having downtime.
BGC: How do you balance creating when you feel drained or exhausted?
I have depression, anxiety, and ADHD, so I am nearly always drained or exhausted. This is where clear communication and a shared calendar comes in. I know that if I work late at work, I need the next evening to recover and make sure to schedule recording sessions or podcast meetings spaced out from my work schedule. We do a lot of longer recording sessions on the weekends or the times where I have time off. We also record a lot of Patron-exclusive content that doesn’t necessarily require a lot of prep work or mental bandwidth, so for weeks where I am particularly low energy, I can still create something. And, lastly, we deeply stagger the time when we record to when the episode goes up, so if I’m in bad mental space and cannot do anything, I can take that time and episodes will still go out.
BGC: Any advice for new creators?
I think it can be hard to start a project because a lot of what we see is the finished product after years of work. You gotta power through it if you want to learn. And often people love it anyway. Someone might draw some fan art and see all the flaws, I see it and am like ‘Yes, more Black Hermione fan art, I love it.’ It’s ok if you have to take things slowly. Some weeks I only have an hour a week to knit or write or read for the podcast, because of real-life things. A lot of people who create all the time have, like, hired help or the unpaid labor of a spouse, so that ‘we all have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé’ thing is shitty creative advice.
BGC: Any future projects coming up?
We’ve got some exciting things planned for our ‘Make Harry Potter Even Gayer 2020’ campaign, in which we are amplifying queer HP fanworks and merch by queer creators. We are in the embryonic stages of planning some kind of live event for the campaign, too. Folks should follow us on social media to be kept in the loop on that stuff as it develops! We’re on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @thegaylyprophet.