In the Phoenix, Arizona, geek community, “BRA” takes on a whole different meaning: the Blue Ribbon Army. What began as a simple fan group has exploded into a home for geeks and nerds who otherwise might not have the confidence to venture out and find new friends has gained a tremendous following that has been channeled into a force for good. Matt and Jen Hinds, two of the coordinators/creators of the massive community, took the time to Talk Nerdy With Us about the Blue Ribbon Army and its effect on geeks in Phoenix and beyond.
Tell our Talk Nerdy With Us readers about the Blue Ribbon Army. What is it exactly?
“In a nutshell, the Blue Ribbon Army is a social club for geeks, named for the blue ribbons/lanyards that we wear to conventions an geek events to identify one another. Our primary hangout spot is our Facebook page, where our members talk nerdy (see what I did there?) with one another and coordinate get-togethers. Outside of a place for geek networking (which is our core mission), we are also a non-profit that chooses a different charity to support with each event.”-Matt
How did the Blue Ribbon Army come to be?
“Prior to Phoenix Comicon 2014, our group had grown large enough that our members wanted a way to identify each other at the next Con. As Matt previously stated, that was in the form of blue ribbons (suggested by long-time member, Debbie Redfern). After this suggestion was approved by our members, one of our friends (Nicholas Grover) half-jokingly said that we should call ourselves the Blue Ribbon Army (BRA for short).”-Jen
When the BRA started, did you ever expect it to become as large and as popular as it is?
“When the Facebook page was first created, it was solely for the purpose of our small group of friends to communicate between cons. As more mutual friends joined the group, things just kind of snowballed in terms of growth (partly due to six degrees of Kevin Bacon and partly due to the fact that a lot of folks thought that the group was officially the Phoenix Comicon page).”-Matt
The BRA has created an incredible sense of community among the geek population of Phoenix and the rest of Arizona, even spreading to other states. Several members, myself included, have been able to overcome near crippling social anxiety thanks to knowing that there were others “like us” out there (in fact, I may never have had the courage to take this position at Talk Nerdy With Us if not for the support of the BRA!). One example is hairstylist/colorist April Russell, who gave a heartwarming speech during the BRA panel at Phoenix Comicon about how the BRA and its members helped her fight her social anxiety. April is now a successful stylist and a favorite among BRA members. How does it feel knowing that what once started as a small convention fan group has turned into an amazing, supporting community?