by Bobbi Booker
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
Philadelphia was the site of this weekend’s fifth annual “Blogging While Brown” conference at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Old City. Since its launch in 2008, “Blogging While Brown” has grown to become the premier blogging conference dedicated to education, collaboration, and innovation among bloggers of color. Gathering together some of the most influential Black social media entrepreneurs and online activists, the conference provides a forum for aspiring and established bloggers to gain insight on the ever-evolving ways of the Web through a series of informative panels and networking.
“‘Blogging While Brown’ is one of the greatest gatherings of Black intergenerational and interdisciplinary genius on the planet,” said Gina McCauley, “Blogging While Brown” founder. “These bloggers and social media strategists, combined, reach over 20-plus million unique visitors every month. It’s a joy every year to see these creative, technologically savvy people get together.”
The two-day conference drew nearly 200 attendees from accross the country and featured a host of experts and social media tastemakers. This year’s panelists included Patrice Grell Yursik of Afrobella.com; Lamar Tyler of “Black & Married with Kids;” Toni Carey of “Black Girls Run;” Damon Young of “Very Smart Brothas;” Kathryn Finney of “The Budget Fashionista;” Slim Jackson of “Single Black Male,” Demetria L. Lucas, author of “A Belle in Brooklyn” and BlackEnterprise.com’s Senior Producer/Black Blogger Month Editor Anslem Samuel Rocque, among others.
ConcreteLoop.com founder Angel Laws explained that as a seasoned blogger, the annual gatheirng gives her inspiration. “I just feel if someone that looks like me, and started exactly where I was at and talks about their success it’s a motivation tactic,” said Laws, 27. “I come here for motivation and inspiration because even if you are successful you still have a lot of work to do and you have got to keep that up. You get tired, you feel like you’re redundant, so every time I come here I feel like I am rejuvenated and inspired. Even though I am a veteran blogger — I’ve been blogging since I was in middle school — I learn things every time I come here.”
The “Blogging While Brown” conference is committed to the mission of insuring that all communities have an opportunity to fully participate in a society that is becoming increasingly more dependent on digital technology. Former Essence editor Tamara Jeffries noted the imprtannce of sharing new forms of information in the 21st century. “I think the industry’s media is changing so rapidly, there’s so many new technologies, there’s so many ways to reach people, and because of that we have to get on board. We have messages — information that we have to get out: information from ourselves and to ourselves and into our community — and this is a great opportunity for people to learn how to get those messages out.
Along with panel discussions, keynotes and networking opportunities, the event also included a Beginning Blogger Boot Camp and a Business of Blogging workshop and symposium. “I am in a position — I’m young and in an editorial position — so I need to build with these folks who are people on the move,” said Atria Books assistant editor Todd Hunter. “I need to meet them, and have them meet me so we can build this industry together. It’s all part of the digital movement, and it is the way we are moving.”
The conference explored the influence in social media and technology, especially as it related to the digital divide and the continued inequalities some people still face when it come to access to information and communication technologies.
“I think a lot about equity, and I think it is striking sometimes when I turn on the TV and I access popular media and the mainstream is dominated by people not of color, and you realize how many opportunities are not given to people of color,” said James Claiborne, Philadelphia Cultural Alliance community engagement manager. “So, when I think of the significance of a group like this convening, I think of that digital divide mending, and I also think about African-Americans and people of color now stepping up to again create their own channels. Again the major channels and media may grab one or two of us, but there is such a wealth of talent and voices not being captured there that I think you see with ‘Blogging While Brown’ is a community stepping up to create our own channels, to own our own images and to create the things that mainstream media and the powers that be may not be willing to create for us.”