Stepping Out on Faith: My Blogging While Brown Experience
By Curtis Johnson, NAACP Communications Department
On June 18 and 19th, I had the privilege of attending the 3rd Annual Blogging While Brown Conference as an NAACP representative. Blogging While Brown was created in 2008 as a response to the low level of diversity in some of the largest and most popular blogging conferences. The purpose of Blogging While Brown is to give Bloggers of Color an opportunity to connect in person, discuss issues affecting Bloggers of Color, and learn about the latest technology that will assist them with their work.
I feel compelled to open this tale with the caveat that I was somewhat skittish about attending Blogging While Brown due to the skepticism by some in the Black blogger community toward the NAACP. Much of the criticism stemmed from the NAACP's perceived lack of tech savvy and an overall absence of blogger engagement. While I work at the NAACP and am aware of our history (or lack thereof) with the Black blogosphere, I also am aware of the strides we have made with the recognition of technology as both an asset in organizing and communication, and the significance of the Black blogosphere in helping us advance that mission.
I was pleased to find that my presence was well-received and that folks were actually very interested in hearing what I had to say. I had the opportunity to speak to a number of the more than 200 attendees, who blogged on a number of diverse topics including politics, science, technology, personal finance and debt elimination, family, and natural hair, to name a few. The range of topics may have been diverse, but the passion and enthusiasm displayed toward the respective genre was consistent and a requisite trait of each blogger.
The Conference opened with a blogger's boot camp for newbie bloggers, followed by a White House visit for all attendees. I arrived just after the introductory panel opened, which discussed the origin, meaning and significance of BWB. A reception and game night closed the opening day, which was my opportunity to meet other attendees and throw down in a game of spades-a tradition in my hometown, Philly.
Day 2 began with a brief yoga session and moved into a series of panels discussing the future of blogging, advertising guidelines, blog improvement tips, the business aspect of blogging, and blogging as a means of creating change. A town hall followed, and the conference wrapped up with a panel of Breakthrough Bloggers - those who "made it" to the next level of blogging (#nowplaying Jay-Z - "Momma I Made It"). It's difficult for me to pinpoint one favorite moment of BWB, but I think that panel may have been the perfect mix of blogger-specific guidance and general life-coaching inspiration. The panel featured bloggers/rock stars Baratunde, Afro Bella, and Anil Dash, and each had an inspiring tale or quote to share with the crowd. Perhaps the quote that resonated with me most came from Anil Dash: "When you step out on faith, the universe will meet you...if you believe something is out there you will find it."
At BWB, I was in the presence of 200 men and women of varying shades, backgrounds and interests, all of whom recognize the power of their voice and possess the vision to make sure it is heard. In that sense, the common thread between these individuals runs much deeper than their self-identity as bloggers of color. They comprise a network, a community - and a powerful one at that. I was asked by one blogger whether I came to BWB as an NAACP rep or an attendee. My reply was that I came as an NAACP rep, and came away with knowledge, information and connections that hopefully will be cultivated on both a professional and personal level. For that, I am grateful that I could step out into BWB on faith, and even more thankful the BWB universe welcomed me.
You can reach Curt at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @curtjohnson.