This past weekend I attened the Blogging While Brown conference. It was great overall, but it definitely had both highs and lows. It was amazing to see how much of a vibrant subculture the black blogging community is when brought to one place. (I say black, and not people of color, because the conference’s main focus was on the black community and the majority of attendees were black.) On the other hand, I did feel as though I was an outsider on various levels. I talked to a couple people that were offended when I told them I had not heard of their blog. One guy even welcomed me to the Internet when I told him I was new to blogging. Even as an outsider it was still nice to be in a room of diverse people who were brought together for one simple reasons: being a person of color that blogged. Some people in the room had little to no followers and others made is very well known that they had half a million hits a month.
The highlight of the conference was getting to go to what I thought was going to be the white house. Still, this was by far the most interesting part of the weekend, for both good and bad reasons. 30 minutes after arriving in DC, I had to scurry to what is called the Eisenhower Building. They took us to a room that was filled with Obama photos and a small podium in the front. We spoke to “official” white house representatives, that both gave a brief description of their job and explained to us that we were there because they wanted help with building and bringing people to these new “online live forums” where people could come ask questions and express concerns.
The first guy we met was named Cory Ealons, who is the Director of African American New Media for the Obama Administration. We also meet with a guy named Jesse Lee who is the Online Programs Director for the Obama Administration. (http://www.whorunsgov.com/Profiles/Jesse_Lee). They both spoke for about 15 minutes and were very good communicators at face values, but under the surface when the bloggers started asking questions about the programs they were trying to organize around both blogging and new media, their gauge for success was unknown and they seemed to be looking to us for answers more than giving us answers on their own. To their credit, they explained how they are a brand new department in the white house, and told us how “New Media” (things including blogging, twitter, facebook, bing, and more) was not even considered in the Bush administration, so they were basically starting from scratch.
Melony Barnes, the director of domestic policy for the Obama administration also came and said hi, but she was literally there for no more than 2 minutes. It was also one moment when a women (a blogger) got a bit hostile during the meeting. One of the speakers from the conference (a white man from Microsoft) and Jesse Lee (another white man) were going back and forth with questions and a black women (who generally seemed angry) yelled out “can we let the colored people speak” she went on to explain how in 50 years of activism this was only the first time she was invited to the white house. Everyone in the room seemed a bit offended at the level of inappropriateness of the woman’s comment. I understood her anger, but was a bit rattled in how/why it came out.
Overall, the White House meeting was interesting and symbolically significant, but practically fruitless. We really didn’t learn much more than we already knew and it took me to the end of the meeting to realize we were not actually going to be in the White House at all. I did learn that the Obama Administration has several blogs that are updated daily, however, I’m not sure if I needed a trip to the Eisenhower Building to find that out.