Fellow blogger and AfroSpear member, Shaw Williams just released a book titled Blogging While Black. It’s a history of his experience as a black blogger and the AfroSpear starting from 2007. I had the pleasure to meet the husband and father of two in Denver, at the Democratic National Convention. It was great to put a face and real person with a name. And now it is my pleasure to interview him about Blogging While Black.
BWIE: We both joined the AfroSpear around the same time. It truly was a time when black bloggers thought we could make a difference in how our communities get news. Do you still feel that way? How has Dallas South done that?
SW: I still feel that we are able to help connect our communities with news, but since 2007, the tools and tactics have changed. When we joined the Afrospear, Facebook was only for college students and Twitter was in start up phase. Blogs like ours were the place to go to get information, whether on a local or international level.
With Dallas South News I’ve gone back to the local level because there are so many voices in our community that aren’t being heard, so many stories that are not being told. I think as the 2012 elections draw near, it will be important for us to rejoin the conversation in a major way, and I plan to do that through ShawnPWilliams.com, formerly DallasSouthBlog.com.
BWIE: Your involvement in Jena was one of the things that signaled to me that in addition to your family and career, you care about black people in general. Have you taken the time to be as involved in issues of justice since then?
SW: I’ve spent more time on media issues since Jena, because I think that was the real legacy of that part of the movement. I believe after Jena major news organizations stepped back and asked themselves how did they miss the story. The wondered how Howard Witt and the Afrospear and Black Bloggers drove this story to such an extent.
So much of my time has been spent looking at how media covers communities of color and how I can be part of the solution with Dallas South News. With that said, we are currently putting together a series for next year titled “And Justice For All.” We plan to look on a local level at the many forgotten populations in our society, especially those children who go to bed hungry every night. It’s not popular to talk about such issues, but it’s necessary.
BWIE:I remember the incredible feeling of being at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and watching President Obama receive his party’s nomination. Do you feel the same excitement about returning to the convention, this time in Charlotte? Is President Obama’s re-election an issue that is important to your community of readers?
SW: The Democratic National Convention in 2008 is one of the highlights of my life. It was great to be able to meet you and African American Pundit, and other bloggers I had not seen before and it was great to be a part of history.
There is not the same energy around the reelection of President Obama for two reasons. First, I don’t think the administration, and even more so the Democratic National Committee, did a good job of organizing their constituents and supporters after the election. I’ve heard much more from the Republican National Committee than I did the DNC since 2008. It seems that they went back to their old playbook instead of moving into the future.
And I think Black folks are hurting to such an extent that we just aren’t able to focus there right now. I don’t think they blame the President for the economic suffering that’s going on, but it’s hard to be energetic in this kind of climate.
BWIE:What is your long term vision for your non-profit? How did you find the time to get it all organized? How do you maintain a steady flow of funding?
SW: First Adrianne, there aren’t enough hours in the day to implement all of the ideas that are floating around in my head. I’m trying to get better with prioritizing.
So far our funding has been through more than 100 individual donors who understand the importance of telling the real stories of people in underserved communities. We have also found success in organizations underwriting our monthly print publication which we launched at the end of August. So far the one area that has lagged has been financial support from the philanthropic community. We haven’t secured a major grant as of yet, but we’re very hopeful we’ll find a partner before the end of the year. The one thing I’ve learned about business is that there is no business without financial stability and I think that’s where many movements get in trouble.
BWIE:When you started blogging did you ever imagine you would not only be blogging today, but also running a spin-off non-profit, appearing on TV interviews, or covering national events as they happen?
SW: No this is nothing like what I thought. This is obviously God’s plan because I never could have imagined having this opportunity and this platform. It’s a true blessing.
BWIE:What do you hope to achieve with your book?
SW: The first thing I wanted to do with this book was capture the spirit of the Black Blogger movement in 2007 and 2008. Think about it Adrianne, this was a precursor to the Tea Party, the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements. This was the first time that individuals used online tools to advocate for change in a concerted manor.
I think our efforts were directly related to Shaquanda Cotton’s release from the Texas Youth Corrections system and had a direct effect on the Jena defendants. And Black Bloggers where an important piece of the puzzle assembled by the Obama campaign to get him elected.
I feared that if someone didn’t capture this history it could be lost. Wayne Hicks, Pam Spaulding and Yobachi Boswell may not be household names, but the part they played in the movement were critical. Now that I’ve written Blogging While Black, I know the story of the AfroSpear and Black Bloggers will last past our efforts.
And I also wanted to give tips to those who aspire to use social media and technology as a way to advocate for change. That’s why put tips at the end of each chapter that readers can use to make a difference in their own communities.