What do you get when you take a group of stylish, ambitious black women and place them together in a room? Given all the debates currently taking place about the image of black women in media, particularly reality television, unsavory images might be the first (unfortunately) to come to mind. But, this past weekend’s Blogging While Brown conference, which just wrapped its sixth year in New York City, was an oasis of truth demonstrating the power, positivity and true sisterhood of African-American women interested in blogging and technology.
“Unfortunately, we as black women carry a stereotype of being loud, catty, and constantly trying to outdo one another,” said Karla Trotman, the Philadelphia-based proprietress of Bellybuttonboutique.com, a site that helps mothers and moms-to-be with supportive products related to pregnancy. “But this conference draws out women, all of whom were coming from a place of abundance. The sharing of information and the openness was so refreshing. The connections, discussions, and fellowship were all incredible. I felt truly filled by the experience.”
While Blogging While Brown is not geared to black women specifically — and there were many men, other people of color, and whites who attended and sat on panels — the overwhelming percentage of the 300-plus assemblage consisted of African-American women. This setting, far from being limiting, made Blogging While Brown a refreshing sanctuary for people seeking exposure to interesting individuals and fresh information with a result that was truly enlightening. Even for black women, it was like getting to know a whole new tribe.
“The highlight of the conference is watching bloggers connect and engage with each other,” Gina McCauley, founder and organizer of Blogging While Brown, told theGrio over email. “I can secure the space and schedule a program, but the bloggers and their willingness and desire to connect with each other bring the conference alive. Several people said that the conference changed their lives and that blows my mind.”
McCauley brought together many of the brightest minds in blogging, technology, and social media for a two-day spectacular that truly delivered on its promise to educate bloggers, teaching them the keys to monetizing their blogs, and helping attendants improve their technology implementations. CEOs, marketing managers, and blogger activists from organizations as diverse as the powerhouse women’s blogging network BlogHer to the NAACP contributed to the mindshare.
The seminars were held at the lauded Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture by day. Parties and giveaways were hosted by corporate sponsors such as AT&T and Colgate Optic White at the new, modern Aloft Harlem hotel at night. Comcast, TV Land, and the makers of the coming independent film Fruitvale Station were additional sponsors who helped make the conference as lavish as it was mind-expanding.
“I really enjoyed [the] ‘Stop Thinking Like a Blogger and Think Like a Business’ session with Lamar Tyler,” Kimberly Anne, founder and editor of her Manifest Yourself blog, told theGrio. This Long Island native uses her skills as a career consultant to college students to help a broader audience improve their lives through Manifestyourself.com.
“I think it really set the mood for the remainder of the sessions,” she said of the talk given by the co-founder of Black and Married With Kids. “Many bloggers in the audience have aspirations to be able to make some form of steady income from their blog, so thinking like a business is essential.”
This theme was followed through in many informative seminars, such as “Keep it Movin’: Mobilizing Your Blog and Your Brand,” co-presented by Terrance Gaines, otherwise known as Brotha Tech, and Cavaughn Noel of TheDigitalQuarterback.com.
“Markus Robinson from Interactive One blew my mind,” said Trotman, who also gave a conference presentation called “Starting a Business While Working Full-Time.”
Of the technology keynote speaker Trotman also remarked, “He presented tools to track and strategize consumer behavior and movement on a website. I had never heard of any of the sites and tools, so I took copious notes and could barely contain the excitement. The tools were practical and many were free. As a small business, you are constantly looking for ways to improve the buyer’s experience and increase conversions. He was just amazing.”
But, the most important element of the conference for many was not the wealth of expertise offered. The key takeaway was the building of positive relationships between African-Americans in the Internet content sector, and with those people and organizations that support the growth of people of color in that space.
“The blogging world is an interesting place,” noted Bridget “Bee” Quammie, a health and wellness blogger from Toronto, whose blog 83toinfinity.com also takes a witty look at current events. “Family and friends often don’t fully understand what you do, so it’s easy to feel alone. Simultaneously, the blogosphere can feel utterly crowded, and you wonder how to make your mark. The conference was empowering because I was able to connect with people who ‘get it,’ while being supported and encouraged in the work I was doing.”
Many people saw the closing keynote, “Empire Building” as empowering on a massive scale. Featuring superstar bloggers Necole Kane of NecoleBitchie.com, Angel Laws of Concreteloop.com, Claire Siobhan Sulmers of The Fashion Bomb, and Karen Civil of karencivil.com, this final panel moderated by Alfred Edmonds of Black Enterprise enabled aspiring blog stars to interact intimately with some of the most popular personalities online.
“Necole actually put together the closing panel all on her own initative,” McCauley told theGrio of this special moment. “She wanted to see all of those black women bloggers come together. I just provided the platform, but she brought in her blogging peers. It was a beautiful sight to see. Four empire-building black women coming together to share their wisdom with the up and comers. Necole has a generous spirit.”
As wonderful as Blogging While Brown 2013 was for many, there was some room for improvement some observed. “I’d love to see speakers from more diverse sectors of black blogging,” Quammie stated to theGrio over email. “There are some amazing black bloggers in the sexuality, LGBTQ, wellness, and social activism spheres to name a few — it would be great to hear their voices and experiences.”
McCauley is happy to receive any and all feedback as she gears up for Blogging While Brown 2014. This year’s conference was held in New York City for the first time, and based in Harlem, an area of the city with a dynamic history and tremendous current cultural capital. Next year, due to its tremendous 2013 success, Blogging While Brown 2014 will return to this location.
“So many people said that after Day 1 it was well worth the trip, but we can and will do better,” McCauley said. “I’m already working on filling in any gaps I thought were there this year. I want to be responsive to their needs,” she said of bloggers of color. “I want bloggers to win. But I also want to make sure that bloggers like me, an activist blogger, also don’t get crowded out. We can learn alot from each other.”
“I have never left a conference with so many practical takeaways. There is no way that I will miss BWB 2014,” Trotman said over email.
“Personally, I see it only helping me to become even better,” Quammie stated of the whole Blogging While Brown experience. ”I’ve been lucky to connect with other bloggers who are not only doing amazing things, but are open, friendly and sincere. For me, the openness and sincerity is almost more important than the skill set another blogger can offer me. Comraderie, support, and upliftment is needed and necessary, and really is what I feel will push myself and other bloggers of color further.”
article by Alexis Garrett Stodghill via thegrio.com