As more and more people head online to read commentary on the news of the day, black bloggers are riding the wave and making their voices heard. Some, like Wain Bennett, the Philadelphia attorney behind Field Negro (above), have been the subject of multiple news features. Here in Boston, South End writer Steve “Dart” Adams makes noise on his site, Poisonous Paragraphs. (Images courtesy of http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com; http://field-negro.blogspot.com)
Today, through the use of the Internet and new media tools like blogs, YouTube and Twitter, everyone can make their voices heard. An increasing share of the African American community is taking the opportunity to do just that, including a number based here in Boston.
Many are choosing to use blogs as a medium for mobilizing around political and social justice issues. According to a 2007 study conducted by Brown University researcher Antoinette Pole, 85 percent of blacks use their blogs to engage in political advocacy and to raise money for charitable causes.
Though there has as yet been no scholarly follow-up to measure the effect of Barack Obama’s landmark presidential campaign on the black blogosphere, the explosion of online conversations about race in America and in American politics suggests that the percentage may have significantly increased.
The presidential campaign also helped some black bloggers become “cyber-celebrities.” Bloggers like Wain Bennett, the Philadelphia attorney behind Field Negro, Gina McCauley of the feminist site What About Our Daughters and Harvard graduate Baratunde Thurston, one of the founders of Jack & Jill Politics, have been featured in print and on air to offer their perspectives on the news of the day.
Recent political controversies in Boston have also been bantered about in the black blogosphere. On his popular blog African American Political Pundit, Roxbury native L.N. Rock covered closely — and sometimes harshly — the ongoing legal and financial woes of embattled former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and City Councilor Chuck Turner.
For many black bloggers, new media has provided a virtual soapbox where they can share their dissenting opinions.
“There is a freedom to blogging about my opinions that I [never] had before,” said Providence-based freelance journalist Reza Clifton. “Blogging is so beneficial for black people, for social justice and activism.”
Clifton originally started her blog, RezaRitesRI, in 2005 to archive her freelance work. But after a while, she said, she began to see the merit in publishing original content online.
Last summer, she created a series of podcasts — audio broadcasts that listeners can download to their computers and play on portable devices like iPods — documenting the black Rhode Island experience called “Rhode 2 Africa.” It was originally intended to be used as a way for her to start a career in radio, but after receiving a lot of positive feedback on her work, she said she wants to continue podcasting.
While some in the traditional media may fear the demise of the news business due to online competition, Clifton said she actually sees blogging as a net positive for journalism.
“Every good business like journalism needs a challenge, and here it is,” she said. “Newsrooms are so behind because they don’t know how to connect with their readers today, and blogging is an opportunity to provide more transparency.”
Roxbury native Mignon Ariel King started her blog two years ago while working as an editorial coordinator for BostonNow, the now-defunct free daily newspaper that was heavily dependent on publishing aggregated blog posts.
“It seemed silly to work there and not have a blog,” King said.
King uses her blog to publish her poetry and, she said, explore her identity as a black woman. She said she is happy when people leave comments and want to have a discussion with her, as she believes blogs are at their best when they come alive with discussion, whether about her poetry or other matters. King also runs writing workshops for black women, and encourages them to become part of the online revolution, too.
“It is important to have our voices out there,” she said. “Black women shouldn’t allow mass media to control our images.”
Some black men think it’s important to speak their piece, too. Steve Adams is one of them, and he’s making noise.
Under the pseudonym “Dart Adams,” he publishes Poisonous Paragraphs, a site he calls “a comprehensive hip-hop, film and urban culture blog written entirely by an information junkie/graphomaniac Bostonian ex-emcee/film student/record and video store manager/[graffiti] writer/streetballer.” His blog has become one of the premiere one-stop local sites for information and commentary on hip-hop, sports and culture.
The South End resident began his blogging career as a writer for AllHipHop.com before starting his own blog to fill what he saw as a void in Boston’s music scene.
“I try to bring together old-school and new-school hip-hop on my site,” he said. “Back when I was coming up, we had tapes [and] 8-tracks, and today the kids have iPods. I mix in [rappers] Kool G Rap and Run DMC with Mos Def and Black Moon.”
As for advice on others who want to start blogs:
“Never do what they do,” he said. “If you want to blog, study other blogs, and see what unique voice you can give.”
Opinions and insights on the political issues of the day from "old school brother" and Roxbury native L.N. Rock. More »
The online home of South End writer Steve "Dart" Adams, who goes all in with fresh takes on hip-hop, sports and culture. More »
The Simmons College alum, former English instructor and BostonNow editorial coordinator uses her blog to publish her poetry and explore what it means to be a black woman. More »
Providence, R.I.-based journalist Reza Clifton's site includes her published professional work as well as original online content, like her well-received "Rhode 2 Africa" series of podcasts. More »
Harvard University graduate Baratunde Thurston co-founded this whip-smart blog, which its authors say offers a "black bourgeoisie perspective on U.S. politics." More »