"We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us." ―Cornish & Russwurm
By: Sarah L. Webb
For centuries, people of color have used various forms of media to plead their case for change. Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano, and Solomon Northup wrote compelling autobiographies and memoirs to depict the horrors of slavery. Samuel E. Cornish, John B. Russwurm, William Lloyd Garrison, and W. E. B. Dubois started newspapers and magazines to expose injustice and counteract the racism in mainstream media. Whether blatant or subtle, poets, filmmakers, designers, songwriters, painters, and educators have all used their platforms for political, spiritual, and social campaigns throughout history.
Blogging is a relatively new medium, but imagine what our predecessors could have accomplished in their efforts to be recognized, to share their art with the world, to tell their stories before a wider audience, and to achieve human rights for all, if they had access to this technology the way we do. Even more important than imagining what could have been, is imagining what could be. What will we do with the powerful platform of blogging?
When I began blogging three years ago, I didn’t have a clear answer to that question. I was just going to blog because I wanted to write, publish, and share. However, the more I wrote and learned, the more potential I saw for blogging as an instrument for something more than my random musings. Then one day, I found the courage to write my first post on the “sensitive” issue of colorism (bias based on skin color, hair texture, and other features among people of the same race).
It was challenging to write, and I hesitated before clicking “publish” on my Wordpress editor. And then the responses came. Several people were thankful that I was covering the topic and were eager to join the discussion and see what else I would write. Others were less familiar with the subject but were curious to learn more. And, yes, some were annoyed. Some were downright livid. I was practically cursed out on Facebook by people I knew and considered friends.
That intense response, positive and negative, let me know that I had done something worth continuing. So I wrote a second post. And a third. And eventually I launched a site completely dedicated to the issue of colorism.
By no means was I the first person to write about the subject. Others had researched, studied, and written about colorism for decades. But blogging presented a new opportunity that writers did not have prior to the internet age. I saw three important ways that blogging could advance the work previously done on colorism.
First, as previously stated, it allowed readers to have real dialogue. Rather than just reading a book or article with no engagement with the author or other readers, blog audiences can take part in the discussion. People seem particularly apt to share their perspective on colorism, but conversation is valuable for any cause.
Second, a blog’s ability to compile and curate media and information in one place over time is priceless. Now I can lay out the historical work done on colorism, while also giving readers the current events version. Readers don’t have to worry about which edition they have, as one would do with a book, because a blog is always the most current edition.
Third, blogs can be free and accessible. I think the accessibility of blogs has played a huge role in advancing the conversation around colorism. In the past, most of the writing done about colorism was in scholarly, academic papers that were not only difficult to digest, but often required expensive subscriptions to journals or databases through a university or some other institution. Even when authors wrote books on the subject, there was still less availability for the general public.
Finally, I return to the opening words of Cornish and Russwurm. Bloggers are part of that same legacy, using our creative power to advocate for change.
Here is a special group of bloggers who each have a unique message and use their blogging platforms to create a bit of positive change in the world.
>> A'Driane Nieves is a powerful spokesperson for motherhood and mental health on her blog Butterfly Confessions. She states her case in this post: Universal Mental Health Screening for Pregnant and New Mothers is a MUST
>> Shimira Williams advocates for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education on her blog TekStart. In this post she explains why STEM is important in the earliest years of education: What’s Your Position on STEM in Preschool?
>> Sherese Francis, creator of the blog Futuristically Ancient, explores the African Diaspora through the lens of Afrofuturism. She breaks it down in the post: “God Is Change” – The Meaning Behind Futuristically Ancient
>> On her blog Sailing Autistic Seas, Miz Kp offers practical guidance, resources, and inspiration to parents raising children with autism. Here’s a sample of the important work she’s doing: How Couples Can Support Each Other in Parenting a Child with Autism
>> Stanley Fritz is an outspoken “political activist who plans to change the world” with his words. You can get a good dose of those words here: Waiting for Superman, The Black Complacency Crisis
Please take the time to read each of these posts and show your support by sharing widely!
Remember to join us for the “Change Makers” Twitter Chat: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Central Standard Time using #BWBChange.