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December 17, 2012

AUDIO UP: WUNC’s The State of Things – an hour of your blogmistress on Newtown and my online and offline activism

Posted in: Blogging,media

UPDATE: The audio of my interview is up. My hour-long interview with Frank Stasio at The State of Things went well. He covered a lot of ground. Spent a good amount of time talking about the Newtown tragedy and the need to focus on mental health issues; we also chatted about race relations, LGBT issues and some of the family history I mention below. Feedback appreciated, btw (Facebook, Twitter).


Since this interview is part of the Monday Meet series of The State of Things (@state_of_things), it’s likely to cover some ground on my life as a native North Carolinian well. A lot has changed in this state since I was a little tyke. Tune in at Noon, Eastern Time: http://wunc.org/programs/tsot/


I have been on WUNC’s The State of Things before, usually there to discuss politics and blogging with the wonderful host with the mellifluous voice, Frank Stasio. One stop in 2009 was to chat about the state of the LGBT rights movement nationally and in NC (wow, has the landscape changed), and in 2010 I stopped by the studio to talk about bullying, teen suicides and an anti-gay incident in Raleigh. During last year’s visit in September, the topic was the upcoming state marriage discrimination amendment ballot initiative (that did pass by the smallest margin of any of the amendments to date in May 2012, but it has set back LGBT rights in the state for some time to come).

This time around I’m on the “Monday Meet” series — it profiles and interviews “interesting” North Carolinians. Of course I find that qualification odd because I feel my life and work are fairly ordinary. In fact, it looks like we’re going to cover ground readers may not know about me. I was born in the Bull City back in the stone age of 1963, and moved to New York in 1976, living first in Hollis, Queens and later Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.  I’ve written about how my hometown (I returned to Durham in 1989)  has changed over the years in 27 Views of Durham. But this is the official intro for today’s interview.

Frank Stasio: When Pam Spaulding first got into publishing, she used an X-Acto knife and cardboard. She stayed in the field by learning how to use a computer. And now her blog — Pam’s House Blend — is a popular activist website for gay rights. Host Frank Stasio talks to Pam Spaulding about her life, work and gay rights activism.

Yes, I was in publishing long before there was a Blogger or WordPress, and actually worked on Compugraphic and Varityper phototypesetter machines in the 80s, producing galleys, that as Frank said above, meant corrections had to be cut out with an X-Acto knife and pasted on top of any mistakes. It has been interesting to live and work in an industry where technology has changed publishing in profound ways.

However, when it comes down to it, I’m an accidental activist. I’ve never worked for “big gay” (one of the established advocacy LGBT organizations), and I certainly don’t live in any big media center or aspire to be a talking head on TV. Whatever Z-grade celebrity I’ve attained is due mostly to: 1) timing: starting blogging early on –2004 — when it was easier to get noticed; 2) I was a different voice (black, lesbian, from the South); 3) people, for whatever reason, connected to my writing.

In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised at all that I fell into activism, thinking back to my own family’s history during the civil rights movement, a no less-important struggle for equality. The Spauldings have played a role in the rich political history and life of the Bull City and North Carolina — in electoral politics, education, business, race relations. Notable family members include businessman C.C. Spaulding part of the team that founded what was for a long time the largest black-owned business in America, The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. Asa Spaulding, Sr. and Elna Spaulding were my late paternal grandparents, and were active in local politics, serving as Durham County Commissioners breaking racial barriers. In particular, my activism in the LGBT rights movement most resembles my grandmother’s; she found herself bridging social boundaries, forging communication between groups — black and white women — who did not interact politically, but drew together to ensure Durham did not descend into violence during the stress points of the civil rights movement.

A civic leader in her own right, Elna Spaulding founded and served as president of Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, a community development and charitable organization in Durham. She was elected to two terms on the Durham County Board of Commissioners, served on numerous boards, and was active in such organizations as the Durham Day Care Council, Lincoln Community Health Center, Duke Medical Center, North Carolina Central Museum of Art, and local chapters of The Links, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and the National Council of Negro Women.

Don’t get me wrong, blogging and advocacy online reporting/commentary have been an interesting and curious aspect of my life —  I’ve collected some awards, traveled around the country, and met a lot of inspiring people along the way (also see my bio page), but I always return home to North Carolina and an ordinary, non-political job (at Duke University Press). Despite what many people think — including the producer who called me about going on TSOT, I don’t make a living blogging. I always wonder why so many people think this is the case. It definitely doesn’t pay the bills.

Below the fold, some of the peeps I’ve met during my blogging life…


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