Cheryl Contee, AKA Jill Tubman of Jack and Jill Politics, and all of us in the AfroSpear and afrosphere, really, are to be congratulated for successfully putting Black bloggers on the political map over the last year and a half, particularly in light of the big-box whitosphere blogs’ best efforts to deny our existence and/or marginalize us.
Last year, white bloggers alleged that Blacks, for one reason or another, simply were incapable or undesirous of using the Internet for political purposes. But, this week, Matt Bai reported in the New York Times,
A new generation of black activists is now focused on reforming institutions, namely the Congressional Black Caucus and the N.A.A.C.P., that they say have become too mired in the past and too removed from their constituents. And as in the rest of the political world, this rebellion is happening on the Internet, driven by ordinary Americans with laptops and a surprising amount of free time.
“The African-American voting population is very much online,” Cheryl Contee, who in 2006 helped found the blog Jack and Jill Politics, told me. Contee, who is an owner of a digital consulting business, blogs under the pseudonym Jill Tubman, and hers is one of a number of sites that have emerged in just the last year as part of what’s often called the “Afrosphere.” “One of the things I talk to clients about is that the digital divide has changed,” Contee said. “It’s no longer along racial lines like it was in 1996 and 2000. Now it’s more economic and educational.” In other words, after lagging for a time, college-educated African-Americans are now organizing online in the same way as their mostly white counterparts at Daily Kos and MoveOn.org started doing several years ago. New York Times
This is just the latest of 115 times during the last sixteen months that members of the AfroSpear and our activities have been in the mainstream media (not including coverage of participants in the broader afrosphere who are not yet members of the AfroSpear). Over the development of the afrosphere, Black bloggers have used a host of high-tech and media adept strategies to compel the white-news media to acknowledge us as a source of fundamentally important information and commentary about Blacks and our role in American politics, culture, economy and religious life. We’ve also been strategic about networking with the media and creating interactive and mutually advantageous relationships with reporters who cover us and our initiatives, providing, receiving and disseminating crucial information.
I am particularly gratified that the white-news media is recognizing us as the “afrosphere”, rather than referring to us using imposed slave names like “the black blogosphere” or the “black netroots”. We are not simply the Black part of something white; we are an independent force, a growing network of Black self-determination bloggers with our own Diaspora-oriented agenda.
It is crucial that we and the press understand the term “afrosphere”, because “afrosphere” denotes afro-centric political, social, cultural, economic and spiritual perspectives, while “black” is, in many cases, just a color.)
For example, Black Republicans would have to be included within the term “black roots” because they are “grassroots” and they have dark skin, but they certainly would not be considered part of the “afrosphere”, because they lacks the self-deterministic and Afrocentric perspectives that are characteristic and definitive of the afrosphere.
Matt Bai says in his New York Times article that “A new generation of black activists is now focused on reforming institutions, namely the Congressional Black Caucus and the N.A.A.C.P.,” however most of us are not trying to reform the N.A.A.C.P. or the CBC. Rather, we see political needs that are not being met and we are stepping forward ourselves to meet them, making other groups that don’t participate irrelevant at those times when they don’t recognize and meet the Diaspora’s needs. Sometimes it is not time-efficient or practical to reform and restore old structures, and new ones have to be built that use new tools to meet new needs in a new environment.
Henry Ford didn’t commence the mass production age by restoring or reforming horses and buggies. Rather, he used newly available technology to create and popularize an entirely new form of transportation that ultimately made the old form mostly irrelevant. He did not seek out and destroy horses and buggies, but then he didn’t have to. When he presented the public with a clearly superior alternative, the public simply started using horses and stables less while using cars, gas stations and garages more. But, you don’t have to fight or kill horses to sell cars. You just have to continually demonstrate the relative benefits of cars to a car-buying public that quickly comes to view horses and buggies as anachronistic and appropriate to a different age.
So, the white-news media gets it wrong when they say that afrosphere bloggers want to reform the NAACP and CBC. Most of us in the afrosphere would prefer to find new ways that WE can offer the services, perspectives and advocacy that are lacking, as well as new congresspeople, where necessary, to represent the public more effectively and faithfully.
We’re stepping forward and serving in roles that were traditionally reserved for whites, and in which the NAACP has expressed no interest to our knowledge, such as covering the Democratic National Convention as Black bloggers. It makes sense, then, that the New York Times views Cheryl Contee of Jack and Jill Politics, in particular, as highly informed Democratic Convention-credentialed blogger from whom the New York Times seeks information about the ongoing revolution in Black political advocacy and as well as intra-community organization and information.
Many whitosphere bloggers don’t know about any of this and/or can’t see why it’s important, which is precisely why afrosphere bloggers are doing it ourselves.