Blogging as civic responsibility

Christopher Rabb is a blogger, freelance writer, web entrepreneur and activist. He is the founder of Afro-Netizen, one of the largest black-oriented weblogs on the internet. He writes about what he calls "blogging while black":
Last summer I was fortunate to be one of the 37 bloggers "credentialed" at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. An added distinction to this history-making role was that I was the only official blogger whose readership was predominantly black. Before the advent of blogging, my online entrepreneurial venture, Afro-Netizen, was purely e-mail-based. Since 1999, I had been e-mailing my content – primarily aggregated news from various sources – to thousands of largely educated Black urbanites nationwide and abroad. My motivation for this pursuit stemmed largely from my beliefs about the Civil Rights Movement and the success of its grassroots communication tools.
In this post-civil rights era, it seems we have embraced the consumerist fiction of simple charismatic leadership, without understanding the reality of the grassroots organizing that gave the Civil Rights Movement its direction, power and effectiveness. Many of us forget that it was a movement that was executed through organized struggle. And behind the marches was the power of technology that allowed freedom fighters young and old to spread the word. Before there were cell phones, personal digital assistants, laptops and the internet, there was the mimeograph machine...The grassroots communication tool of today's digital age is the weblog our generation's mimeograph; our talking drum. Despite our disproportionately high voting power, consumer power and impact on American culture and entertainment, black folk are virtually missing in action in the blogosphere. The need to communicate with likeminded black netizens, for me, was essential. This web avocation remained in guerilla mode until I blogged at the Democratic convention, and forever shed Afro-Netizen's self-imposed stealth status.
This was important for Afro-Netizen, but signaled an even greater possibility for the black community. In light of the highly populist and independent panoply of voices in the blogosphere, the mainstream media have dubbed this web phenomenon "participatory journalism."
But blogging is not exclusively or primarily about reporting the news; it is fundamentally about grassroots communication between individuals and groups without the filter of government agencies, political parties, corporations and other such entities.
Thus, blogging is inherently egalitarian and democratic because anyone – even those who are not tech-savvy – can set up their own weblog and wax philosophical within just minutes...to make their voices heard amidst an American media universe monopolized by essentially seven corporate behemoths. Moreover, a blog's endemic power comes not from its ability to generate revenues, but is derived from the will and capacity of its readers to coalesce around the sharing, mobilization and analysis of issues the more entrenched institutions do not address. Namely, the issues that have an overwhelming impact on the black community.


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