Blogalicious Day 1

WASHINGTON, D.C.—I did it, MotherTalkers. I went from a red-eye flight Friday morning right to work at the Blogalicious Conference. It is an annual conference for and by African American and Latina bloggers, and all who want to reach out to us.

First of all, I learned that I was nominated by my fellow Latino bloggers for the “Best Activist Blogger“ category in the Latinos in Social Media Awards. LATISM is an online network of 140,000+ Latinos, and I am honored to be recognized among so much talent. If you feel inclined – pretty please! – vote for me here.  :)

The Blogalicious Conference itself was small – 320 in attendance. I liked that I could take my time networking and actually meet everyone there. I also could attend as many sessions and parties I wanted without any scheduling conflicts, something I am not used to at the larger conferences like BlogHer and Netroots Nation.

I spent a lot of time with my fellow Latina bloggers, like Dariela Cruz from the Mami Talks blog and LATISM founder and chair, Ana Roca Castro:

Ana, by the way, is my twin. She is half-Dominican, half-Cuban and we have the exact hair. I am in awe of her accomplishments and energy: not only did she found LATISM, and has held impressive positions in the UN and public sector, she is also the mother of four children. Her LATISM colleague Elianne Ramos and I posed with other Latina bloggers for this reunion shot:

In the front row with me is Maura Hernandez, from the blog The Other Side of the Tortilla, who has contributed a story to MotherTalkers here. Smack in the middle of the pack is Ana Flores from Spanglish Baby, a great blog about raising bilingual children. Right behind her is Viviana Hurtado, who has a political blog I sometimes read called the Wise Latina Club — just to give you a flavor of the great Latina writing on the web. Outside of MotherTalkers, of course! :)

The Blogalicious opening keynote was a 30-year-old marketing guru – yeah, I felt under accomplished! – Jesse Jones, who has worked in the music label, Sony BMG, and has worked with some of the biggest brands, like Nautica. While these brands still look at numbers – how many twitter followers they have or how many blog readers they have – I agreed with Jones. Ultimately, it is better for companies to gain 50 loyal followers than 5,000 random followers.

I really believe that this is the future of marketing, whether it be for a company or non-profit organization. The bloggers, or people, who already feel passionate about a product or cause and are already publicizing it for free are the future employees of that company.

Of course, not all organizations and companies “get it.“ There are many who are still focused on the “numbers“ – how many blog readers or Facebook friends a potential employee has. But, ultimately, like the newspapers, they will learn that blindly reaching out to random people will not lead to more sales. Loyalty will. I was in complete agreement with Jones there.

We took a break and snacked on delicious cupcakes provided by the American Cancer Society:

The American Cancer Society has this wonderful initiative called More Birthdays, which is helping draw attention to their work from providing cancer patients with lodging and support to cancer research. There was a haunting testimonial by Susan, the publisher of the Toddler Planet blog. She was wheeled in as she has metastatic breast cancer in her spine, neck, ribs, and hips. She also has two sons: a 4-year-old and 6-year-old. Shudder.

“Pink ribbons are pretty, but research is what works,” she said.

I could feel the shivers throughout the room, and there was not a single dry eye. Talk about a perspective check. I could not stop thinking about her as I roamed the halls of the Gaylord Convention Center in Maryland, and sat through sessions. I missed my husband and kids, and wanted to hold them.

I hate to end on such a depressing note, but this blog is getting rather long so I will continue later this week.


I am not my mother….

Much of what I’ve read lately has been negative.  Politics, war, civil liberties under fire.  My Daily List of All Things Depressing has become a scroll, a la Jack Kerouac.  But, fear not, love and compassion are alive and well.

A few days ago I posted Activism Home Grown, about living with a Vietnamese family when I was a teen. The comments indicated that many of us would like to do more to engender an outward focus in our children, but the complexity of daily life does not lend itself easily to this pursuit.  

I have spent a lot of time over the past 15 years doing volunteer work.  Quite honestly my reasons have been mixed.  When I was a career woman working for an international accounting firm, I had a built-in group of friends who lived in the trenches with me working 80-hour work weeks.   I had a sense of belonging and no time to worry about the rest of the world.  But when I stopped working and devoted myself to raising a family, I suddenly became an island. I got involved in playgroups and was a serial room mother, but I didn’t feel like living a solely child-focused existence was making good use of my talents and experience.  So, partly to maintain my identity and thus my sanity, I got involved with various philanthropies.

Most of the organizations that I’ve been with are filled with fantastic intelligent women who have given up the fast track to raise a family. In our culture the life of a full-time mother is an isolated one. Pre-internet, there were few ways to connect with other women, possibly living on the same block, who were dealing with similar issues.  Especially for a introvert like me.  Rugged individualism is the hallmark of the American West. Sadly, no red tent for me.

After I had my twins, numbers five and six, I stayed in the house for practically a year.  I was not cognizant of this until I dolled up one evening to go to a meeting, came downstairs, and my little boy looked up with a big smile.  I was waiting for effusive compliments about my stunning beauty and finely-honed fashion sense when he said, “Mom!  You’re wearing shoes!”            

So here’s my unsolicited advice. Do what you can.  Do what fits.  I am not my mother.  I can hardly stand having other people’s kids in my house, let alone a family of refugees. But I am very willing to help those people in my radar.  I counsel women going through divorce because I understand the marital spreadsheet and the valuation of assets better than most lawyers. I give my high chairs, cribs, car seats to the NICU at Memorial because I  understand premature birth and the incredible financial stress that it can place on a young family. I won’t go on.  You get the point.

As far as my children go, there is a mother-daughter organization called National Charity League. Briefly, NCL is a group of mothers and daughters, from the 7th through the 12th grade, who work for the good of the local community.  In Colorado Springs, we work side by side within nonprofit organizations such as Silver Key, Care and Share, the Humane Society, Friends of Cheyenne Canon, Memorial Hospital and others. Chapters across the country work with similar groups.  Our girls also receive leadership training, participate in educational activities and attend cultural events.

Last year, NCL mother-daughter teams gave nearly a million hours to their hometowns.  They have helped raise millions of dollars to support local philanthropic organizations.  But a more important benefit of NCL has been giving me, a mother, a training ground to raise my daughters to be good citizens of the world.  It isn’t easy in this day to impart virtue to the younger generation.  They are inundated with advertising and academic and social pressures of their own.  NCL exposes them to reality in a way that book learning and the media can not.  (Selfish note in the name of full disclosure:  NCL also plays a big part in getting them in to top colleges.)  

My Julia has seen the tears of gratitude on the face of  an elderly woman after fifty girls and moms painted her dilapidated house.  She has learned that people in her own town are hungry while sorting through boxes of food at Care and Share.  She has comforted people with critically ill babies as she served them a home-cooked meal at the Ronald McDonald House.  She has also learned how to plan and run a meeting and how to speak before a group.  She has gotten to know girls from other cliques as they’ve worked together on common projects.  NCL has given me time with my daughter in the midst of her busy life.  And the satisfaction of seeing her grow in understanding and compassion.

Do what works for you.  Find a cause that resonates, for whatever reason. The needs are great, the workers few. Get involved and bring your children along.  

The mantle of volunteerism and leadership which you pass on to this next generation has been created by hands, once awkward and unknowing, which are now quite nimble, expressive and strong.  – Jinky Hicks, National Council President 2003-05



Roseanne Barr on America and Sharing

I’m NO Roseanne Barr fan. Never have been. I find her pretty funny, but also  pretty grating. She’s just too brash and her voice is too nasal for me, generally.

But I got this article, from the LA Times, off of a list-serve I subscribe to at work – for fundraising researchers. I probably wouldn’t have read it, but the sender copied it into the email, and it looked short enough. Someone had emailed a different article on philanthropy earlier in the day, and this was something of a follow up/continuation.

Strangely enough, I kind of agree with what Roseanne says (save that draft thing). It’s a bit reactionary for me, but I figured I’d throw it out there to you MTers. It’s definitely relevant to our philosophy and mentions stuff that’s been discussed here in the last week. So read and enjoy and discuss away. I’m looking forward to your comments.

Here’s the link, to cover our copyrighted butt.

It’s not just lip service
By Choire Sicha
Special to The Times

March 18, 2007

WE caught up with Roseanne Barr in the restaurant on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which overlooks Manhattan’s Central Park, Columbus Circle and the Upper East Side. It was the afternoon, and she was having beluga and a chilled vodka. She takes over as host for the third season of “The Search for the Funniest Mom in America” on Nick at Nite beginning April 10. She is the grandmother of three, the mother of 11-year-old Buck Thomas and an avid 2 a.m. blogger.

You’ve talked about how the experience of “Roseanne” was insulating, and when it was over, you had to relearn about the world. Has your integration into reality been successful?

Yes, it was a completely different world. No, I decided to turn my back on it. I’m remaking it in my personal image.

Do you still live in Beverly Hills,

in that big house we saw in

“The Real Roseanne Show”?


And now you’re building your dream house?

I’m not doing it yet, but I will. I got my farm, and I want to build a big green bamboo witchy-type house like I thought I would when I was a kid.

Do you worry about Buck missing out on socialization because of home-schooling?

I hate socialization. I’m anti-socialization, and it’s all horrible. The Paris Hilton-ization of our daughters is really grotesque and disgusting — and so’s the bullying. It’s just pimp culture. All of American culture is pimp culture.

Do you ever think about leaving America then, like Nina Simone did?

Yeah. I do, but then I think I’d want to go someplace safe. But there’s nowhere safe. The whole world is America. You’ve gotta just stay and fight. My son’s 11, and he said last week, “Where can I go where I won’t be drafted?” What’s more upsetting, if they don’t bring the draft back, it’ll be working-class and poor and drug-addicted people just out of prison. It has to be all kids. I’m pro-draft. Rich people have to pay too. That’s democracy.

You’re giving plenty of money away.

Yeah, I am, and I’m proud of it. I hesitate to say, I’ve given more money away than any other person in my position. When you ask people in Hollywood to give you money, they say, “I’ll show up for that benefit.” All these stars are so corrupt and sickening. You think showing up for a picture is doing something? … They have these huge benefit luncheons where they get six billionaires, and they raise $200,000. It’s vile. I was happy to have it and happy to give it, and I still am. I don’t want to go to hell.

And you believe in hell?

I believe it’s here in your mind on Earth and in your choices. Hell is being wrapped up in yourself while everything around you is on fire.

You’ve been writing on your blog about Oprah losing her way a bit. How do you see that?

I just said that once. I didn’t like that she said that African American children in the inner cities aren’t worthy of her support.

But you’re down with her otherwise.

I’m not down with “The Secret.” I’m not down with trying to attract more material wealth to yourself. That’s sickening. Why don’t you give some of your money away? Five-thousand square feet should be the limit to how big a house you can live in when people are starving. There should be a maximum wage too. Like Jello Biafra said, no one should have more than $100 million. It’s making a slave class.

Is it Hollywood? Or is it New York, and D.C.?

I blame it all on that … movie with Michael what’s-his-face. [The quote] “Greed is good” [from] “Wall Street.” That was the beginning of the absolute end. It’s killing our country and the world. Sharing is good. I think the time is coming when people who have wealth won’t be cool. When you retreat into materialism, you’re dead. All these people who live in gated communities, it’s a bus ride away from people who are heavily armed.

So it’s almost all over?

I feel like I’m supposed to be here to offer some kind of help to people. But I don’t like it. It is terrible already. Right now in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, those children scour landfills for stuff to burn in their homes to make heat. That’s America…. More no-bid contracts, more Halliburton, less freedom. I like freedom!

It’s a great privilege.

Gotta pay for it, though! And we gotta be free to petition and gather. But let’s have a toast to consciousness. It’s very cool. Long may it wave.