Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Big 5-0 (thousand, that is)

Some time early this morning, my little blog crossed the line marked "50,000 views." Now, I realize this doesn't mean 50,000 different viewers. And I'm sure there have been those who dropped by once and never returned, not to mention those who dropped by, expressed their disgust in no uncertain terms and then never returned. Nevertheless, it's 50,000 views. I came, I saw, and I conquered, as it were. I wheeled my funny-looking little intellectual junker onto the freeway of the blogosphere and managed through it all to keep up with the traffic most of the time at an age I suspect is significantly older than most who blog.

I've been watching this moment coming for a few weeks and it feels to me like some kind of rite of passage. And now that it's here, it's causing me to think back on what has happened in the world and in my personal life during the process.

There was actually a false start in the fall of 2005, when I was just writing about whatever was going on for me personally, but when I actually posted about my battle to keep a squirrel from eating all the bird seed I had put out on my window sill, I quit. Nobody, I decided, would go out of their way to read that stuff. It even bored me. But it was an appetizer. My little effort had a name, I had an online identity and the blogosphere was calling.

As the season passed, some of the students in my Race and Ethnicity course started pressing me to meet with them outside of class so they could learn more about that thorny topic. We made time somehow, but the meetings had to be at night to accomodate schedules and often went late as I hung out in the parking lot with one or another of them wrestling with racial issues. Plus it was only reaching a handful considering the effort expended. So it was maybe a no-brainer that, as the new year approached, it should suddenly occur to me that the answer was to blog about race.

I approached the task with trepidation. My opening post had me stepping out onto a stage (exactly how I felt) and bowing expectantly before my unseen audience. But soon I was hastening home from campus to blog or driving across town thinking about a post or stopping in the middle of a sentence to jot down something someone had just said that would spur me to respond but to an international audience of imaginary readers as soon as I could get to a keyboard.

And here I am just short of three years later, watching the figures move into the second 50,000. I know that others get 10,000 hits per day and pay their rent by writing posts. I know they get to go on television and get invited to hold forth at blogger conferences I can’t even afford to attend. Nevertheless, I am most assuredly a part of the blogosphere and play my little role with great seriousness and great pride.

Since I started, I have watched and been a part of a number of blogging efforts that increased the credibility of new media in general and blogging in particular as an important addition to the on-going evolution of communication among humans on this planet. I played some small part in the development of a huge blogospheric response to the backlash against Latino immigration, more specific campaigns having to do with such situations as the boycott against Chiquita bananas because of United Fruit’s admission that they paid millions over time to kill union organizers in Latin American countries, and – oh, my, yes! – the gearing up for the mind-blowing march on Jena.

I was featured in an American Sociological Association publication article on sociologists as bloggers (the writer of which found me on the internet). I had a blog post published in a social problems reader on welfare (after the editor found the post by surfing the web). If you google my online identity, I come up for days. And I even did a piece of research on bloggers as social change agents, an effort that is just now having its finishing touches applied before submission to a scientific journal.

But while all that was going on, I also left my day job to write a book on race (which I’m finally considering publishing myself); had my gall bladder removed in a veeeeery dramatic moment without health insurance; managed to sell a house after it was trashed by a former husband; somehow skirted paying the IRS $7000 I didn’t owe them, but which they were committed to collecting; discovered I could move full time into the academic arena and did so; moved from one Southern state to another even deeper one; and was diagnosed with diabetes, a permanent life-change of the first order. Yet I always ultimately found time to post, returned to posting after brief hiatuses and posted more in the past year than in either of the first two. Apparently, I’m a blogger. And linked to others like myself around the world, some of whom have become dear friends, though few I have gotten to see face to face.

On other fronts, as I think back over the past three years, I'm reminded that Sami Al-Arian is now finally out of prison (at least for the present and I pray God daily that he stays that way); Aafia Siddiqui has been removed from her hell-hole in Afghanistan, Genarlow Wilson is free and the Georgia law that he “broke” has been struck down; the Angola Three are no longer in solitary confinement; word has it that Guantanamo Bay is on its way to being dismantled; and the President-elect is a hyper-intelligent African-American who ran on the platform that we can change our country and our world.

Have there been less triumphant outcomes to other stories? Yes. But my question just for this one day is not whether anything bad has happened, but rather whether anything good has. And it has. We – you and I – helped to make good things happen. By reading and writing and clicking on and linking to, by thinking about and passing along and meeting up and working to change -- ourselves and our respective societies, we have demonstrated our commitment to life as it can be, even in the face of what has sometimes seemed to be insurmountable odds.

It’s been a good three years. Thanks for dropping by. I’m looking forward to what comes next.
The graphic featured above is a Ricardo Levins Morales poster available from Northland Poster Collective.


Susan said...

I only found your blog recently through a link but visit several times a week because I find your mind quirky enough to intrigue me and recognize another teacher who takes students seriously enough to learn from them. Your posts on history often lift my spirits --- read Shirley Chisolm's biography this summer and linking your life to hers was meaningful and risky as well.

congratulations and thank you.

Changeseeker said...

Welcome, Susan. And thanks for your kind words. Please feel free to weigh in whenever you've a mind to. Quirky is probably on point, according to people who know me well. And I do, yes, take students (and pretty much everybody else) veeeery seriously. In fact, I consider them and blogging to be two of the major ways I am caused to learn and grow. Every lecture, every conversation, every blogpost makes me stretch. It can be exhausting, but it's a wondrous process nonetheless and I am grateful for it.

Susan said...

One of the young people in the Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn program that I work with in Boston sent me a link that I wanted to share with you.

One of my best friends and a man I have been collaborating with for the past five years is Mel King. He's kind of a legend in Boston and just turned 80. His "retirement project" is the community technology center he founded in the Tent City Housing Development in Boston. He changed politics in Boston by running an inspiring campaign for mayor against a working class guy named Ray Flynn in the 80s.

Anyway, this article about a meetup between those two was in the Globe yesterday and it touched me, knowing him as I do. Since you often share inspiring people in your blog, I thought I would share one of mine:

By the way, if you or any of your readers are ever in Boston on a Sunday, you should drop by the free community brunch that Mel has been holding for the last forty years in his South End home at 4 Yarmouth Street from 12-3. People from all over the world drop by. It's quite an experience and wonderful food.

p.s. i am same as susan above. haven't quite got the hang of posting comments --- someone explained to me recently that it was not polite to just lurk all the time.

Changeseeker said...

If you can count Mel King as one of your best friends, Susan, you are fortunate, indeed. The article to which you link is beautifully written and quite moving. Thanks for sharing it. And for sharing yourself. It means a lot to us bloggers to "meet" our Faithful Readers. :^)

Frederick said...

Quite a milestone. Congratulations.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks, Frederick. It's folks stopping by that made this happen.