Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pittsburgh's Black Digerati - Prophets Without Honor?

Today I sent Facebook friend requests to some people whom I do not know.

For me, that is unusual. I joined Facebook in 2009 to expand the audience for my work as a reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Therefore, I have been quite liberal with granting friend requests to people, whether I knew them or not. But I don't remember when I last asked someone I didn't know to be Facebook friends. Indeed, I don't remember when I last asked someone I do know to be Facebook friends.

I made the friend requests today because the people whose Facebook friendship I sought are members of an accidental club. We are Black Pittsburghers who have what some consider to be a significant online presence - whether as bloggers, or on Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus, or as contributors to print publications - and who were not included in a recent list of Pittsburgh's noteworthy online personalities.

The list was published by Pop City last week under the title, "Sixteen Pittsburgh social media mavens to follow."

Vernard Alexander, himself no small presence on Facebook, noticed that it was pretty homogenous, and called Pop City out in a Facebook status:

Another Pittsburgh LIST..............No people of color...........

But he went beyond a general complaint. He made it specific by tagging Black people on Facebook whom he considers worth following - and more than that, whom he considers to be worth recommending:

No Kimberly DrGoddess Ellis, No Paradise Gray, No Bluey Blackashell, No Ceo Raw, No Damon Young, No Rob Wilson, No Elwin Green, No Stephan Broadus, No Wadria StyleandSteel Taylor, No Shimira Williams, No Jasiri Xtra.........No LOVE...........

I am honored to be in that group, and told Mr. Alexander (and the world - it's Facebook, after all) that I would rather make his list than Pop City's. Which is true. I care more about having a good reputation with Vernard Alexander and among his circle than with Pop City. Not that I want a bad reputation with Pop City. I simply don't care as much about Pop City. At least, not for my own sake.

I care more for the sake of others who have achieved more than I have so far.

Kimberly ("Dr. Goddess") Ellis has presented at South By Southwest. Paradise Gray's One Hood Media Academy has received more than $200,000 in grants from The Heinz Endowments, and the man himself is a walking history of Hip-Hop. His collaborator Jasiri X's music and activism allow him to hang out with Harry Belafonte. After being featured recently in the Post-GazetteShimira Williams is attending a business briefing tomorrow - at the White House. Damon Young is a contributing editor at Ebony Magazine; Stephan Broadus, web editor at the New Pittsburgh Courier. Bluey Blackashell, I can't even describe.

ALL of these people are HIGHLY regarded by a bunch of people.

So, does Pop City not know any of them, or does Pop City not consider any of them worth recommending?

I can't help thinking about August Wilson, who, as far as I can tell, became famous in Pittsburgh after gaining accolades in the larger world. Do Black folk have to become famous out there in order to be noticed here?

In any case, I care less about Pop City's ignorance than I do about my own. So today I sent Facebook friend requests to the people on Vernard Alexander's list whom I do not know - Cardell Collins (Ceo Raw), Rob Wilson, Wadria Taylor. Because Mr. Alexander's recommendation is enough for me. And the ones I do know, I will work to get to know better. Because my limited knowledge says they're worth it.

As for me, I'm perverse. I want Pop City to continue paying me no mind, until my work advances to the point where they have to take notice, and they say, "Who the hell IS this guy?" - and then, "How the hell did we not know about him?"

That's why I have not included a link to their list, because that might bring me to their attention.

Do me a favor, OK? Don't tell 'em.

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