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Next Conference: September 14-18, 2015

How to Be Black @ the National Press Club and Blackbyrd

How to Be Black @ the National Press Club and Blackbyrd


11 days until SMW September 14-18 Conference in London, Miami, Rotterdam, and São Paulo. Learn more here.

On the first night of Social Media Week DC,  Baratunde Thurston ( @baratunde ) asked a full house at The National Press Club one of life’s most urgent questions.

So, when did you first realize you were black? 

The DC native, Director of Digital for The Onion and co-founder of  Jack & Jill Politics, @baratunde explores black epiphany and other pressing questions in a satirical memoir: How To Be Black. 

In the book, @baratunde elicited the help of 7 friends through interviews, including Jack & Jill Politics co-founder and Partner at  Fission Strategy Cheryl Contee (@ch3ryl ); who attended the event.

Answers to the first question ranged from being the “odd black out” during a grade school kissing game for Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) and white epiphany in Afro-Caribbean Toronto for Stuff White People Like  creator Christian Lander ( @clander ) <- love the diversity.

So, how would you answer the question? If you are reading this and are pigmentationaly ( yes I made a new word for this blog post ) challenged or otherwise at a loss for words, your answer should be:

I first realized I was black while attending Social Media week 2012! 

Why? Apparently, there is nothing more black than to be a social media maven.

According the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2011  71%  of blacks have used online networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn. 22% of black people have created or worked on a blog or online journal. This figure compares with 14% and the 13% of the white and Hispanic populations respectively.

Like most #SMWWDC attendees, Black people are addicted to Twitter. One in ten internet users who identify as African American visit Twitter at least once per day; double the daily usage rate for the Hispanic population and almost four times the daily usage rate for white internet users.

A Pew study on Smartphone Adoption and Usage  notes that 44% of the black population owns a smartphone and only 11% of black population does not have a cell phone of any kind. This compares to 20% and 14% respectively for those who identify as white or Hispanic.

Trends show that most numbers in terms of adoption and usage are growing for those that identify as African American or black, as well as all other Americans. Outstanding news for people like me ( blackness aside) that believe Social Media can be leveraged for Social Good #SM4SG

There is nothing more American than to be black! 

In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville published the first volume of his Democracy in America  After an extended visit to America the Frenchman de Tocqueville wrote:

“Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations…In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.”

de Tocqueville’s 19th Century “associations” sound like today’s Facebook groups, Twitter lists, Pintrests, and of course Social Media Weeks. For Americans, Social Media is up there with apple pie. Since black people are outpacing all other ethnic groups in adoption and usage, it could be said that there is nothing more American than to be black ( in the digital usage sense) 😉

@baratunde finished the evening at The National Press Club by taking questions and signing books, then the party moved north to Blackbyrd where connoisseurs of blackness enjoyed cocktails like the Black Velvet. There is perhaps no better person than @baratunde, a digital beast himself, to teach blackness. We’re not post-racial, but Social Media is moving us the right direction by allowing us to do what de Tocqueville said: recognizing similarities, appreciating differences, and joining associations that combine our knowledge for the greater good.


Written by Brandon Andrews, an official Social Media Week DC blogger. Follow him at @teambmichael.