I shook hands with Gina who, next to Shawn Williams, seems to be the diva in residence. The lady in green two to Gina's right won the Lifetime Achievment Award for her ConcreteLoop. And Shawn hipped me to the general flavor of this year's get together as compared to the other four he's attended. In short, it's all good, and more professional than ever.
I mentioned shaking Gina's hand because I recognize that there has been spilt beef between her and my boy Jimi. I can't remember exactly the subject matter, but I seem to recall that the dimensions seemed large at the time, whenever exactly that was. It seemed to be enough to raise a lingering bitter aftertaste, and I realize that 'a good friend of Jimi Izrael' was a really foolish way to introduce myself. But what I didn't want to do was say, Oh I'm just the winner of this award from three years ago, you should know me. And I didn't have the nerve to introduce myself as the ghost of Aaron Hawkins. Basically, I didn't have anything useful to blurt, so I dropped that bomb name when she said that my name sounded familiar. I just wanted to know who was whom, but since Shawn told me everything I wanted to know, I stopped poking people.
When I bogarded into the 'survivors breakfast' I was looking to see if I could find my old friend Sheryl Huggins. But she wasn't around. Neither was George Kelly, nor Jasmyn Cannick which was something of a surprise. Jason Toney wasn't there and Gina was basically the only one whose work I recognized. Shawn told me that about 70% of the attendees have only begun blogging since 08 or 09, which roughly coincides with that dude from Chicago and the Jena Six putting 'black blogging' on the map. So I just sat back to listen.
Gina said something that resounded with me while I was at her table. She said that black journalists made a huge mistake by not partnering with black bloggers a few years ago. If they had joined up and showed bloggers how to get paid and by what standards they might get paid, then the salary floor wouldn't have fallen so far for the industry. So the hesitation to take black bloggers seriously wounded black journalism on the whole. I'm not in a position to know better, but that makes a whole lot of sense to me, and I know that here in LA there was some effort to help but I'm not sure it did.
You see the juggernaut in black journalism is entertainment news. It drives everything and I daresay it's the only thing over which there is any blackified home field advantage. My baby brother (whom I've never mentioned on Cobb) Bleek works part time in that black journalism world and he gets the inside access to all of the hiphop and NBA stars when they are in town and there's a story to be told. That network is still tight. Of course black radio has its grip on... well everything that black radio has been for the past 30 years, which is now an aging demographic. And to tell you the truth, it ain't difficult to hear the Spinners on your traditional Oldies stations.
This is a mistake that I've seen before, and interestingly enough I'm starting to see it as a market phenomonon. The mistake I saw before was how black radio here in Los Angeles did not take hiphop seriously in the mid 80s, nor did Motown take music videos seriously. There was a small set of execs who ran their companies they way they wanted and it took a new generation with new companies to change what was to what needed to be. But there was a price paid while the new jacks suffered out in the cold. So new exciting rap groups like Whistle no airplay while tired whack R&B groups like Midnight Star did. It's the same kind of oligarchy one step outside of the mainstream that constrains new creativity.
Obviously there's always that economic excuse. Small businessmen cannot capitalize and monetize all that new black talent. And we could get into that black economics discussion one more time, but it's rather old.
The news is that the new black bloggers are learning the capital game early, and that was the flavor I picked up in about 90 minutes.