Sunday, August 8, 2010

I Heart BlogHer '10

Fisher Price toy that she won't unhand
I've been home for only a couple of hours since returning from New York, but I wanted to get to typing and sharing about this weekend before I forgot anything. I had an absolutely amazing time. Shame on me for not knowing the wonder that is the BlogHer conference. The BlogHer conference is everything that I envisioned a gathering of smart, articulate and progressive women to be. Granted, there is a disproportionate number of women of color who attend in comparison to those who blog, but I know that the organizers work each year in building the presence of women of color. This woman of color was damn sure happy I attended. I met wonderful women, picked up some networking tips and met some companies that may be potential sponsors of upcoming events and my blogs. I would say it was an experience well had.

How Did I Even Wind Up at BlogHer?

Where do I begin?

Well, for starters, as a reminder, I guess I should tell you how I even wound up as a panelist. Not sure how long you've been following the blog, but, some months past, last fall to be exact, I wrote a blog post as entry for a contest of another blog-- the Black Web Blog Awards Nominee My Brown Baby, run by writer Denene Miller.  You can check the post out right here. In the blog, I shared my tale of being Mommy to my little girl and gave an account of our school morning tussles. Blogger Ananda Leeke encouraged me then to submit to be a community keynote for BlogHer after reading it and that led me to checking out BlogHer. Honestly, I had heard about BlogHer, but hadn't really done any real read up about BlogHer. This may be due to the fact that, not until recently, did I even refer to myself as a blogger. I had done panels before about online marketing and youth development, but a specific blogger conference for me was a first.

I visited BlogHer and liked the site immediately. I set up a profile and submitted a proposal to talk about how online blogging and networking has contributed to my life as a creative and as a leader in producing arts events and creativity online community among artists. The proposal I proposed used the tagline of my organization, Liberated Muse-- "Transforming Places into Art Spaces". Elisa Camahort of BlogHer contacted me and let me know that they liked the title of the proposal (they inserted "Online") and were interested in making my proposed topic into a panel that they invited me to be a part of. How cool is that!?

The panel was to be moderated by the vivacious and lovely photographer and writer Karen Walrond who is currently promoting her new book, and also include visual artist Carol Gilliott who lives in both Paris and the US (how cool is that?), penning a fabulous blog that highlights her experiences as an artist and her own artwork as a visual artist.

New York City baby!

So, I'm not unlike many of the women who I read on Twitter talking about how they couldn't attend BlogHer because of the cost of traveling. While getting to NYC is merely a bus ride for me, the cost of staying at the New York Hilton (where the conference was being held) was not in my budget. I decided at first that I was going to just ride up by bus on Saturday when my panel was and then come home afterward. I changed my mind closer to the conference week when I caught the excitement of what was in store for folks at the conference. My plans included my daughter later who decided that she was tagging along for the go-see in NYC.  So, it turned into a vacay-conference weekend with me and the kid. What a ball we had!

I will share that we stayed at  the Hotel Carter on Times Square which had been called the worst hotel in the country (until last year). Yes, I'm a brave woman. But, I'm also a journalist AND PR person and know where to look to get second opinions when the web is only shooting out the bad ones. I came across this article about the hotel and a few others and felt confident that, while the hotel was by no stretch the New York Hilton, it was a decent place for the barely $80 a night I paid (in comparison to the $200 a night price tag to stay at the Hilton). Our room was not at all like the ones you can read about if you do a search on Hotel Carter. It was clean, no bugs, no rodents, no peeling paint, etc.-- no horror story that folks have made it out to be. I was prepared to go somewhere else if that was the case, but, the reporter in me was curious. There was really no story here. Hotel Carter really reminds me of the apartment complex that I was resident director of during graduate school at a university in Baltimore. That place was actually worse than Hotel Carter.

The room we got was great, mainly because we spent limited time in it. As soon as we dropped our stuff in our room on Friday, my daughter and I hit Times square-- Toys R Us, the King Tut exhibit, Ray's Pizza, Haru Sushi, etc.-- and didn't get back in until around 9pm, falling asleep shortly thereafter.

BlogHer Saturday

So the next day, we hooked a cab to the Hilton (which we could have walked to probably) and began our BlogHer experience.

After a beautifully laid-out breakfast, I dropped my little one off upstairs at the childcare suite sponsored by KMart. (The folks that my daughter spent time with in there should be commended. They were great. My daughter asked today could she go back to hang with them until I told her that they were there only as long as the conference, which is over.)

Before the morning keynote began, I came back to the ballroom and met bloggers Megan Smith and A.L. Venable who I had a fabulous time meeting.

Keynote Speakers-- Incredible!

I can't rave enough about the women who were the morning keynotes. You can read about them here as well as the transcript from their panel. Here are some of my tweets during their talk:

"I love Esra'a talking now as the morning keynote. She is a baddass for something important." #inspiration #blogher

"RT @zchamu "if you're gonna piss a lot of people off you'd better do it very well". #blogher @ealshafei

Esra'a Al Shafei, founder of is my new hero #blogher

Dushiyanthini Pillai is amazing as well. Jouranalist/blogger/photographer from Sri Lanka #blogher

Khari sharing some love with Mrs. Potato Head

Khari and Marmaduke

Khari checking out some treats from Jimmy Dean. She liked the corn dog sausage. Not so much the french toast griddler. I liked the french toast griddler which had turkey sausage.

The honey exhibit was fantastic. Brought back lots of recipes for honey treats and skin care remedies.
check out the gear from the Let's Dance exhibit.

Took some photos before and during my panel. Here's one. Hi everyone!

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