March 17, 2009

Village Interview: LaTonya (Color Online)

We decided to take a moment to sit quietly under the village's baobob tree to learn more about some of the powerful bloggers of African descent out in the afrosphere.

Our first guest is LaTonya. She is the creative genius behind Color Online (BBR #1350). I met LaTonya through our membership in the AfroSpear. Her blog provides a platform for young women to express themselves creatively and to expose them to literature and other art forms that reflect their experiences and aspirations. Here is what she had to say...

Q1. What were you like when you were younger?
I would say I was a strange child. At nine, I wanted to be Dr. King. I wanted to make history. I realize this might come off as arrogant, but I was a sensitive child who could not understand injustice and mistreatment of anybody. While I couldn’t articulate it, very early on I knew I wanted to be involved in civil rights, human rights. When I say I wanted to make history, it wasn’t about personal fame but a desire to make a difference. When the “I have a Dream” speech played each year, I was awestruck every time. I wanted to help realize the dream. I wanted to a lawyer, teacher, writer or activist- any vocation that would allow me to serve others. I have been interested in social justice, diversity, multiculturalism and the arts my entire life.
Q2. Name a famous historical figure, living or deceased, you would like to meet and tell us why.

I am, was, and always will be a catalyst for change. ~Shirley Chisholm

Well, I think I just made it pretty clear who was one of the earliest influences on me. Others would include Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan and Benazir Bhutto. Each of these political figures dared to speak and act on their convictions. I quote Chisholm a lot because her actions and ideas resonate with how I try to live. When I was in eighth grade, my social studies teacher gave me a biography of Barbara Jordan. Ms. Jordan was a force to be reckoned with. She spoke her mind and a Black woman out of Texas? Do I need to say more? Bhutto believed so much in her country and its right to be a free democracy she was willing to die for it. She remained politically active knowing it could cost her life and it did. That is courage and conviction.
Q3. Name a person in your community who is relatively unknown to the rest of the world, who you believe is significant in some way, and that you would like the rest of the world to know more about.

The foot soldiers of grassroots of organizations are folks you can’t google even if I shared their names. I will name an organization that matters to me, and that is Alternatives For Girls. It’s where I run the library. The work AFG does is important and we need all the support we can get. The agency provides outreach services, prevention services and houses a shelter for at risk girls in the city of Detroit.
Q4. What are two items in your 'bucket list' ... things you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket?

Establish and run my own literary arts for youth nonprofit. Establish a legacy fund for young people.
Q5. Describe your first experience on the Internet?

I’ve been online more than a decade. I’ve witnessed the evolution of communities from listserves to message boards to IM messaging, websites to blogs. I dug my roots online with a black poetry site out of Chicago and a diversity forum based out of Florida. I became a permanent fixture in both communities. You’re not a member unless you are truly active in a community.

Q6. Tell us about your current blogging career and how you got into it.

I started blogging in order to teach Color Online members how to use technology to express their art and views, to inform potential supporters about our efforts and to inform readers about writers that they might not otherwise ever learn about or read.
Q7. Who are the two bloggers you read the most and why? Include their links and tell us why we should subscribe to their feeds.

We are a literary community, so the blogs I read most are literature focused. Color Online is also about community service and activism so I read blogs that promote empowerment and activism. Limiting it to two is really difficult. I check in on average fifteen to twenty blogs daily but if you insist, I recommend Fledgling (BBR #1599)written by Zetta Elliot, a Black feminist, writer and educator. I also read The Bottom of Heaven (BBR #1626) written by Claudia and Frieda, two articulate Black women who focus on Black culture.
Q8. Where are you taking your blog over the next 2-3 years?

I’d like to see readership increase, but I’m not interested in being popular as much as my goal is to make an impact. I want to impact young people. I want to spread the message about the importance of literacy. It is beyond me why there isn’t a real focus on getting our kids to read and write. We have all kinds of youth programs and too many of them of missing the mark by failing to stress literacy, and literacy in the broader sense means having cultural awareness. Knowing how to read and write is not what it means to be a literate individual. It is the awareness of the world around you, an ability to communicate your ideas and views effectively. It is a desire to be connected with others. I want Color Online to inspire young people to become active in their communities. I want Color Online to be a literary portal, a place where readers, educators, writers and activists engage one another, share information and support projects and works that empower women of color, which in turn means empowering communities.

Q9. What is your 'killer post' over the past year ... the post you are most proud of?

I don’t think I have a killer post because my aim isn’t a single shot but a cohesive, consistent flow of information that provides readers and educators with works that are relevant to their populations. I think it is important to share with readers that Color Online is a tool I use to promote literacy. In addition to publishing the blog, I run our physical library at a local nonprofit, which means book acquisition, operating the library, soliciting donations, hosting events and workshops and mentoring young women. I also run our online discussion forum. The feature I am most proud of is our Potpourri quiz. It is a fun, easy way for me to provide information about women of color writers and other women who have made important contributions to society.

Q10. What is your 'biggest noise post' over the past year ... the one that you took the most heat over from your readers?

Our blog is still in its infancy stage. While our group was formed in 2005, the blog was created the end of 2007, and we’re just now really getting a solid footing. I’d say I have stirred the pot more on a few occasions as a participant on other blogs. Most recently I expressed an unpopular opinion during a discussion about a book about rape. I criticized the tone and direction of the discussion, which I felt was dismissive and counterproductive. I knew saying so wasn’t going to be well received (there was a barrage of complaints) but that didn’t matter. I felt it was important to speak up. And for me, it isn’t about being right or convincing others of my point of view, it is about speaking up. Audre Lorde wrote our silence does not save us so it’s best we speak our truth. The goal isn’t to convince others to agree with me and I don’t want others’ approval. The goal is dialogue, the exchange of ideas and considering other perspectives. As long as we’re challenging the message and not attacking the messenger, there shouldn’t be any censorship.
Our thanks to LaTonya for taking time to share her thoughts with us. I encourage villagers to participate in online contest by Color Online to promote Zetta Elliot's recent book!
I hope that villagers enjoy this new feature!

16 comments:

elliottzetta said...

Thank you for honoring LaTonya--she richly deserves it!

Villager said...

elliotzetta - We have to find ways to praise one another on these blogs of ours. We are the publisher/editor/writer/owner of these blogs. If we don't support each other ... who will?

I'm glad that I'm able to provide an additional venue for LaTonya to speak her mind! Hopefully more people become aware of her blog as a result.

If nothing else, it gave you a reason to visit our village. I hope you find reason to come back again in the future!

Doret said...

Very nice interview

Black on Campus said...

Thanks for sharing this. I think it's great that you've started this series. I love the spirit of her thoughts and idea. I'm definitely inspired

Color Online said...

EC,

Thank you so much. I am humbled and grateful.

Please join me on Friday, March 20th for my interview with Zetta Elliot, author of A Wish After Midnight.

Check out the trailer at Color Online and earn a chance to win a signed copy.

We appreciate your support,
LaTonya

Claudia said...

Great interview! Color Online is one of my favorite spots on the web because it is a model for how blogging can serve as a form of activism and community outreach. Thanks for posting this.

Villager said...

Doret & Claudia - Asante sana!

Ajuan - Would you like to participate in this blogger interview series?

LaTonya - 'EC'? I guess the C and V key are right next to each other and you meant 'EV'! (smile). I appreciate you taking time to participate in the blogger interview. I hope that to do this often in the future!

Carleen Brice said...

Really enjoyed this interview, and am happy to find another blog to visit. Not to be all Ahnold, but...I'll be back! :)

Villager said...

Carleen - Thank you. Let me know if you have other suggestions on Black bloggers that I should reach out to for an interview *or* that I should add to the Black Blog Rankings.

Color Online said...

EV,

Can I blame it on not having my coffee? lol

Every woman who came by commented are bloggers you want to check out. Each of these women walk the walk. You see how they came out and supported me;they have done this since our first contact.

Each of these writers publish intelligent, informative and relevant articles on their respective blogs.

Each of them gives back. Anyone who hasn't checked out their spaces, is missing a place to be.

Again, thank you for spotlighting Color Online.

Peace,
L

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there Villager!

Great interview!

Love the new feature!

You're always keeping these spicy over here!!

*smiles*

Lisa

Villager said...

Lisa - Thank you! Would you be interested in being interviewed as well?

susan said...

Check CO's interview with Zetta Elliott talk about her novel, A Wish After Midnight. If you've read Kindred, if domestic terrorism, if a discussion about what it takes to make a slave or what does freedom cost interest you, then you'll want to read the book and hear what Ms. Elliott has to say.

A Wish After Midnight

Hi Lisa, I hope you will visit Color Online, comment and read often. We'd welcome your support. Of course, I've already been by. Will be regularly reading your blog.

susan said...

Great response to the interview. Part 2 is now live.

EV,
Thanks again for linking the article for us.

Peace,

harris said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sarah

http://www.lyricsdigs.com

Villager said...

Harris - Thank you. We should have other blogger interviews in the coming days and weeks. I hope you will continue to visit with us...