Welcome, El Grito!

By Tracy Dingmann

On Aug. 4, our friends at the SouthWest Organizing Project launched “El Grito: News and Views from New Mexico’s Grassroots.”

The exciting new website aims to use digital media to evoke the deep cultural traditions of New Mexico communities as well as the rich legacy of struggle through alternative media for justice, equity, and opportunity that exists in New Mexico.

In English, El Grito means “The Cry,” and in this context it refers to several things, including the traditional shouts made during cultural celebrations and dances in New Mexico, as well as to El Grito de Dolores, the battle cry of the Mexican revolution for independence from Spain.

El Grito also refers to El Grito del Norte, a community newspaper founded in Espanola in 1968 that chronicled the grassroots struggles of traditional New Mexico communities.

Writers and activists from El Grito del Norte later moved to Albuquerque’s Los Duranes neighborhood, where they founded the Chicano Communication Center to advance grassroots communication across the state.

As explained on the site:

SWOP’s roots in alternative media extend back to those days at the Center, and the spirit of grassroots powered media lives on in our work today through blogging and our magazine, Voces Unidas. We hope that spirit is embodied here at El Grito, where we’ll bring community based analysis about the burning issues we face today, as well as news of the happenings in our communities.

In an interesting nod to history, two of El Grito’s writers, George Lujan and Clearly New Mexico alum Juan Reynosa, are from families that were well represented in the Chicano Communication Center.

The site will have several sections, including space for community event notices and for short pieces on current events El Grito finds noteworthy. There will also be longer articles from El Grito writers.

Submissions from the public are encouraged and welcome.

From the site:

Our lens is critical analysis of our society, our focus is the landscape experienced by New Mexico’s traditional and low-income communities. We reserve the right to only publish those pieces that further the debate in a constructive and positive manner.

El Grito is strictly non-partisan, and will not publish any content referring to political elections or written by a person seeking elective office.

From the site:

We pledge to offer a space here for the diversity of voices that exist in New Mexico, and to continually seek out and share the stories and views of New Mexicans who may not always have access to a medium that will let their cry be heard across the state. And we sincerely hope you’ll check in often and add your “grito” to the debate.

Please join Clearly in welcoming this much-needed voice to the New Mexico blogosphere!

Reflections on Netroots Nation and the mainstream media

NetrootsNationI’ve been remiss in not writing a post wrapping up my trip last week to Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh.

It was the fourth annual conference organized by folks from the blog Daily Kos and it was – as it was when I attended last year – an intellectually-stimulating summit of the nation’s most influential and independent progressive bloggers.

For me the most memorable moment came during the event’s first night, when former President Bill Clinton gave the opening keynote to the gathering about 1,500 mostly appreciative bloggers.

You’ve probably read about how Clinton got heckled mid-speech by a gay rights activist regarding Clinton’s role in the military’s much-maligned ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Watching that testy drama unfold live in front of me was certainly fascinating.

But I think the most moving part of the speech came when Clinton thanked bloggers at Netroots Nation for “dramatically elevating the level of our public discourse” and increasing the base level of knowledge among people who read what we write.

“You hold the seeds of a genuine revolution in our public life, and you do it by mobilizing people and generating emotion, but also by getting people to think,” Clinton said.  “People trust you — even people who read you who don’t agree with you, they believe that you believe what you put down. They don’t believe that you fudge the facts, they believe that you’re being straight with them.”

I found myself thinking about Clinton’s comments this week as I read the results of an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that found that, (from MSNBC), “majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions. Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly.”

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Netroots Adventure: Ali Goes to Camp

I was given a choice. Go to rehab or to RootsCamp. I chose the latter.

What is RootsCamp you ask?

I was asking myself the same thing as I boarded a plane to D.C. for a weekend of RootsCamp adventures. Well it wasn’t quite THAT mysterious, and I have to confess that I did do a ‘lil homework about RootsCamp before I landed.

Here’s what RootsCamp says about itself:

“RootsCamps are debriefs for the progressive community – everyone from the “netroots” to precinct captains to field organizers to national message consultants – is invited to come together to hash out what we learned and how to apply those lessons going forward.”

I’ll admit I did indeed find a group of Web Wizards who were willing to share lessons learned and best practices and talk about the nitty gritty of how we take this powerful platform known as “the web” and propel it to new levels. Or should I say even newer levels. This thing changes and grows every second.

The first morning was a quick round robin of introductions that was a feat to admire. Imagine a room of 200 or so people who are all asked to introduce themselves. I was about to die in my seat until I heard the rules: Name, organization and 3 words. You got booed if you went over that. Nice. The other RootsCamp rule is: NO TOURISTS. Come prepared to give a demo, lead a session, or help with one.

You can see people in action posting session ideas and urging others to do a session.

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The sessions were wide and varied. A sampling of the topics included, “Closing the Digital Divide,” “Race on the Blogs,” “Online to Offline Organizing,” to “Dealing with Constituent Email,” and “Holding FOX Accountable.”

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I was inspired to be in the company of folks I admire in the field and am looking forward to holding our own RootsCamp New Mexico this year.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

A group of New Mexico bloggers, organizers and leaders sharing ideas and learning about how we can impact our state and provide folks with cutting edge information and new ways to engage in our community. If we can expand participation in our democracy, even better. Stay posted for more info on RootsCamp New Mexico and send me ideas for sessions you might like to do or learn about.

Check out Pics from RootsCamp DC