With special thanks to the Raleigh News and Observer for this excellent story by N and O Staff writer Sadia Latifi, on Pam Spaulding, reblogged below. For the complete story, with photos, go to: http://www.newsobserver.com/105/story/1133055.html
Blogger gets respect
Durham resident writes on progressive issues
It was her third time seeing John Edwards in person, but thistime he was with his wife and kids shopping at Target. So the supporterof the former presidential candidate kept her distance.
But when shewent home, Pam Spaulding did what she does most nights: She bloggedabout it. A few days later she got a response to her post about thesighting: "You should've spoken up!"
The comment was from Elizabeth Edwards.
Spaulding,a Durham native, is a bit of a local celebrity these days, recognizedin supermarkets and airports by her dirty-blond dreadlocks. And it'sall because of her blog, Pam's House Blend, which turns four years oldthis month. The progressive, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenderissue-centered blog is also one of the first to acquire presscredentials to this year's Democratic National Convention, which isgranting access to bloggers for the first time.
It's aresponsibility Spaulding takes seriously -- even if some politiciansand mainstream media don't think a blogger deserves to have it.
"Sometimes,yes, it's profane, sometimes it's rude, sometimes it's notgrammatically correct, but the medium is different. It's fast andloose," she says. "But that does not mean that the ideas are bankrupt,that the criticism isn't legitimate."
Pam's House Blend has won anumber of awards, including the Distinguished Achievement Award fromThe Monette-Horwitz Trust, for making strides toward the eradication ofhomophobia; Best LGBT Blog in the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards; andaccolades from the likes of gay activist Mandy Carter and formerDemocratic Senate candidate Jim Neal.
The site gets about 5,500hits per day and is one of the top 50 progressive blogs on theInternet, according to the New Politics Institute. Though there arefour other contributors on the site now, the quick-witted Spauldingposts multiple times a day.
"She knows what she's talking about,so you need to be careful before you challenge her," Neal says. "Shewill pound you if she doesn't agree with you or if she doesn't thinkyou're giving her the answer to your question."
Spaulding'sparticular blend of posts focus on doggedly following gay issues inWashington and exposing the seeming hypocrisy of media outlets andpoliticians; a current target is alleged bathroom foot tapper Sen.Larry Craig, who is co-sponsoring a Marriage Protection Amendment inCongress. Each post contains well-documented links and footage, andSpaulding makes sure to add a healthy dose of snark.
Pam'sHouse Blend doesn't focus on North Carolina issues, but Spaulding saysshe uses her experiences here to form a perspective that's differentfrom those of pundits in Washington and New York.
"Those guyslive, sleep, eat and breathe politics, and they don't know how realpeople live," she says. "They get tunnel vision, and they're convincedthat they're right. They think of the population at large as illiterateand easily manipulated."
She's found this year's electioninteresting to cover, though disheartening in the ways the topic ofrace has been used and -- in her opinion -- abused.
"It waspretty clear in mainstream media coverage that they didn't know how totalk about it except only in the most exploitative terms and that madeit very dangerous -- to unearth it and not really deal with it," shesays. "Why are the people in Appalachia so easily stimulated intosaying, 'I just won't vote for a black man.' There's no exploration ofthose issues."
Becoming an activist
It was when sheentered junior high school that Spaulding first became aware of thesignificance of her racial identity. She was the first black student tomake the honor roll at Pearsontown School in Durham (now an elementaryschool) -- where blacks were the majority.
"Even at that age, I was stunned," she remembers. "I knew something was wrong."
Therealization put experiences into perspective for her, but she didn'tbecome an activist until much later. In fact, political action is a bitof a legacy. Her grandmother Elna B. Spaulding founded Women-in-Actionfor the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, a group born in 1968amid civic unrest in Durham. Her grandfather, Asa Spaulding Sr., wasthe president of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co. and DurhamCounty's first black commissioner.
"When I was growing up,Sunday morning talk shows were always on at my house," she remembers."So I was definitely always aware of things that were going on, but itdidn't activate me."
Her activism wasn't spurred when she cameout, either. She first told her family she was gay in the '80s; shedescribes the experience as uneventful. In July 2004, she was legallymarried to her partner Kate, in Vancouver, British Columbia -- rightaround the time she started Pam's House Blend. Duke University Press,where Spaulding has worked for 15 years, offers benefits for same-sexpartners.
The blog, launched the summer before the 2004election, became an outlet for her frustrations as a gay, black womanliving in the South.
"When you saw people put marriage on theballot to vote on, that activated me. I could not believe it washappening," she says. "I was really just venting my frustration at theway the religious right has a stronghold on both of the parties."
Neal says he didn't realize how much influence Spaulding's blog had until he was in Washington.
"Iwas at a cocktail event at Ted Kennedy's house and somebody came up tome and said, 'Hey, you're Jim Neal. I recognize your picture from Pam'sHouse Blend,'" he recalls. "I realized then that she was a big dealwith a very wide readership."
Ian Palmquist of Equality NC, a gay rights advocacy group, agreed.
"Herblog is one of the most preeminent online. It's a great way ofeducating progressives and the LGBT community of what the issues areand how to take action on them," he says. "It pushes the envelope andreally challenges people in the community to think about issues in anew way."
Though she originally supported Edwards because of whatshe believes are progressive policies toward health care and LGBTissues, Spaulding says she's pleased with the presumptive Democraticnominee Barack Obama. "There is meaning in symbolism," she says. "If weelect a black man, it's a huge thing that children can see, children ofall colors."
She's nervous for Obama, though.
"I thinkeveryone is going to be disappointed," she says. "No one can live up towhat they see in him. D.C. has been the way it has been for decades --he is not going to change it in four years. You would have to besuperhuman to be able to undo what Bush has done."
At thispoint, blogging has become like a second job. She even occasionallytakes time off work to attend panels and make appearances on shows likeCNN's "The Situation Room."
Yet she says she's not entirely comfortable with her notoriety, even if it's only in a small part of the blogosphere.
"I'm uncomfortable with the idea that people think I'm right about everything," she says.