I get variations on that demand every damn day. Musing on that while web surfing, I remembered being interviewed by a stellar web journalist and activist who ended up becoming a dear, dear friend, though we never met face to face. His name was Rod Amis, publisher of Global Beat Generator-21 World Magazine, an activist and author in New Orleans. He passed on in 2011; I miss him deeply.
Rod was the real deal, fighting the good fight, even though his own economic and living situation was deeply sad. And while perusing the Q&A he published of our first long chat from 2006, my heart ached with the thought of him. But it also became clear that the interview, which still remains online, handled a lot of the ‘splainin’ concisely and thoroughly.
So I share it, in honor of Rod, but also to save me some breath.
GLOBAL*BEAT – G21 Interviews: Natalie Davis: Our publisher sits down with the publisher of the Blogs “All Facts and Opinions” and “The Armchair Activist” to explore her history and why she does what she does.
G21 World HQ – Like many of you, I get most of my news and information here on the Web. (The long-running joke is that this is where I actually “live.”) I spend so much time here that I decided to sign up for del.icio.us because it simply seemed easier to tab-browse from there than pull down my overloaded “Bookmarks” menu which always seems cluttered with places that I usually forget.
During one of my surf tours, I came across Natalie Davis’s Blog, All Facts and Opinions. I was astonished to find that Natalie had been around this medium as long as I had myself and I found her Blog compelling and informative. I e-mailed her, after a couple of visits, curious as to her history and motivations and she was gracious enough to agree to an interview for your World’s Magazine. She fits the mold of our definition of “newsmaker.”
G21: It’s often said that people of color are under-represented on the Web and that gay-friendly sites are few are fa r between, has this been your experience?
DAVIS: While I don’t consider or define myself as a “person of color,” others probably see me as such. You know how people make assumptions about others to suit their own convenience or prejudices. I have been online for about a decade and yes, what I will label non-mainstream voices have been very underrepresented on the Web. Bit by bit, that is changing, though. It seems new sites geared to so-called POCs and queer voices are popping up all the time.
True, any monkey with a computer can have a blog or Web site, but that’s the beauty of it. Anyone with access can play, can speak up and have her say. The important thing is to ensure that those who presently do not have access, whether it is due to oppression, poverty or both, can get onto the information superhighway. And when we make the ‘Net more available, it is just as important to empower people to express themselves however they see fit.
G21: What brought you to political activism and made you decide to do a blog as part of that activism?
DAVIS: Interestingly, I have to thank my grandfather, my parents, and the Roman Catholic Church for instilling a commitment to social justice for all within me. I have been an activist since my childhood days.
During my earliest years, I focused on the political process (volunteering for political campaigns), the environment, antiwar work and helping the poor. From college onward, I also ventured into justice and equality issues, primarily centering around GLBT [Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender; my high school sweetheart came out during our first year away at university] rights, feminism and progressive religious activism.
When I discovered cyberspace in 1995, it only made sense for me to combine my vocation — journalism — with my avocation — activism — in order to make a positive difference throughout the world and to encourage others to do their part as well. I see my role (and by extension, my site’s role) as a multifaceted one: to inform, to inspire, and to give voice to concerns and points of view not necessarily noticed by the mainstream. The blog portion, All Facts and Opinions, is a huge part of that.
Frankly, I believe myself to be one of the first bloggers — I was doing what I am doing long before the word “weblog” was coined; my endeavor has been around in various configurations since it started out as a bulletin-board system in 1996.
G21: You’re very outspoken in your commentary at ALL FACTS & OPINIONS. Have there been repercussions?
DAVIS: Repercussions? Oh yes … I get lots of hate mail and the occasional death threat. I have lost jobs and friends as a result of my commentary. I have been threatened with (baseless) legal action. I have viewed my referror logs and have seen how often government agencies visit and read my site. I think the primary repercussion is that I am always very aware that Big Brother is watching. It’s a chilling realization, but I won’t back down. I have to be honest and call ’em as I see ’em, however unpopular my statements may be. And frankly, Rod, what’s the good of having the right to express oneself if one doesn’t have the guts to take advantage of it?
I have a responsibility to speak out. If the consequences of that are negative or even dangerous, that is just part of the job.
And there are positive repercussions too: My site has given me many new friends. I have received much love and support (almost exclusively emotional) for the work I do. I have been able to travel and speak to people at conferences and the like to push the message that activism is an essential duty of anyone interested in a better, cleaner, fairer planet. And I know for a fact that AF&O has prodded many people into becoming more activist. This gives me a lot of satisfaction, and that outweighs any fear or paranoia.
G21: Natalie, you’re a blogger and used to speaking to people about your beliefs, so why let the interviewer stand in the way? Why not tell us what you think an international audience should know about America today on the issues about which you are most passionate, please?
DAVIS: The U.S. – America is, of course, three continents – is a nation in a bigger crisis than it realizes. It was founded to be a land of liberty and equality, a land where wealth and class and religion or the lack thereof were not supposed to be markers to determine who is acceptable and who is less so. The reality of what began as John Adams’ improvements on Magna Carta principles has been quite different.
The nation claims to respect equality for all, but pigmentational minorities and women have had to fight to be seen as equals and often still do. GLBT Americans are still struggling mightily to be equal under law in a land being held prisoner by control-freak Christofascists who violate the separation of church and state as if it is their right to do so.
The U.S. — and, in fact, its integrity as a sovereign nation — is being held hostage by the very corrupting forces its founders hoped to avoid becoming: religious tyrants who insist everyone follow their “moral” codes; the rich, selfish and powerful who don’t care if they hurt the planet or crush others in their quest for more, more, more; and the bigots who insist that the only valued members of society are those who look and think as they do.
At the very heart of the matter, the U.S. is doomed until it gets back to the ideals it claims to hold, until it drops its lionization of the haves at the expense of the have-nots and finally preserves and protects everyone’s legal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I imagine learned people throughout the international community can see the mendacity and arrogance and cruelty of the U.S. government — my message to my brothers and sisters across the globe is that there are people on these shores who see it as well. We are the ones fighting for positive change.
G21: Thanks for being with us
No, Rod, thank you.
You can get to know him better through his gripping chronicle of a great storm and the hell it brought to a great city: Katrina and the Lost City of New Orleans, still available from Amazon.