As a NN newbie, I had no idea what to expect from the event. All the rave reviews from years past didn’t really convey to me what it would be like—the panels, the keynotes, the exhibits, and above all else, the people. I admit that my little rundown here will also fall short of creating an adequate introduction to the experience. Mostly, I intend it to serve as the start of my expressions of gratitude and appreciation for the existence of NN in the first place, and for the support that enabled me to attend this year. By all other accounts I’ve read so far as well, NN12 was a great place to begin.
I love the chance to see new places in connection with work/pleasure (and admittedly, NN and Daily Kos are a mixture of both, right?) but I had no idea what to expect with regards to Providence. The glimpses that I saw were very impressive. The downtown was pleasant and human-scaled, and the experiences I had on mass transit only made me the more envious of those who live in a metro area with a good bus/train system. I can’t wait to get back and explore further; now I’ve even put RISD (the Rhode Island School of Design) on my younger daughter’s college tour list. I’m a dreamer, I admit it.
Plus, the mayor of Providence, Angel Taveras, and RI Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse were also involved and gracious hosts. What more can we ask?
Please help me out with photo IDs here: I have tried to determine exactly what I was photographing without success. I’ll update the photo tags once I get more information.
9. NOT WANTING to leave the convention to play hooky more
I was grateful for the semi-open schedule of the middle of the day, despite those pesky things like Keynotes in some of them, and hoped that I’d be able to do some more of what I described in point 10. But, as it happened, I had too much to do all day, and I didn’t want to lose the chance to see someone. My off-site excursions, apart from dinner, took place almost entirely before or after the official start of the conference. I must say that this is out of character for me, and it’s a testimonial to how compelling everything was about the convention.
It made a big difference to me to have the bag lunches available. Shortly after arriving, I laid in supplies so that I could have breakfasts in my room that were healthy for me, but the lunches sufficed and definitely supported my convention experience. They also made the opportunity/necessity of eating dinner off-site less financially challenging, and I enjoyed every dinner out and every minute in companionship with my new/old Kossack friends.
It took a little time to convene, and I am sure that it was underattended considering the lack of official standing and notice. However, those of us who did have the opportunity to get together had many good things to say. Please watch for more information to emerge over time, since we are still interested in hearing from those who weren’t at the caucus but want to have their observations included in our recommendations to the conference organizers for improvements at NN13. I published a diary in KosAbility to help move this discussion along. Do feel free to contact me via Kosmail if you have input to suggest now as well.
I probably have had too much experience with academic conferences, which are far too serious and heady for their participants’ good. The contrast between those events and this one is best illustrated by the Kos party on Saturday night. I thought I would break my face smiling when the brass band –the What Cheer? Brigade—showed up at the party. What a fantastic sound and presence they have!
5. The keynote speakers; shaking Elizabeth Warren’s hand (!)
I enjoyed many of the keynotes, but I must say that Elizabeth Warren, Ben Jealous, and Van Jones made the strongest favorable impression on me. Not only because of what they said, but also because of how they said it. All of them are talented—and polished—public speakers, and I strongly believe that their polish adds to the effectiveness of their message. We need more of this, and more of a training tradition for our up-and-comers.
I was delighted to be at the foot of an escalator that Elizabeth Warren was descending later on Friday. I was able to say some supportive words to her and to shake her hand (great handshake, not surprisingly). Her response: “We have to do this.” And she is absolutely right. We must, and we can.
4. The “Promoting POC in the Blogosphere” panel on Friday afternoon
[Panelists: shanikka, navajo, Denise Oliver Velez, and Ian Reifowitz; facilitator: dopper0189] The panelists all effectively addressed the key issues to be considered with regards to maintaining—and expanding—the full and equal participation of people of color on progressive blogs, especially (but not exclusively) on Daily Kos. They include a genuine willingness to engage, with respect; the ability to write in specifics, not from abstractions; and, as shanikka explained in detail, a resistance to dogma and orthodoxy about the ways that “progressives” should think and act, regardless of one’s cultural background and personal experiences. We don’t come up the same way, we don't have the same POV, and it’s naïve, even solipsistic to behave and speak as if we do—or as if we each have cornered the market on insight and analysis. Remember, we claim to believe in the beauty, power, and irreducible reality of diversity; time to walk the walk.
I am confident that the dialogue that this panel supported at the moment will continue online, and I hope that the tenor of the conversations to follow will be as warm and as honest as the panel presentations were at NN. But that outcome, of course, depends on all of us, not only on those who were doing most of the talking there.
3. The “Love and Compassion” panel on Friday morning [Panelists: Mallika Dutt, Leslie Salmon Jones, and Sharon Salzberg; facilitator: Carla Goldstein]
How many times have we found ostensibly progressive workplaces and organizations to be disappointingly oppressive to us as workers and volunteers? Far too often, in my experience. I do not think I was alone in this sentiment, judging from the reactions of the other attendees to this panel.
Given the experiences that each of the panelists and the moderator shared—about the ways they have come to integrate political action with sustainable human (emotional and spiritual) practices—I was grateful for the chance to hear them. The brief concrete demonstrations of their approaches that Leslie Salmon Jones and Sharon Salzberg provided were also welcome. More of this, please, at NN13.
2. Meeting so many Kossacks—some I knew before, some I didn’t
My favorite introduction is probably the one that happened with 4Freedom. We had been exchanging texts for a couple of days trying to be in the same place at the same time, without success. Then on Saturday afternoon I met JanF, and during our brief conversation I asked the other woman standing next to her if she was also a J Townie. We read each other’s name tags, shrieked, and fell into each other’s arms. What a great way to meet after all!
I am afraid I’ll inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings if I try to mention everyone I met and greeted. Let me just salute those with whom I spent some time, either talking, eating and/or dancing: Sara R, winglion, farmerchuck, belinda ridgewood, poe and her sister Terree, Chacounne, a gilas girl, triciawyse, Horace Boothroyd III, Onomastic, 4Freedom, and sharonsz. I am honored to have had the opportunity to share some of your few precious hours available at NN. Thank you!
1. Being able to attend at all—thanks to the NN scholarship program through DFA, and the private sponsorship of many others here on site.
I would not have been able to go this year had I not been fortunate enough to win a Netroots Nation/Democracy for America scholarship to pay for my registration and lodging. Then, even after that level of support and legitimization, more Kossacks pitched in to help me cover my travel and food expenses. In the latter group are Nurse Kelley, Ekaterin, Ooooh, BFSkinner, ER Doc, Lorikeet, weck, parsonsbeach, Hatrax, SanFernandoValleyMom, operculum, 1864House, poe, eeff, mollyd, KT, and broths. I am more grateful to all my supporters, institutional and individual, than I can say. Thank you, thank you, thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
The DFA staffers I met at NN were all very dedicated, smart and organized. I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with Emma Interlandi, the onsite coordinator for the Scholars, but she did a great job making it all look easy. I was fortunate to have a bit of time talking with Arshad Hasan, the executive director, who is as fiercely competent as he is charming, and Julielyn Gibbons, the training director, with whom I bonded over Michigan (the state that is), and the MSU Spartans. Go green, go white! :)
I didn't actually have the good fortune to talk with Jim Dean, the chairperson of DFA, but I did have a great conversation with Mary Ellen Broderick, a NN12 scholar who is running for a seat in the state house in New Mexico. I also had a chance to talk politics briefly with Markos himself, which was truly a treat. (I have to thank Julielyn for taking an excellent photo of Kos and me, one of the best I've had in years--but no need to clutter the diary with more photos of me.)
Coming home, I have more inspiration and motivation to get involved this election cycle, particularly with local races; I am more committed to local, grass-roots organizing again too. My health and my family must remain my top priorities regardless of the appeal of other activities, but I am becoming more capable of juggling these responsibilities again than I have been for many months.
A top-ten list really isn’t big enough to cover all my favorites. I also really enjoyed taking part in the Netroots for the Troops activities, including the big pack on Saturday; the Thursday morning training about creating powerful narratives; and the Sunday morning Interfaith Service facilitated by ramara and loggersbrat, to name only three others. On the flight home, I also had the rare treat of seeing the Niagara Falls from the airplane. Quite a different perspective, let me tell you, and a lovely way to ease my return home.
Do I have some complaints, critiques, and regrets? Naturally; I’m only human, and so are the conference organizers. The relevant ones will make their way to the NN staff now gathering feedback. But my negative moments are far outweighed by the positive ones. The sheer pleasure of the whole experience will keep me coming back. Here’s to NN13!
I composed the text of this diary soon after my return (which is a good thing, since my memory isn't as reliable as I'd like--though there still may be lapses, for which I apologize sincerely). But I hemmed and hawed for weeks afterwards, since I didn't know how to embed photos, and I was determined to share some of mine, regardless of their lack of polish, shall we say. (My daughters know I do much better photographing buildings--that is, things that don't move--than anything else. Can you tell?;)
And then, the most marvelous postlude to NN12 happened: I won the NN12 quilt! As a consequence I had no more excuses to delay my diary, and I have buckled down to learn at least the bare minimum to get some photos uploaded as appropriate. I am VERY grateful to DKos tech folks for getting the Image Library to work; it's hard enough to deal with everything else. And I'm also grateful to the anonymous person who gave me a DKos membership in that exhilarating drive last year, so that I can use this new feature.
I am very sorry that Darcy Burner did not win her primary election, but her campaign and our support was worth the effort all the same. I haven't yet obtained the hardware to mount this beautiful memento, but here I am holding it just below the spot on the wall it will fill.
In case you aren't aware of it, TODAY appears to be the last day that a "standard" (non-student) registration for NN13 will cost $195. It is not cheap, I do realize, but it is indeed a bargain--and the price is only going to increase as we get closer to the next event. I assume that there will be another year of Netroots Nation scholars in 2013, and I urge anyone interested to apply when that opportunity become available. There's no telling who will win outright, and who will be picked by the committee.
No matter how you are able to pull it off, I believe you will not be disappointed. I look forward to seeing you next year in San Jose!