Why I Am Not Going To The NABJ Conference This Year

Good evening everyone. This is yet another post about the Zimmerman verdict. Albeit it is indirectly related. As you can deduce from the title, I have decided to participate in some action in the aftermath. In this case, it relates directly to my career moves. After mulling it over between last night and this morning, I have decided that I wont attend NABJ 2013. For those that may not know, this year it is in Orlando, FL. This is a personal, and I feel moral decision that I have made. I am not telling anyone else that they have to follow suit. I just feel that it is the right thing for me to do.

Yes, this trip was planned before the Zimmerman trial begun. Also, its true that by doing this, I am squandering a professional opportunity to network with Black journalists from around the country. This is not a decision that I made lightly. It may seem like a rash thing to do, but I feel in the right morally by doing this. I planned to go to this trip, and was fully looking forward to the conference. But, how can I in good conscience, go and support the state of Florida with my money and resources at this time? There comes a time when you have to take a moral stand over trying to get a career going. I am only one person, but it would not sit right with me to still travel there, and act like nothing happened. I talked in my last post about doing things in protest that will have long term consequences. While this is important for me to do personally, I realize that it is a drop in the bucket. At the end of the day, Florida wont miss my little bit of money, but they do not have to have it. All of us may not have power in this society, but we all still have agency. This is my expression of agency, in light of what I see as a tragedy. If we are really serious about affecting change, then its time for those of us who can to put our money where our mouths are. No one can do everything in the struggle, but we all can do something. This is my something. Peace.

-Marc W. Polite



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  1. While you may be “only” one person, change starts somewhere. Hopefully others will not only follow your lead, hopefully move the conference elsewhere.

  2. Right on! NABJ should be trying figure out how to move the conference away from Florida.

  3. I would say that it is too late to move the conference, but not too late to start a movement within the conference. You should go, you all should march and make noise down there. Find some media outlets to talk about the reaction. Do on the street interviews to find out and bring back to your community what is going on in their state. Sometimes withholding money isn’t really making a change (especially in this state’s tourism dollars). I understand you are upset, but be a change agent within the conference. If there were time to move it that would be one thing, but there isn’t. Leaving your voice OUT of FL right now seems like a waste to me, Marc. You’ve already made some ripples in the BWBNYC community. Start something else somewhere else.

    My two cents.

  4. the zimmerman/martin threads have taken up a lot of OT’s bandwidth in the last year let us pledge that as of one day after the verdict regardlesss of the outcome we don’t speak of it again in OT agreed?

  5. You say “it would not sit right with (you) to still travel there, and act like nothing happened.” What if you traveled there and acted like something DID happen? What if you traveled there and organized NABJ members? What if you traveled there, met with Trayvon Martin’s parents, looked them in the eye, held their hand and said how sorry you are for their loss, and asked what they wanted you to do to help?

  6. Baloney Leadersplaytowin. It would make a BIGGER statement if no black dollars were spent in the state of Florida. If all the hotels were cancelled. It would send a stronger message. We don’t need to hold hands we need to organize and put our money elsewhere. Meet with Travon parents? Are you serious. Florida needs a wake up call. They are shooting our youths as sport. You want to sit around running your damn mouths about holding hands. This is what is wrong with black folks. They get shot in the face and still tap dancing. Even white folks are calling for boycotts in Florida. The state of Florida needs LAWS changed before any black dollars . Any persons who go will continue our demise. BOYCOTT FLORIDA! Trayvon parents need us to FIGHT not meet at some convention center to run our damn mouths.

  7. @Dave, I respectfully chuckle at your “even white folks are calling for boycotts.” Really? That makes your point official? You may want to check the bottoms of your shoes. I think I hear a tap-tap right there.

  8. Good for you, Marc! There are way too many of us who are afraid of taking a stand (as is evidenced by a couple of the responses). I’m sure you’ll sleep better, because you stuck to your principles.

  9. This isn’t a problem of the state per se and withholding your money isn’t going to change anything.
    You said “I talked in my last post about doing things in protest that will have long term consequences. ”
    You want to really do something to change that state…go to the NABJ and network with some Florida journalists about the justice system, sentencing guidelines and such things. Keep the ridiculousness and the problems on the front page. If you don’t show up to play you lose an opportunity to score. This stuff requires coordination and 1 man sitting in NYC can’t do it all…I would see the NABJ as a great opportunity to discuss this and collaborate with others who probably feel the same about it as you.

  10. Good evening Ella. I do agree that its possible to start a movement with the conference, but I am sticking to my decision to not attend this year. Everything that you advised in your message, is very doable by Florida based bloggers and journalists. I have no doubt that the local Black bloggers and journalists alike are taking the lead on doing this kind of activist work, as they should. They don’t necessarily need a New Yorker to come down there and “show them how its done”. One has to be careful about that sort of approach. Those who are going still can take up this advice, and link up with folks on the ground. Let none of us pretend that there aren’t voices IN Florida already.

    I intend to continue to advocate. Me witholding my money is a personal decision. I don’t expect everyone else to do what I am doing. Thank you for your input, and thanks for engaging me seriously on this question. Peace.

  11. Good evening LeadersPlay2Win. I understand the sentiment, but you have to remember that this is a national case. There will be more than enough people there doing that kind of work. As for doing stuff to help, there is no reason I have to help Florida’s economy under the guise of activism. There are plenty of Black journalists going down there already.

  12. Good evening Dave. I agree with your sentiments, and this is my personal expression of solidarity. Thanks for your comment.

  13. Good evening Wilma. I feel that its necessary to reply to you again. You have a good deal of nerve coming in this space telling me and anyone on here not to speak on Trayvon Martin, The Zimmerman verdict, and the issue of racial profiling in general. I will entertain no such notion that we somehow have to stop talking about the issue, and your “agreement” is rejected. You may want to consider something: not coming on Black operated web sites telling people what they can and cannot talk about. I will talk about this as much as I see the need to, and you or no one else will tell me to do otherwise. If you don’t want to read about it, you are free not to venture to this site.

  14. Good evening Fausto. You may believe that withholding money does not change anything, but history proves otherwise. You may not have seen the comment I left to Elle, but the gist of it is that there are plenty of Florida bloggers and journalists down there to make that happen. I trust that activists and writers in Florida are hitting the ground hard right now. And as far as you saying that I lose an opportunity to score, to me this is not a game. I was going to network and branch out my influence. But at this moment, expressing solidarity with folks who are withholding their money is more important to me. This case is not going anywhere in the public’s consciousness any time soon. I can very well continue to do things here in NYC.. with other people here, and choose to withhold my resources. Its not mutually exclusive. Thank you for your comment.

  15. Good evening Zenzi! Thank you for your expression of support, and I am glad that you understand where I am coming from. I feel the need to stick to my principles. My mind is made up.

  16. You go Marc, full support here! If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything, ashe.

  17. “And as far as you saying that I lose an opportunity to score, to me this is not a game. I was going to network and branch out my influence.”
    Ok now you are looking for something you know is not the point and there it is on the quote….you were going down there to branch out your influence…score points for Team Marc and the things Marc cares about. My choice of words shouldn’t be the issue.

    Something to think on, with unemployment as high as it is who does withholding your money hurt in the state of Florida?

    You forget this is America….in 6 months most American won’t even think about this. The status quo hasn’t changed if you black or brown… and black or brown people don’t really use their voting power to get policies that help them. Get people to see it and get active and then you could have a shot but reality is special interests, gun lovers and short attention spans conspire to give you very little in the way of results. In Texas for example, when football starts these people forget everything!

  18. Marc, I’m so proud of you. Yes, I understand that NABJ will lose a million dollars if it cancels Florida Conference. But it will also gain in stature for having stood for something other than money. Actually postponing the conference for a few months in order to change venues would increase attendance and make up for some of the financial loss. More folks would be drawn to an organization that stands on principal rather than mealy mouthed excuses like having invited the Martin family or there will be panels on the Zimmerman trial. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of articles have been written on this tragic issue already. What the African-American community needs now is true, un-self-interested leadership on the part of NABJ.

  19. Constance and Marc, I respect your decisions as I have gone back and forth about attending the conference as well. I am also going to Florida to visit my family during this trip, sick and elderly family who I may not see again since I am moving north. But the decision to attend has been a hard one for me before and especially since the verdict.

    Everyone has to make the decision for themselves. As much as I would love NABJ to cancel the convention it is not feasible to do that in 2 weeks. When you talk about NABJ will lose 1 million dollars by canceling, that is only the organization. We are not even talking about individual members who sacrifice to go and have paid their monies up front. Individuals can choose to not attend and use their power in that way, or they can choose to attend and not patronize Florida as much as they would have prior to the verdict or they can choose to stay the same. It’s a choice, but NABJ would not be fiscally or professionally responsible canceling an event planned years in advance in two weeks. Doing so would hurt more than it would help.

    So with that being said and with all of the anger, hurt and emotions that we as Black families are feeling, I think we should make our decisions, write about them, make them known and then support without criticizing or putting down anyone and that decision. We are all more credible when we teach by example and as the old saying goes, I can show you better than I can tell you.

    Here is to a successful NABJ convention in that it is a learning moment for us and for the state of Florida by having us there in force, doing our jobs and making change.

  20. Good afternoon Gina. Thank you for your input. I agree with you about NABJ- it wouldn’t make financial sense for the organization itself to pull out. When I say I am deciding not to go to Orlando for the conference, it is entirely a personal decision. I completely understand why people still want to go. I never expected NABJ to cancel at all, considering the agreements that were already made. From an organizational point of view, of course I understand why that would be counterproductive.

    I wish the NABJ conference success as well.

  21. I just find it intersting that people are calling for the boycott of Florida when there are so many other states that deep rooted in racial injustices and legislative bullcrap from the top of the state government down… I must ask were you in New Orleans last year??? because the way the state amp; local government still treats the N.O. like a 3rd world country in the wake of Katrina is horrible… you still have issues/problems that havent been addressed but no one will stop supporting that state (what about the Jena 6 was there any real resolution from that incident as well)

    Look at the state of Illinois and how they have refused to address the gun violence in Chicago where is the call to action to address the gun laws and violence issues in that city…

    and while you arent calling for it, to have those suggest that NABJ cancel the conference and put the organization in a total financial bind is irresponsible.

    If the state begins to feel a tighness in tourism dollars due to a boycott, who do you think will be impacted first and the hardest??? black/brown people with contracts and businesses tied to tourism so essentially you will be cutting off your nose to spite your face, thus putting more of “us” in positions of hoplessness which could lead to more violence.

    Lastly, what happens if the reform doesnt come in the way people are calling for, do you (in general) never come back to florida???

  22. Good morning Quinne. Yes, there is racial injustice in various other states, but for the purpose of this post we are focusing on Florida. I was not in New Orleans last year. Of course there are issues in other states. It is up to the people in those states to take the lead on it, along with people like yourself who are aware of the issues as well. I am glad that you made the distinction between what I am calling for and what others have suggested. With that said, I think it is important to consider all avenues of protest, including economic means. Boycotts have been effective in the past, and to take them off the table as an option would be disarming ourselves of a plausible tactic. I don’t know if you have heard, but Stevie Wonder and Mary Mary have pledged not to perform in Florida resulting from the Zimmerman verdict.

    I can understand that you have concerns about a loss in tourism dollars hurting the most vulnerable in Florida. The business leaders of Florida will find ways to pass along the pain to those who are most at risk. So is an alternative just to continue to support Florida, and have no sort of consequences? What are you proposing instead of boycotts? As for the question of never coming back to Florida, I don’t see anyone saying that. I definitely am not. But i do know that it has to last to have an impact.

  23. If I spent money in every state, just so businesses wouldn’t lay off poor people, I’d be poor, myself. I have yet to hear a valid argument *against* me deciding where I spend my money, and who will never see another dime of it.

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