Jill Comes Clean
By Garance Franke-Ruta
NEW YORK -- It's not a techie politics conference until someone throws caution to the wind and tosses her pseudonym to the side. Today at the Personal Democracy Forum 2008 in New York, Cheryl Contee decided it was her turn to come clean.
The thirty-something former public relations executive has been, since late 2006, one of the central forces behind Jack and Jill Politics, one of the most influential African American political blogs on the internet this campaign cycle and a stalwart online advocate for Barack Obama and against racism in campaign discourse.
There, Contee has blogged under the name "Jill Tubman," along with her co-blogger Baratunde Thurston, a professional comedian who blogs as "Jack Turner" when not at his day job as web editor for comedy newspaper The Onion.
"The growth of the site has basically mushroomed, so this is a time to really engage with the community we've built at Jack and Jill Politics and beyond as fully as possible," says Contee, explaining her decision to reveal her identity. "We're one of the top black blogs, we're up there with music and entertainment and gossip, and I think it's important for people to see the face of that."
Full disclosure: I first met Contee in D.C. in the late 90s, and her role in Jack and Jill Politics was a bit of an open secret, as she would inevitably appear at events to which "Jill Tubman" had been invited on small e-mail lists and be the only African American there.
"This is an incredible opportunity for African American voices to come forward, in the wake of Obama," says Contee. "We're more than just African Americans. We are full Americans and we can give a wider perspective."
Three other bloggers for Jack and Jill, dnA, B-Serious and rikyrah, remain pseudonymous. Another Jack and Jill blogger, Leutisha Stills, has written for the Congressional Black Caucus Monitor, a group that watchdogs the CBC.
"I wrote pseudonymously not to hide but to feel free to write what I wanted to write," says Contee. "Now I feel the blog has reached a certain stature and level of community that I don't feel I can be pressured to write something I don't want to write or not write something I want to write about."
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Posted by: David | June 24, 2008 11:32 AM
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