Blogging My Way To a Visit to the White House!
Two months ago I was invited by Latinos In Social Media (LATISM), easily the largest online network of Latinos, to go to D.C. and the White House as a top Latina blogger. I was incredibly honored to be recognized this way and reflected on my personal journey from stay-at-home mom with a blog to a paid online organizer with MomsRising.
Almost nine years ago I hit the maternal wall in the formal workforce. After taking into consideration childcare costs in the San Francisco Bay Area and commuting time, I left my job as a reporter to stay home with my son. But I missed writing and did what 18.9 million women have done: I started a blog.
At first the journalist-as-spectator in me wouldn’t allow me to express an opinion. I would post links to news stories I liked and hardly received any comments. But as more of my readers shared their personal stories on my blog’s diaries –- see the right-hand column of the blog -- I too, started sharing more of myself. Then something happened on my site: I bonded with like-minded women and started to take political action online and offline.
I read and reviewed a book on my site called the Motherhood Manifesto in May 2006. That book was eye-opening as it put in context the maternal wall I had hit and that of so many of my readers. It also happened to be the book –- and accompanying documentary -- that helped launch MomsRising.
About three years ago, something else happened: additional social media channels like Facebook and Twitter were introduced. It was then that I became acquainted with the LATISM community and so many Latina mothers like myself advocating for the same issues and more.
Now that I have had a little time to reflect on my experience, I’d love to share with you the insight that I gained being away with other top blogueras. Many of the sessions developed by LATISM focused on getting paid for blogging. In my case, my blog is more of a labor of love and I leveraged it for paid work at MomsRising. I am now a campaign specialist who advocates for family economic security by spreading our message across social media channels and on-the-ground in the traditional press, in events, as well as Congressional offices.
The most notable parts of the LATISM retreat for me were the time I spent bonding with other blogueras I have long admired and a three-hour White House tour and press briefing. We were welcomed by, among other White House staff members, Cecilia Muñoz, the President’s Assistant and Director of Domestic Policy; Julie Rodriguez, Associate Director of Office of Public Engagement; Liz Fowler, Special Assistant to the President on National Economic Council; Alejandra Ceja, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Under Secretary in the Department of Education; Lisa Pino, Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of the Department of Agriculture; Marissa Duswalt, Associate Director for policy and events at the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative; and Jon Carson, Director of Office of Public Engagement. They were on hand to answer our questions.
The visit earned us an article in Latina magazine, the largest publication in the United States geared towards Latinas with a readership of 2 million. As someone who picked up the very first issue in 1996 and was turned down for a freelance job there, I was so incredibly honored be mentioned!
Aside from the White House visit, the time I spent with my blogging sisters –- all unique in terms of their backgrounds, personal stories and what they write about on their blogs. Here are some of them –- there were 70 of us total.
Photos from left to right: LATISM Chairwoman Ana Roca Castro with Vice-Chair Elianne Ramos relish their accomplishments and time at the White House; I am pictured with Laura Tellado, the rock star publisher of the Holdin’ Out For a Hero and Expresso Con Leche blogs.
Photo: Not all the bloggers were moms so the White House did hear pleitos from us.
Photos from left to right: Ana Lilian Flores and Roxana Soto Romero are the rock stars behind the SpanglishBaby blog; the President’s Assistant and Director of Domestic Policy Cecilia Muñoz waits her turn to address us.
Photo of some of the Latina bloggers –- top row first -- I have long admired: Ericka Sanchez (Nibbles and Feasts), Rachel Matos (The Art Muse), Roxana Soto Romero, Ana Lilian Flores, Eliana Tardío, Nadia Jones (Justice Jonesie), me, Nicole Presley (Presley’s Pantry), Jeannette Kaplun (Todo Bebé, Blogs de Mamás), Silvia Martinez (Mamá Latina Tips) and Laura Tellado.
Photo: Latina bloggers did not hesitate to line up and ask the White House tough questions on everything from immigration to the economy to public education and nutrition. At one point, White House spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said, “Thank you for holding our feet to the fire.”
Photo: The White House panel from left to right were Liz Fowler, Special Assistant to the President on National Economic Council; Alejandra Ceja, Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary in Department of Education; Lisa Pino, Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of the Department of Agriculture; Marissa Duswalt, Associate Director for policy and events at the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative.
Overall, it was just a fun weekend. A Top Blogueras retreat in 2013? Anyone?