Friday, December 10, 2010

Black freethought explosion 2009-2010: from blogs to social networking

I have variously reported on the state of the black freethought movement in the USA and abroad. Key entries are dated: May 13, 2008; February 6, 2009; May 30, 2009; June 2, 2009; September 14, 2010. There are of course numerous specific reports interspersed throughout. But since I haven't been systematically updating my readers, I want to give a quick overview of progress over the past two years.

In my estimation, the watershed year for the burst of black freethought activity was 2009. I can't determine at the moment when I joined Facebook. I joined in 2008, and I was active by January 2009, but I am usually a late comer, so I was slow to join up and get involved. By that time I had found "Black Planet" to be subpar. (There were two groups at that time, one of which involved several people who don't know what "freethought" means.) When I joined up on Facebook, there were a few black freethought groups, some inactive or with low membership, a couple more active. The membership numbers and activity at that time were not impressive, as far as I can remember.

I had been aware of Reginald Finley's prodigious radio show The Infidel Guy. There was also a plethora of YouTube videos. Otherwise, I noted an upsurge in black freethought activity with the emergence of blogs. It did not seem that the various bloggers and commentators on them were generally aware of one another's existence. One of the first blogs I frequented was Zee Harrison's Black Woman Thinks...Religion, Politics, Race, Atheism and more!. Another was Wrath James White's first blog, Words of Wrath. (He subsequently initiated a second blog called Godless and Black.) I discussed the need for a new social networking group with someone I encountered on Wrath James White's blog, I think, but since I didn't see others taking the initiative, I went ahead and started my "Black Freethought" group on Atheist Nexus, which at that time had just become the social networking site for atheists in the English-speaking world. I started my "Black Freethought" group on February 6, 2009.

On June 1, 2009 my Black Freethought group attained its 100th member. At that moment, it was the leading social networking group of its kind. Spring 2009 also saw other major advances, such as Gary Booker's First Annual Conference of Black Nontheists in Atlanta, and Sikivu Hutchinson's public visibility. Since then, activity of all kinds has exploded, with conferences, organizations, blogs, Facebook groups, podcasts, and various other individual initiatives. (I have reported on various of these, but I will have to review my records and then list them all in one place. I see I will also have to update my web guide.)

It seems that Facebook is where everyone wants to be. I didn't care for it at first, and I still don't like the way it's organized, but I spend more time on Facebook than elsewhere now. My group on Atheist Nexus is no longer in the lead. At some point, the Facebook groups "Black Atheists" and "Black Atheist Alliance" pulled out way ahead of mine.

Here are some statistics as of this writing:

Atheist Nexus groups:
Black Freethought  -  318 members
African Atheists - 60 members
The Infidel Guy Show - 168 members

African/Black Atheists and Believers @ Think Atheist - 24 members

Facebook groups:
Black and Non-Religious - 97 members. (I joined at least as far back as February 2009, eventually became administrator.)
African American Atheists - 13 members - stillborn
African Americans for Humanism - 227 members
African Freethinkers - 385 members
Black Atheist Alliance - 455 members
Black Atheists (Mario Stanton) - 584 members
Black Freethinkers International - 17 members
The Infidel Guy Show - 447 members
Secular Students at Howard University - 58 members
Single Black Atheists Dating Pool - 134 members

There are four Facebook freethought groups specifically for South Africa. For all I know, there may be other groups, as I can't keep up with everything. Making generalizations about the content of all these communications will require a much more intensive effort.

I should also mention the pioneering network, which involves special interest groups organizing face-to-face meetings. I got involved with meetups as far back as 2004, including local atheist meetups. I have not investigated the activity of meetup groups nationwide, but there is a meetup group for the recently organized African Americans for Humanism DC (AAH DC).

I'll conclude with a reminder of my Web Guide to Black / African-American / African Atheism (which I see needs some updating) and my Working Bibliography on African American / Black Autodidacticism, Education, Intellectual Life.

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