BEING GARIFUNA Website Begins It’s FIFTH Year Of Being In Operation

The Being Garifuna website (BeingGarifuna.com) has now been in operation for FOUR YEARS.

The Being Garifuna website (BeingGarifuna.com) has now been in operation for FOUR YEARS.  This week marks the beginning of it’s FIFTH Year in Operation.

Copyright 2014 by Teofilo Colon Jr.  (a.k.a. “Tio Teo” or “Teofilo Campeon”) All Rights Reserved.  Telephone: (646) 961-3674.

Twitter:  @beinggarifuna

New York, New York — The BEING GARIFUNA website has now been in operation for FOUR YEARS.  While there have been a number of individuals who have tried to also report different happenings throughout the Garifuna Diaspora, it’s been the BEING GARIFUNA website that has consistently documented the Culture, Arts, Politics, Sports, Spirituality, and Social Lives of Garifuna People since it’s inception in 2010, with varying degrees of success.  There’s much to reflect on as BEING GARIFUNA begins it’s FIFTH Year.

The first post of BEING GARIFUNA took place on February 16th 2010 on the wordpress.com platform.  I began taking photos at various Garifuna events and overall tried to raise awareness of the Garifuna ethnic group (particularly in New York City) on the Facebook website in 2008/2009 and as my activity evolved, it became obvious to me that I needed to extend my activities on a separate website and hence, BEING GARIFUNA was born.   As I began to get better at posting (and overall, using Mass Media–photos/video/etc–to get the word out) about various Garifuna events and being aware of the importance of owning the content that I created, I moved BEING GARIFUNA from the WordPress platform to my own self-hosted website.

There have been a number of developments that have affected running the BEING GARIFUNA website.  For those who are also interested in blogging or related activities, I figure that I should mention a few of the various factors that helped shape what I do with the website.

Beinggarifuna.com Has Begins its FIFTH Year of Operation.

Beinggarifuna.com Has Begins its FIFTH Year of Operation.

LACK OF CONSISTENCY AMONGST OTHER GARIFUNA WEBSITES/ENTITIES 

I wasn’t the first to try and document the news and developments of the Garifuna community via the internet.  However the ones who WERE already in place seemed to be on indefinite hiatus or out of business.  As I researched other Internet Garifuna websites out there (approximately the year 2007), one of the more comprehensive websites that I came across was the garinet.com website.  Sadly, by the time I had come on the scene 2008-2009; the website apparently was longer active for the most part.  It was frustrating waiting for that website to get back to work for the benefit of those interested in Garifuna people and Garifuna culture.

There were other Garifuna websites out there as well, and sadly their activity came and went.  Sometimes they were active, other times they weren’t.  Some Garinagu tried getting their own media operations (radio stations, physical magazines, online magazines, etc) off the ground and were even working out of other websites and then suddenly they weren’t.  Physical print media would produce two or three issues and then stop.  Or they wouldn’t consistently produce their product.  I don’t know why, but the overall pattern of most of those entities were to come and go, to be infrequent.  One day they were in operation, the next, they were done.  Disagreement about business arrangements probably factored into that pattern of infrequency, but that’s pure speculation on my part.

Doing what I do, I am aware of the amount of work that it takes to consistently maintain the operation of a website that tries to act as some sort of media.  It’s been a miracle that BEING GARIFUNA has been able to stay in operation over the   course of four years, especially with no financial resources readily available.

THE SPLINTERING OF THE INTERNET GARIFUNA AUDIENCE ON FACEBOOK 

By the time I began my activities (Year 2008/2009), that is, using mass media to encourage identification with Garifuna identity on the internet; there weren’t too many others out there doing it.  My strategy was twofold:

  1. One, take my activities onto social networking websites like Facebook.  While there were other social networking websites out there like Blackplanet.com, Migente.com, Myspace.com, it was Facebook.com that enabled me to properly identify other Garinagu across the world and attempt to bring them together.  Why Facebook?  That is where people were at the time as it was a developing social networking website.
  2. Two, I wanted to make effective use of the one common denominator amongst the Garifuna Diaspora–that is, the word GARIFUNA itself.  This website is NOT called Being Honduran, Being Guatemalan, Being Belizean, Being Nicaraguan, Being Central American, Being Afro-Latino, Being Afro-Descendant, etc. and that was by DESIGN.

As I began my activity on Facebook, (identifying people of Garifuna descent on Facebook, trying to ‘friend’ them, trying to establish and maintain some sort of correspondence with them, actually trying to communicate using our Garifuna language, posting photos and videos of various Garifuna events, etc) the peculiarity (or to some, the strangeness) of all that activity helped me stand out.  There was NO one else out there doing that on Facebook.

My video camera at the time wasn’t very good(video cameras that produce high-quality video cost thousands of dollars), but I felt that it was important to get started with whatever equipment available to me at the time.   More importantly, the trick was to have content (videos, photos, etc) and SHARE it amongst people who might be interested in it.

VIDEO Moment at The Grand Opening of the Headquarters of Garifuna Organization, CASA YURUMEIN in 2009.  (They’ve since moved to another location in the Bronx).

Social networking websites are the playground of narcissists.   And one thing I wanted to do was to sort of force (or at the least, suggest) identification with Garifuna identity.  Over the years, I noticed that people LOVE posing for photos or taking photos of themselves.  I am okay at taking photos, and since I began to attend various Garifuna events and take photos of the Garifuna participants at these events (notably teenagers), I thought that it would be a good idea to include the word GARIFUNA on each photo that I take, namely, my website URL.  In taking photos, I deliberately played into the natural inclination of youths to show off and show out.

I figured that youths would be pleased to be included in a nice-looking photo (relatively speaking) with the word GARIFUNA somewhere on the photo and that even on a sub-conscious level, that the process of identification with Garifuna identity would begin.  As the people began to tag themselves in photos and share those same photos, not only would I help spread the word about the website, but the more important thing would be that that identification with BEING GARIFUNA  would begin, if it hadn’t already.  When I added the URL to the BEING GARIFUNA website to each photo, I hoped that that tag or label would in a sense, pierce or  pop that bubble of self-absorption that surround some youths and give them something to think about.

Since then, a number of people have taken it upon themselves to also pick up a still camera or video camera (nowadays, it’s often one and the same) and began to document various Garifuna events, which is fantastic!  When bands or DJs would ask me about photos, I’d often tell them that each Garifuna band, each DJ should have someone in their crew who is assigned to take photos and/or video of their gigs.  If nothing else, the photos stand as some sort of proof of the popularity of their events and can be used to market their services.  It’s great that so many are now documenting Garifuna events.  Now, the question is, are they conducting themselves as a Professional?

Also, I definitely was NOT the first guy out there taking photos and/or video.  However, my sharing of my photos and videos of Garifuna events on Facebook had an impact that reveberated amongst Garinagu.  I’ve often been told this.

In addition to the photos, I began a Facebook group called, “You Know You Are Garifuna/Garinagu When…” (I then changed it to ‘The OFFICIAL Group: You Know You Are Garifuna/Garinagu When…’).  I wanted to read what Garinagu had to say about what BEING GARIFUNA meant or means to Garifuna people across the world and I thought that the formation of that Facebook group would be a good way to not only get people to begin talking and examining their Garifuna identity in a fun way, but also enable me to LEARN.

What can I say?  The group exploded in popularity and as engagement evolved,  eventually became a springboard to the BEING GARIFUNA blog, website and Facebook Page.  People commented and since I was the administrator of the Facebook group, more people began to be ‘friends’ of mine on Facebook as my reputation grew.

Sparked by the being honored by The Garifuna Coalition in November 2010, Media outlets began to notice BEING GARIFUNA and news stories on the BEING GARIFUNA website began to take place.  If you have the time, go to the PRESS section of the BEING GARIFUNA website to see links to news stories on the BEING GARIFUNA website, including the New York Daily News profile on the founder of the BEING GARIFUNA website (me, Teofilo Colon Jr) in November 2011.

You could write a book on the evolution on how people have engaged each other on Facebook over the last few years.  However, upon my success and notoriety, I noticed that the audience on Facebook began to become fragmented.  People who commented in Facebook groups began to take those comments to their own profiles in status updates or notes or other Facebook groups themselves, as  seemingly hundreds of new Facebook groups were created; which is fine. After all, it’s the natural progression of human behavior to go elsewhere when your needs aren’t being meant or when your interest wanes.

Also, Facebook profiles of Garifuna towns, Garifuna organizations or profiles with the word GARIFUNA in them began to appear.  The end result was that Garinagu were all over the place on Facebook and it became increasingly difficult to bring people together.  There’s been less activity in the Facebook groups, and on the BEING GARIFUNA Facebook Page.  In short, we are ALL competing for eyeballs, and the reality of the social networking climate is that in my attempt to bring Garinagu together, I have to try different things to get people’s attention.  Also, I have to do a better job of identifying items to share with Garinagu.  It’s tricky figuring out what Garinagu will actually CARE about.

VIDEO of a Garifuna Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Brownsville, Brooklyn in 2009.  The first half of this video features a performance of the Our Father Prayer in the Garifuna Language.

Finally, Facebook’s constant changing of how people engage each other on their social networking website has impacted BEING GARIFUNA.  Namely, their shifting of how Facebook Pages operate and the focus on encouraging users, promoters, etc to PAY so that more people on Facebook can see posts.  I don’t have the money to pay Facebook so it definitely had an impact on me.

Further proof of my impact is the number of people who now have the word GARIFUNA included in their Facebook profile name.  That is a DIRECT result of my emphasis on the using the word GARIFUNA and trying to get people to see the value in it.  People using the word GARIFUNA to help people identify themselves as a Garifuna so that they appear on social networking or internet search efforts is noteworthy.  I don’t need to take any bows for planting the seed or setting the stage so that the term Garifuna is seen as complimentary, however there are many who pretend I don’t exist or that I don’t matter, and not for nothing, my impact is undeniable.

Another popular tactic as far as campaigning or promoting on Facebook is to upload a photo, flyer, etc and to tag as many people as people on said photo, flyer who you think might be interested in it.  I hate this practice, as I find it annoying and presumptuous, but it remains a popular tactic.

Sometimes, Facebook perceives some activity (tagging, mass emails/notes, etc)  as spamming and accuses a promoter of spamming. You have to be somewhat mindful of that, because Facebook will ban you from it’s website or severely limit your activities on Facebook for a period of time.  Facebook, suspecting that some of my activities were of a spammy nature, has prohibited or limited my campaigning at various times.

EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL NETWORKING ON THE INTERNET 

There are more Social Networking options on the Internet.  You have Twitter, Pinterest, Linked In, Google+, Instagram, etc and all promoters need to get a handle on those social networking websites out there and efficiently use them.  Despite the number of profiles on Facebook, many have tuned Facebook out and many (youths in particular) have moved on to other social networking websites  like Instagram.  Who has the time to constantly monitor the billion options people have on the internet?   Well, you as a promoter has to somehow make the time, if you want to continue to get attention.

Overall, I am aware that people are less inclined to read on social networking websites, and I TRY to keep postings short and to the point, believe me, I do.  However, this website is sort of a resource and hub of information about various aspects of Garifuna culture, so I feel compelled to try to include as much context as possible in a posting, which includes a lot of explaining and writing.

What’s alarming though is the aversion to clicking on a link.  At times, people will ask a question that is answered by actually reading a post and it seems people are less inclined to doing that.  I am not sure what to do about that.

Also, with social networking websites, ANYbody with an audience in fact becomes something of a media center.  A person has an option to write a short note on Twitter, post a photo on Instagram, do the same on Facebook, etc  and if you have an audience, you can attract attention pretty easily.  Social networking websites make this very much a reality.  Keep in mind though, that this further fragments the audience.

CHANGING OF GOOGLE ALGORITHMS

Google changes its search algorithm (the formula used) about 500-600 times.  However, every couple of years, Google puts out a major algorithm update that affects search engine results in different ways, Google Penguin being a recent example.   This project was also a way for me to learn a little about website design, which I am still learning.  My relative ignorance about website design, along the Google Search Algorithm Updates have also affected BEING GARIFUNA.  The immediate challenge is to get the BEING GARIFUNA website to Garinagu who may have drifted away recently.

NEW YORK CITY LOCATION  

Being that I am in New York City and am the sole administrator and reason this website exists, a consistent challenge has been to write or post about Garifuna News taking place outside of New York City.  I try, but cannot get to everything for a number of reasons.  Language, the insularity of the Garifuna community and the  lack of effective Public Relations by Garifuna organizations throughout the country and the world.

To this day, I am forced to grit my teeth when I learn about various Garifuna events taking place in New York City that I know NOTHING about.  For example, apparently there’s some sort of Gala for the Garifuna town of Bahamar taking place somewhere the only reason I know this is that I saw a photo on Facebook of someone dressed up in a fancy outfit and underneath the photo, they explained that they were on their way to the Gala.

Huh?  No Facebook event page set up.  I haven’t come across any flyers, nor have I come across any word about any Gala for Bahamar, Honduras.  Jesssuuusssooo…

The reliance on word-of-mouth is a reality amongst Garinagu and I wish more Garinagu would get better at writing Press Releases or some sort of notice.  It sure would make MY life easier.

VIDEO of Garifuna American Band, XCSTACY performing at their SummerStage concert at Crotona Park in the Bronx in 2011.

I try to be mindful of straight, obvious promotion, which is fine, but ultimately, that sort of that thing is Advertising, and believe me, NO ONE wants to talk about money or paying to post a flyer for their show for example on the BEING GARIFUNA website.  There’s more to write about the operation of the BEING GARIFUNA website as well as the challenges I’ve had to overcome over the years, but I will leave it at that.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The past Four Years operating the BEING GARIFUNA website has had it’s ups and downs.  I aim to continue trying to encourage identification with Garifuna identity and overall, continue the reporting on various Garifuna News as they develop and occur.

What’s your impression of the BEING GARIFUNA website?  What do you think of it?  Have I done a good job?  Has it been respectful?   Have my postings been accurate?  Feedback is crucial and if you can, write a comment below and let me know.

 

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