NABJ For Free

Welp. Now, I’m recovering from the most randomly eventful weekend of my life. The NABJ Conference was in town. I knew nothing about the NABJ until a few months ago, but when I looked into it, I found that this was an organization I should be down with. I called to ask about how much the conference was going to cost to attend. I mean it was in my city, so it wasn’t like a vacay for me and I thought it would be affordable. Boy howdy was I wrong. When the voice on the other end informed me that it would be 800 beans to attend, I nearly hung up on him. I thought, ‘Fuck that. How in the hell do they expect folks to pay that to commune with other folks, especially in these days and times.’  I was discouraged, but got a glimmer of hope. I saw on Twitter that Bomani Jones was attending. I admire his work and points of view on his show The Morning Jones, so I asked him about options on getting in for the freeski. He sent me a blog post he wrote chronicling his experience at NABJ ’09 in Tampa. He indeed got in free of charge. I still wanted to cover my ass, so I called my cuz “Butch”, better known as Clyde Travis, sportswriter for the Chicago Sun. He was OT with Derrick Rose on some business, so he said he’d check to see if any of his buddies were attending. Negative. They were all elsewhere. Then I asked my Uncle Dean. He has connects at PBS and has done writing for a lot of official places. He gave me the email of a woman he thought would be there. I emailed her, but she said she wouldn’t be there either. Hmmm. Time to get janky. I went out on the first day, dressed down and cased the scene. I couldn’t believe the caliber of attendees I saw. Celebs were just hanging out and the women? Faggetaboutit. Craziest bounty of beauties I’ve seen in one place and they all seemed to be “‘bout something.” While doing so, I saw an old head walking down Arch St with an NABJ badge on that said ‘FOUNDER’. This is clearly the guy to ask. I had gone to the registration desk earlier to ask how much it would cost to attend the career fair for the day. I was told $445. No way. Can’t do that. So, I asked the man what I should do. He told me to just walk in. Duh. Silly me. After seeing the layout, this made perfect sense.

I went home and got ready. Ironed my clothes and found my accessories (kente cloth tie and Penn State Alumni pin). Like my man Herc said on The Wire, “It’s all in the props baby. All in the props.” I thought they wouldn’t dream of kicking a guy out rocking the kente. My brother held me down by designing a business card which I printed on blank business I copped from Walmart along with resumes and cover letters on the good paper. Alas, my printer ran out of ink, but I had blank CD’s, so I put my writing samples on them. I was ready.

I got there the next day suited and booted equipped with a laptop to look more professional. This was a major point in my mission of making a way out of no way. I was a ‘Doubting Thomas’ though of course, being that I’m your favorite pessimist’s favorite pessimist, always expecting the worst. I had a rant drafted in my mind already about how terrible the NABJ was for not letting me in. All the while, though pumped up off of my playlist which included everything from this:

To this:

To this:

To this:

(contradictory I know and I don’t really listen to Gucci, but this gets me in the right frame of mind. LOL)

I was reassuring myself kinda like Kenny on Half Baked (You’re not a fish. You’re a man). I had a few things against me: I didn’t register, I had no connects,  I wasn’t necessarily prepared, I didn’t have any Greek letters branded on me (always a factor at these events) and, though it may sound lame to say about a grown man, I’m bashful as all hell. I was expecting a lot of bougie-ness too. But what did I have going for me? I was a young black man there trying to better himself….with a kente cloth tie on.  So, I puffed a menthol, utilized the Wisps I brought with me, said a prayer and walked in. I got on the escalator and there it was: the almighty career fair. I made my way into the exhibit like I was supposed to be there and moved about unhindered. Luckily, I saw Roland Martin tweet out a link for a phone app with the schedule and event info. This made navigating the  floor much easier. I must say, out of the folks I talked to dropped my ‘package’ and biz cards off on, most were very open and seemed willing to listen. I was shocked. Bougie-ness was at an all-time low.  I even met a guy from Darby Township randomly. Even people from Philly don’t know where the hell Darby Township is and he happened to come to the convention from ATL.  In fact, the least receptive folks were the local ones. They kinda just brushed me off. I did realize however that I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know how official this was. I made it do what it does, but folks were there with demo reels and shit. LOL. I, on the other hand, could just say I write freelance and blog. I felt like Siddhartha when he was mackin’ Kamala (you know: I can fast, wait, think and write poetry). Definitely not an event to do on a whim. A game plan is vital. I kept seeing tweets about the panels and discussions, too. Wish I could’ve seen those.  Another unexpected treat was the Howard Alumni mixer at the hotel. I didn’t know many folks there besides my boy, Brian Jackson who’s on the come up in the sports world. They fed us well with an assortment of bangin’ pasta dishes and a cheesesteak station. I ate and spoke to a few folks. I was shocked there too. Even though I didn’t graduate from HU (which I made known), they treated me very warmly.

I hit the after party at The Electric Factory where Questlove was spinning. I kept my suit on and threw on a Flyers fitted that matched the tie, which got some good reactions throughout the day.  It wasn’t the liveliest event, but I was able to swing a free ticket because I knew a dude working the door from my days interning at Power 99. I drank and talked to folks. The smoking section outside was interesting. You always can manage to have good conversations over cancer sticks. I even passed off a business card on what had to be a pimp from B-More. I made this assumption based on the game spit and the long, black fingernails he had (reference Rosebudd on American Pimp).

Overall, I would give myself a C for the weekend. I made it work with what I had, but it could’ve been bigger for me if I had a real plan and actually got in the mix. Seems like the real shit happens at the hotel. LOL. So, from here until next year, I’ll be getting my shit together for the next one in N’Awlins. Let the training begin.

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