Friday, July 27, 2007

WSNS Background

I actually started the WSNS back in 2002. I was in a conversation with a neighbor of mine, both of us black, and both from Virginia. We bonded on the issue of "well spoken" black folk. Both of us experienced derisive commentary and snide remarks about the way we spoke (speak). After that conversation, I thought that it would be fascinating to bring together black folks who had similar experiences. I realized that I didn't want to limit my burgeoning forum just to black folks, so I made it up in my mind that anyone could participate.

Coming up with the name wasn't easy. I knew I wanted to use the phrase "well spoken," but I couldn't come up with an entire name for my concept. During this time, I'd been doing research on the history of the U Street area of Washington, DC. I learned about the Saturday evening salons hosted by a woman called Georgia Douglas Johnson. She was a peer of the likes of DuBois, Mary Church Terrell, Alain Locke and Roscoe Conkling Bruce. Johnson opened her home, and she brought people together to discuss the literature and issues of the day. With all of this in mind, I decided that I wanted a "well spoken" salon.

I chose the term "Negro" as a way of honoring the period of Douglas' salon. "Negro" was the term used by black folks then. It did not have negative connotation. And frankly, it felt right to me. I'm an historian, and historians can sometimes do odd things.

So that is how the Well Spoken Negro Salon came to be. I would write an essay, and I would send it out to a group of friends and colleagues and invite them to join me the following Saturday at a bar or restaurant. Originally, the WSNS met at the Capitol Lounge on the Hill. After a few months, I moved the WSNS one block over to the Pour House. But the WSNS really blossomed once I decided to have the group meet at the bar at B. Smith's in Union Station. My buddy Jim tended bar, and we would enjoy the wonderful buffet that the restaurant has to offer.

Work and travel intervened in keeping the momentum of the WSNS going, and I decided in 2005 to take a break. Long ago, friends suggested that I move the WSNS to the blogosphere, and I have to admit that I was reluctant, though I couldn't explain why. Yet, it made sense in the end, and that's why you are reading this now. It was only when I decided to start a blog that I made the slight change to "Negro's." This is my forum, but one where I want many others to participate.

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