Bronx Meeting of the Minds for Social Media Week

Last night in the Melrose section of the South Bronx a small crowd formed at PeaceLove, a small independent cafe owned by longtime Mott Haven resident, Darada David. This is Social Media Week and instead of trekking to Manhattan for events, Bronxites got to enjoy a panel of the borough’s most well-known and respected media presences right in their own neighborhood.

From 7 to 9 PM, panelists spoke about how they broke into social media, about current events and issues in the Bronx before answering questions from audience members. Moderated by journalist/blogger/photographer Clarisel Gonzalez, the panel included Gary Axelbank, host/senior producer of BronxTalk, a popular borough-based talk show on BronxNet, Mike Callender of Bronx Media and host of the internet-based radio station Soul of the Bronx, blogger Nicole Perrino of Bronx Mama, and Melrose’s own unofficial mayor, Ed Garcia Conde, social media consultant, blogger, and creator of the site Welcome2Melrose.

Gary Axelbank, a Bronxite who lives in the same building where he was raised, called social media “a movement of social change” that is “not gonna happen on CNN or NBC.” Axelbank expressed his frustration that the Bronx, a borough “twice as large as Boston” did not have the sort of media networks that other cities of that size have in place. Of the Bronx, which includes the poorest congressional district in the United States, Axelbank argues that the borough suffers from “poverty of information…poverty is not only about money”. You can watch his show, BronxTalk on Monday nights at 9 PM.

Mike Callender, who grew up in the nearby Paterson projects, who has a 20+ year career in computer technology, is the creator of Bronx Media. He is a social media consultant, web designer, and has an internet-based radio station, Soul of the Bronx, all which serves his purpose of putting the Bronx on the map in the technology world and changing the borough’s marred perception. In his travels, when he tells strangers that he is from the Bronx, “…the South Bronx…the reaction’s always negative”, he gripes. He uses his sense of humor to deflect the negativity regarding his hometown from other New Yorkers,”When there’s a tidal wave, we’re the only one that’s connected to mainland.” he jokes. He loves the Bronx and has no intentions of leaving. “I’ll never move outside the Bronx. I love the Bronx and this is where I’m staying,” he proudly proclaims.

Nicole Perrino, a native to Queens, moved to the Bronx several years ago and was disappointed that there were so few publications and webpages dedicated to mothers here. She would crawl the web fruitlessly in her pursuits to find any one website that encompassed events, venues, and services for mothers with young children, a young mom herself. That’s when BronxMama was born. Since creating the blog, Perrino has gotten so much good press that she was recently approached to help with the foundation of the Bronx Children’s Museum, to which she happily obliged. You can also read Nicole’s work on Baller Status.

Ed Garcia Conde, whose moniker is “the Mayer of Melrose”, is a handsome young man in his thirties. Garcia was raised just down the block from the PeaceLove Cafe and knows the neighborhood’s history like the back of his hand. A real estate appraiser by day, by night he is an active blogger and social media guru, sharing his neighborhood’s best kept secrets on his blog, Welcome2Melrose.com. He recalls the time he googled his South Bronx neighborhood and the result with the most hits was a Wikipedia page with, “nothing positive…just pictures of burnt buildings from twenty years ago. It infuriated me,” he says. To him Melrose, the only LEED-certified neighborhood in New York State, has a “small town feeling” and is “one of the greatest neighborhoods in the city.” After reading his blog, one may began to agree with him.

A surprise guest, Joe Hirsch of the CUNY Grad School of Journalism was in the audience. He and his colleagues cover Bronx Community Districts 1 and 2 (Mott Haven, Melrose, Longwood, and Hunt’s Point) in their newspapers  Mott Haven Herald and Hunts Point Express. “We’re hyper-local,” he says when asked if they cover news outside of those neighborhoods. “We’re a bit of a fossil: a print newspaper,”, he said, comparing his medium of choice to the panelists, who rely heavily on the internet to dispense their information.

Everyone would agree that the energy, enthusiasm, and mutual love of the Bronx was electric. For more information on tonight’s event and future events, follow Clarisel Gonzalez’s blog, Bronx Latino.

Check out this New York Daily News press release on the event:
Bronx Social Media Week.