Oseola McCarty's tiny tome of consolidated life wisdom found its way into my library while I was searching out a present at a local bookstore for my c...moreOseola McCarty's tiny tome of consolidated life wisdom found its way into my library while I was searching out a present at a local bookstore for my co-parent. The text stirred the very well of my discomfort throughout the reading and found me still unsettled as I flipped the final page.
On one hand, her words struck an immediate emotional chord as sage elderly insight emerging from the spring of Great Depression economic realities and Post Reconstruction Jim Crow era social conditions. Her personal aphorisms are as quaint and heartwarming as words that could have been just as easily spoken from my grandparents Robert, Lily, Shay or Katherine in some conversation about the perils of the modern day. On the other hand, I felt a sense of historical revisionism pervading the celebration afforded her personal act of unselfishness. The notion that during her life, the same people who would honor her had neither cause nor desire to afford a simple washerwoman the dignity of being looked in the eye struck me as the height of insult. McCarty does not have to consider it this way, but I identify her amongst my own elders and feel vindicated in taking umbrage on her behalf.
In one reflection, Paul Laughlin recounts the reaction of correspondents who felt that McCarty reminded them of someone they once knew. He goes on to cite "an immigrant mother", "a church janitor" and "maids and housekeepers" amongst their memories. In each instance, the hindsight is reflected upon some warm individual employing devotion and humility in the accomplishment of a menial task whom had aided or been kind to them throughout their life, but that they had managed to forget anyway. One is brought wonder if they were really honoring McCarty or merely attempting to assuage the guilt of having not honored all of the others.
Questionable motives aside, there is much practical insight to be found in the words of Oseola McCarty. Amongst my favorites is the following "There's a lot of talk about self esteem these days. It seems pretty basic to me. If you want to feel proud of yourself, you've got to do things you can be proud of. Feelings follow actions." These words and her intense devotion to the work of washing clothes whether originating out of personal desire or a life proscribed from all other possibility offer us an opportunity to learn of family, frugality and simplicity. If we can embody these three concepts, while accessing all of the exploratory space available to us in the present day, I think we can know the full meaning of the richness McCarty invested in her own life.(less)
More Than Words is a brief amalgamation of intellect, sass, activism and passion condensed into a modest 333 kb Kindle package. It manages to juggles...moreMore Than Words is a brief amalgamation of intellect, sass, activism and passion condensed into a modest 333 kb Kindle package. It manages to juggles these attributes while shouldering perhaps one of the worst subtitles to be foisted upon any release I have read this year. One could be lead to conclude that the tome was a pet project long shelved then halfheartedly hastened out of the door in the midst of an array of other responsibilities finding its title an unhappy casualty of rising from the sidelines. Criticism on editorship aside (considering that she had no editor), the book is permeated with a sincerity that vastly outweighs its readability.
McCauley opens with an introduction laying out her background and the blog's beginnings as a place to offer commentary on matters of personal concern. A tiny digital prism hearkening back to the notion spoken of by Ralph Wiley for tools used by the media to cast and shape light upon those dark corners which they have deemed important. In the outset McCauley is content to offer her opinion and hope that others will wage war, but as she engages the line between passive opinion and pragmatic direct action, she finds herself moving into a leading role in these activities. Her posts soon begin to reflect a more robust set of tools for reader involvement including names, numbers, addresses and her infamous "Sharpton Watch" where she would peg a known black leader to be pressured to take a stand on issues affecting black women as strongly as they do on those impacting black men.
The balance of this book is a revisiting of milestones from the blog's two year publishing history with anecdotal passages inserted before each selection which provide context for the writings and actions taken. The book is not without moments of tangential diversion. In one such episode, she recounts a dispute with another blogger named "Bronze Titan" where envy reared its head as Titan openly opined her receiving so much attention in the blogosphere. While I would argue that her success was victory enough that she should have cast the criticism from Titan aside, I can understand how writing upon that firmament separating blog from book can confuse an author as to the objective they should be focused upon achieving at any given moment.
Composing a blog is a curt and transient form. The mind is a place of fertile feelings that last only a moment before they are gone. The primary objective is to remove them from one's head in order that we might tackle the next project with greater ease and intent. Writing a book on the other hand is a far more patient and thoughtful practice. One must consider the full scope of the message and how all of the elements are interlinked together in order to craft a project that will have permanence and relevance over a longer period.
I recall becoming aware of Gina McCauley as a frequent contributor to the News and Notes Blogger's Roundtable with Farai Chideya. One finds that even today they are brought to wince at such episodes as DL Hughley rehashing Imus' joke only to be repeatedly panned on What About Our Daughters. Or BET choosing make the website "Hot Ghetto Mess" into a television show and the blog managing to hack away at its advertising until it was only a memory and most folks pondered "What ever happened to that show that was supposed to start?" The effects of these actions had an influence that spread far and wide beyond the blogosphere and it is perhaps because of these pioneering black blogging activists and pundits of the era that we recognize today how powerful an internet article or campaign can be when we are determined in our ideals.
Your heart will drop low again when she revisits the Dunbar Village case. While the world was focused on Genarlow Wilson, an immigrant mother and her child were treated to both criminal savagery and community indifference. The closing six chapters will stab at your chest incessantly because here is where all of the humanity from her previous feistiness is laid bare. Her blogs reflect an honest plea that if you are a black woman or an ally of black women, you cannot be content to sit upon the bench while a war is funded and launched against them by members of their own community. You must act immediately.
The text is an inspiring treatise that may spur other bloggers to be more proactive in how they approach this form of citizen journalism. It is one thing to publish your thoughts and hope that you will soon get picked up on the newswire for transmission to a broader audience. It is quite another feat to accomplish when you are both generating headlines and authoring the story. Gina's text says that we can do both.(less)