This week’s Peeps of the Web profiles Gina McCauley, Lawyer, Blogger, and Coordinator of the Blogging While Brown Conference. Gina shares with us her thoughts on social media, blogging, and the future of the Blogging While Brown Conference.
Black Web 2.0: Let’s start by telling the people who you are…in a nutshell.
Gina McCauley: Well my name is Gina McCauley, I am the founder of two blogs, What About Our Daughters and Michelle Obama watch and I am also the organizer of the Blogging While Brown conference, the first conference for bloggers of color.
Black Web 2.0: How did you get into blogging and social media?
Gina McCauley: Well, I have always read blogs and commented on them . I read a lot of political and personal finance blogs, but my transition from blog reader to consistent blogger was a “fluke.”. I got really ticked off after watching an Oprah Winfrey show “After Imus: Now What?” I saw a group of young women from Spelman basically being ignored and marginalized and patronized and at the end of the show, it was a two part series, Diane Weather said Black women would have to take the lead to combat what I call, “The War on Black Women” which is the systematic dehumanization of Black women in popular culture. In my mind the lesson from Imus was that if you cut off the money, the foolishness goes away.
Gina McCauley: So I was actually looking for someone to tell me that there was a Black women’s organization out there that was combating the War on Black Women in an aggressive and unapologetic way so that I could write them a check so I put up a post asking, if I was the only one that thought this was ridiculous and the answer was “NO, you’re not the only one”
Gina McCauley: I thought I would last maybe a month. That was almost two years and two blogs ago
Gina McCauley: and a conference
Gina McCauley: and a few quotes in the paper
Black Web 2.0: and it seems like you have quite the following
Gina McCauley: Yeah, but they aren’t following me, they are following my gift. They are following the message. As we are speaking I just got an email from a woman who was the victim of sexual assault as a child. Thanking me for my writing
Black Web 2.0: wow
Gina McCauley: Yeah wow, very common. I had to get used to it. It took a while
Black Web 2.0: how about the conference… how did that come about?
Black Web 2.0: the Blogging while Brown Conference
Gina McCauley: You have to take yourself back to the time when BWB was conceived. People were complaining about a lack of Diversity at Netroots Nation, in particular, but other conferences like SXSW. I was either right in the middle of a battle with BET or coming right out of it and thought I was invincible ( stupid) but There wasn’t anything I didn’t think Black bloggers couldn’t do. So I am a problem solver by profession and my family throws family reunions every year and I’ve overseen large events in undergrad. I fooled myself into thinking that it was no big deal to hold a conference/ family reunion for Black bloggers. I thought instead of whining and complaining about a lack of Diversity, throw your own conference. Why are you begging people to take your money and acknowledge you? Build your own house and then you can approach them as equals.
Gina McCauley: SO that’s where it came from
Gina McCauley: Terrance from Republic of T had written a post about 6 months earlier called “”Blogging While Brown” after Black and Latino bloggers were excluded from a meeting with Bill Clinton in Harlem. It was a big deal in the political blogosphere
Black Web 2.0: So the first one took place in ATL, and in my point of view was successful, what did you think of the conference overall, and what can we expect from next year’s conference in CHI?
Gina McCauley: Bloggin While Brown 2008 in Atlanta was almost a spiritual experience. You had all of these ridiculously gifted Black people in one place just vibing with each other. Sharing. It really was a family reunion. I didn’t get to enjoy it as it was happening, but I was sitting at Atlantic Station on a park bench eating gelatin with Attorneymom from Character Corner (Charactercorner.blogspot.com_ and I was just exhausted, but it was a good exhaustion because the energy at the conference was insanely positive. It really did feel like a “family reunion” without the dysfunction.
Black Web 2.0: lol
Gina McCauley: What can you expect in Chicago. Well first, hope fully we won’t have as many moving parts. I hope to maintain the same “vibe” as far as the “”we’re all in this together” We have waited until January to start rolling with the programming committees and the call for proposals to give everyone time to decompress from the election ( I attended the Democratic National Convention), This year there will be more of a team effort and I am delegating. Our registration chair from last year is handling the logistics this year and I hope to have a committee of people working on the workshop aspect.
Gina McCauley: We went out of our way to find a facility that was high tech, had wifi and also offered an affordable housing option because I always want to make sure that the conference is accessible for everyone. So this summer if folks choose to stay at the conference center, they can get a room for far less than any hotel. Again, that’s an option for folks on a budget.
Black Web 2.0: Well I can’t wait!
Gina McCauley: They can expect great workshops, but more importantly, I guarantee they are going to meet one person that is going to take them to the next level towards whatever goals they have
Gina McCauley: I think BWB last year made me step my game up. Remember how folks badgered me about ads last year, I wish y’all had wrestled me to the floor and made me put up some adsense code
Black Web 2.0: lol
Gina McCauley: I can’t believe how much money I was leaving on the ground. I was crazy
Black Web 2.0: exactly
Black Web 2.0: I’m sure you can reinvest that money into reaching more people
Gina McCauley: Being around all these bloggers who were on point made me want to take it to the next level made me believe what was possible. Challenged my firmly held beliefs
Gina McCauley: EXACTLY my platform is expanding and that money is helping to build that platform.
Gina McCauley: I think about people like Dede from Clutch who is doing her thing and so free with sharing information about how people can do good and do well one of the biggest issues last year if you remember is that need for capital
Black Web 2.0: yep
Gina McCauley: Even if you have a “”social justice”” blog, you need money. There are plenty of folks who are making money and they will share everything with you sitting around at the social on Friday night
Gina McCauley: What I like about BWB is that everyone there is rooting for each other. We’re all in this together we realize that if one of us makes it, we all succeed
Gina McCauley: So, y’all changed my mind
Gina McCauley: hahaha
Black Web 2.0: lol
Black Web 2.0: good
Black Web 2.0: now back to your blogs
Black Web 2.0: Your writing tends to be very stern and controversial at times; do you think that helps your blogs’ success?
Gina McCauley: I don’t think of my blogs in terms of “success” First of all, Michelle Obama Watch has a completely different “vibe” than WAOD, that’s intentional. We don’t want to really cause a ruckus that distracts or detracts from the work she is doing.
Gina McCauley: WAOD is a whole other ball game. You have to understand that I’m on a mission. No one is saying what I am saying the way that I am saying it. You also have to understand that my background is one where sharp elbows get thrown. My greatest teachers were a bunch of male criminal defense attorneys that banged my head against a wall ( figuratively) so I don’t’ have a problem being assertive. I’m not the Department of State, don’t call me for negotiations. … But I do think that people put a lot of heft behind some of the things I say that just aren’t there. I also think there is a problem with a Black woman being unapologetic, uncompromising and unbowed.
Gina McCauley: Part of the success of WAOD is the sarcasm, is the colloquialism, is the speaking “my truth” to power. But not every post is about winning the crusade. Sometimes it’s just me sharing my opinion about something that does not make sense to me. Bloggers do it all the time. I don’t view myself any different, but that isn’t the full body of my work. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself, are you doing what God called you to do? If I am then it doesn’t matter if nobody reads my blog. I did what I was supposed to do. But am I becoming more “cognizant” of the number of eyes that are on me? Yeah. I am always shocked at who reads my blog and who acts on it and I may be one of the few Black bloggers that has actually met people I have castigated because I speak at conferences so occasionally I run into some of the targets of my posts.
Black Web 2.0: What tips can you give to our readers about starting blogs and gaining an audience?
Gina McCauley: Let me also add that there is no book that teaches you how to handle what I’ve gone through in the past year in a half. Going from obscurity to being on lists in magazines. I’m doing the best I can, the best I know how. Will I make mistakes? Yes, but I am learning and growing and part of having the power that people THINK I have is being a good steward of that power. Part of having the gift to move people with my words is recognizing that anything in excess can be too much. Part of having all these people gather around me, is recognizing that they aren’t gathering around Gina, they are gathering about the gift. Part of having my own share of criticism and vitriol lobbed my way had taught me to have compassion for other people. Now on to your next question
Black Web 2.0: I really do appreciate your candor.
Gina McCauley: Actually I am writing a book about building online communities. The first thing I would tell people is don’t be an island/ Don’t start a blog over in your little corner of the world and think people are going o show up because of your amazing ideas or concepts. There is a reason why people call it “social” media and if you’re “social” people won’t know you exist. Forget about numbers, I actually enjoyed blogging when my blog was getting a tenth of the traffic it is getting. You have to comment on other people’s blogs. You need to link liberally because all bloggers, even the largest are going to peek in to see why someone is linking to them. You have to not be afraid to let people know you have a blog, but don’t be an obnoxious spammer. If you wrote a post about something I blogged about , I don’t mind you leaving a link, but just don’t leave random links. Probably the fastest way to get noticed is leaving really good comments. Yes, I do click on people’s screen names and read their blogs if they have good comments,
Gina McCauley: But if you just want traffic, bookmark Google trends and post on the hour. I could get ten times the traffic I get now, I understand SEO and web user behavior, but that’s not my current goal. I don’t get a million hits, but the people who read my blog do which is why I end up cited so often. I would rather have he influence than the traffic, trust me. Sometimes more page clicks equals more problems
Black Web 2.0: Great advice
Black Web 2.0: I’m sure we will pick up some other tips from the Blogging While Brown Conference 😉
Black Web 2.0: I want to use these last few questions to get to know the personal side of Gina.
Gina McCauley: hahaha
Black Web 2.0: lol
Black Web 2.0: What is a typical day for you like?
Gina McCauley: Typical day ( if I am doing right) is to wake up and go to the gym. come home check my email, if I haven’t scheduled a post to go up that morning throw something up and then head off to work. I post once a day in the mornings or if something goes down during the day, I might do an evening post. Then I do various things, I am currently taking classes in television and film production so I am doing that and If figured that the easiest way to defeat the regime of Bullets Booty and Bling is to compete on the battle field of ideas for the hearts minds and imaginations of young Black children. So I have been teaching myself 3D animation with the help of online tutorials via Youtube. I almost have a space ship built in Blender 3D. I will also tool around on some 2D animation programs Synfig and Pencil. People who follow me over at WADO know I’ve done a couple of short PSAs that I have put up on Youtube, but I want to take it to the next level Next year I start taking my first Final Cut Pro class so I am excited about that. Other than teaching myself animation and tinkering with wordpress templates, I read the news and visit my favorite blogs and occasionally peek in on Twitter . I try to put up a new post before I go to sleep so it will show up in time for my east coast readers to enjoy the blog with their coffee and that’s usually the last thing I do.
Black Web 2.0: lol
Black Web 2.0: and I thought I was busy
Black Web 2.0: I can’t complain
Gina McCauley: Yeah but you are a different kind of busy
Gina McCauley: I don’t consider it work. I like to demystify things
Black Web 2.0: I feel ya
Black Web 2.0: So, if I stole your MP3 Player what songs will I find you play the most?
Gina McCauley: Oh goodness. The Dream Girls soundtrack into the ground. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, some Fred Hammond and John P Kee thrown in there. Mainly up tempo stuff to workout to. I haven’t updated my Ipod since the Dream Girls CD
Gina McCauley: You can’t tell me I’m not Jennifer Hudson singing “You bedda MOOOVE”
Gina McCauley: “Steppin to Bad Siide”
Black Web 2.0: lol
Black Web 2.0: So I guess I’m sure I can guess your favorite movie
Gina McCauley: Nah Dream Girls isn’t my favorite movie
Gina McCauley: Its one of my favorite soundtracks along with Rent and Wicked
Black Web 2.0: favorite movie?
Gina McCauley: Whew that is hard. Its Christmas time so “Love Actually”
Gina McCauley: Although that Batman this summer was good
Gina McCauley: OH I go to the movies. I wasted my hard earned money on that Keanu Reeves madness last weekend “The day the earth stood still” it was dreadful so dreadful I got on Twitter as I was exiting the theatre
Black Web 2.0: lol
Black Web 2.0: Ok final question
Black Web 2.0: I got to make it a good one
Black Web 2.0: Name some things that your audience would be surprised to learn about you.
Gina McCauley: My Daddy Loves my blog and I write some of my “funnier” prose to see how hard I can make him laugh
Black Web 2.0: lol
Black Web 2.0: that’s cool
Gina McCauley: Yeah I get accused of being a Black-man hating feminist and I laugh because the men in my family love what I do. They pester me if I don’t put up a post everyday
Black Web 2.0: Some can disagree with your tactics, but no one can say your heart’s not in the right place.
Gina McCauley: Someone once read me a quote in undergrad that said something to the effect “In the end when God Looks us over, he’s not going to count our medals, but our scars” So in a way I’m grateful that I am living a life where I am passionate about something to be willing to take the hits for what I believe is right. Everyone isn’t gifted with that kind of boldness
Gina McCauley: Markus that’s what trips me out. Everybody has a different tactic. We can’t all be the state department. Somebody has to be the Pentagon.
Black Web 2.0: Thank you so much for talking with me!
Gina McCauley: No problem