by Geraldine Henderson
In recent years, much ado has been made about the increased interest in collecting Black memorabilia (Cooper 2006, Ramirez 2006, Marosi 2005). While celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, and Whoopi Goldberg boast about their collections, critics complain that the increased consumption of these contested commodities only helps to keep old wounds alive. Furthermore, even if critics concede that some people are allowed to own such items, many of these same critics contend that others should not be allowed to own these things.
Through Poverty: The Simply Rich Life of Charles Gray
Editor's note: On a trip through Oregon this past summer, I came across the Eugene Weekly (July 1, 2006) and the story of Charles Gray, which I found to be most intriguing. I thought it would be worthwhile to share with CSRN as his life demonstrates the many paths which are possible. Thanks to EW editor Ted Taylor for permission to reprint. Pictures which accompanied the story can be found at http://www.eugeneweekly.com/2006/07/13/coverstory.html.
Most people spend their lives trying to gain wealth. Charles Gray spent his trying to get rid of it. He went from involuntarily poor to unwittingly wealthy to voluntarily, joyously, rebelliously poor. In his last decade he took up a simple middle class life, and on July 8 he died of bone cancer at his home in northwest Eugene at age 81.
Gray was a peace and social justice activist, an accredited political
sociologist and amateur statistician, a husband three times over and a
great-grandfather. But he was most widely known for living 18 years on
less than $100 per month -- an amount he figured every human could consume
to sustain an economically fair, environmentally sane planet.
"He proved that it could be done, and he did it with grace," said Gray's good friend Karen Irmsher. "He always had pretty things around. He would take a leaf he found on the ground and put it under glass. You never got the feeling that he felt in any way impoverished by what he was doing; in fact, he felt enriched. He felt freed."
As I sat in the café of a Borders bookstore in Chicago huddled over my laptop and struggling to write about children and commercialism, I was interrupted by an annoying clamor of loud talk, screams and laughter. I looked over and to my horror discovered it was an entire group of ... kids! How dare children disrupt my ruminations about childhood! How dare children disrupt my ruminations about childhood! And what are they doing in a bookstore of all places? Shouldn't they be home IM'ing each other in their separate rooms or munching on toxic snacks in front of equally toxic television shows?
Accepting my fate, I decided to behave like a social researcher: I observed the scene. "Welcome to Borders Explorers," exclaimed their hostess in a voice intended for seven-year-olds. "We are excited to have you here. We have a lot of fun things planned for your stay with us."...