Interrupting the usual flow to say that we need your help! BGIM needs you!!

Psst, hey you! Psst, come on in! Have you taken a look around here lately? Take a look, get comfortable. Black Girl in Maine recently underwent some changes, from a new logo representing the full breadth of what Black Girl in Maine Media is about in this moment to increased functionality, including a site that is now optimized for reading on a handheld device.

Last year, I announced my plans to shift direction: to add contributing writers of color as well as a podcast. I am proud to announce that we have accomplished part of that. We now have six contributing writers, including the internationally renowned bluesman Samuel James. The site has also been redesigned for greater functionality, including the ability to read your favorite BGIM writers’ posts.

My plans for expanding to include a podcast stalled out for a while but we are back on track now that my son aka Milo the Rapper is getting into the act with his own expansion. We hope to launch that aspect of things early in 2018. Exact date depends on his tour schedule and my own day gig.

For years now, Black Girl in Maine has served as a place for learning for white people and a community for people of color living in primarily white spaces. My pieces have been used across the country in educational and faith communities including with the Civil Rights Teams in Maine. The work that I have created has held great value for thousands and it has truly been a labor of love but in moving forward with the recent expansion pans, I have had to face the reality that there is a financial cost to all of this.

All BGIM contributors are paid, and my rates are comparable to local publications such as The Portland Phoenix and The Bangor Daily News. However, unlike those publications, there are no advertisers or investors. This is a one-woman shop that only relies on the generosity of readers making either a monthly commitment via Patreon or a “tip” via PayPal. With over 8000 “likes” on Facebook and 11,000 followers on Twitter, currently less than 3% of readers contribute to this space financially. Given that we post three to five articles a day on the Facebook page and post one to two pieces a week here, long term this is simply not tenable.

Many of my writing/blogging peers are moving to platforms such as Patreon where only paying patrons can read their work. I most certainly have considered going that route but recognizing that some people truly cannot afford a monthly gift of $5 or $10, that doesn’t sit well with me. Access is important. I’m also offering my platform to new and emerging writers, and offering them access to a larger audience is important to me.  So moving to a closed format is not something that I want to do.

However, after taking into consideration the true costs of this site as well as my own time that is often unpaid or greatly underpaid, what I am doing is launching a year-end campaign and asking for your help. If this space has been a part of your learning or community, I am asking you to become either a monthly patron or to make a one time gift. Monthly pledges are preferred because it allows me to set the editorial calendar for my writers knowing exactly what I can afford. However, one time gifts are groovy too.

If you have spent anytime online, you know that most media outfits are struggling. We have created a world where it’s easy to forget that the fabulous pieces you read are written by real people with real expenses. It is one of the reasons that as part of our work here, we have paid subscriptions to numerous publications so that we have access to the latest news and commentary as well as making sure that we live our own values—much of which is shared on the Black Girl in Maine Facebook page.

Given that my day job is running a small non-profit, I know that you are bombarded with almost daily requests for support. Yet if this space has added value to your life, I am asking you to let us know by making a one time gift or monthly pledge. No amount is too small (though, if I am to be honest, because of money that is taken off the top before I ever see your pledges or donations or tips, anything under a few bucks really is too little, as I will only literally get loose change in the end).

Thank you for your support.

Warmly,

Shay aka Black Girl in Maine


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

 

Reflecting on the year of flames, or Change is possible

As someone who is almost never without words, increasingly I come to this space unsure of what to say and how to say it. So today, I go back to my roots and I write the words to which I simply need to give life to—and hope that they will resonate with others.

This past week marked one year since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Like many, a year ago I felt a sense of paralysis when he won. And yet, I can’t say that I was surprised that he won. As someone whose work explores race and its various intersections, I always knew on a gut level that his winning was not so terribly far-fetched as many believed it to be. A large part of that is due to the conversations I often find myself engaged in with people where, in the quiet moments, I heard the angst that many felt and their desire for radical change.  Unfortunately for us, Trump was not the change you could believe in and instead, over the course of this year, we have all borne witness to the dumpster fire that is now our nation.

Yet on a certain level, this country has always been a dumpster fire due to our inability to address how this nation came to be. We are a nation built on treacherous ground. Always the hope has held that something good could grow from the blood-soaked soil, but in metaphorical harvest after metaphorical harvest, while there have been many a fine-looking crop, the product always has a rot at its core. And the harvests are increasingly blighted now.

The reality that many don’t want to face is that we truly never escape our past. We can run but it always catches up with us or we reach a point where we have no choice but to turn our heads and look backward so that we can better gauge our path forward. We are in a moment like that right now.

As we face the almost daily assaults on our sensibilities and watch in horror as the Trump administration attempts to dismantle everything that made any semblance of sense, there is the realization for many that radical change (the kind that might lead to something better rather than the senseless disruption and destruction Trump represents) is actually within our grasp if we find the strength to stay the course and ride out the discomfort.

Over the past year, many whose privilege shielded them from the cold truth of America have been forced to see what previously they could easily hide from. When you have a leader who gives space to racists and other types of domestic terrorists, you see the underbelly and you are forced to rise in that moment lest you be pulled into the undertow of vileness.

Instead, millions who previously have never fancied themselves as activists have started the work of change and conversations that previously were not the norm have gone mainstream. For a time there recently, the makers of posterboards and markers were doing a brisk business and that’s likely to continue. Many more people now have their lawmakers’ phone numbers and emails saved onto their devices and are constantly in contact with their offices. This off-season election nationwide yielded a more diverse group of changemakers than ever before. People in communities across the nation are tackling the once taboo discussions in their own communities.

Radical change rarely happens all at once though; instead, it is a slow and steady process (and often a messy one) and while the din of media would have us to believe that all is lost, I don’t believe that to be true at all. I do believe, however, that we are standing on the crossroad of change and that it is important to choose the right road. Even in the midst of the widening string of sexual assault and harassment stories that are almost a daily occurrence, we are starting to move the discussion beyond the individuals and instead shift it toward the toxic masculinity that is rooted in our patriarchal system—a tradition that creates people with penises who feel entitled to women’s bodies. A system that for too long has destroyed far too many lives and left a legacy of trauma. But we have a better chance than ever now for a future soon where our boys and men won’t be initiated into that system—if we keep the conversation and work moving.

While a controlled burn is always preferable, the flames of change can be uncomfortable and they can at times get out of control. Through the flames  we have the potential to see something better. And, as easy as it would be for me (or you) to sink into a private pit of despair, I believe that this moment in time can eventually lead us to a better place—a place where we can say that all lives matter and truly mean it. We aren’t there yet, though. And the truth is, many (perhaps all) of us alive today may never see that moment. That doesn’t make the necessity for action and commitment any less. If we care about the collective good, we will tend to the smoldering and ashy ground and plant the seeds now that can bloom for later generations.

How are you doing this year? How has the Trump administration motivated you to work for change? I would love to hear your thoughts.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Real talk is sensitive, or How the truth is silenced

As a Black woman in America, my entire existence at times can be summed up as: uncomfortable. Anytime I leave my house, I know that there is a strong probability that discomfort will be a part of my day by simple virtue of the fact that my soul and essence are housed in a container labeled female and Black. In this society, that combination leaves me open for assault on two fronts. Whether it is being called out of my name, treated as inferior, having my body touched without my permission—and the list goes on.

People like me are born leaning into the discomfort because the only other option is to wait for the sweet release that death will bring. For me, that is not an option. Instead, I choose to lean deeper and allow that discomfort to be the fuel that activates my life whether in my writing, speaking or managing Community Change Inc. I cannot make the world bend to my will but I can die trying to effect change.

We are now living in a rapidly changing world, one where for many, the blinders around injustice are slowly coming off. For millions of white people, including many who read this space, the dots are connecting and people are realizing that racism is more than a matter of interpersonal “choice”—it is a systemic situation and problem where, at birth, we are all assigned our roles. No choice given—your skin color determines whether discomfort is your norm or your option.

The past decade politically, combined with the rise of social media as a staple of modern-day life, has allowed millions who previously thought racism was a relic to realize that it is, in fact, the foundation of America. All that it has done in modern times is to change its appearance. Racism in America is a bit of a chameleon but eventually, we see its true nature.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed us to take the talks that used to not be seen and bring them to the public conscience. It is the space where we learn, where we we teach, where we allow ourselves to break the social taboos on speaking openly about the uncomfortable. Yet as these spaces become part of our daily rounds, a strange thing is afoot.

Abuse and harassment are part of social media. Women and people of color have long complained that these platforms that are increasingly vital for many of us in our work but are also unsafe spaces. A quick Google search can confirm my words. These platform creators have pledged to make changes but too often, these have been empty promises that fall short.

However, we are now living in a world where the president of the United States governs by tweet, where he regularly uses his phone to stoke the fires of intolerance, and where even  social media novices now flock to these sites to stay abreast of the happenings as traditional news organizations cannot keep up with a president who wants to connect directly (and dysfunctionally) with the people.

When your leader aligns himself with white supremacists and has an uncanny knack for attacking  women of color and making disparaging comments about people of color, discussing white supremacy and racism is no longer an option but an imperative. However, increasingly these platforms that give us so much are starting to censor these much-needed conversations, either directly or indirectly.

In recent months, many activists of color have openly talked and written about being censored on these sites, suspended or banned. Oftentimes, it is Black women who are being targeted. Meanwhile, white nationalists and their allies are allowed free reign in these spaces. Richard Spencer, the current front man of today’s white nationalist movement is considered important enough to merit a verified account on Twitter. Talk about legitimizing the hate.

Until recently, I had managed to keep my words moderate enough to avoid the censorship and bans that my peers and colleagues have faced but yesterday, I realized that my words on Twitter were considered “sensitive content.” A fellow writer reached out to tell me that my tweets weren’t showing up and sent me a few screenshots. After some sleuthing, it seems that my tweets will show up with a change in settings but the larger question is why is discussing racism considered sensitive? What are the larger implications of labeling uncomfortable but critically needed conversations as being sensitive?

We are a nation divided on race; a not-insignificant number of Americans don’t understand why our sports figures are kneeling and not standing for the national anthem. These same people see rich Black and Brown bodies and assume that their wealth insulates them from the police brutality and racism that non-wealthy Black and Brown people face on a daily basis.  Many of these same people see things like the Movement for Black Lives as a form of terrorism instead of a quest for liberation. White Americans too often live in racial silos and, aside from social media, rarely have meaningful connections to non-white people (and often those online connections are less than meaningful as well, to be honest). There must be accessible spaces where we can start talking and start activating. In recent years, groups like Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) have experienced an uptick in white people getting involved due to the words and sights seen on social media. We need more of this—not less—and in labeling discussions of white supremacy as “sensitive” we are moving backwards.

Given the Trump administration’s feelings on race and journalists and our rapid movement towards an authoritarian regime, I have no doubt that we will see an increase in censorship, and that the list of “sensitive topics” will continue to grow.

As for me, I will continue to maintain my piece of personal internet real estate until such time as I am silenced. I will say though, now more than ever, supporting independent journalists, bloggers and others who are writing, educating and working for change is important. Whether that’s BGIM Media or whatever outlet you enjoy, one way to resist and move forward is to offer support whenever possible.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.