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.

 

No, we aren’t the same; change starts with an acceptance of truth

All too often, a white person says to me, “Black people and white people aren’t so different.”

I understand that there can be a positive sentiment somewhere in that statement, but even when that sentiment is there, there is a lack of acceptance of a very real difference.

My usual response to that statement is to open my mouth slightly, take in a breath in order to begin speaking, then remember how these conversations usually go, then close my mouth and shove what I was going to say into a place deep within my soul that, at this point, is so full that my left eye probably won’t ever stop twitching.

But, for right now, I think I’ll take this opportunity to stray from my usual response, left eye be damned, and I’ll start with a story.

Did I ever tell you about the time my father lost everything he owned, except for his car and a bag of groceries?

Well, once upon a time in the 1980s in the far away land of Tucson, Arizona, my father left his apartment to go to the grocery store. Upon returning, he found his apartment to be locked from the inside. He banged on the door over and over until someone opened it. What he saw inside was a handful of guys cooking up drugs! They informed him that his apartment was now their apartment and that was the time my father lost everything he owned except for his car and a bag of groceries.

Maybe you were expecting a different ending.

Perhaps you were expecting that he might call the landlord or the police? Ah, well, the landlord never answers and at that particular time, the police did not go to that particular neighborhood. Maybe it was because a politician’s crime stats would be thrown into disarray. Maybe it was because that particular neighborhood was too dangerous for the police to feel safe patrolling. Maybe it was because there were no white people in that particular neighborhood. I don’t know, but the particulars didn’t really matter much to my father.

The police obviously aren’t the only particular problem here. Even if they had come down to his neighborhood and arrested the trespassers, those trespassers would be out in a day, they knew how to get into his apartment and my father had to sleep sometime.

When I tell this story, oftentimes a white person brings up statistics about how we’re all doing so much better now than we were then. In case you’re thinking that very thing right now, a problem with statistics is that there are often specific, intended readers for those statistics. There’s a target audience.  My father was never part of that target audience. And my father’s old neighborhood isn’t part of any statistics. Its economy isn’t part of “The Economy.” Its people aren’t part of any group this country chooses to identify as. For all those reasons, and probably a few others, we have no idea how many places are just like it all over the country. And honestly, I don’t think we really want to know.

Usually now is when white people start talking about class, but before we get into that, let me tell you another story. 

Did I ever tell you about that time when I was a kid that an old, white lady with bad eyesight accused me of a crime that was committed by a totally different Black kid? I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that the whole thing ended with my public defender pleading me out against my will. 

How about that other time when I was a kid and I got jumped? During the process, I got beat up pretty badly and my bike was destroyed. After the responsible parties were found and admitted guilt, the police told me they weren’t going to do anything about it because, “They said you were running your mouth.”

And there was the time in elementary school when Officer Friendly put the cuffs on me to show the class what it looked like, against my will, while he laughed…

There was the time the police falsely accused me of breaking tombstones… Shooting out street lights…

I could go on.

Now, here’s the part that may surprise you. Without even counting any of those incidents, I have been stopped by the police (while driving, walking, standing still and yes—a couple times in the ‘90s—while rollerblading) 38 times, while somehow, only ever getting one ticket.

Two of those 38 times were in front of my own apartment. One was when a cop put his spotlight on me and began hollering because he thought I was about to attack a white girl entering her apartment.

The reality was that my girlfriend and I were just walking into our apartment together

The other was when a plain-clothes cop tried to buy drugs from me as I stood there, shirtless, in my running shorts sweating and breathing heavily…Because I’d just been running, not because I was high…Maybe a runner’s high…Yeah, he didn’t like that joke either.

Those two particular times stick out for me because, like my father, I also live in a neighborhood where the cops don’t go.

But the reasons for absent police are very different. 

For the last seven years, I have lived on a short, quiet street in a residential neighborhood that’s gentrifying so quickly that I might be white by the time I finish writing this.

Seriously, though. I probably see a cop on my street once a year. Maybe.

I’ve already told you about two of those annual sightings, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, it is fair to say that I live in a middle-class neighborhood, and my father did not. Does that class difference make my life easier? Absolutely. Does that class difference erase the racism?

Not at all.

This past weekend, in my beautiful, white, middle-class, gentrifying neighborhood, someone broke into my brand-new truck. They smashed up my console, stole my toll money and a few other things.

My insurance company said I could file a claim without filing a police report, so that’s exactly what I did.

Maybe you were expecting a different ending.

Perhaps you thought I would call the police.

I informed my neighbors, but I’m just not going to call the cops.

See, professionally, I am a musician, so my job requires late nights and loading my gear in and out of a vehicle. If this gentrification has its way and I turn white, maybe a few extra patrols might leave me feeling a little bit safer doing that. But, right now, as the only Black person in a five-block radius, the last thing I want is a cop rolling up on me in the middle of the night, seeing me load things in and out of a brand-new truck.

Maybe you’d still call the police. Maybe color is a difficult thing for you to see here, so let me put it another way.

If you have had vast, personal experience with police and that experience has only ever been 100% negative, it doesn’t matter what opposing statistics say. It doesn’t matter what social class you’re in. It doesn’t even matter what’s written on the side of the police car. You would be a fool to ask for help from someone who has only ever tried to harm you.

And just in case you think my life is some sort of exception, or that I’m some sort of outlier, that’s my exact point. My story may be practically unheard of for white people, but it is all too common for Black people. Philando Castile had been stopped by the police more than 50 times before a police officer eventually pulled him over and murdered him in front of his family.

Black people and white people live in very different worlds and because of that, we are very different peoples.

To dismiss that difference is to not only dismiss the suffering of a people, but also your own opportunity to help.

So, please, if you’re interested in helping, acceptance is the first step.


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.