If you live long enough, you realize that nothing lasts forever, from relationships to careers to these containers we call bodies and so much else. Everything and everyone will eventually bite the dust or, at the very least, make major changes at some point to ensure their survival until their eventual demise. As uncomfortable as it is, it is part of the circle of life.
Since 2008, I have poured my heart and soul into this space. I started this site when my children were 3 and 16; they are now 17 and 30. I have written through so many major chapters of my own life, including my son getting married, me becoming a grandmother and the loss of my father. Politically, I have written through this country feeling hopeful on race relations with Obama to the realization for many that America is home to a truly huge number of racist and cruel humans with Trump.
I started this space as a mom blogger but quickly realized that as a Black mother, I could not separate race from my parenting and motherhood. Over the years, this space has allowed me to realize that none of us can separate ourselves from race—while it is a social construct and a largely white construct, race is the lens through which we live and access the world.
Over the last 14 years this space has allowed folks of color living in predominantly white spaces to deepen their own humanity and know that they are not alone, while allowing white readers a chance to reflect—and hopefully learn and grow. What started off as a way to vent during the hazy days of my daughter’s toddlerhood grew to something with national and occasionally global recognition, and this site has played a pivotal role in reshaping my career.
The work that I have created here literally changed my life and gave me access to opportunities beyond my imagination. It also allowed me to give others a chance to grow as well, including former BGIM contributor, Samara Cole Doyon, who once wrote for us before launching her career as an award-winning children’s author. We have been fortunate to have an amazing slate of other writers, too, including staff writer Samuel James, who was already a legend in the making musically and otherwise and who just launched an amazing new podcast.
It has been my joy and honor to share my platform with so many gifted writers of color in Maine and beyond, as well as giving space to a few select white writers with a deep race and class analysis, including the always irreverent Liz Henry.
However, despite the recognition and accolades over the years, what this site has never done is be financially stable enough to allow growth and sustainability. At least not without requiring me working more than 60 hours a week between my day job and running this site and the larger BGIM platform. And also requiring at times dipping into my personal resources to keep things going.
I was transparent back in 2016 when I decided to expand the site in the midst of my divorce. As a lifer in the non-profit world, after my divorce I needed to create a revenue stream that would allow me to pay off my student loan debt and start saving in earnest for retirement. Back then, I believed I could do that without putting the work behind a paywall and could still pay the bills associated with running this site, including our writers. In hindsight, I was naive about human nature and the evolving media landscape.
However, after the site hit a crisis earlier this year and putting out a call for help—only to see that help dissipate yet again over the months—I have had to face an uncomfortable truth in recent weeks.
The current iteration of this site and larger platform is no longer sustainable and, honestly, I have hit my limit. As an almost 50-year-old Black woman, whose day job is essentially professional begging for social justice, I can’t keep doing this in my personal life. Every time I have to post for people to support this site, I lose a piece of my soul. Begging people to support a product that is freely given on the honor system is soul-wrenching.
For years, social media platforms such as Facebook played a huge role in getting the site in front of people. The vast majority of our readers have come from Facebook, and that meant knowing the best times of day to post and to have a steady stream of content on our page so that we could keep people engaged. However, things changed drastically in the last 18 months and simply put, Facebook has throttled our page. Posts that used to get over 10,000 views are barely getting a hundred views.
In a world driven by social media, where people no longer organically go to sites, having social media throttle your posts is a slow death. Throw in people’s unwillingness or inability to pay for content and you are caught in a death spiral of survival.
It is the same death spiral that has killed off many media operations, including stalwarts like Bitch magazine earlier this year.
Recognizing this, after my last plea for help in May, I decided to see if I could find other ways to bring readers to the site. I hired an SEO consultant to work on the site’s visibility in search engines, and while we have seen a significant uptick in page views it has not translated into more financial support.
Long story short, after meeting with a well-regarded digital strategy and branding agency, I was confronted with the fact that my strategy is not viable. Several suggestions were given and as painful as they were, I immediately felt in my gut that they were the right ones.
So what does this mean for the site and for you?
Effective December 1, all future writing will be moved to Patreon and only accessible to patrons. For those who give monthly via PayPal, you will receive a weekly email with all-new pieces.
As for the site, Black Girl in Maine will be rebranding as a vehicle to showcase my expertise in anti-racism work as I expand my speaking/training and consulting practice. I recently signed with a speakers bureau and using BGIM to highlight my work is a perfect fit. All archives of current and past writing will still be available for free on the site. In addition, I do anticipate having one or two posts monthly that will be available to the general public. All our writers have been informed and after the start of December, unfortunately they will no longer be writing for BGIM—though I have asked them if they would be willing to serve as possible guest writers in the event my schedule does not allow for writing.
Letting go of my writers was a hard call, but keeping the site active still requires infrastructure given the nature of the work, and infrastructure comes at a cost.
In addition, the daily posts on platforms such as Facebook—while they won’t be ending—will decrease in frequency. I am not sure what it will look like, but I suspect there will be a few posts weekly. After all, this is my actual area of work for my day job, and I am still reading articles, but gone will be my push to keep BGIM in people’s social media feeds.
Writing for a smaller audience of dedicated patrons will allow me to focus on what I do best: writing and building community without the myriad of marketing and promotional tasks that take up so much of my time. I am also looking forward to creating more of a community with patrons than is possible with a public site. As current patrons know, I do occasionally offer perks and this decision will free me up to do more of that organically.
These are unusual times that we are in. While there have been calls to action in recent years to support Black-led organizing and Black businesses, the fact is almost all Black-led organizing and businesses are struggling. Here in Maine, just in the past several days, I have seen impassioned pleas from several Black-run groups that not long ago were flush. Wearing my executive director hat, I can tell you that the philanthropy world and individual donors can be fickle lovers especially when it comes to anti-racism work.
However, after having spent the last year in elected office as a Black woman and dealing with the fickleness of white allies and support, combined with being a middle-aged Black woman and knowing the data on the lives of Black women, I cannot in good conscience continue to give of my time, talent, and treasure and not be supported.
No, it is better for my well-being to write for a smaller audience that understands that my writing is labor. It may be a labor of love but it is still labor, and labor deserves to be financially compensated. Especially when the analytics tells us that the average reader of this site is a 40+ year-old white woman in the Northeast region of the United States. While every 40+ year-old woman in the Northeast may not have an extra $5 to $10 a month to spare, I suspect many do—and if you are a regular reader and you have never contributed a dime to a site that aids in your learning and growth, that speaks volumes.
Understand that I am not bitter, but I am disheartened. I am sad to break up the BGIM family of writers. I am sad to have to move my work behind a paywall because the marketing and trolls are too much. That said, we have had a beautiful long run. Fourteen years is nothing to sneer at, and my work has meant a lot to a lot of people, some of whom I have had the pleasure of personally seeing change and grow in so many ways.
This isn’t the way that I thought we would end, but here we are. Not quite an ending, but—much like my marriage to the former spousal unit morphed into co-parenting and friendship—still connected while very different.
Still, we have six weeks before the transition, so please continue reading regularly, please consider joining me on Patreon, or make a one time gift to cover the month of November’s expenses, which do include paying our writers.
If you work for an organization interested in DEI or anti-racism work, definitely stick with me after December 1 and see how I can work with your group.
Thank you all.
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.
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Image by Suzanne D. Williams via Unsplash
4 thoughts on “Not good-bye but a new direction: The future of BGIM”
I respect and admire the decision you’ve reached, as well as your choice to show the thoughtful work that went into it. Thank you for making a powerful statement about your worth as a writer and a resource. I have learned a lot from you over the years about race in my adopted home state America in general, and now you’ve taught me some important lessons about value and commerce. I look forward to the next stage and the learning you still have to share.
I’m sorry that your original vision can’t survive longer—it was a good one and its demise speaks to the generally inhospitable intellectual environment we currently [don’t] enjoy in this country, even in the northeast. You won’t lose the people who truly care, even if they’re not the ones who need your message most.
I am also sorry to lose the varied voices of your writers, and I wonder if you’d consider keeping a list of their names and/or url-contacts on the site, so that readers can find them again??
Thank you for being who you are and continuing the work you do.
Thanks for the transparency. I’ll continue to support your writing on Patreon while I will very much miss the other writers you’ve platformed over the years. Congratulations on the excellent work.
I already quit using Meta sites (i.e. Facebook, Instagram) but, if I hadn’t yet, their throttling of BGIM would be enough of a reason to consider it.
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