Year-end recap of BGIM Media and why change requires more

Happy winter holidays!

After an intense 2018, we are taking a few days off from posting. Regular posting will resume Jan. 7, 2019, though if the spirit moves me, I might write a piece sooner.

However, before I go into break mode, I wanted to share some thoughts. 2018 marked 10 years that this blog/site has been around. Black Girl in Maine was birthed in 2008 as part of the then-popular mom blogger era. When I started this blog, I had a 3-year-old and a 16-year-old. I was a few years out of graduate school and had just been laid off from an adjunct teaching position. The economy was in tatters and there was an immense buzz around Barack Obama, who would later go on to be elected as America’s first Black president.

Racially, things seemed to be changing and yet in writing about raising Black kids in Maine, I saw signs that things were not nearly as hopeful as the mainstream media made them out to be. I realized that as I wrote about parenting that race played a pivotal role and that at no point could I divorce myself from the realities of race as a Black woman both in America’s whitest state and America at large. I saw my then teen son grapple with the realities of not being white and over time, I made the decision to shift my writing to racial and social matters.

The past few years have been exciting as we have grown from just my voice to including the voices of other Black and non-Black POC writers and a select few white writers. In 2018, I gave over 20 talks/workshops throughout New England and we launched the long-awaited podcast.  Over the past year, we posted over 100 pieces on this site, additional pieces on the patron-only page, and we posted about thousands of articles and stories on the BGIM Facebook page as well.

While there has been an explosion in books/sites and other venues discussing white supremacy and what white people need to do to shift our racial course, there has been less attention paid to the day-to-day process of what that work will entail; needless to say, it is a long journey. It requires sacrifice and it requires touching your own humanity and that of others. Social media has been a great vehicle for starting the conversations, and yet it has its limitations. We aren’t going to have collective liberation following a to-do list from the comfort of our homes.

One of the things that I have learned in my five years as executive director of a small anti-racism organization is that our work goes beyond slick marketing and the immediate moment. While it is true that Black people and other people of color must be a part of dismantling white supremacy, if we aren’t careful, we can fall into old harmful patterns that will disproportionately affect Black folks and POC. By asking and expecting all Black and other POC to be in charge, it assumes that all Black folks and POC are willing and able to assume that role. Racial trauma is real and for Black folks in particular, we need to do our own healing work. I am concerned in this moment that we aren’t getting the space to do that work. Instead, our trauma is being channeled into sellable moments that can assuage white guilt via the commodification of “wokeness.”

One thing though that I agree with is that racial change will require a reallocation of material resources and that for white people, that means you must financially support movement work whether it is paying the Black and POC who are feeding you knowledge or paying for direct on-the-ground organizing.

Black folks and other POC are living with the extra burden of existing in Trump’s America while some of them are still juggling hundreds of years of racial trauma that is often passed down generationally. And while many white folks are waking up to the reality of what whiteness means, if you can’t put skin in the game, nothing changes.

One of my goals moving forward in 2019 is to shift more of BGIM’s resources to local organizers of color. While the financial support we receive allows us to pay our writers and for the BGIM Media infrastructure, this year I have started giving more to local initiatives such as Maine’s Theater Ensemble of Color and others. I have also been able to provide one-time support to women of color in need. Until recently, I have not felt the need to share this information but as a trusted confidante recently told me, transparency is important. So yes, when you give, you are keeping BGIM Media going but you are also supporting local/regional organizing and organizers in New England. So I leave you with a few requests.

Maria is a Latinx woman based in Portland, Maine, who is providing wellness and recreation opportunities for Latinx immigrant families in the area, but she needs money to do it. Would you consider making a donation? Your money will be used to pay for gas, food, park or museum entrance fees, facility rental, art supplies for the children, yoga/massage and other wellness services, childcare, and outreach to these mostly-hidden families. To support her, you can go here: https://www.gofundme.com/latinx-wellness-and-recreation

Lastly, while I put out the request last month for support for BGIM Media, giving has not met expectations and to be frank, it means that the future of the podcast is in jeopardy. I have recorded three episodes and I am scheduled to record episode 4 next week. However, we are nowhere near what is needed to keep the podcast going. The podcast was added due to repeated requests over the years but it is far more labor-intensive and has it’s own specific costs. If you haven’t heard the episodes, you can check them out here. If you want to become a monthly patron, here is the BGIM Patreon page, or you can give a one-time gift here. When you support BGIM Media, you are keeping an independent, Black woman-owned space going. As well as helping it to become something even better for you and for other readers.

If you are a supporter, thank you. If you are a regular reader, thank you. From the BGIM Family to yours, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Meeting with a governor and aiming for real progress

For the past eight years, Maine has been the laughingstock of the nation with our outgoing governor, Paul LePage. A man who was essentially the starter Trump, LePage was the ghost of America’s future  with his openly racist remarks that included telling the Maine NAACP they could kiss his butt. This after being questioned on his decision to not attend the annual MLK Day Birthday event in 2011. An event that his predecessors attended annually.

However as Maine’s opioid crisis worsened, it was LePage’s comments in 2016 that imaginary Black guys named D-Money, Smoothie and Shifty were flocking to Maine to sell dope and impregnate young white girls that cemented in Black America’s mind that Maine was a racist hub to be avoided at all costs. He has blamed Black (and sometimes Latinx) people for most of Maine’s crime (despite law enforcement statistics to the contrary) and has accused African immigrants of bringing disease to the state (among other nastiness) on a regular basis.

As a Black person living in Maine, the LePage years have been difficult; throw in the first two years under the Trump Administration and there are pockets of Maine that are downright hostile to Black bodies. Truthfully, there are parts of Maine that I would be hard-pressed to take my Black ass.

Which is why with the blue wave that swept Maine in the midterm elections and now Governor-elect Janet Mills, Black Mainers are feeling a bit hopeful that we will have a state executive leader who at the very least will realize that insulting whole demographics of state residents (no matter how small the demographic in question) is bad policy and hopeful as well that she will actually aim for a much higher bar than that.

This past Friday, Janet Mills met with the Black community in Portland, Maine, to hear our concerns. In the room was Maine’s Black history. A wide swath of Black Maine was present in the room including BGIM Media.

Concerns were mostly split between the usual items that actually transcend race such as affordable housing, healthcare and taxes. However, what made this meeting with constituents a bit different was that many in attendance did not shy away from naming the harm that had been done to Black Mainers in the past eight years. As Rev. Kenneth Lewis, senior pastor of Green Memorial AME Zion Church, told Mills: “You will need to be an ambassador for Maine. Real harm was done to Black Mainers and that includes repairing our image outside of the state as well.”

Mills expressed a desire to create a kind and tolerant Maine and was quickly told by several in attendance that a kind and tolerant Maine is not sufficient and that we want a state that is decidedly anti-racist and equitable. We also want a state with representation that includes Black Mainers.

Given how openly hostile Paul LePage was to Black people, this meeting with the governor-elect was a positive first step in working toward healing with Maine’s Black community, which for some time now has paradoxically has felt completely ignored even as it has been targeted for deep and hurtful offense. However, a changing of the guard doesn’t mean that we don’t have work ahead of us.  That work starts with moving beyond niceties and being intentional in our words and actions. Here’s to hoping that is what will happen, and to shooting for continued impact and growth for BGIM Media to be a part of that.


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.

BGIM Media needs your support now!

Dear BGIM Friends and Family,

When I started this space back in 2008, I had no idea how far my words would travel. Nor did I ever imagine that this space would end up being so meaningful to so many people.

I still can’t believe that my words are used in classrooms and organizations across the United States to move critical and long overdue conversations on racism and white supremacy in this country. This space has allowed me to not only find my voice but use it to make a difference and it now allows others such as Samuel James, Teddy Burrage, Veronica Perez, Heather Denkmire and our other contributing writers to use their voices for change.

While conversations alone will not move the needle on race relationships in the United States, they are an important and critical first step in the long journey toward dismantling white supremacy.

BGIM Media’s goal is twofold. First, to serve as a space for Black people and other POC living in primarily white spaces to have a voice and to know that they are not alone by having a community online. Moving to Maine in 2002 from Chicago fundamentally shifted everything I understood about the world around race. Second, our goal is to serve as a place of education for white people and others who are looking to do their own work on race. Having now spent 16 years in Maine and five years as the executive director of Community Change Inc., I have spent a lot of time in proximity to white people and working with them on matters of race. BGIM Media often uses personal stories to discuss larger systemic issues; this style of storytelling derives from my childhood idol Studs Terkel.

While this site has grown and is said to have a major impact on many, one uncomfortable truth is that I have never been able to get this site fully funded as I wrote last month in our initial plea for financial support. Last month almost 50 new patrons signed up to support this site, but we lost several this month and to be fully funded, we need 400 more people to make a minimum monthly gift of $5. Considering the number of people who are accessing our work, this is not an impossible figure but it does mean people making a conscious choice to support this work.

Can you make a minimum monthly gift of $5 or a larger one time gift to keep BGIM Media going? 

If you have spent any time 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. While our work including the podcast is all available to you for free, it is not free to produce.

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. Theoretically, no amount is too small, though 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  buck really is too little, as I will only literally get loose change in the end. But in the end, what I am saying is that modest support—especially by enough people—is just as welcome as large donations or pledges. And perhaps more so if enough people step up with modest pledges and tips.

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.