The site, the work and life: Keeping it going

This year, this site celebrates its 11th birthday. Given the ever-changing world, 11 years of blogging is a milestone. Over the years, I have seen bloggers become household names and others fade away into obscurity. Blogging has come a long way, and it’s been one strange ride!  

Yet the one that thing that has remained the same is: How exactly does one make money from blogging or really any type of digital writing? In reality, the average writer is making very little as consumers have come to expect a steady stream of content to be available at no cost to them. I say this not just as a blogger but as one who was partnered for 20 years to a journalist. An ole-school J-school grad, who has watched his own fortunes dry up. The days of writing for a buck or two per word have gone the way of the landline telephone.

Unfortunately, as a Black woman from working-class roots, I have no rich relatives or angel investors waiting in the wings to assist me in growing this operation.

What I do here at Black Girl in Maine Media was once very niche. But as awareness of race has exploded in this country, it has brought an influx of readers to this space in recent years. It is thrilling to know that we boast readership both nationally and internationally, and no doubt the increasing popularity of this site has led to a significant increase in speaking work for me. However, the site and our writers will always be the flagship operation and my baby. But unlike speaking engagements, there are very real costs to running this site. Regular and continuing costs.

Significant hacking attacks have become my norm, and the security and expertise that keeps this site running has a monetary price. Services I may have used only once or twice a year have become monthly. The trolls and harassment are very real. I recently shared a gem that showed up in my Facebook inbox. Higher visibility as both a Black woman and someone doing anti-racism work is persistent and takes a toll.

What hasn’t increased proportionally is the number of people financially supporting this site. I launched an end-of-the-year drive to increase the number of monthly patrons. In late November until almost the end of December, many signed up to support the site and by the end of January, we saw a number of people either cancel their pledges, or the pledges didn’t go through.

Monthly pledges determine the number of writers I can afford on any given month as those pledges pay the writers, cover the material costs of running the site, cover our editing costs, pay for the podcast to be produced and occasionally even pay me. Typically when pledges fall short, I cover things but as I make changes in my personal life, I can no longer do that. Instead what happened in February is that the podcast recording with our producer has been pushed back and I decreased the number of assignments to writers this month.

Given that reality, I am making some changes moving ahead. Effective March 1, only a limited amount of content will be available on this site. I am moving a portion of our content over to Patreon where only patrons will have access. For those who give monthly through Paypal, you will receive an email copy of those pieces. Anyone making a one-time gift will be eligible to receive all content for that month.

I have long tried to avoid these changes and yet for many of my blogging colleagues, shifting to the Patreon/patron-only model has become the norm. Recognizing that money is an issue for some and wanting this work to be accessible has always been important to me, which is why I am keeping some of the content available at no cost.

This was not an easy decision to make and if and when we are fully funded and the pledges are stable, I may reconsider. However with a decent-sized following across multiple social media channels, it has been disheartening to get so close to the goal and then watch support shift. What makes this site unique is that my actual work background is rooted in 20-plus years of social movement work; I actually work at an anti-racism organization and I have been writing on race for over a  decade. I am committed beyond any monetary desires and yet things cost money. There is also the desire to serve as a hub for Black people and other POC.

While we are talking changes here at BGIM, we are rebooting the podcast. The time off from recording has been beneficial, as it has allowed me to get a better focus on what my goals are with the podcast.

Moving forward, I will be engaging in dialogue with others in the anti-racism world across the US. Some of my confirmed future guests will be Austin Channing Brown, author of “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness”, Kelly Wickham Hurst, a longtime educator/blogger/activist and the executive director of Being Black At School and Chris Crass, a social justice activist/educator and author of Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy. I will be tapping my extensive network nationally to engage in conversations with some dynamic changemakers.

Patrons will have early access to the podcast and while each episode eventually will be made public, there will an increased delay in terms of when episodes go public compared to before.

Right now, we need to bring approximately another thousand dollars a month to be stable; that means 200 folks committing a minimum of $5 a piece or some combination of patrons.

As always, thank you for your support and keep fighting! Fight as if your lives depend on it.

In solidarity,

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.

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Adding grace and community to activism, accountability and equity

I don’t consider myself to be an activist or an organizer but, having trained another lifetime ago with the Midwest Training Academy via the Americorps Vista program in the mid 1990s and having spent the past 23 years working in communities for social change, I realize that there are some who do see me as an activist or an organizer—or both.

In recent years, I have lived, breathed and slept anti-racism work. I came to this work as a frustrated Black woman who had relocated to Maine for family reasons. The racism that I saw early on in this state was downright shocking. Whether it was having my son brought home in the back of a cop car because he dared to go buy a sandwich and was deemed suspicious or me being called colored on a good day to nigger on a bad day. To be clear, racism in Chicago was real and quite present as a constant fog around me, but in a predominantly (and overwhelmingly…more than 90% of the population) white state like Maine, it was more blatant to me and thus more soul-crushing

After five years of running a community-based center for families in Biddeford, Maine, I stepped down from that position in 2013 to become the first Black woman to head Community Change Inc. (CCI), a Boston-based anti-racism organization with a holistic approach to tackling systemic racism. I took the job because I wanted to do more than write about racism; I wanted to actually be a part of the larger movement for change.

When I started at CCI in 2014, I had already built a small but loyal following on social media, as I had started blogging in 2008. And while the initial focus of my blog was parenting and living in Maine while Black, my writing shifted to writing more in-depth essay style pieces on racism and systemic oppression, using personal stories as a vehicle to make people think critically about race. The other purpose of my writing was (and continues to be) to connect with other Black people and other POC who live in overwhelmingly white spaces. Having spent almost the first 30 years of my life in Chicago, my own analysis on blackness shifted as I met Black and brown people who lived in Maine and other parts of Northern New England. It allowed me to process the richness of the Black experience outside of living in areas where people expect to find us.

As I settled into my role at CCI, I had no idea that anti-racism/racial justice work would go mainstream and move beyond academic and activist spaces. Thanks to technology and  the ability to capture extrajudicial violence against Black and brown bodies would shift the narratives and lead to long overdue conversations.

The election of our first Black president was a smokescreen that allowed many white Americans to deem racism a thing of the past. Yet it was under our first Black president that police violence towards Black people escalated. Barack Obama was tentative at best when it came to racial matters, having to walk the type of fine line that the system of white supremacy and capitalism demands of its chosen tokens. I say this with great fondness for Obama the man while recognizing that in many ways, Obama the president was the worse thing to happen to Black America.

The atmosphere and technology that allowed trauma porn against Black bodies to be viewed from the comforts of our homes also gave rise to a new type of activism. One that led directly to the creation of groups and movements such as Black Lives Matter.

There is no doubt that these newer, more inclusive and often young people led movements that were in large part what we needed to shift the narrative. They are still part of what we need and yet, as an older head, I worry about the personal impact on those in the trenches. I worry that in this race to save ourselves, the very human parts of working for change are being lost and that in our quest to create an equitable world, we are losing parts of ourselves and others.

The same technology that is moving the needle threatens to destroy our very humanity as we can now package and sell parts of ourselves and take the difficult and clumsy work of dismantling white supremacy and offer it in a package complete with a to-do list.

Anti-racism work is hard. It’s taxing for Black folks and other POC because this work is about us getting free and it’s hard for white people because few white folks want to willingly give up their privilege. While you can learn about the system of oppression and want to end it, most people will stumble; to be frank, people will fuck it up. It’s messy, it’s emotional and what keeps people in the work is their community.

We talk a great deal about accountability, which is absolutely essential to anti-racism work but we leave out the piece that accountability requires being in community with people. With accountability comes grace, the type of grace that we rarely will offer up to people with whom we don’t have an emotional attachment.

Without community and grace, people in movement spaces often become disposable at that inevitable point when they make mistakes or we realize that we are susceptible to the type of personalities looking to gain access to power and privilege.

In the past several years I have watched a number of people and programs come and go in anti-racism spaces. I have watched as people have become stars only to be deemed trash a few years later. And it’s true that some of those people whose stars dimmed were problematic and perhaps toxic but others were simply humans who stumbled for a moment in time.

There are always a few folks who are not operating in good faith; these people are everywhere. Bad actors are an unfortunate part of the human experience. From where I sit, I am not sure if we will ever weed these people out but what I do know is that the current anti-racism climate is ripe for hucksters and those who are looking for a payday and not liberation.

I worry that as social media allows us to talk openly about our work that we are creating anti-racism superstars and that type of celebrity, while it can help inform, can also hinder if one is not self-aware and does not have a community to which they are accountable.

As I think about my personal and organizational goals for 2019, I feel a sense of urgency to be grounded and connected to my own communities both in Maine where I live and in Boston where I work.

There are many schools of thoughts about racial justice and anti-racism work. For some, it is never about the heart and mind connection to shift things but instead the focus is strictly on dismantling the system of white supremacy. Yet I believe that both parts are critical to making the shifts we need. When I look at our current systems and racial disparities, I see the people working in those systems. I see a nation that shifted laws to create parity and yet very little has changed. My own personal view is that eradicating the disease of white supremacy will require a heart, mind and systemic approach. Which will also require a reallocation of material resources to create parity.

This isn’t going to be easy—especially in the era of white nationalism and Trump—which is why those in the trenches and those supporting those in the trenches need to be grounded in not just sound organizing principles but within a community which will hold them in grace and hold them accountable when necessary.


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.

Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

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!