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!

Dissent, haters and angry white people

How many times are you gonna use “silo of privilege?” It’s about as worn out, as your using the color of your skin as an excuse for all the world’s wrongs. Maybe it’s just that you’re arrogant, and that’s why whites don’t care for you. And if you hate Maine so much, just leave and move to” black is beautiful” Boston. (BTW: If you dislike Caucasians so much, then why did you marry one? It’s hugely hypocritical.)-Jamie a blog commenter

“What about us white men who were harassed by cops or treated unfairly by cops when we were younger, do we go around saying it was because of this or it was because of that? No, income class has more bearing on how a person is treated in our country than race. I’m sick of all these people saying that I must’ve had it easy because I’m white. I’m sure Will Smith’s kids are going to have a easier life than I did, confrontations with cops included. Stop the BS”– Kevin a poster on the BGIM Facebook page

“Shay never responds to questions, or even thanks people for commenting. I guess that it’s beneath her. She can complain all she wants, but at the end of the day it’s all about “race card.”– Chris a blog commenter

“U sound like a racist…your peeps! Come on black girl dont be such a fool. But i guess its a good thing u have come here to work and not sell drugs like 80% of black folk that come here.’– Shawna a blog commenter

I am not a writer by trade, I am a non profit administrator, researcher, and consultant with a background in both non-profit management and African-American studies who spent a number of years in the trenches of social services.  One could say that my background is rather eclectic. Writing was a long lost childhood dream that I reconnected with back in 2002 when I convinced a local newspaper to let me write a column. On the strength of my early pieces for the Portland Press Herald, I convinced a local indie paper to give me a column focusing on diversity. My Diverse City column with the Portland Phoenix celebrated 10 years last year. It was a little over six years ago when I decided to throw my hat into the blog arena.

One thing I learned early on when I started writing for an audience larger than myself is that people aren’t always going to agree with you. There will be readers who really think that your ideas, your writing and you suck. The first few times you receive less than stellar feedback, it hurts like hell but you learn to brush it off. Yet there are times when it is hard to brush off criticism and times when maybe you shouldn’t brush it off and this is one of those times.

Over the years, I have had my share of haters and dissent. Civil dissent I can respect, I have no illusions that my words will resonate with all. That would be absurd, this is not circle time in kindergarten where we must all get along. I can even say that at times, I have honesty dropped the ball in this space. One of my biggest challenges with this space is that as someone who has simultaneously ran organizations as my day work that require me to go above and beyond lest my staff nor I will be compensated, while juggling my family and household I am not always great at replying to commenters. I admit that and if ever someone was offended I do offer apologies.  Though as many readers have learned direct email is often the best way to get a timely response from me.  I am a flawed human being as we all are, and I try the best that I can. If that offends, I am sorry.

However in recent weeks and months, the level of virulent emails and comments (that I often don’t approve) that I have received has reached a level that frankly scares me. I shared a few of the tame ones at the beginning of this post because I am tired. My day job is heading up an organization that organizes for racial equity, I am well aware that racism exists but to have so many actively telling me that I am wrong or attempting to silence me is also wrong.

To put ones words and thoughts out for public consumption is to invite dissent or “trolls” but personal attacks or a general lack of civility is one thing I can’t tolerate. I write about race and it is not just my personal views, the research supports my words. As a researcher I know that my opinion needs to be backed up and I can do that. To answer my critics I don’t hate white people, my life partner of almost 20 years is white but I refuse to stuff myself down to appease anyone who is uncomfortable with reality as it is.

Today I came very close to shutting this blog down and committing digital suicide because in a moment of humanity, it hurt like hell to know that as someone committed to equity and justice, this space is a source of pain for me and my family. Yet to do that is to allow ignorance to win and well…my plucky side just can’t do that.

We don’t have to agree but if you are troubled by the words that I share here, I would ask why? Why is it uncomfortable to hear a Black person saying that we are not post racial and that racism is real? Why must be my words be met with statements that I should leave the state of Maine or to cut the BS? Why am I not entitled to stand in my truth as much as you stand in your truth (at least when it is truth; some of you make assumptions about reality that aren’t backed up by facts/research)? Why do you think you have the right to silence me?

If we cannot even agree to disagree in a respectful manner, maybe we should ask ourselves why? Acknowledging reality is not painful but avoiding it sure as hell is and in the end we all lose and we truly won’t ever move ahead.

Effective immediately comments are no longer allowed on posts older than 7 days. Also, be aware that if you cannot conduct civil discussions with other commenters or myself on this blog, you will likely be barred from commenting.

 

PS: There is no race card, I tried to get this mythical card but like the Amex Black card, no one knows anyone who has this card. In reality the term race card is how we stifle uncomfortable discussions about race. 

When truth hurts or the painful blending of the public and private self

As a novice yogi looking to move beyond the poses (asana) and looking for the deeper connection and integration of body, mind and spirit, I have been reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and studying the 8 limbs of yoga. One of those limbs is yama (moral restraint) and breaks down into  ahimsā (non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), bramacharya (directing one’s energy towards the Divine), aparigraha (greedlessness, non-hoarding). Now that you have your yoga lesson, I must confess that I am struggling with truthfulness (satya).

Speaking my truth has been something I have been intentional about doing both in this space and in all areas of my life; but it seems merely speaking my truth is no longer good enough. Back in 2008, when I started this blog as I have said before, it was my corner to speak my truth and having few readers made it pretty easy. After all, I didn’t have to worry about upsetting anyone.

However the only constant in life is change and even in blog land, things change. As more and more people are online it means I have picked up more readers than I used to have. I once thought that was a good thing but honestly, I am not too sure anymore. Long story short, there are many people in my offline life who are now reading this space and to be honest, it isn’t comfortable.

Living in a small state, means the degrees of separation between people isn’t six at all; it’s more like two or maybe three degrees of separation. My professional life here in Maine is pretty public due to the nature of what I do and as a result, keeping my private life private is harder than it is for most and I fear this blog isn’t helping things. Closer to home, it’s clear that there are people who the Man Unit and I thought were good acquaintances, maybe even friends who after reading this space or following me via social media channels have clearly had second thoughts about us.

I won’t lie, it hurts to know that being myself and speaking my truth is starting to backfire on us personally. I have thought about calling it a wrap on the blog but this space has given me a way to make professional connections for my other passions such as writing. I was asked to be a contributor in an anthology on mothering that is being released in winter 2014. It’s not my own book, but as someone who has dreamed of being in print, it is a damn good start. After putting my heart into this space for 5 years, the idea of shutting it down because of other people hurts more than I care to admit. As a truth seeker though, I know that intentionally creating discomfort for others is also a problem. In short, I don’t know what to do. Professionally the people who employ me are fine with this space; several of my board members follow the BGIM fan page on Facebook and read here. Yet when donors bring up my disclosures and question why I am basically opening myself up online, I admit it gets sticky. Granted I have always tried to balance what I share publicly with making sure I keep private things private.

Yet in a world that is increasingly open and connected, I wonder if my worries are for naught? I don’t know but I do know that it feels like a problem that needs to be solved and as someone who values’ being able to solve problems, not having the answers is hard to stomach.