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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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.