The end of BGIM? …I hope not

And just like that, we are in crisis mode here at BGIM Media.

This is not a post that I thought I would find myself writing, but it seems the same reality that is killing off independent media and content creators elsewhere has abruptly and unexpectedly landed on my doorstep. It was very sudden, and regardless of the reasons, I have to be blunt: this is a crisis. 

As I wrote to the BGIM team earlier today, the editorial calendar for May will go on as scheduled, but for June—barring an infusion of support from readers—some nasty changes are ahead. Because, at present, while I can cover our expenses for May. June, though, is not looking too good. 

It’s a moment that feels surreal, because between April 30 and May 1, we lost in excess of 50 patrons. This abrupt and unexpected drop means we are down over $1,000 a month, which for a small operation like this represents a lot of cash. Cash that I can’t easily replace, as I have not been doing as much contract consulting work, due to my political work (unpaid, mind you) on the Portland Charter Commission

I just spoke with a friend who also runs an indie publication, where she works with some of the best-known writers in the industry. She said she is seeing the same thing. Like me, she’s keeping her operation afloat with personal resources and sheer determination. 

It is not an understatement to say that I view this site as my third child. BGIM was created in 2008, when my daughter was three and I was trying to figure out my career path, as I was having a 30-something-year-old crisis. I worked with a life coach who suggested that I start a blog as a way to indulge my writing desire beyond what I was doing at the time for the Portland Phoenix

I have said it before in the early years: readership was low and it was a labor of love done solely for the joy of it. This site was started as a way to park all my feelings about being Black in Maine and raising my kids here.

But it was 10 years ago, in 2012, that the site started to experience an uptick in readership which has continued for a decade straight. My posts have been read in classrooms across the country and have been cited in multiple books (also here and here). It was only when my marriage crashed in 2015 that I realized that I would either have to let this site go, and take on a second job to survive, or I could take a gamble. I could work to create a revenue stream given the popularity of the site. I chose the latter, but because of the subject content, advertising or traditional methods for monetizing social platforms have never been viable options. 

Instead, I decided to use the patron model, but making the unusual choice to not put the work behind a paywall. I also made the decision to expand the platform and bring on other writers, all of whom have always been paid. If we are serious about change, then both aspects are important—accessibility matters, as does compensating people for their work.

The intersection of racism is capitalism is challenging. I chose to offer my work as well as the work of the other writers to the world freely—this is one way to help create change, as it is an acknowledgment that not everyone has the means to pay. That decision has left me open to the occasional trolls and hackers, but despite the personal annoyance, it has been worth it. I don’t regret it, even when the stats showed that the majority of our readers do not financially support the work at all. 

I have always felt that despite never hitting our financial goals, as long as we bring in enough to ensure that all financial obligations are met, that’s fine. The last year has been rough because we haven’t seen much growth—a typical month involves five or six cancellations but adding three or four new patrons and one current patron increasing their giving. Given the economic realities, and knowing that inflation is hitting everyone’s button line, I could make it work, even though it has meant picking up more work on my end. 

To give you a peek into our operations, there are three writers in addition to myself. We have a back-end editor, who handles all editing and assistance with pieces and social media curation. We have contract tech support which includes site security, as well as professional services since we are an LLC. There’s also the cost of paying for our infrastructure and subscriptions to publications so we stay looped into the larger world. Oh yeah, there is also our tax liabilities; the IRS gets its money, too. 

Despite my full-time job, parenting and homeschooling a teenager, consulting work. and serving on the Charter Commission (which takes up a lot of time and pays nothing), I still do at least half of the social media curation that you see on our Facebook page and all the invisible-to-you tasks like managing the operations. Last year, I brought on someone part-time to assist, but it was clear that it was an expense we couldn’t afford. So when the person left, I didn’t look to fill that position again. Keeping our operations super-lean has allowed us to keep on doing the work. 

This super-lean model, while tiring, has been sustainable until today, when our payment arrived from Patreon and I saw the sudden drop-off.

Patron cancellations are straightforward, and many patrons do take the exit survey when canceling their support—those who do have almost all have indicated a change in their financial situations. I understand it; times are hard.

But declined cards are harder to grasp. It means that a patron’s card was declined and while they were given the opportunity to update their information, they chose not to. I can predict cancellations to some degree, but a massive uptick in declines can’t be predicted. Consider the fact that the previous month only saw $10 in declines, which is typically our norm. 

While I know that the media world is being hit hard, this decrease in giving is across the board. In my day job, we saw a decline in giving in our last fiscal year. I have spoken with colleagues in other organizations, and they are seeing the same thing. Colleagues who offer anti-racism training work have seen their bookings decrease. Colleagues who have written anti-racism books have seen a steep decrease in book sales.

Sure, in hard times, we cut the fat from our budget—but what does it mean about our commitment to social and racial change, if those are the cuts we make early on? Clearly, we have not fixed racism yet, and the pathway to change requires resources. And let’s face it: the Elon Musks of the world are definitely not interested in funding those endeavors. 

Friends, the bottom line is that I need your support and I need it now.

I need to make up a thousand dollars a month, and as much as I wish I could take it from my personal resources, I can’t do it long-term. I am doing it this month, but I can’t do it next month. We could certainly do it with one very generous benefactor—and I swear if you exist, I will schedule a personal call with you every month—but something tells me that is not going to happen.

So, short of one supremely generous soul, that means I need people who have never given to give now. The stats on the blog say that there are lots of you out there who consume this work for free, and I am asking for your help now even if that help is modest.

One-time gifts via PayPal or Venmo are certainly appreciated, but the only way I can plan ahead is with monthly patrons. If you grab a few drinks a week or more—be they lattes or wines or a smoothie or something else—could you consider BGIM Media as the equivalent of one or two extra drinks each month? I don’t want anyone putting themselves in a bind. But I am asking that many more of you to make a small monthly commitment to ensure that BGIM doesn’t meet the fate of so many other platforms. 

And if you truly can’t afford to give, can you share this site and our Patreon information within your social circles? I am working on some perks I can actually deliver regularly, since I have heard feedback over the years that people want the perks. One perk will be a weekly round-up that will include my personal reading of the week, as well as a curated list of articles. 

Lastly, if you work at an organization or are involved with community groups doing anti-racism work, consider booking me. The new site should launch in the next week, and it will have a section that clearly speaks to all of my speaking engagements and offerings. But in the meantime, here is a snippet of some of my work

I have always known that a time would come when I may need to sign off as far as BGIM Media. But I don’t think this is that time. There’s too much work left to do; too many pieces that still need to be written. Our fate lies in your hands: Will we live or will we die?

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.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Image by Neil Thomas via Unsplash

I get by with a little help from my friends…BGIM needs you

We continue to find ourselves living in extraordinary times as we juggle the ongoing dual realities of both COVID-19 and economic disruptions, and I was hoping to avoid writing this post. 

Typically toward the end of the year, I put out a reminder or two that this site—and our related social media work—all run on direct financial reader support. We do not accept advertising and despite mulling it over from time to time, I have elected to not put our work behind a paywall. Which increasingly seems to leave me in the minority as many bloggers/writers and publications do put their work behind paywalls (partially or totally). 

Instead, we offer our work freely and trust that if people appreciate the work, they will make a contribution. Here at Black Girl in Maine Media, our writers are paid, and given the current climate for writers, our rates are competitive (in some cases, significantly higher than larger and more established publications).

In addition to the cost of paying our writers, we pay to maintain our platform as well as the security costs of keeping the site safe from hackers. In addition, we carry a vast array of subscriptions to publications which help inform our writing and our daily social media postings. In addition to the direct costs, we have indirect costs such as taxes, an accountant, etc.

In short, while this is a sole proprietorship, it is also still a business.

This year has seen a steep increase in the number of monthly supporters who had to cancel their support due to changes in their own financial circumstances; at the same time, though, readership has continued to increase.  While I am grateful for all who read the work of both myself and the other writers,  I have had to make adjustments to keep things running. That includes things like not bringing on additional writers and cutting back on back-end help, which given my day job and political work has meant stretching myself. 

I am writing this because if you have the means and feel that our work has been beneficial to you, we need your support. Ideally you can become a monthly patron, but if that is not possible, consider a one-time gift. If you are already a supporter and can increase your support, even if only by a few bucks, it would truly be helpful. 

In some ways, putting our work behind a paywall would simplify many things, but given the times we are living in, I believe access to anti-racism readings is imperative. Capitalism creates scarcity mindsets that are limiting to all, and anti-racism work has to be anti-capitalist. Hence, as long as readers can cover the bulk of our expenses, our work will be freely available to all. 

These are extraordinary times as more people realize just how deeply embedded white supremacy is in our society, and since 2008, I have written boldly and plainly about racism. While the name of the site is Black Girl in Maine Media, the fact is our readership spans across the United States and even into other parts of the world. Right now, we need our readers who have the means to step up to ensure that we can continue our offerings in 2022. Thank you.

In love and solidarity,

Shay, aka BGIM

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 moving forward: Change is coming

After 13 years of writing this blog, I find myself at a crossroads, where honestly I wonder does this space continue to have value? More importantly, what is the impact of my words? Are white readers feeling led to do more in their local communities and does my work bring a sense of community to BIPOC folks in predominantly white spaces?

DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) work wasn’t much of a thing when I started this space in 2008, but in recent years, a cottage industry of anti-racist and DEI writers and speakers have sprung up—though at the end of the day, substantive change still eludes us. I think one of the biggest barriers to actual change is that we still live racially siloed lives where there is little to no trust across racial lines.

As contributor Veronica Perez recently wrote in a BGIM post: “You can’t trust white people. As soon as their power and privilege is at stake, they deny anything, tell you you’re the gaslighter, and protect other white people. And a lot of these folx have Black Lives Matter signs in the front of their house, but they’re more dangerous than overt racists. They are the whites who will express support for BLM in the moment but as soon as their power and privilege are messed with—they scurry back to white supremacy and their safe, white neighborhoods.”

Given the number of folks who unsubscribed from the blog after this post went live, I suspect these words cut deep for a number of white readers. And yet, as a Black woman living through the last several years in this country, these words were a painful truth. In the last year, I have lost a number of “friendships” with white folks who last spring were loudly proclaiming that Black lives matter. I am sure they did believe that on some level, as long as we weren’t talking about the real-life emotions of real Black and brown people. As I discovered, I was “too much” for some of these people, even though I don’t really talk race stuff all that much in my day-to-day with friends. You see, it’s easier to care about Black folks as hypothetical beings than real people with real anger and sorrow in your vicinity.

In my work as the executive director of Community Change Inc., community has been at the core of our work for 53 years now. Anti-racism work requires accountability and accountability requires being in relationship with others. Ideally, we are in community with others, and communities of color have long understood the power and healing that is involved in pulling together as fellow humans and truly sticking together. But the rugged individualism of American life has meant that being in a community and grappling with matters of race don’t come as easy for white folks. While groups like SURJ were partially created to address that void, there is still enough mistrust of white people that the idea that white folks by themselves will do a deep dive on race is still considered suspect by many. Regardless of race.

As I ponder the future of this space, it dawned on me that while many have read posts here and felt moved, what has been missing is a true sense of community. It’s also what is missing from most of the popular anti-racism books and writings of the moment.

Given my work, and the larger moment, it seems imperative that we create spaces for going deeper in our work—spaces that strengthen our commitment to anti-racism work and can hold us accountable. Due to the ongoing COVID crisis, I will continue to work from home, which means that the speaking engagements that were once a part of my life are playing a lesser role in my schedule.

After much thought, I am launching two new BGIM initiatives.

One is a monthly reading group in which we will go beyond reading a book and discussing our feelings and into how the material can actually be implemented and incorporated into our personal lives to create an anti-racism work plan. The BGIM Book Club will meet the last Sunday of each month, starting Sept. 26 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. Eastern time. BGIM Book Club is open to all patrons of BGIM Media; if you are interested in joining me, please email me at for details, including our first book.

I am also launching the BGIM Beloved Community Group. This group will meet the first Sunday of each month starting Oct. 3, from 4:00-5:30 p.m. Eastern time. The purpose of the Beloved Community Group is to discuss real-time issues we have in staying in the work and deepening our connections to one another. It’s meant to be social but also practical—it’s where we can discuss our racial missteps without judgment, but also with accountability and support. This group will be a pilot project. It is similar to groups that I have led as part of my work, and it is open to all races. However, depending on the racial makeup of attendees, we may break into racial caucus groups. There is a cost to participate: Five sessions for $125, and the group will be limited to a maximum of 15 participants. If cost is a barrier, please let me know, if you are interested, please email me.

For readers who truly want to go deeper, these offerings are designed to do that, and to help move you from talk and reading to action. The blog will still continue with weekly posts, though I may cut down on how many pieces we publish monthly. We mostly average six to eight pieces a month, and I am considering moving to five to six pieces on the public blog. In other words, a minimum of one new piece a week.

Lastly, just a gentle reminder, we pay our writers, and we pay for the infrastructure that allows us to operate both on this site and on social media where we share a minimum of three articles or other notable items every day. Unlike many, our work does not exist behind a firewall; instead, I trust that if the work speaks to you and you have the means, you will make a financial offering in support of the work. In recent months, as many deal with economic fluctuations and hardships, we have lost a number of patrons. While we are still holding on, honestly, today would be a great day to make a one-time gift or become a monthly patron and help us hang in there a bit more solidly.

I do hope that you will consider joining me for one of these new initiatives. I am excited to deepen my own practice alongside you.

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.