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


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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.

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When white male supremacy ruins toughness itself

Toughness. It’s about standing back up more times than you’ve been knocked down. It’s about facing down the odds stacked against you. It’s about withstanding pain and suffering for a greater good. It’s a theme at the core of these United States. In our myths toughness is John Wayne and Rocky and Ford trucks. We love it in our myths, but in reality, toughness is Fred Hampton, Fanny Lou Hamer and the Poor People’s Campaign. America hates toughness in reality.

We used to all agree on the basic idea that toughness itself was a particular mix of strength and resilience. Even if you hated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.at the time, his continuous risings up from brutal public beatings displayed a toughness that you couldn’t deny. Say whatever you want, do whatever you want; he would never be made to cower. If you hated him, you hated him for the obvious reasons, but you were outraged by his toughness.

Having a common understanding of toughness is important because it means we also have a common understanding of pain and suffering. This is especially important now as white liberals are beginning to understand how consistently conservatives refuse to go along with reality. Like, at least twice a day I see a post about how aggravating it is that “they don’t even believe in science!” As if that kind of thinking is new.

But a common understanding of pain and suffering has always been there. The same pain and suffering was intended with the words said against both MLK and Colin Kaepernick for their protests, though they were decades apart. Chants of “white power!” soon followed chants of “Black power!” just the same as chants of “all lives matter!” soon followed chants of “Black lives matter!” all for the sake of continuing the pain and suffering. But like I said, we used to all agree.

It’s perfectly reasonable to put a quick-draw, steel-jaw, damsel-saving cowboy with a slow-win, steel-chin, redemption-seeking boxer under the umbrella of toughness. But what if I told you that under that umbrella I was also going to put a silver-spooned, lying whiner? All things being equal, you’d probably tell me that I didn’t quite understand the purpose of umbrellas.

But all things aren’t equal. From the first moment he toyed with running for president in 2011 until right now, republicans’ favorite thing about the Commandorange in Chief has always been his toughness. Or should I say, “toughness” as in “hair?”

Now, look. Before I get too far here, no, this isn’t about what a liar the president is. If you haven’t figured out who he is by now, then you need to find Jesus. Also, this isn’t about what hypocrites the republicans are. If evangelical support of the president hasn’t shown you that by now, you ought to take them with you on your search.

And no, it’s not about how divided our nation has become—not how we currently frame that idea, anyway. When it comes down to it, there’s really only one truly divided group: white men. Black people aren’t divided over whether or not#BlackLivesMatter. Women aren’t divided over #MeToo. People without equal rights aren’t divided over whether or not they want equal rights. It’s only the people they want to be equal to who aren’t quite so sure. And right now, those people don’t even agree on the definition of toughness. This means they also don’t agree on the meanings of pain or suffering, either.

They probably never did, but like the rest of these divisions, it’s only become clear recently. Some white men define toughness the same across all social lines, but some define it as cruelty toward others. We’ve been seeing this for a while here in Maine under our soon-to-be ex-governor Paul LePage.

LePage’s exploitations are widely known. His actions have also hurt women and children while simultaneously helping along the opioid epidemic, and that’s just with one set of vetoes on a Wednesday in April. The arguments LePage gives to support his decisions probably sound very tough to his supporters, but man oh man are they just objectively the straight up whinings of a shitty kid. If you’ve ever heard his voice, then you know the tone I’m talking about. If you haven’t, please don’t.

But some do believe him to be tough. They feel the same about the “president” and in that belief, these fools have thrown away the very last bit of their national identities. Because inside toughness is stoicism and sacrifice and nobility and modesty—but now, no more. How can you respect the sacrifice and nobility, the toughness of a Purple Heart recipient if whining and bone spurs are also included in the definition?

The truth is that even toughness, the very core of American Exceptionalism itself, was just another and perhaps the last remaining veil of white supremacy in the American Myth. John Wayne, Rocky and Ford did their best, but it’s all out in the open now and everyone can see their (white) national(ist) identities for what they are.


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.

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