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.

With the public face comes some unwanted attention

The past five months have been a whirlwind! When I decided to run for public office, I had no idea how much work even a relatively small local campaign would be, nor did I fully grasp how much my life would change. For those who aren’t local or who don’t follow Black Girl in Maine on social media, I won. Not only did I win, but I won with 64.9% of the vote. 

I wish I could say that I have been relaxing since the election but I can’t. I quickly learned the hard way that after winning, everything I say, tweet, or retweet would become newsworthy to the local media. A less-than-mindful late-night retweet on election night that was meant to signal a celebration of the win, for one thing, placed me in the middle of an unexpected storm related to someone else’s views and comments. I will just say that it is a lesson learned and that I am looking forward to being sworn in on June 28 and getting down to the actual work that I was elected to do. 

Given the recent kerfuffle with the local media, though, I find myself wondering about this life of visibility that I have created for myself (and not for the first time, mind you). It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be, and while it has given so much to me, it also takes away a great deal. 

As I have written in the past, when I started this blog back in 2008, I had no idea how far it would go. After all, was there a market for reading the musings of a Black woman living in the whitest state in America? Apparently there was, and over the years, I have cultivated some amazing friendships and connections from this little space and its related social media. But in more recent years, what used to be genuine reciprocal connections have turned into something that increasingly makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. Unsettled. 

No longer are the connections a two-way street. No longer do people see me as a regular person just writing my thoughts and learnings as offerings to the larger world. Instead, there is this strange dehumanization of me as an actual person to make me some kind of object or tool or icon. Which is at odds with anything that I have ever written. 

In recent years, with social media becoming a cultural norm and people having greater access to celebrities and other media types or influencers, we have seen a marked increase in parasocial relationships. Intimacy at a distance is not new; it was first researched in the late 1950s and in layman’s terms, it’s when we consume media and it makes us feel as if we have an intimate bond with the media’s creators. In a TikTok and Instagram kind of world, the rise of parasocial relationships makes sense, but to be on the receiving end of some fans’ outsized affections (or sometimes stalkers’ attentions)  is jarring, disturbing, and mildly terrifying. 

After all, at what point does the person imagining a relationship attempt to create that connection outside of their mind? 

Sadly, I find myself dealing with such a situation right now, with a Maine-based reader who has been insistent that my work has changed their life. Upon hearing this several years ago, back when I didn’t worry as much about my personal safety, I offered words of support and encouragement which I now regret. Apparently, my words of support and encouragement were seen as a gateway to a deeper connection and a “relationship” which—given that I have never broken bread with this person or invited them into my intimate spaces as a guest—is a figment of their imagination. However, their imagined close connection with me has become a source of great irritation to me in recent months. 

As a writer and speaker, it is a blessing to know that my work has touched so many people across the world. In 2019 and early 2020, several universities asked for the rights to use my work in their studies. Readers across the United States and even some on other parts of this dusty globe help financially support this work—and I am still ticked about the day when I was a featured speaker at an event on the West Coast and a gentleman came up to tell me how much he appreciated my work (only for me to learn he was someone whose work I had long enjoyed). It was a weird fan moment on both sides.

For many in Maine, my writing was the starting place to bring an anti-racism lens into their work and lives. I was one of the first to help normalize discussions of race in this state, and nothing has touched my heart more than to know that at least one of my fellow commissioners on the Charter Commission to which I was recently elected came of age reading my work—and that work helping them to develop their own anti-racism praxis. 

The downside of all of this has been that I have endured a lot of pushback and still receive pushback. There are those who would brand me a racist because I have written and spoken openly about white supremacy over the years. As I have shared previously, I have received hate mail, death threats, and (as recently as last year) I had my own personal stalker. Last year, the trainers at my organization were pushed off a long-term assignment after a community member used my tweets as “proof” that we were carrying out a nefarious plot to “indoctrinate” white youth. Even now, I have had to face the chilling reality that I am not sure the last person I dated was actually into me as a person, but was perhaps just into seeing what life was like with BGIM, the persona. 

There is a certain irony that my work is about lifting up Black humanity and creating liberation vis-a-vis an anti-racist lens, but increasingly I find myself not being seen or valued as an actual person with feelings, burdens, and concerns. And when someone demands “accountability” from me for a situation I have nothing to do with and does so when we have no pre-existing reciprocal relationship, that doesn’t make me want to develop a connection. It actually enrages me.

Lately, I find myself listening to Eminem’s old song Stan. And you know, it’s okay to appreciate the work of others and be a fan. But when you cross the line and assume a relationship that isn’t there—and you start making impositions and demands—it’s not a healthy place to be in. Nor is it okay to dehumanize others when the journey is about mutual liberation. And our mutual liberation is about working in our respective authentic social and relationship circles to create larger societal change. 

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.

The day before an election—musings on life and the campaign process

In less than 24 hours as I write this, the polls will open up in Portland, Maine, and to say that I am nervous would be an understatement. I entered 2021 with two ideas kicking around in my head. One was to seriously consider running for a seat on our local Charter Commission. The other was to truly open myself up to the possibility of finding love again. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where either of these ideas would go.  After all, I had never run for public office and had some deep reservations about opening myself up to more public scrutiny. Years of running this site have turned me into a local public figure of sorts and as a writer, that’s not always comfortable for me. 

As for finding love again, I wasn’t sure where that would take me, since one can’t just order up a partner and love, and living in Maine as a middle-aged Black woman meant that the options would probably be slim to none. But life often has other plans for us. Not even two weeks into the new year with a paid subscription to a dating site, I did meet someone. It’s been a turbulent ride and this man has helped me to grow in ways that were unimaginable—and it also has become clear that despite the mutual fondness and affection that exists between us, we are not destined to be together.

As a Black woman, living in a largely white space, it was heady and intoxicating to briefly partner with a man of color, but sometimes people are only meant to be with us for a season. The gift of wisdom as we grow older is being able to know that compatibility is about more than adoration or love. For now, ideas of love are on hold though I remain open to whatever the universe has in store for me.

Which brings me back to this election. 

I decided to run for the Charter Commission because as our city’s constitution, I think it deeply matters who is at the table during the review and revision process for the charter. It is also a one-year process and given that the last Charter Commission was convened in 2008, it felt like a great way to look at structural changes without the usual tensions of things like re-election, etc. 

In my mind and based on the advice I received, I also assumed it would be a relatively low-key election and campaign process. 

Let’s just say it’s been a wild ride. A record number of candidates threw their hats in the ring, there have been political tensions, it’s also an election that has captivated the local media (such as here and here), and given my own relationship to the local media at times, it’s been stressful. Stressful enough that in these last weeks before the election, my body has been sending clear signals that I am stressed beyond belief. My resting heart rate in the past month has been higher than it was a year ago, when I was sitting in Chicago waiting for my Dad to pass away in the early days of the pandemic and against the backdrop of the national uprising in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. 

Personally, this run has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and also one of the most rewarding. I have met so many amazing people, and the spirit of generosity that exists between the majority of candidates has restored a great deal of my faith in our collective humanity.  

I became a member of the Rose Slate, a group of women candidates in this race who are all first-time candidates. We are intergenerational and multicultural and we believe in our collective humanity in this process. We are progressives and we think that politics don’t have to be harmful. There are other candidates as well who are running inspiring campaigns. 

In choosing to run, I have had to accept that failure is also a possibility and I won’t lie, that is a harder one for me. Public failure is most certainly not attractive and yet I can say that regardless of the results of this election, it will be okay. 

In a weird way, the last six months between navigating this campaign and a fledgling relationship have forced me to go deeper in living my values. Namely, seeing myself and leaning into my own shortcomings and being okay with them. I can’t speak for anyone else but running for office has made it clear what my strengths and shortcomings are and—in the case of my campaign—accepting help from others. Help is hard to accept and for this Black woman, I am not always good at it. But in a campaign, you can’t do everything yourself. No matter what you think. You need others. 

Even today as I write this, I had to make an extraordinarily hard decision to cancel a speaking engagement. I have never done this and it was hard, but I spent this last weekend before election day canvassing in brutally hot weather and I am physically spent. I am also dealing with last-minute campaign activity and a host of other tasks. To say that I could show up on Zoom for a talk tonight and bring my A-game was to lie to myself and my panic attack in the shower today made it clear. 

Win or lose, this campaign has actually been a blessing on many personal levels. I have grown as a person and while I hope to make a difference in our city, the change that has started with me during the past six months will no doubt play a part in whatever work that I do moving forward.

For those who are local, if you live in my district and haven’t voted yet, I hope that you do go out and vote—and obviously I hope it is for me. If you are a local and you don’t live in my district, you need to vote as well if you haven’t already done so. 

If you aren’t local and have just been following my journey, I would encourage you to think deeply about how you can create change in your own communities. Electoral politics isn’t everyone’s jam, but I do believe we must all be a part of creating the change we wish to see in this world. We can’t depend on others to create an equitable and just world, and as powerful as my writing and speaking has been for many, or even my position as the executive director of Community Change Inc, for me that work is no longer enough. 2020 reordered our world and requires all of our collective efforts. Be the change you wish to see in the world. 

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.