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

Truth-telling, healing from whiteness and bell hooks

I was born in the early 1970s, and despite having two loving parents—including a stay at home mother—I often felt a sense of discomfort in my body in my early years. My younger self didn’t understand that the unease I felt were the growing tentacles of white supremacy constricting around me. 

Growing up Black and female in the ‘70s and ‘80s was, at times, a solitary experience. 

It wasn’t always easy to see yourself in the larger world, and all the guiding principles were primarily the ones designed and upheld by white supremacy—though no one at that time named it as such. It has only been in recent years that we now can name the “respectability” politics that many of us were raised with as a byproduct of racism. The fervent desire for many of us to prove ourselves to be as good as white people or being directed to play to the white gaze, and the draconian rules we place on ourselves and fellow Black people to do that. The systematic denial of our inherent blackness to achieve. 

As a bookish child, few of the books that I adored had characters that looked like me. Judy Blume was an extraordinary writer who shaped my tween years and younger me fervently wanted to be Harriet the Spy, but what would it have been like to see characters that resembled me? 

Film and television wasn’t much better. It wasn’t until my high school years, when series like The Cosby Show appeared on the air, that I saw much positive. Until then, most of the media representations of Black girls and women were greatly limited, and even with The Cosby Show, I didn’t necessarily see myself. After all, my parents were Black hippies. I would be well into my late 20s, when I would finally realize that families like my own had always existed. 

Toggling between racially integrated schools that leaned more white and our tight Black private spaces caused me a lot of emotional whiplash. At school, it was the white girls with the long, silky, preferably blonde hair that could be feathered who were noticed. In our home life, it was the Black girls who could double-dutch and speak with a confident cadence (that I lacked) who held court.

I was neither of those things; in fact, family gatherings at times were painful, I was the white-sounding cousin and no one let me live it down. I didn’t fully understand the nuance of being able to code switch. It was a different time. Whereas my 16-year-old daughter toggles effortlessly between her Black friends on Facetime and the larger white world, back in 1980 or whatever, I had none of those skills. 

It was my teen years that brought the greatest sense of not belonging, I literally didn’t fit in anywhere, but my theater classes allowed me to create a disaffected persona where I could hide my truths. I danced on the line of wanna-be punk, wanna-be trendy, and wanna-be stoner. I wasn’t very good at any of them but the inability to fully fit in anywhere specifically no doubt allowed me to learn to decently fit in everywhere. The only constant at that time in my life was feeling the weight of white supremacy heavy on my shoulders and not knowing what it was. 

Not only was the weight of white supremacy heavy on my shoulders but figuring out my role in this larger world as a darker-skinned Black woman born at the crossroads of poor and working class. 

For a long time, I couldn’t make sense of any of it, and my mother for all her many strengths and gifts wasn’t one to engage in conversations that would create the space for me to ponder these questions. The women in my family didn’t discuss such things. Instead, I received the indirect nod of approval to seek whiteness; to seek closeness to whiteness. No doubt that nod to seeking whiteness was at play in my decisions to partner with white men. For some Black women of my mother and grandmother’s generations, no doubt they believed that a white man would be a savior. I would like to believe that if my mother and grandmother were still here, they would have learned that their thinking had been shaped by white supremacist culture which seeks to strip of us of our sense of self and instead seeks to have us serve at the twin altars of whiteness and white supremacy culture.

It was over 25 years ago that I started my own process of deprogramming whiteness out of myself and accepting and leaning into the full richness of my blackness—realizing that there is no one way to be Black. The blood of enslaved Africans runs through my veins. I spent half of my childhood on the South Side of Chicago, and just as I can shake my hips to Depeche Mode and The Cure, I get in my feelings and jam even harder when listening to Frankie Beverly and Maze or Minnie Ripperton. I am a granddaughter of the South and those who were part of the first wave of the Great Migration. I eat my catfish fried with hot sauce, along with sides of spaghetti and white bread. No matter how I wear my hair or who I share my personal life with, I am fully Black and no longer need proximity to whiteness to feel secure in my being. 

This reflection on my life was spurred by the passing of bell hooks. Having lost so many of my own family members early in my life, I am rarely moved by the passing of public figures or celebrities. But upon learning of bell hooks’ death, I found myself crying almost as hard as I did when my own Mama died. 

I stumbled into a Black bookstore many years ago, when my eldest was a toddler, and came upon bell hooks’ work. It was her work that lit the match in me that led me on my own journey of finding myself as a Black woman—to give words to my feelings; to learn to create communities of care and love in my innermost spaces. To make the commitment to using my own writing as truth-telling for my own healing and perhaps yours.

There are few writers whose work have left the mark on me in the way that bell hooks did—as she did for so many of us. And in this moment, the best way to move through the collective grief is to bring my truth to this space.

Thank you bell hooks for mentoring so many, including those of us who never crossed physical or professional paths with 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.

Image by Alex Lozupone (Tduk) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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.