Are we really supporting Black women or is it lip service?

It has been a little over a month since I announced that after 14 years, Black Girl in Maine Media would be taking a new direction, and I can definitely say that since writing  that post, I have been in a mental slump. A slump so deep that I have been deeply appreciative of the fact that for November, I had all of the BGIM team scheduled to write their last pieces. Truthfully, it has been hard for me to concentrate on writing. 

While I have considered this space my third baby for many years, I have lived long enough to know that all things eventually come to an end—or at least an end to what I thought was their final form. After all, I have ended two marriages and buried both my parents and all grandparents before reaching the tender middle age of 50. It’s been about 20 years since I packed up my entire life in Chicago to move to a state that I really didn’t want to live in—but joint custody necessitated the move. I literally had to start over in a state where the only people I knew were my ex-husband, my son and my then-current husband. Fast forward two decades later and some say that I am a local celebrity of sorts or at the very least, I have managed to get my name in a lot of people’s mouths. Good or bad. 

I am no stranger to new beginnings—the last two years since my Dad’s untimely death in June 2020 have been a new beginning. The restarts keep coming.

But whooo, this new beginning of spending the rest of my life no longer being anyone’s daughter is a big one. Induction into the dreaded club of the adult orphan, and let me tell you, after the last few months, I would give anything to talk to my Dad right now. We didn’t always see eye to eye and he could drive me bonkers, but at the end of the day, I was Daddy’s girl and my Dad was the last person who will ever love me unconditionally. It is pretty jarring to wake up every day knowing that for the rest of my life, no one will love me like my parents. Everyone else’s love comes with conditions and, well, it’s an extra pile-on as a Black woman when you realize that for all the rhetoric of supporting Black women, it’s mostly bullshit. 

The truth is, it’s not that I have to change course that has me in a slump, it is the why

Despite the fact that over the last six years this platform gave voice to a number of Black and brown writers in New England—which Samuel James summed up in his last official piece as our staff writer—and attracted a readership far beyond Maine, I simply could never attract enough readers willing to financially support this space. 

My most well-read and widest-traveled piece was written in 2018 and has been studied in colleges, organizations, and conferences. It has even been referenced in books. As have several other of my posts. Yet at the end of the day, as good as my writing and analysis is, as well as that of my writers, we simply could not get enough people to decide to consistently support this space with a gift of $5 a month (a little under 20 cents a day). 

Twenty cents a day! It hurts. Yet many will say that they are committed anti-racists and care about Black people. Are you sure about that? 

Since the dawning of the era of Black Lives Matter, much attention has been paid to the need for Black leadership in movements and programs and organizations. Yet in the nonprofit sector, the place where I actually earn my daily bread, let me tell you: Being a Black leader is not the glamorous stuff of social media. It is back-breaking and grueling. It is having donors and funders treat you like an incompetent. It is knowing that most of the time, you were the hire of last resort for the organization. In other words, we are often expected to be the magical Negroes to save the place before it goes up in smoke. 

I belong to a few regional and national networks for Black directors and let’s just say many of us are having or have had the same experience of being expected to make miracles happen—and, in many cases, we do make it happen. Often at great personal costs. Costs that often include sacrificing our very health in service and trying to be agents of change. And typically we don’t get the amount of respect and acknowledgment that white people got before us while often putting in less to the cause.

In other words, in the real world—beyond the likes, shares, and stories of folks like the founders of Black Lives Matter and other celebrity activists—us grunts on the ground are struggling. For every Black woman involved in social justice work who you see being lifted up or getting the book deals, many more of us will work in anonymity. It’s hard and often ungrateful work. 

Look, I know I am venting but I am also being honest. It was reading Samuel’s last piece that may have almost pushed me over the edge. 

“This is my final column as staff writer for BGIM,” he wrote. “I may pop in from time to time if it works for the new direction of the site, but this is the end of a journey for me. As a writer, having the opportunity to hone my craft on a near-weekly basis has been crucial. As a Black writer, being sheltered by the structure designed and implemented by another Black writer has been invaluable. And as a Black person in Maine this space has been indispensable. I’m honored, grateful and proud to have been a part of it and can’t wait to see what happens here next.”

Even just trying to write this piece, I am tearing up, because Sam understood what I tried to do with this space. As someone who started writing on race for publications in the early aughts, I knew the struggle too well of how hard it was to bring your authentic Black voice to a white space.

Can I tell you how many times I had to explain why I capitalize the B in Black or how many times the subject matter of my pieces was deemed “too much” for publication? I created this blog to give myself a place to be authentically Black and once it was clear that this platform had something to truly offer beyond my own ramblings, I wanted to share that with other marginalized writers—and also white writers who were on an anti-racist trajectory at the same time—making sure that our insight was freely available to all who wished to know and grow. I naively assumed that the honor system of payment would cover our operating costs. 

Instead, I end this venture with real debt as, at various points, I have taken out loans to keep this space afloat. I am not happy about it, but it is what it is. The loans have to be paid back and the remaining infrastructure will still need to be paid for. So if you have signed up to keep reading my writing on Patreon, I thank you. I would like to pay off my debt, and actually earn enough from my  writing so I can start an actual retirement fund, since my current trajectory for retirement is to not live in my son’s garage and hope he will feed me.

Sadly, my small non-profit does not offer retirement benefits and with my divorce several years ago, there went the retirement plan I had actually been banking on. If signing up for my Patreon is not an option, consider making a one-time gift today, in honor of the work that has been done over the years. For anyone making a one-time gift over $50, I will make sure you have access to my writing for the first quarter of 2023, even if you don’t sign up for my Patreon. 

Also, because I have spent the month of November in a mental slump, the rebranding launch has been pushed back to January, as I am juggling the year-end chaos of nonprofit fundraising at my day job in addition to several consulting projects. Even with two folks assisting in the rebranding process, I simply don’t have enough hours in my day to do everything. 

That means the blog will remain unchanged until early 2023 but we will be in OG mode, where I will be writing most or maybe all the posts myself. Though I may have to bring one of the writers out of retirement for an assist. 

While I have admitted that this post is a vent,  I do want to ask you to think critically. To borrow a question that I recently saw online, “How do you love, celebrate, and care for the Black women in your life?” 

It is a question that I am thinking about as my 50th birthday draws closer and I find myself evaluating life and realizing that even beyond this blog, there are far too many people in my life who are not pouring into me—to the point that I often feel like an empty container. If I am going to be frank, I am often running on fumes and a few weeks ago, I really hit the wall and decided to just remove access to myself from almost everyone who is not a vital part of my life. It has been restorative and sobering. 

But it is also a sad reminder that far too often, no one shows up for Black women. In most cases, all we have is each other in a world that constantly takes from us, just like Shel Silverstein’s giving tree. 

Since the first enslaved Africans were taken against their will and forced to work the fields and tend to white people in this country, Black women have always been forced to be strong and do for others. However, the older I get, I think the most powerful thing a Black woman can do is stand unapologetically in her power and center herself as her highest priority. It is not selfish; it is the highest form of self-care and self-love that a Black woman can practice. Raising a daughter, I strive to model what self-care and self-love can look like, so that she knows as she enters the adult world that she does not have to empty herself to prove herself worthy of care and concern. Beyond even me and this space, consider how you can support Black women in their liberation instead of looking at them to serve as mammies, mules, or emotional support Black people.

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.

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Image by Rod Long via Unsplash

1 thought on “Are we really supporting Black women or is it lip service?”

  1. Hi there, If I support you currently does that transfer to Patreon or do I need to sign up there? Thank you for sharing your writing.

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