A reader recently asked me about writing more pieces about what life is like in Maine as a Black person. Totally makes sense, after all this is Black Girl in Maine. It’s also incredibly timely since today is one of those days where like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I want to go home. Like can we pack it up and go now! When I get that feeling, I know I am overdue for a visit.
Next month will mark a decade in Maine, and while the first year or so was culture shock, things eventually settled down. To be honest Southern Maine where I reside has made huge gains in the past decade on the diversity front. When we first landed here back in 2002, I could go days without seeing another person of color and generally that meant going into Portland, Maine’s largest city. Yet the twin communities where I live and work have had a rapid browning, oh don’t get it twisted, it’s still pretty darn white. However to quote my six year old upon seeing that we now have a Black neighbor down the street “It’s good that we aren’t the only black people here now”. Yes, that is true. The community center I run, now has a diverse mix of kids, Black, White, Brown and Tan, all being kids and having fun together. It’s so diverse now that I actually have my daughter come in a few days a week so she can actually make friends with kids like her. She is loving it.
Yet it’s still lonely. This past year has been hard on me, as I have struggled with doing some heavy lifting in my marriage that has resulted in some of the highest highs and lowest lows, I realized that I need a real support system here and that’s where sadly I feel blackness is challenging in a state like Maine. Aside from 1-2 people I know in this state, there are still those awkward moments that arise when people don’t know what to say, when political correctness stands in the way. Most native born Mainers I know unless they have left the state and lived elsewhere tend to have very little experience interacting with real life Black people and at times it shows. As I have shared before, I don’t find much hardcore racism but I do find people who at times are pretty damn awkward.
Let me be clear, it’s not always about race, as a native Midwesterner I think some of it is actually regional differences. Truth be told, I find East Coast Blacks to also be different than what I knew back in the Midwest. For starters many East Coast Black folks have a different background than those of us from the Midwest, more Caribbean roots than those of us with direct Southern roots and it can make things awkward at times. I talked to a sista I know from Texas who spent some time living in Boston and she mentioned a similar experience. I’m a down home bigmouth, sure I am a college educated professional but at the same time when I am relaxing, well shit…I like to kick back, get loud and let my hair down. I have yet to find the Black folks in Maine or anywhere near me with a similar outlook. Difference is good, it’s all valid but sometimes I want to be able to let loose and be me. That’s why I know I need a visit home. Thankfully I put out the bat signal today and it seems my crew back home is going to make that happen…I see a long weekend that will include many whiskey sours, deep dish pizza and closing down this place at least one night.
Another challenge to life in Maine I have noticed and yeah it’s silly and vain of me but this is my space and I write what I like, is that in Maine, I don’t exist as a woman. I never quite realized that until recently when the reality that the Spousal Unit and I may be no more started to look more and more possible. Of course my mind started in on what about dating? The man and I had a great laugh about how we had traded places, prior to life in Maine, he was the invisible man, but like a fine wine he has aged well and women notice him. I on the other hand have become invisible, I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me after all I have single Black women friends in Maine who have told me all about their dating woes or rather lack of dating lives. I had heard them over the years but until recently never noticed it nor thought about it, but in realizing I may be joining their ranks I decided to check out the landscape…oh my! For a cocoa brown sista with short natural hair, there is no love. Thankfully for the moment I don’t have to worry much about this, but I won’t lie it did shake me a little to think that basically my very essence as a woman, a sexual being is not even noticed in this state.
In the end, Maine is a nice place, I like it, I am not sure what our future together will bring but at the moment, I am looking forward to going home where friends and family will nourish my soul on every level.
4 thoughts on “I want to go home! Life in Maine as a Black Girl”
Yes. They will look right through you when you walk down the street. It is like that all over New England in white communities. It can get really hard. And then you might also get unwanted sexual comments from strangers because you are black. So one finds a process of dehumanization either through de-sexualization or by being made into a sex object. Either way all of it is gross. Two sides of the same spectrum. Yup. I also hear you on the repercussions of letting it all hang out…I have two FB pages. One is private and one is public. I also have a small blog. I write in order to survive. I know some of the things I say shake people but that is okay. The Bible is stories that include all different kinds of drama. If people don’t like what you say they can press click. PEACE.
@blackgirlinmaine i was a @blackgirlinnebraska single at the time. I do understand what you mean. When we went out the men looked right through us. Like they didn’t even notice us. Coming from a HBCU and in my early 20’s at the time I was not as sure about myself and independent about my black “womaness” and sexuality so it was hard for me. I would say the last year I lived there I got empowered in this area and actually started dating meeting some nice guys. I would say this might be contributed to the fact I stopped hanging out in big groups going out and started coming early to the bar/restaurants we were meeting at to increase my chances of being approached. Being able to be somewhere alone really boosted my confidence! No matter what happens with your marriage, I would say as the strong woman I read about in your posts you will be fine. I wish you the best.
Greetings Black Girl in Maine,
First off THANK YOU for being so candid and raw in this blog post! I empathize with you as I’ve had similar experiences. I apologize in advance for being long winded!
I’m originally from the Mid-West (Iowa) and currently reside in Northern Virginia. My husband and I have been here for about 9 years. I’ve gone through a complete metamorphosis in consciousness, personality, and religion as a result of my life experiences. The following are areas that caused a great deal of psychic pain for me:
a- Private sector workforce: My experiences in the Mid-West and West have been that you have the option to join a Union, pursue a contract, or work for a public institution. I have found that most private sector jobs are aware of the “AT WILL” clause of employment. As a result, there is widespread workplace abuse, high turnover rates, litigation, and numerous complaints with the local Human Rights Commission. Another issue that scares me to death is because this is an AT WILL state it’s difficult to collect unemployment while you’re trying to find work. I now see why so many black folks are in poverty or live pay check to pay check.
b- Faux black community: Our ethnic group has always had its fair share of cultural, religious, and economic diversity. What I have found in the Northern Virginia area is the ethnic groups suffers from a great degree of fratricide. Class divisions are extremely pronounced. The majority of Christians who are black (especially those who are financed by conservative white groups) are antagonistic to black Muslims and Jews. (Disclosure: I am an Ahmadiyya Muslima). Many middle class African Americans who move here often come from urban areas where they are trying to escape blight, decay, structural deviancies, and cultural pathology—translation: I DON’T WANT TO BE AROUND OTHER BLACK PEOPLE- when they get here.
c- Black men and non-black women relationships
I’m NOT against interracial marriage. I will tell you that many black women have walked up to my husband and I when we are dinning to say how rare our family type is. This is area is very multi-racial ( notice I didn’t say multi-cultural) and there interracial families of all kinds. What makes black men’s interracial partnerships stand out is that they become extremely hostile and aggressive to black women and children. Their behavior frankly is a total disgrace.
d- Conservatives whites authority over institutions
Virginia is literally a few steps away from banning abortion and all other forms of birth control. Please see the Richmond Times for proof. Although I am conservative myself , I don’t want Religion and State unified.
Black Girl in Maine, I feel like I can’t relate to ANY of the blacks here, especially black women. We seem to be so very angry, negative, and pissy with each other. Truth be told, the most compassionate experiences I’ve had are with Latino, Asian, Indian, and Arab women. Some older white women. This isolation and lack of support system for my family is what led to my transformation in consciousness—in that regard it was a good thing.
Thank you for allowing me to share.
It’s NEVER too late to find new love!
First, I have to mention that Whiskey sours are my drink! We have to have a twitter party dedicated to whiskey.
I honestly have no idea what this is like, but it has to be a huge pain in the ass. My issue is living in the suburbs and it’s the pits. When I’m in the city, I feel more alive. Like it’s home just because of the endless possibilities in walking distance.
Ugh, dudes and age. The unfairness of it all.
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