This is a business and a mission, not a performance

I am a professional. I am a small business owner. And I am a human being.

Why do I feel like I need to say these things?

Because of a comment sent to the previous post here at the BGIM Media site, which literally had nothing to do with the actual piece written by Samuel James. A comment that I commented on over at Twitter and Facebook because it offended me and creeped me out. I don’t feel a desire to go into the full details here in this post because the person has already gotten too much of the attention they sought, but it got me fired up about some things that this person represents when it comes to my work and my life. So, if you’re confused, hit the links above, then come on back.

Too often, people seem to feel entitled to come at me about my life and my money just because I have a little name recognition and a little notoriety. And yes, the “little” is accurate. I am a professional who serves as executive director of a roughly half-century-old anti-racism organization, but much of that organization’s work has traditionally been centered in the Boston metro area. Yes, I have this website which is both my small business and my mission/passion and people sometimes recognize me on the street and sometimes I’m interviewed by media, but there are many bigger movers and shakers in social justice circles. Yes, I do speaking engagements but I don’t get paid nearly as much or get nearly as many opportunities as multiple other racial-related experts—and the book deal dream still eludes me.

The fact is that I have visibility, but I am not a celebrity. Even if I was a celebrity, people wouldn’t have the right to expect that I will put my whole life on display, no matter how much they demand to dig into such people’s lives. But in the end, I’m not. I have some fans and I get recognized sometimes, but my work is my work and my life is my life. The BGIM site may have started long ago with some aspects of a “mommy blog” but it was never really a mommy blog and it hasn’t had any overtones like that in ages so my family and personal life are not the focus here.

My family is not on display here or anywhere for people’s entertainment, and I sure don’t roll them out as a cash-grab. Twitter may be a space where I promote this site and other aspects of my work, but it is also a personal space where I sometimes vent. That’s the nature of Twitter. On Facebook, I have separate accounts for Black Girl in Maine and Shay Stewart-Bouley. I’m not saying I never vent on the former or post work-related stuff on the latter, but there is substantial separation.

Even when my family had the N-word hurled at us in Portland one fine sunny day on a stroll, I didn’t bring that out to get attention. I talked about it because a journalist who saw what happened turned it into a story without my consent and without talking to me like a journalist would. When things happen to my family, racially or otherwise, they rarely make it into this site because my family members are not props.

When I talk about a major family health problem on social media, it is simply to vent and, yes, to hopefully get a little emotional support. But I didn’t ask for money any time I’ve talked about this family health crisis. I’m not crowdfunding. Why would I share details of who is facing the health challenge and what that health crisis is?

More than that: Why would anyone imply that I “must” do so to deserve money?

The only real money I ask here and in social media with any prominence or regularity is to support this BGIM Media site. This is a business, with hosting costs, writers to pay, taxes to pay to Uncle Sam, a technical person to pay and multiple upgrades to security protocols because this site is literally attacked multiple times per day—and more expenses as well.

Was this “CK” who posted here stalking me about my family’s health and speculating about my financials referring to the little blurb at the end of Sam’s post asking people to contribute to the site (which is still 100 patrons away from being fully funded, so I’m hardly rolling in money) or to hire me to speak? Every post has that blurb.

Was it because I sometimes mention on social media that if someone really wants to do something nice for me perhaps think of a nice spa gift certificate or something like that? That’s because I don’t make the gobs of money “CK” seems to imply that I do (and the amount they are guessing at isn’t a high standard of living in a today’s world, honestly), and sometimes I want a little relief and, for some people, it’s easier to gift something than to commit to becoming a patron of the site or whatever. Plus, it never hurts to ask for something nice when you’re doing work that gets you stalkers and death threats and MAGA trolls.

Bottom line is that I work hard and I’m still struggling in a lot of ways, even if I’m not poverty-stricken. There’s a lot people don’t know (and don’t have a right to know) about what I own (or don’t) and where I live (or don’t anymore) and what my family suffers (or doesn’t) and people don’t have a right to have open access to my life.

They sure as hell don’t have a right to question whether I, as a professional Black woman who works hard in a country built on racism, make too much money (or already make “enough” money in their eyes) or has the right to seek additional work like speaking engagements. And they doubly don’t have the right to call upon me to lay open the personal health issues of any of my family—or to share where I live or where I might have property when even the biggest city in Maine is so small.

Yes, I’m going through a crisis, and part of the reason I’ve mentioned it in passing here on the site is to let you know I’m stretched thin and stressed out but still working as hard as I am able to keep fresh content here. Because this is not just a site with a mission to teach people, open eyes and hearts, and fight racism and other oppressions—it is also a business that some of you support and I hope more of you will in the future. And a business without product isn’t much of a business. I will keep working to provide for you, even as I ask for your support.

But kindly don’t make demands of my time or ask me to shuck and jive for the money. I’m a professional, not a hustler or performer.

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.

Crying over spilled water? It’s more than that when it comes to interracial interactions

Last May, I attended an event called “Telling the Truth: Exploring the Heart of Cross-Racial Conversations.” At this event, Shay Stewart-Bouley (our own “Black Girl In Maine”) and a white author named Debby Irving modeled for the audience what it is like to discuss issues related to race across racial lines.

The weekend before this event, Shay and Debby had been hired to speak at the Seattle Equity Summit. Before she and Shay went on stage, Debby was sitting in the audience with a little plastic cup full of water sitting at her feet. The water spilled in the hubbub of people moving around. She did not clean up the water or even acknowledge the spill to the person next to her before she went on stage. When Debby was on stage with Shay, that Black woman who had been sitting next to Debby publicly called her out for her water getting on her personal belongings and framing this as racist.

At the May event, Shay and Debby talked about the experience they had in Seattle. Shay explained how disappointing and infuriating it was to be let down, once again, by another white woman. Debby explained how it had taken her a while to come to understand her thoughtless behavior as “racist.”

Now, spilled water may seem a small thing, but it is bigger than that. The issue isn’t that spilling the water was racist per se. As I understand it, the impact of Debby’s thoughtless behavior with the glass of water was more than that one action. It was a whole history of white women treating Black people as less-than. Her actions were racist not only because they were inconsiderate to a group of mostly Black and brown bodied people, but because it was yet another example of white women expecting people of color to clean up after white people. Also, a presumption that “mere water” isn’t a big deal (and yet what might have been in the other’s woman’s bag that might have been ruined by moisture—this is something that hadn’t occurred to Debbie in that moment or even in the hours and days following having her actions labeled racist).

The fact is that it is easy for white people to disregard the feelings of people of color, particularly Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC). Doctors routinely assume Black people have higher pain tolerances and employers routinely assume people of color won’t “fit into” their workplaces or won’t be as good at a job as a white person no matter what their resume says otherwise. And this is an example of when an entire group is complicit, because most of us white people do things like this often without thinking about it. Cutting off non-white people more readily in lines, for example, or making assumptions about them.

Now, sure, you can say that treating white people as a monolith and talking about how we are all a lot like Debby in thoughtless racism is wrong. You could argue that Shay, for example, shouldn’t be seen the spokesperson for all Black people or that Black people shouldn’t be judged by the crimes of a minority of other Black people because Black people are not a monolith. You would be right, but there is a distinction to be made here: BIPOC move in a world that not only assumes the worst of them, but also holds them responsible for every tiny mistake they (or even others like them) might make.

To point out the racism of white people even in seemingly small actions and indicting the whole group, to a certain degree, isn’t some kind of “reverse racism” here. White women like me haven’t had to fear negative consequences of our racist behavior most of the time. The fact is, if I am thoughtless in public it is safe to assume I am supporting white supremacy. I am a part of the group that has consistently behaved in racist ways, so my behavior carries the history of my group. This awareness helps me as I practice being in the world in more thoughtful and considerate ways.

One of the reasons I recommend you hire Shay if you need a speaker or a consultant on issues of race and related social issues is that if you’re anything like me, you know we white people need a lot of practice being with Black people and many other people of color. We need to shed our fear of making mistakes; we need to break free of our desperate need for approval, too. We need to realize that as a group, white people have indeed made a terrible system filled with racism and we need to own that, as well as to stop blaming other groups for the damage and hurt they incur from that system.

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.

Photo by Ethan Sykes from Unsplash

Bringing my ‘day job’ work to Northern New England: Join us!

In the five-plus years, since I became executive director of Community Change Inc. (CCI), I have had readers ask if I would consider bringing some of our programming north of Boston. Because, while our training and development work is nationally relevant, most of our programming ends up local to the Boston area as our staff and most of our constituents are Boston-based. 

However, in the last five years, the racial climate has changed and I have seen an increase in people in Maine and Northern New England looking to organize locally within their own communities—but often being unsure of how to move beyond reading and engaging online.

At the same time, in the Boston area, we were seeing an increase in suburban white people looking to engage in anti-racism movement work but wanting to do the work within their own communities. As a result, CCI partnered with the Winchester Multicultural Network in Winchester, Mass., and thus the Anti- Racism Organizing in the Suburbs (AROS) project was born. 

In the spring of 2018, over a hundred people from predominantly white suburban communities north of Boston participated in the first convening of AROS at Melrose First United Methodist Church. The goals of the gathering were to create greater capacity for movement building, improve alignment for joint campaigns, and strengthen shared resources for effecting systemic change in suburban communities.

Since that first convening, AROS has grown. Last fall, we offered a second symposium at Regis College in Weston, Mass., and have been inundated with requests to bring AROS to other communities. We are also in talks to develop an AROS training institute for white suburban organizers and others interested in anti-racism work in predominantly white spaces. 

After much thought, we decided to bring AROS to Northern New England this fall (Sept. 14). We have partnered with the Granite State Organizing Project and anti-racism activists from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont to create an event designed to connect those interested in anti-racism organizing to others in the region. While the goals of AROS remains unchanged, AROS Northern New England (AROS-NNE) is also committed to lifting up the voices of people of color in the region and will feature a panel of Black people and other People of Color for a moderated discussion on the challenges that are unique to the region.

Join the AROS-NNE Planning Team for a convening of organizers, activists, leaders, and educators committed to the movement for racial justice in Northern New England. This is a unique opportunity to get to know each other, share strategies, learn about policy issues, and strengthen our efforts.

Keynote : Shay Stewart-Bouley; executive director of CCI and creator/writer of Black Girl in Maine Media

Featured Panelists Include:

  • Eva Castillo, program director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees
  • Jerrianne Boggis, executive director at Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire
  • James McKim Jr., chair of the Episcopal Church Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism & Reconciliation (ECCAR)
  • Asma Elhuni, representing the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic & Social Equity in Schools Coalition
  • Pious Ali, a city council member in Portland, Maine

The moderator will be Samuel James, a Maine-based blues man, storyteller, writer, and anti-racist (and one of the contributors to the BGIM Media website here).

There will also be workshop sessions representing an array of anti-racism topics.

* The $75 fee covers the costs associated with putting on the symposium, including meals, snacks, and a small honorarium to all workshop leaders and panelists. We are also asking those with the means to engage in class solidarity by making an additional donation, above the ticket price to ensure that this symposium is available to all. No one will be turned away due to a lack of funds or be asked to volunteer. Contact Fran Smith at for details on obtaining a comp ticket for the day.

If you cannot join us on September 14 and would like to stay connected to the work of AROS-Northern New England, click here for more details.

You can purchase tickets here. Ticket sales will close September 9 .

I hope that you will consider joining us for what looks to be a lively and informative day. 

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.