2016: A Year in Review

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It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you, without a dope post to read to (Timbaland voice).

If you’re reading this post sometime in the distance future, that line won’t make much sense to you. But just know that Aaliyah’s “Try Again” is one of the best R&B/pop songs of ALL TIME. I will fight you on this.

Moving on…

It goes without saying that this year has been a complete and utter s*#t storm. From senseless tragedies (Orlando, Brussels and Aleppo, to name a few) to countless celebrity deaths (David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, etc.), 2016 was rough. And I’m not sure we’ll recover from this year’s brutal presidential election anytime soon.

But, for all of its suckiness, there were still some great … no, WONDERFUL, moments as well. So as not to dwell on the doom and gloom, I went back in time to review and relive all of the awesomeness of 2016.

January

Kicked off the year with my best friend’s wedding, doubling as both the witness and photographer. It was the first time I’d met her fiance IRL (that’s Internet speak for “In Real Life”) and it was also the happiest I’d ever seen my BFF Brenda. Love truly conquers all.

February

I traveled to New Jersey for my friend’s baby shower. I hadn’t seen Dore since my wedding in 2014 and she was positively glowing — quite possibly the best dressed baby bump I’ve ever seen!

March

Traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for my family’s second annual Spring Break trip. This year’s rental house was bigger and better than last year’s, plus it was on the beach. And we got the entire family to dab (well, almost everyone, here’s looking at you, Uncle Thomas! #SquadGoals

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I also participated in my very first panel with SheSays Chicago. Eek! I was super nervous (hello, imposter syndrome), but my husband, Jeff, and friend Marissa were there to cheer me on (thanks, guys!).

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April

My baby sister turned 25 … guess she’s not such a baby after all. My in-laws came to visit and I finally got to take a Chicago architecture boat tour, which I highly recommend, especially when you get to see views like this …

And Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, her second visual album, and I was all the way here for it!

May

Jeff and I celebrated our five-year dating anniversary with a pseudo-surprise trip to Las Vegas. I say pseudo because I accidentally spilled the beans days before our departure.

 

Later in the month, I got to see Her Royal Highness Queen Bey in concert. I lived.

June

I traveled to New Orleans for my friend Teena’s wedding, what a beautiful bride! Also, I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this city. It captures my heart, my soul and my stomach ever time. Plus, we got to meet up with some of our friends who were in town for another friend’s bachelor party. So much fun!

July

We celebrated the Fourth of July in Ohio after another friend’s bridal shower (there were a lot of wedding festivities this year). Here I am with almost all of my cousins-in-law …

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August

My sister and I intended to visit Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia for our second annual #SisterTrip; however, our trip coincided with the hottest heat wave in recent history. So we chillaxed (literally) in the air-conditioned hotel room and soaked up all the glorious #BlackGirlMagic in the 2016 Summer Olympics, as well as cheered on our fellow Marylander Michael Phelps in his final Olympic race.

September

Jeff and I spent Labor Day weekend in Minneapolis visiting family and friends and attending perhaps the most delicious state fair I’ve ever been to!

Plus, I had my first essay published on HelloGiggles, one of my favorite websites!

October

I kicked off the month with a road trip to Minneapolis with Marissa, where we got addicted to the first season of Serial, to celebrate our friend Sarah’s birthday. Here we are being divas.

Halfway through the month, I chaperoned one of our council’s Girl Scouts to the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where she delivered a rousing slam poem and speech on International Day of the Girl. Oh, and we got to visit the Teen Vogue office as well. Whoop whoop!

And I ended the month with the most magical and wonderful Harlem Renaissance-themed #GoldenBirthday party I could have hoped and dreamed for. I’m still humbled that so many people came out to celebrate little ol’ me. #blessed

L'Oreal Golden Birthday

November

Jeff and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary, yay! I got an IUD (woohoo!). And I interviewed the one and only Pam Grier for EBONY. My dad, aka her biggest fan, was so excited and I’m pretty sure I made his day (maybe life?) when I got the Blaxploitation actress to chat with him after our interview.

December

This month, I started therapy and it’s probably one of the best decisions I made this year (next to getting the aforementioned IUD). We also celebrated Christmas in Ohio (aka my first Christmas away from home) and it was quite relaxing.

I’m excited to start 2017 with a bang! I’ve got some exciting things in store for this here blog AND I’m launching a weekly newsletter. That’s right, you can get a midweek dose of LT in your inbox by subscribing here. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement this year. Next year is going to be LIT AF, as the kids say.

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Ways to Give Back After the Election

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If you’re still feeling hopeless, distraught and all-around confuzzled after this year’s election, you’re not alone. While I know in my heart of hearts that we’re going to be alright, there’s still this desire to do more, say more, be more.

Over the weekend, I read some poignant words from President Barack Hussein Obama (because I can’t say that for much longer, I’m screaming it from the rooftops, full legal name and all)! When asked what he told Sasha and Malia after He Who Shall Not Be Named won the election, this is what he said in The New Yorker:

“What I say to them is that people are complicated,” Obama told me. “Societies and cultures are really complicated … This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop … You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”

Did y’all hear the man? He said “where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.” Now, granted, I spent the morning post-election fearing we were about to enter an apocalyptic state, but this is a rallying cry if I’ve ever heard one.

After my last post, a few of you asked me ways you can give back, especially to marginalized people, and get involved. And, while this list is is no way exhaustive, it lists a few ways you can take a stand in your own backyard:

Volunteer with Girl Scouts: Obviously, I had to put this one on the list. Our motto isn’t “building girls of courage, confidence and character” for nothing.

Become a mentor with GirlForward: This Chicago- and Austin-based nonprofit provides opportunities for adolescent refugee girls.

Subscribe to your favorite Black and/or feminist publication: Their voices are needed now more than ever. A few of my favorites include EBONY, Essence, Teen Vogue, Bitch, Chicago Woman and Sesi, a quarterly print magazine for Black teen girls. Full disclosure: I’ve been freelancing for Sesi for about five years and this publication is exactly what I wish existed when I was growing up. Not into teen mags? Donate a subscription to a girl who could use one because #RepresentationMatters.

Become a mentor with Girls Write Now: So that we can continue to mentor the next generation of women writers and prove to them that their voices matter and they’re needed.

Donate to the cause of your choice: Whether it’s the YWCA, Planned Parenthood, RAINN, GLAAD or ACLU, nonprofits need your help. No donation is too small and if you can’t donate, volunteer. It costs nothing but time.

Like the saying goes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And right now, the world goes use a lot more love and way less hate.

 

We Gon’ Be Alright

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This week was rough, to say the least.

I went to sleep on Election Day around midnight with hope that the numbers would turn around and I woke up the next day to my worst nightmare. I could barely bring myself to leave my bed and face the world.

I cried into the sink as I brushed my teeth and got dressed for the day in all black. Because I was mourning, dammit.

As I opened the front door to face the world, I felt as though I’d been sucker-punched. This was NOT how it was supposed to go. As my girl Chasity Cooper tweeted the night of the election, “How did we get here? Trump’s not supposed to be here.” And yet, here we are.

F$%k.

I spent the commute checking on friends: my tribe. my squad. my people.

When I finally arrived at work and read an emotional pep talk email from my boss’s boss about why our work at Girl Scouts is more important now than ever, I lost it. Like left my desk, went down the lobby, called my sister and cried in a corner. I don’t remember the last time I cried that hard. But my sister has always held me up during every ugly cry (senior year dance recital, moving to Chicago, our rehearsal dinner…), so this time was no different. She may be younger, but she is certainly wiser and I don’t know where I’d be without her.

After a much-needed coffee run, my teammates and I sequestered ourselves in a conference room to watch gracious, yet inspiring Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. And we cried some more. Our collective hearts broke for the thousands of girls we support every day.

How are we supposed to look them in the eyes and tell them that America voted against them? That no matter how much experience you have, no matter how qualified you may be, it doesn’t mean anything? Because if Hillary couldn’t win as a privileged White woman, then what hope is there for the rest of us?!

This election was a slap in the face to all women everywhere. Yes, even the ones who voted for Trump and don’t realize the damage they’ve done. Or maybe they do and they don’t care because #WhitePrivilege. But that’s another story for another day.

My coworkers and I were disgusted, disappointed and disheartened. And we stayed in that conference room for the remainder of the day. We laughed, we cried — sometimes both at the same time. We supported one another and we loved each other during our time of need.

And I like to imagine the same thing was happening in workplaces, schools and homes across the country, lest we forget HRC won the popular vote and Pantsuit Nation came out in full force. That the majority, even if the margin wasn’t that great, of Americans voted for her. Voted for change. Voted for the most qualified candidate to ever run for president EVER.

So where do we go from here? I don’t know. But what I do know is that if there were ever any doubts in my mind about the work I do and why I do it, well they were laid to rest today.

My husband probably said it best in a text message he sent me Wednesday morning:

I’m extremely proud of the work that you (and others) are doing. Please don’t allow one man to deter your dreams. Keep fighting. Those that fought before you endured the same hate speech and shitty regulations and they never gave up. It is our responsibility to ensure that our future kids live in a society that will accept them for whatever they choose to become. We will not let hate, fear and bigotry stop us from fighting for our dreams. I know it seemed hard last night, and I heard you crying this morning. But please know that there are thousands of girls and minorities that are looking for direction and guidance right now. You are part of their voice. Please don’t give up.

Don’t. Give. Up.

We can’t give up. I can’t give up. Not now. Not ever. Because as First Lady Michelle Obama once said: “I see myself in these girls … and I simply cannot walk away from them.” I owe it to all of the little brown and black girls searching for answers. Searching for hope. Searching for love.

Trump may have won the election, but there’s a Higher Being watching out for all us. And as Kendrick Lamar rapped, if God got us, then we gon’ be alright.

Why I’m With Her

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Up until 2008, I’d been pretty passive in regards to politics. The only reason I took A.P. U.S. Government in high school was for college applications. And when my former history teacher, Mr. Evans (RIP), prodded me to apply to be a page at the state capitol, I wrote my essay about how much I despised politics and yet they still accepted me. [insert eyeroll here]

My apathy continued in college. To be fair, I was too young to vote in 2004 when Dubya won, so you can’t blame that one on me. But when I turned 18 the very next year, I hauled butt to the post office and registered to vote. Why? Because my ancestors fought too hard for me not to exercise that right.

And when 2008 rolled around, you best believe I cast my FIRST presidential vote for the FIRST African-American Democratic Party presidential nominee: Barack Hussein Obama. And boy, did it feel good! But then I was quickly reminded that racism still existed. Admittedly, I grew up in a bit of a bubble and was naive to the ways of the world.

I was working as a general assignment reporter at a newspaper in Harford County, Maryland, which is about as conservative of a county as you can get. My coworker and I were tasked with interviewing residents on Election Day to find out who they’d voted for and why. And let’s just say some of the responses I received are not fit for print.

Later that day, we went to the local board of elections to wait for the results. We waited, we waited and we waited some more. Finally around midnight, we were able to call it a night and return to our respective homes. But I couldn’t sleep. This was history in the making. I don’t remember what time it was when I finally went to bed, but I was restless. America had elected the first Black president EVER and a love story with the Obamas was born, for the most part.

When I shared my elation in a column I’d written the weekend of Obama’s first inauguration, the hate mail I received would make your grandmother blush. Like actual, physical hate mail sent directly to me. I was 21 at the time and unprepared for the backlash. It was so bad that my editor (an older White man) called me into his office and apologized on behalf of the racists in Harford County.

“I’m sorry, I should have warned you,” he said.

It wouldn’t have mattered, I still would have done it. I didn’t know it then, but I was coming into my own, finding my voice and using the platform that I’d been given to speak up and speak out about injustices. I consider it my moral obligation and civic duty as a writer.

It was during that time that one of my closest friends and her family members started to show their true colors (or maybe I’d just finally paid attention). They were calling Obama all kinds of his names outside of his given one, blaming Mexicans for this and praising Palin for that. You can imagine their delight when Obama was re-elected in 2012. They threatened to move to Canada. I wish they had.

We’re no longer friends (surprisingly for reasons that had nothing to do with politics), but if our friendship hadn’t dissolved when it did in 2013, then the 2016 election surely would have been the proverbial nail in the coffin.

When I saw a recent poll that “57 percent of White voters who still lived in the town or community where they grew up support Trump,” suddenly this nonsensical election started to make some sense. Most of the people on my Facebook timeline who “like” or support Trump went to my high school — a small, Catholic college prep academy for girls where I was one of only TWO Black girls in my graduating class of 114. And, coincidentally, many of those women who support Trump never left their respective hometowns.

“Make America great again,” they say. For whom, exactly?

I understand people have differing political views and that’s fine. But when those views include categorically voting for someone who is blatantly prejudiced, glaringly misogynistic and grossly inexperienced when it comes to politics, that’s where I become concerned. Sure, nobody’s perfect, but I simply cannot support someone who thinks all “the Blacks” live in the inner cities, that all Muslims are terrorists, all Mexicans are “bad hombres” and women … man, don’t even get me started.

When I see people who wholeheartedly support Trump, what that says to me is “I don’t care about you as a Black person and/or a woman.” And, quite frankly, that’s all I need to know. His vulgar comments regarding women cannot be dismissed as “locker room talk.” They are evident of a troublesome rape culture. And that’s just the cherry on top of the #DumpTrump sundae.

I’ve watched all of the debates. I’ve done the research. And I’m 100 percent, unequivocally voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton. At this point, there’s nothing I can say that can persuade you to change your vote if you’re gung-ho for Trump (and vice versa). I’m not saying I’ll unfriend you (or maybe I will), but I will probably look at you differently and I will definitely serve you some major side-eye. #SorryNotSorry

So why am I with her? I’ll keep it simple.

Because, as a Black woman, I can’t afford not to be.

An Open Letter to AKIRA

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Screengrab of Kim Kardashian's Instagram of her going to Balenciaga Show makeup free
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Source: Kim Kardashian/Instagram

Dear AKIRA,

As a loyal customer for several years, I was troubled when I opened your latest newsletter and read a caption making light of Kim Kardashian’s recent robbery in Paris.

Let’s be perfectly clear: violence against women is NOT a laughing matter. It doesn’t matter who she is and/or her likeability. It is not a situation that should be taken lightly nor should it be used for marketing purposes.

Your caption is disappointing, distasteful and dangerous. It is offensive to ALL women. It is victim-blaming. And the non-apology apology your social media person commented on my post AFTER blocking me on Twitter and Instagram is purely pathetic.

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Listen, I used to run social media for a major magazine and I currently work in marketing. I understand that people are human, mistakes happen and nobody’s perfect. The best course of action, in both my personal and professional opinion, is to acknowledge the mistake, apologize (but only if you mean it), learn from it and do better in the future. But blocking someone for calling your attention to an issue is poor customer service at best and immature at worst.

I love shopping at your boutique and I’ve always had a pleasant experience with your stylists, but this incident has definitely altered the way I perceive your brand and will cause me to reconsider future spending at your stores. Similarly, I hope you’ll think twice before making light of a life-threatening situation.

Sincerely,

L’Oreal

P.s.: The following tweet was posted at 1:51 a.m. CT, after I published this blog. Coincidence or nah?

Akira tweet