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How About Doing This For Your Friends This Valentine's Day?

Who said that couples are the only ones to get in on all of the fun?

What About Your Friends?

Yes. Like clockwork, another Valentine's Day is upon us. While on one hand, it's been so long since I've been in a relationship that I don't even get triggered by being single during this time of year anymore, interestingly enough, it is my favorite commercial holiday (long story short, there is a St. Valentine who married people when it was against the law and was martyred for it. I am a marriage life coach, so there you have it). Besides, how can you actually get mad about a day devoted to expressing love? Good grief.

Anyway, most of us heard, at some point along the way, that love comes in many forms. Agape love is a Greco-Christian term that basically breaks down to unconditional love which is the kind of love that a lot of us have for our friends. So, whether you've got a boo this year or not, why not take a moment to celebrate the homies in your life who, whether they've got a boo or not, would probably love nothing more than a token of your affection and appreciation this coming V-Day. If you need a little inspiration on what you can do for them, I've got 10 ideas.

1. Make Them a Pampering Basket

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If there's one thing that I personally think that women—especially Black women—absolutely can never do enough of, it's pampering. Thing is, treating oneself is not exactly a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Think about what your friend's favorite leisure or self-care activity is and then create a little gift basket that reflects that. If she likes to read books, get her a gift card, a box of some herbal teas and some cute footies. If she enjoys essential oils, make some body wash, lotion and a hair spritz out of scents that will help her to feel calm and relaxed like lavender or patchouli (YouTube has all kinds of how-to videos on easy ways to make this kind of stuff). If it's doing her nails and toes, look for some new polish colors and be sure to throw in some cuticle oil and eyeliner brushes (they're great for correcting painting mistakes).

No one said that the basket had to be over the top. Just a lil' something that lets them know that they're in your thoughts and you are on the top of the list of people who think that they deserve to be loved on; including on Valentine's Day.

2. Exchange DIY Cards

Remember back when we were in elementary school and one of the heights of being in the fourth grade and under (sometimes even a little older than that) was exchanging Valentine's Day cards? Just because you're grown, that doesn't mean that you and your peeps still can't do the same thing. At the very least, it will bring back some nostalgia; however, something tells me that it will be a little more heartwarming than that. If you'd like a few ideas for how to go about making some, there are 25 right here.

3. DIY a Dessert or Have Their Favorite One Delivered

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Whenever I think about Valentine's Day, sweets are one of the first things that comes to my mind. If you know what your friend's favorite dessert is, why not make it for them? If they're local, you can bake some chocolate chip cookies or a cheesecake, package it up and leave it on their porch (with a heads up after you dropped it off, of course). If they're out of town, make them some brownies and ship 'em.

If you're looking at me crazy because cooking and/or baking isn't your strong suit, you can always have a dessert delivered to them. Simply find a bakery in their area and ask them to send something that will appease your homie's sweet tooth this year.

4. Write Them a Love Letter

It's pretty easy to take just about anyone for granted. This is why I'm so big on encouraging folks to be intentional about telling others what they appreciate and/or love about them. If money is super tight or you're the kind of person who takes procrastination to a whole 'nother level on a regular basis, another idea is to write your friend a love letter. And yes, I mean that literally.

Take out a couple of hours one afternoon or evening and reflect on all of the things that you like and respect about them. Then add to that, why you are honored to call them "friend". Getting a really nice blank card, writing your message and sending it in the mail (whether they live in the same city or not) is a really nice touch. Yet even if you are down to the wire and you email a message instead, I promise you that it will move them, on so many levels.

5. Customize Some Pajamas

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Lawd, this pandemic. Whenever I hear about people going on (clothing) shopping sprees, I usually wonder, "What for? Where the heck do y'all plan to go?!" Since many of us are spending a significant amount of time in sweats and PJs, another cute idea could be to get some pajamas customized for your friend. It can have their name, a nickname or some inside joke phrase that only the two of you know about on it. I'm a huge Etsy supporter, so if you wanna know where to start your search to get some, I would recommend clicking here first.

6. Send Them a Get-over-Your-Ex Gift Pack

There's a pretty good chance that you've got at least one friend who is getting over a break-up this Valentine's Day. Something that I bet they wouldn't see coming is a break-up gift pack. Have it include some bubble bath to help them relax. A piece of lingerie or sexy sleepwear to represent starting a fresh collection. Download a customized playlist with songs like Kelis's "Caught Out There" on it (just sayin'). Include some notecards with self-esteem quotes on them. Give them a gift card with lunch or dinner on you. I recently saw a boyfriend pillow that I thought was comedy (check it out here). If they're down, get them an online dating membership. Anything that will help them to not sit and sulk in the day but instead, see Valentine's Day as a new beginning.

7. Watch Your Favorite Rom-Com on Zoom

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If you and your friend are doing Valentine's Day on the solo tip this year, one way to get your mind off of others who may be boo'ed up is to watch a favorite rom-com together. Decide beforehand what you're gonna eat and drink, download the film and then watch it on an app like Zoom together. I do this with one of my godchildren sometimes and it's actually a lot of fun. If you'd like to test out an app other than Zoom to see how it works, you can click here for a few other ideas.

8. Host a Virtual Sleepover

Speaking of my godbabies, something that one of my goddaughter's does with her friends is have virtual sleepovers. Everyone brings their sleeping bags downstairs in their home, has snacks and plays games together until they all fall asleep. It really is adorable. You and your folks can do some variation of that.

Get cozy in your bed, determine if you're gonna play a round of something like Truth or Dare or I've Never, telling some dating spooky stories and decide that you're each gonna have a surprise dinner delivered to each other. You might look up and realize that being single on Valentine's Day can be a whole lot more fun than you ever imagined.

9. Do (Electronic) Vision Boards Together

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Write the vision, make it plain, right? Setting goals for your life is always a wise decision—including love life goals. Something else that could be enjoyable this Valentine's Day is for you and your friend to create vision boards together as they directly relate to the love that you desire to bring into your life. What does he look like? What kind of qualities do you desire? What things would you like to do together? Stuff like that. If you don't want to make a traditional vision board, there are apps these days that make it easy to upload ideas and even exchange them electronically (click here for a few).

10. Plan a Future Trip Together

Some folks are out here on these planes, chile. If that's not you but you do want to travel again someday (le sigh), something else that you and your friend can do is plan a trip together. Due to the pandemic, there are actually all kinds of virtual tours that you can take (check out a couple of 'em here and here) in order to get an idea of where you want to go. After landing on a place, come to a mutual decision of how much you're going to save a month in order to make the vacation happen. Speaking of traveling, check your passport. Mine expires in March, so I sent in my renewal app in December. Some folks have told me that they waited as much as six months to get theirs back (goodness), so there's no time like the present to get your things in order. Planning for later in the year or even a trip next February 14 could be just the thing to get you through this upcoming one. Happy Valentine's Day—to you and your homies—sis.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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