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Here's Why Riviera Maya Needs To Be Your Next Girls' Trip

And here's everything we did.

Travel

Fundamentally speaking, January is viewed as a fresh start. It's the beginning of a new year which by extension makes it the closing of an old one. And with it comes the mantra of breathing out the old and breathing in the new. People adopt lifestyle changes they previously had on pause, forgive themselves for past inadequacies, and strive to become better than they were. It's a common theme but it becomes more pronounced because of the way January glitters with such promise. For those of us truly intentional with it, January is the perfect excuse to set the tone for the kind of year you wish to have.

That desire rang especially true for the creative minds behind Aunt Jackie's Curls and Coils first-ever travel-sized collection and new collection of deep conditioning treatment masques Butter Fusions (coming to a store near you soon). In addition to unveiling two product lines, the Aunt Jackie's team saw it befitting to use the start of the new year and new decade in a refreshing way by living it up resort-style at El Dorado Seaside Suites in the beautiful Riviera Maya, Mexico.

To commemorate the product launch, Aunt Jackie's, led by Erika Pope, Charisma Lowe, and Kayla Walker, invited 12 black and brown hair influencers, as well as media including Brande Victorian (Madame Noire/HelloBeauitful), Arielle Hermanson (BETHer), Venesa Croger (Refinery29/R29 Unbothered), and myself.

Dubbed "The Curl's Trip", together we embarked as "curlfriends" on a plethora of curated resort experiences made possible by the all-inclusive El Dorado Seaside Suites. From community service to a catamaran ride, we lived! And here's everything we did.

The Location

A room with a view.

www.eldoradosparesorts.com

Before delving into our Mexico itinerary, let's give a little background about the city and resort. In between the popular tourist destinations of Cancun and Tulum is the less-stated vacation destination of Riviera Maya. Located along the Yucatan peninsula and nestled on an underground river, the beautiful Riviera Maya was once comprised of sleepy fishing villages. These days, the magical place has transformed into a must-visit Mexican hot spot for explorers, scuba divers, nature lovers, and those looking to tap into beachy resort vibes. With their white sand beaches that feel like a pillowy cloud underneath your feet, palm trees, and never-ending sun, Riviera Maya, Mexico has something to offer anyone wanting a slice of paradise.

The Resort

Venesa Croger and I swinging in El Dorado.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

I've never been one to ride the resort wave, but El Dorado Seaside Suites has me singing a different tune. It was all-inclusive, the drinks weren't watered down, the waitstaff were eager for you to have as many drinks as possible, the food from the restaurants were delicious, as well as the room service. As a whole, El Dorado Seaside Suites are separated into two different sections that are very distinct in what they provide as far as Mexican hospitality. The original section gives you island life vibes with the lush palm trees, the seemingly endless expanse of white sand beach, and the architecture that screams Mexico. The Infinity, the resort's latest add-on, is where we stayed. Its building is all-oceanfront with swim-up suits connecting to balcony pools right outside of your room on every floor. The water is cool, inviting, and acts as the perfect backdrop for luxury and equanimity.

Paradise found.

Nakesa Smith, Felicia Leatherwood, and Shaniqua Garrett strutting their stuff on the white-sand beach.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Shaniya (@sincerely_niya) looking easy, breezy, beautiful.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Community Service

L-R: Mendez (@mendezisthatyou), Shalini (@shalinitin_srivastava), me, Erika Pope, Tiffany (@iam.tiffany.renee), and Mesha Thomas.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Volunteering is a small but major way to give back to a world that has been good to you. Aunt Jackie's put together a community service day with Centro de Atención Integral Playa del Carmen, a special education school catering to children and adults with disabilities. With the center, the ladies and I came together to complete two beautification projects. One was planting a garden and the other was painting a mural. It was so rewarding to enrich people's lives who live in a country that had been so good to us. It has also inspired me to volunteer more in my own community in the year ahead.

@iam.tiffany.renee & @mendezisthatyou

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

@dayelasoul & @justlikejackie working hard on the mural.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Hairstylist Mesha Thomas

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Chelsea Zan @chelseazan

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Shalini hard at work clearing the area for the garden.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

The finished product.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

L-R: Nia Vox @niavox, @theglamtwinz, @mendezisthatyou, and Angeliah @ange_liah

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Catamaran Tour

The ladies behind this immersive experience: Kayla Walker, Charisma Lowe, and Erika Pope.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Picture this, a catamaran tour sailing on the ocean for three hours with light bites, margaritas, and trap music. Maroma Adventure Restaurant Hotel & Marina had us feeling like it was our birthday as we took turns driving the boat with the captain's bottle of tequila and got sore knees trying to be like Megan. It was the ultimate turn up on the sea and we were riding the wave.

Shaniya @sincerely_niya pictured with Arielle Hermanson.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Nakesa Smith looking like a whole meal.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

The Curlfriends of the trip looking like a whole MOOD!

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Kish @kishmycurls kicking back, maxing relaxing.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Spa Retreat

The Sensations pool located in the Náay Spa.

www.eldoradosparesorts.com

Next came the spa day at the resort's Náay Spa. The day was to be one filled with pampering and indulging. It was kicked off with a Mayan ritual ceremony that combined elements of Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire based on the principles of Mayan principles. To them, it is the way to inner peace. We began by undergoing hydrotherapy in groups. Hydrotherapy consisted of a steam room with eucalyptus clay to open up our pores, a cold room, and then we entered the sensations pool where welcomed by waterfalls and hydrojets that targeted different areas of our bodies to soothe and relieve. After that, we entered a hot tub, then a cold tub, and then ran in and out of an ice bath. The results were amazing.

Based on your preferences, you were then ushered into the room where you'd be receiving either a massage or a facial. I opted for a 55-minute full body massage. And I must say, it was easily the best thing that my body has ever experienced in mi vida.

Afterwards, Aunt Jackie's had a glam team on deck to wash and do some of the ladies' hair and makeup. Among the team were hairstylists Shaniqua Garrett and Nakesa Smith, makeup artist Mesha Thomas, as well as hairstylist and owner of the Detangler Brush Felicia Leatherwood.

Taking part in the ancient Mayan ritual to kick off our spa day retreat.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Welcome Aunt Jackie's Curls & Coils!

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Mimosas all around!

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Tiffany indulging in a facial provided by the spa.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Felicia Leatherwood doing her thing!

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Makeup artist Mesha Thomas beating Arielle's face.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Thank you Naay Spa!

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Farewell Dinner

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

To commemorate our magical experience with the Curlfriends coming to an end, we had dinner on the rooftop on a windy night where the light from the full moon acted as our source of energy. We were treated to an immaculate dinner that included crab salad with spinach, shrimp salad with pineapple, string beans, lobster, and more. We communed over drinks, laughter, and the electric slide. It was such a powerful reminder of the incredible energy that's felt when surrounded and being poured into by dope women.

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Photo by Onye Creative Studios

Thank you Aunt Jackie's Curls & Coils for an experience I'll always remember!

Be on the lookout for Aunt Jackie's Butter Fusions and travel-sized collections, coming in 2020!

Photography by Onye Creative Studios

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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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