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The Greatest Love Of All, In The Words Of 4 xoNecole Writers

Love & Relationships

The holiday of love, Valentine's Day, brings a range of emotions to many as it is marketed as a time where couples bask in their love for one another through romantic gestures and elaborate gifts. God is good all the time, and as I am fully embracing my season of singleness as a gift instead of some forsaken curse, my perception of love has shifted. More often than not, I am exposed to how much I need the love that, in the past, I'd so desperately been trying to give to everyone else. I often find myself wondering what the exact meaning of love is, reflecting on the times that the words "I love you" were like a magical spell that enabled me to accept less than what I deserved and to also act in unloving ways towards others.


As a person who believes very deeply in the law of attraction, I have seen such a dramatic impact in my life since I have made the decision to spend less time chasing love, and more time loving what I have and recognizing the abundance of love that currently surrounds me despite presently not having a romantic partner. This shift in perspective has required me to open my eyes to the fact that there are different definitions of love, and how the more I learn how to love myself, the more my definition of what loving and to be loved improves.

If you would have asked a much younger me for the meaning of love, it would have been one of possession and tolerating the intolerable in the name of my commitment to another person, thus expecting the same in return. Now that I have had the time to start loving myself I realize that my meaning of love has transformed into acceptance, patience, freedom, wanting the absolute best, and actively seeking ways to achieve the best version of myself and others. I had the pleasure of sitting down and asking my fellow writers whom I adore, what love means to them individually and here is what they shared:

“I've learned to love the God in me. When you truly love and respect yourself, you fortify your boundaries and you pour out compassion, grace, and love in ways and amounts you didn't think were ever possible.”

What does love mean to you?

"Love is a choice, a decision - not just a feeling. If the feeling doesn't incite action, it's not love. Love is sure and intentional in its movement. Love is when even just a person's thoughts toward you, heal you and lift you higher. Love says, like Ossie Davis once told Ruby Dee, 'I love you means I want you to be the best you can be whether it benefits me or not.'"

How has learning how to love yourself more impacted the way you love others and/or changed your definition of what love means?

"Loving myself has been the best adventure. It's grown a deeper capacity for loving others and it's shown me another side of God I couldn't see clearly when I didn't love myself. His compassion, his love, his grace are visible in HD for me now because I've learned to love the God in me. When you truly love and respect yourself, you fortify your boundaries and you pour out compassion, grace, and love in ways and amounts you didn't think were ever possible. You're not easily offended and you meet life with an expectancy of the miraculous." - xo, Ashley J. Hobbs

“It’s a necessary guideline for people to understand how you want to be treated. It becomes an ultimatum at the point where you know you’re pushing someone to commit to actions they’re not ready for or have expressed zero interest in. And love can’t happen where ultimatums live.”

Kiarra Sylvester/Instagram

What does love mean to you?

"I feel that love is being able to unconditionally love someone. Not in the traditional sense that we always say it in which, when left open to interpretation, allows partners to cross boundaries — but instead, in a way that creates a space safe enough for you and your partner to share boundaries and expectations for oneself without being met with unproductive feedback. This is not to say every partner will be able to accommodate those boundaries, but then again isn't that unconditional love? Learning to release people when you can't commit to their boundaries and the most meaningful ways they wish to be loved? Which is why it's so important to be able to express them."

How has learning how to love yourself more impacted the way you love others and/or changed your definition of what love means?

"In learning to love myself more, I've learned that setting boundaries are not synonymous with delivering ultimatums. It's a necessary guideline for people to understand how you want to be treated. It becomes an ultimatum at the point where you know you're pushing someone to commit to actions they're not ready for or have expressed zero interest in. And love can't happen where ultimatums live." xo, Kiarra Sylvester

"As we continue to grow it's important to build the level of affection and discover more qualities to love. Love to me is understanding, openness, and selflessness."

What does love mean to you?

"Love to me is being able to love unconditionally and fully. Not allowing imperfections to interfere with your overall view and feelings for someone, constantly evolving with them to build a greater love. As we continue to grow, it's important to build the level of affection and discover more qualities to love. Love to me is understanding, openness, and selflessness."

How has learning how to love yourself more impacted the way you love others and/or changed your definition of what love means?

"Most of that is what I learned by loving myself, I have to love all parts of myself because it makes me, me. I need patience and understanding while learning how I can strengthen the love I have for myself." - xo Krissy Lewis

"If I find that loving someone in close proximity hinders me more than it heals me, that's not a connection I'll keep. I've learned that my love is power and I have the responsibility to use that power wisely.”

What does love mean to you?

"Love is everything. Love is unconditional, but it is also an active decision to do so, no matter the highs, the lows, the ebbs, or the flows. It's enduring but it's not tolerating. In its purest, healthiest form, it's freedom. Love for me acts similarly to the blood pumping through my veins and the air that I take in with every breath. It's the heartbeat of life. I think without it, things can feel hollow and lack meaning. All kinds of love – be it from self, be it familial, be it friendly, be it romantic – adds depth to our existence on this planet."

How has learning how to love yourself more impacted the way you love others and/or changed your definition of what love means?

"I'm going to be real as hell and say that my relationship with myself has been a complicated one but it's one that I've invested the most energy and effort into since I will be my longest relationship I ever have. Learning to love myself more has taught me the importance of self-respect and the hard decisions that even if everyone is deserving of love, everyone isn't deserving of my love. That's where choice comes in. If I find that loving someone in close proximity hinders me more than it heals me, that's not a connection I'll keep. I've learned that my love is power and I have the responsibility to use that power wisely. It hasn't changed the definition of love as much as it's changed my choices in what to do with it. My choices have been harder, but the struggle has been worth it." - xo, Sheriden Chanel

Featured image of Krissy Lewis by Drea Speaks/Instagram.

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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