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This Is How You Can Maintain Peace...In Chaos

"Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace." —Dalai Lama

Wellness

It's kinda crazy. "It" being that, while this year is showing out in a billion of different ways, on many levels, I personally feel more peaceful than I ever have. One day, maybe I'll get into how I know a big part of that came from removing some people, places, things and ideas (boundaries; boundaries are good, y'all) that were no longer serving me—and more importantly, where I am headed. Yet, my inner peace goes even beyond that.

For about 12 years now, I've been on the tip of collecting things. Each year, it's something that symbolizes where I'm at and "what I'm on" at the moment. This past year, it was puzzle pieces. They symbolize that I am a puzzle piece that "fits" some places and doesn't fit others. My job isn't to try and force my "piece" into any picture (because that could damage the piece and pic, simultaneously), but to welcome where I fit and literally be at peace with where I don't. And you know what? Living like this has brought about an inner tranquility that is basically unshakeable, no matter how chaotic things seem to be right through here. Or ever.

I know 2020 is trying to steal a lot of our peace, sis. That is for damn sure. Just know that whatever is trying to shake you to your core, there is a way to maintain in the midst of it. Here are some suggestions that have definitely worked for me.

Create Your Own “Bubble”

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When I took my required birthing class (which was Hypnobabies) in order to become a doula, one of my favorite techniques, that I tend to recommend, even to women who aren't pregnant, is what is known as the "bubble of peace". Anyone who's been pregnant before knows that people tend to have an abundance of opinions, perspectives and information about what they think a new mother should and shouldn't do, both during her pregnancy and after she gives birth. By creating a bubble of peace, she is able to tune out anyone and anything that is triggering her or stressing her out.

At the end of the day, it's basically about meditating and centering in on thoughts that make you feel calm and peaceful. And I promise you that if you make it a priority to cultivate your own, it can help you to tune out life's background noise so that you can focus on what your mind, body and spirit are telling you that you need, at any given time—even if what they need is for you to simply chill out and do absolutely nothing.

Take News (and Phone) Breaks

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Something that I've learned about myself throughout the years is that I have a really high threshold for information. What I mean by that is, it takes me a while—months even—to get to a point where I'm like, "OK, I've had enough" (although 2020 has definitely been testing me in this way!). But boy, when I first saw the footage of George Floyd being murdered by those cops, I broke. I cried. I had to shut the news cycle down for a minute. I had had enough.

You can read articles like TIME's "You Asked: Is It Bad for You to Read the News Constantly?" to know that there is no way around the fact that constantly taking in the news (or info, period), whether it's online or off, will not only elevate your stress levels but it can cause you to fall into the rut of constantly seeing things from a "glass half empty perspective". Same thing goes for always talking on the phone, especially if it's with family members or friends who consistently err on the side of negativity. That's why it's so important to take intentional breaks from the news and your phone. Turn off your notifications. Put your phone on silent. Then read a book. Watch a movie. Listen to music. Take a nap. Do something that will totally get your mind off of all that's going on in the world. Chile, Daily Mail, Black Twitter and your cynical auntie ain't going nowhere. They'll all be right where you left them—whenever you decide to come back.

Be on Your Own Time Schedule

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Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. So yeah, whenever seniors in my life try and act like it's only this generation that is wilin' out, I remind them of what the Good Book says. The difference now is thanks—or maybe no thanks—to things like the internet and camera phones, we're constantly in the loop of what's going on…pretty much all over the globe. And since things seem to be always moving at such a rapid pace, it can tempt us to speed up when it comes to how our own lives are flowing. Please don't fall for that trap. Rushing can cause you to make unnecessary mistakes. Rushing can bring about feelings of anxiety. Rushing can stop you from truly connecting with others. Rushing can prevent you from getting the clarity that you need. Rushing can hinder you from living in the moment.

While I'm sharing Scripture, Matthew 6:34(NKJV) states, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Those are words of wisdom from Christ himself. What he was basically saying is, all you've really and truly got is right here and now. Slow down. Take it in. Do what is relevant in order to bring out the best in this present moment.

Should you plan ahead? Sure. All responsible people do. Yet should you worry about what you can't control in the future or even be in a rush to get there? Nope. Not if you desire true inner peace, you shouldn't, anyway.

Find a “Vent” Partner

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There is a particular person in my life who is basically my vent partner. I'm not sure how we got to the point and place of being that for one another, but the "position" requires being on-call—whenever. When she's about the spaz TF out, she calls me. When I need to ramble, cuss or sometimes even scream, she's there. The cool thing about having this type of individual in your life is there are a safe place (because they don't share your vents nor "judge" you for them) to get out your initial frustrations so that you can calm down and do, whatever it is that you're about to do (or not do), from a less emotional and more logical and practical space.

Sometimes, the reason why we feel so unsettled when it comes to what's going on around us is it seems like we're not being heard or validated when it comes to how we feel about things. A vent partner fills this void so that we know we're supported, which makes us feel more capable to endure…whatever it is that needs to be.

Do What Makes You Happy

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Happiness. Remember that? When I was recently reading an article on how some researchers define what it truly means to be a happy individual, I liked that it said, "It's not about smiling all the time nor does it stem from money or health, but a self-belief you are on the road you want to be on." The beauty in that resolve is, no matter what is happening around you, in many ways, you have the power to choose what path you want to be on; not just long-term but in the now. So, what would make you happy, right at this very second? Some Ben & Jerry's ice cream (shout out to them and their consistent support of the Black Lives Matter movement)? A glass of wine? Catching up with an old friend? Some hanging-off-of-the-chandelier sex with your partner? Playing with your kids. Doing an arts and crafts project? Writing? Singing? Podcasting? What?

Making the conscious decision to be like, "You know what? No matter what y'all are doing, I'm going to take out a moment and do what makes me happy", is not about being selfish or even insensitive. As the article that I referenced said, it's about putting yourself on a particular path. And anything that makes you feel happy can help to make you feel content…which can help to make you feel more centered and secure…which can definitely help to make you feel more peaceful.

Remember You’re Here “For Such a Time As This”

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If you read the story of Esther in the Bible, there is a line from something that her cousin, Mordecai said that goes like this—"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14—NKJV) It was his way of reminding Esther that, even though saving her people was going to be quite a daunting task, the fact that she existed in a time when Jews needed deliverance was not a happenstance thing. In this present time, the same goes for me and the same goes for you. While I'm sure you've had multiple, "What in the world is going on?!" moments, probably at least a dozen times this week alone, it's not a "random" thing that you exist. There is something about your gifts, talents, personality, perspective and mere existence that is oh so very necessary—right here and right now. Knowing that you—as Whoopi Goldberg once said in an episode of A Different World—"are a voice in this world", who can make an impact like no one who came before you or will come after you can, should bring a peace like nothing else.

Because if you didn't serve a purpose, you wouldn't be here; you'd be unnecessary. You are here, though. And that's something to feel really good, resolved and totally at peace about. Here's praying that you do.

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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
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