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7 Ways To Step Into 2021. Bolder And Better.

"Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect."—Alan Cohen

Inspiration

I must admit that I'm not the biggest fan of New Year's resolutions. The main reason why is because, if you think that something is gonna miraculously change by waiting until January 1 to do something, that already has you in a pretty unrealistic state of mind. What I mean by that is, waiting until some specific date to accomplish a goal is not only low-key procrastination but a pretty futile ambition because, if you want to see real progress, a profound key to making that happen is seizing the moment that you're currently in—you need to prepare to take steps towards your growth and evolution, just as soon as possible.

It probably is a major understatement for most that 2021 can't get here soon enough. Yet please don't wait until then before doing what needs to be done to walk into it with a clear, solid and resilient state of mind. Yeah, if you want next year to be your best one yet, here are seven suggestions that can definitely help to make that happen…if you act—now.

1. Create Spiritual and Emotional Mission Statements

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Most folks have heard of a professional mission statement that companies create. While it can serve a myriad of different purposes, the main one is to keep everyone involved clear on the purpose of the business and the overall goals that the company ultimately wants to achieve. Well, for these same reasons, I think it's super important to also have a personal mission statement; it's so we, as individuals, can also have clarity on what our purpose is and what we want to personally accomplish too. Because there are so many layers to our lives, over the years, I've come to realize that sometimes one personal mission statement isn't enough. What I mean by that is, sometimes, our "missions" need to be broken down into various categories. And if there are two that I think are super important, it's a spiritual and emotional mission statement.

What does that even mean? Well, what do you want to accomplish when it comes to your personal development on the spiritual tip? Do you want to pray more? Meditate more? Figure out what works for you when it comes to the faith you grow up in vs. the person you are now? Have you ever really sat and pondered what it means to have a spirit or soul or now to nurture either or both (check out "Here's Exactly How To Start Protecting Your Spirit" and "I've Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul"). Do you desire for your romantic relationship to become more spiritual in the upcoming months? Emotionally, how do you want to handle your emotions in the new year? Because, contrary to popular belief, while emotions are important, we do have more power over how we react to what we are feeling than a lot of us realize. Plus, when we're paying close attention, our emotions can give us a heads up on some of the patterns we're repeating, red flags that we're ignoring or decisions that we should be making.

Again, a mission statement speaks to having a purpose and then setting goals around it. So, why not think about what purpose your spiritual and emotional facets of your life should serve in 2021 and what you would like to say transpired in both areas by the time 2022 gets ready to show up?

2. Put Together a Pampering Plan

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Someone on the xoNecole team (who I won't put on blast, but she knows who she is), when I first came on board, we used to talk about the importance of pampering. It was kinda crazy to me, how much she struggled with even grasping the concept of participating in this form of self-care. But you know what? When you really stop to think about it, how many of us can raise our hands and honestly say that pampering is something that was taught to us while growing up? Boy, do I wish that I could find for y'all a tweet that I saw several weeks ago of the cutest little Black girl who had a turban on her head, candles all around her and was sitting in a tub that was filled with flower petals. Sis couldn't have been more than five or six and man, do I salute her mom for modeling the importance of engaging in that kind of self-love, at such an early age.

Being a Black woman in this world—and especially America—is both powerful and draining at the same time. And so even though pampering is literally "to treat with excessive indulgence", it still shouldn't be seen or treated as a luxury. When you are extremely focused about taking care of yourself, it de-stresses you, it elevates your self-esteem, it creates (or solidifies) a standard for what you expect out of your life, it energizes you and it brings you peace.

So yeah, you definitely need to go into 2021 with a clear plan for how you want to pamper yourself. This should include putting together a pampering budget and also a pampering schedule. For instance, while I care for my own hair at home and I'm actually not big on massages (I know, right?), I'm not missing a nail or eyebrow appointment and that's period.

2020 threw us all kinds of curve balls. Hopefully, something that we learned from them is we shouldn't wait until we're totally spent to care for ourselves. A plan should already be in place so that, no matter what comes our way, we already know that a hair appointment, a facial, a massage, a mani/pedi—something is just a few days away to get us off of the grid. What will that be for you next year?

3. Get Clear on What Your Job vs. Your Career Is

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Wanna know a very telling sign that you have matured as an adult? It's when you stop being dependent on other people (parents included) in order to take care of yourself (unless you're in dire straits, of course); it's when you accept that a part of what comes with growing up is doing what needs to be done, whether you always, automatically or necessarily want to do it—or not.

This is where learning the difference between having a job and developing your career comes in. There is someone in my world who is a bona fide creative. Problem is, they are constantly in a creative cul-de-sac because they are so focused on wanting to do nothing but music that they never have enough money to fund their dream; that's because they are always quitting a job because it has nothing to do with their creativity (see what I mean about the cul-de-sac)? The mature approach to this is not, "This job has nothing to do with what I really want to do, so I quit." The much wiser hot take is, "My job helps to pay my bills, invest in my dreams and take the stress off of me so that I can someday do what I want to do, full-time."

Many studies indicate that as much as 85 percent of people hate their jobs. I can only imagine that a lot of folks do because all they think about is "I need it to pay the bills" instead of figuring out how they can make their job fit into their purpose while putting together a time management plan so that they can devote some time, on a daily or weekly basis, to make their dreams and desires come true; if not immediately, in due time.

Walking into your office every day, saying "I hate my job" on repeat is not gonna benefit you one bit. Instead, decide that next year is going to be about using your job to make your career thrive. So that purpose, come 2022, things can look very different for you on the professional front.

4. Set Some Skin, Hair and Nails Goals

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An author by the name of Michael Korda once said, "One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals." When you read that, I'm willing to bet my next paycheck that you didn't think about this as it relates to your skin, hair and nails. Oh, but I think that you definitely should.

Recently, I had a conversation with an older friend of mine about how it fascinates me that we as Black women can go 20 years looking like we're 35-40 and then one day—BAM! We look 65 (even if we aren't quite there yet). While there is nothing wrong with that (because aging is a blessing), I do think that a part of the reason why that can happen is we take our own melanin for granted. We walk around here on the "Black don't crack" tip, assuming that we don't have to do as much maintenance/upkeep as "other folks" do; then we end up with fine lines, age spots and a loss of elasticity that could've been avoided had we be more proactive.

Your skin is the biggest organ that you have. Your hair is your crowning glory. There is something so feminine and beautiful about well-manicured nails. Not too long ago, I checked out an article on Simone Williams. If you've never heard of her before, she's currently the title holder for having the biggest Afro in the world. Do you really think that she didn't have some hair goals to make that happen (an article that might be able to help you in this area is "Looking For Hair Growth? It Might Be Time To Bring 'Blue Magic' Back")?

A lot of us want clear skin, longer hair and bangin' nails. Those things don't just automatically happen; you need to have a plan and that includes creating short and long-term goals for all three. So, make sure that at some point, before this year closes out, you jot down what you want for your own skin, hair and nails. Make sure to reward yourself in some way for reaching every milestone too. If you do, you might be floored by how different you look, come this time next year. Real talk.

5. Go on a “People Fast”

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There's a filmmaker here in Nashville by the name of Molly Secours who once said something to me that I will pull up in my mental Rolodex and personally apply from time to time—"I'm going to get still and quiet and see what comes to me." While, in many ways, introverts and ambiverts fared pretty well during this pandemic (on the social front because we don't really pull our energy from others in the first place), I totally get that it was probably a bit of a struggle for extroverts. Plus, being on lockdown really did take not being around a lot of people to the utmost extreme.

That's why I get it if some of you read this particular point and said to the screen, "Are you f—king kidding me?" However, just because you may not have been in a lot of people's physical presence, that doesn't mean that Zoom calls, Facetiming and constantly being on social media and reading emails wasn't on a totally different level.

None of us are an island. We need human interaction and relationships. At the same time, if you don't take a break from folks from time to time, they can start to drain you, their conversations can start to feel more like background noise and you can find yourself becoming resentful because there aren't any healthy boundaries in place (including the art of knowing how and when to say "no"). I do people fasting a few times a year and it's one of the best practices that I've put into my life. It gives me time to journal. To reflect. To figure out what relationships (professional and personal) are benefitting me and which aren't. You can never go wrong with getting quiet sometimes. Find at least a long weekend to put your phone on silent, to not check your social media or email and just chill with yourself. One way or another, everyone who you interact with will only benefit from it because you did.

6. Cultivate a Sleep Ritual

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Even if you Kanye shrugged your way through this entire article, I am urging you to strongly take this point into some serious consideration. As if it shouldn't be alarming enough that sleep deprivation can result in things like severe mood swings, a weakened immune system, a lower libido, high blood pressure, a lack of concentration and productivity and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, not getting at least 6-8 hours a night can also lead to brain damage. No joke.

Just like it's insane that a lot of us think that pampering is some sort of luxury rather than a sho 'nuf necessity, it's even weirder that some people treat sleep in the same fashion. Listen, when it comes to your overall health and well-being, it's not about not having time to go to bed, on a schedule, each and every night—it's about whether you are gonna make it a priority or not.

As you're figuring out what you actually need as you prepare to step into the new year, set aside some coins to get some new bedding; to play some rain or ocean ASMR videos (YouTube has a ton of commercial-free ones); to rub your feet down with some lavender or chamomile essential oil (both will calm you; make sure to put some on your sheets while you're at it); to stop eating and drinking around two hours before turning in (and if you are going to drink something, consider having some herbal tea or tart cherry juice); to turn off all devices that have an on-off switch and read a book or just chill out instead; to consider taking a magnesium/calcium/zinc supplement (it's a natural nerve and muscle relaxant), and if someone is in the bed with you, to maybe get an orgasm or two in. Creating a sleep ritual can make getting up every day so much easier. It can actually extend the length of your days on this earth too. And that should be an annual goal for all of us, wouldn't you say?

7. Figure Out What You Need. DON’T SETTLE EITHER.

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Just recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about needs in relationships. When I said, "I need certain things from all of my friends", initially she offered pushback by saying she doesn't really "need" anything from anyone. I know this person well and there are walls that have gone up due to years of not having needs met, so she's programmed herself into thinking that needs and being needy are one in the same. They absolutely are not.

We need food, water and shelter in order to survive. Well, if we want our relationships to thrive, there are certain things that they need too. I don't just mean personal friendships; professional ones have certain requirements as well. And so yeah, I'm gonna close this particular article out by encouraging you to really think about what you need from those around you because 1) it's not people's fault that you aren't getting what you need from them if you're not telling them what that is and 2) there's no point in remaining in certain relationships if your needs are constantly being overlooked. Right?

No matter what this crazy world that we are living is has going on, you can soar like you never have before by simply tending to some specific areas of your life. As someone who has applied all seven of these in 2020 and, for the most part, had an extreme peace-filled year, please consider doing some of this in preparation for what is to come. 2021. Can you believe it? Yeah, me neither.

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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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