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The Women With The Audacity To Make Love Of Self Their Priority

"I want to be with me."

Inspiration

They told us we were never meant to be alone. As our breasts sprouted and our hips spread, we were told someone would eventually arrive to protect all of our vulnerable pieces.

We were encouraged to go off and get the career and the degrees, but voices chased us along the way reminding us we would never be complete without marriage or motherhood. And while success in those areas may resonate with some women, no one ever presented us with options for what a happy life could look like if those paths didn't pan out—until now. We are in the midst of a feminine revolution where long held beliefs surrounding singlehood are being reconstructed in the hands of women who dare to dream differently.

"I want to be with me," Brittaney Trent, 29 year-old producer, writer and beauty maven told xoNecole.

Courtesy of Brittaney Trent

Standing at 5'9 inches, the statuesque fashionista is not afraid to do the next chapter of her life alone.

"I'm not ready to be in a relationship right now, as crazy as it feels and sounds. I just feel like there's still more I need to do for me, and I haven't had a chance to do that yet."

It's been five months since Brittaney's devastating split from her first love. While describing the relationship as the "best one she's ever had," in retrospect, she acknowledges they did not agree on the trajectory of their future.

"The crazy thing is, everyone who knew us was shocked. We were so close. I felt blind sighted, to be honest. Because it was like, 'Wait, you feel like we want different things out of life so it's just better to end this now than later?' What the hell? But he's right. It all worked out. We just wanted long-term different things."

In the space since the breakup, Brittaney has made her needs, wants and desires take precedence over everything else.

"Relationships were my priority for the past year, and I feel like I lost myself. Also, because I wasn't really that happy in my career at the time, he was the only thing making me happy. Looking back at this girl, I don't even know who she was. I'm at this vital age where I need to figure out what's best for me."

While doing things for herself (which includes quiet time and a Netflix binge sesh), Brittaney also centers her creative work in service to others. As a journalist, she's interviewed the biggest sports stars from Serena Williams to Simone Biles, and she recently took her storytelling talents to the beauty brand side. As a skincare aficionado, the Atlanta native highlights skincare tips with her "Fresh Face Fridays" franchise and prides herself on recommending healing products to her followers.

"I get fulfillment out of helping people feel confident with their skin, because your skin is a huge deal. And if you have bad acne and you don't feel confident about it, there are products that can help."

Now Brittaney's challenge is learning to support her own needs just as much as she supports others.

"I'm re-loving myself. At this moment, right now, I'm falling in love with myself and saying, 'What does Brittaney need?'"

Courtesy of Branché Foston

Asking what do I need is a rebellious act in and of itself, particularly as Black women who are expected to emotionally and physically mule for the rest of the world. The new age woman prioritizes self-realization, and Reiki Master, yoga teacher and herbal medicine practitioner, Branché Foston, is using this momentum to energetically (and physically) rub healing balm into the shared wounds of Black women in South LA.

"I love that I'm able to support people on their healing journeys while also reaching them in really broad and creative ways," the 30-year-old CEO of wellness brand, The Honey Block, told xoNecole.

Branché has what some would call, "executive presence." Her open, Virgo Sun/Leo Rising demeanor attracts seekers who are captivated by her light and wish to hold that same warm energy in their own lives.

"As a brown-skinned black woman, I love that they get to see themselves in me," Branché said.

"I love that I live in South Central--this is ours. It's not for thin blonde women or for black people who have three degrees and live in Venice. I have never felt so fulfilled as a person before, as a soul."

Actualizing self-love in a town as color struck as Los Angeles is a modern miracle. The superficiality that once plagued LA's reputation is now being overshadowed by the collective healing work being done in its communities. "The energy in our generation is finally on a tip of genuine collaboration," Branché said.

"I think that so much of the beginning of our 20s is a little bit capitalistic--everyone on their own. Now we are kind of in this place of, oh no, this is really about working together across whatever your passion points are."

For Branché, diving deep into her own work as a healer opened up multiple modalities to heal herself.

Courtesy of Branché Foston

"The fact that I look in the mirror now, and I'm like, 'You are so fine. And whoever you date is so blessed,' means so much to me. But it took me 30 years to get to that point. The more I felt aligned in my soul work, the more I was able to see the beauty of myself."

Doing spirit work doesn't automatically satiate the human desire for companionship, but what Branché learned are the tools to move through the lonely moments versus being paralyzed by them.

"Being alone is a gift, it doesn't mean we have to feel lonely."

"And what yoga has taught me is to be the observer. When feelings of loneliness do arise, how can I acknowledge and observe them without feeling identified to them?"

Her newly earned self-awareness comes with a deep respect for who and what is in her space.

"For me, the more I did my own work, the more I fell in love with it and the more I didn't want to settle with anything in my life. That kind of energy helps you reframe all the relationships in your life. My life isn't about getting married. My life is about my soul purpose. Marriage can be an extension of that, but it's not who I am."

The narrow narrative surrounding femininity and our perceived dependence on marriage to be content seeped into our collective consciousness where it either bloomed or rotted. It bloomed for the ones who got out early—some peers stumbled upon young, healthy connections, and other women willfully, or unknowingly, committed to a life of martyrdom in the name of love.

The rest of us marched into the late 20s, 30s and 40s, well-championed by best friends, colleagues, and families, but without a forever teammate to call "home". In the loud space of alone, many women opted to celebrate a "full life", while still being hungry.

Courtesy of Cortnee Kelly

But this appetite is not our own—it's one inherited through systems of patriarchy and misogyny that were too cowardice to see what choices women would make without being forced to make them around men. Now we are in a unique position to decide what we crave, and for many women, that space is in communions with themselves.

"Sitting outside on my deck watching the glory of nature and then meditating is my favorite self-care ritual," 34-year-old nurse practitioner Cortnee Kelly told xoNecole. "Actually anything where I'm in nature and able to witness God's glory, infinite power and grace. I'm just in awe. That's when I'm most at peace and grounded in nature. In those quiet moments I find myself saying, 'This is love.'"

As a compassionate medical professional in the cardiology field, Cortnee finds purpose in getting someone to smile or laugh in their weakest moments. She is the type of soul that will give her expert medical advice to patients while holding a prayer for their healing in her mind.

While she's worked diligently throughout her career to keep sick hearts healthy and beating, ironically, her biggest self-work would be in healing her own heart.

Cortnee recently ended an on-again, off-again connection that she described as "draining mentally and emotionally."

"There were a lot of things that I put up with that in retrospect [were] depleting me of me. I stayed for fear of starting over and possibly missing my chance for a family. But this relationship was no longer serving me."

Cortnee has found her voice again in the days since the break up, no longer silencing her wishes for the convenience of others.

"My journey this year is one of self-acceptance. I'm taking the approach of feeling the fear and doing it anyways. There was one instance recently where I spoke my truth even though my voice quivered, and I felt good because I honored myself. I found myself smiling about it later because it felt good to stand up for what is right for me."

Cortnee has found freedom in this newfound respect for herself. In a posture of surrender, Cortnee is now embracing the life that's unfolding before her, instead of contorting her path to fit others' expectations of her womanhood.

"I can't control anyone. I can't make someone be faithful, fall in love with me, marry me, and decide to have children with me. Life is unpredictable and ever-changing. I realized the only thing I can control is me and being the best version of me as possible. In fact it's a priority. And it takes work. But I'm worth it."

Featured image courtesy of Brittaney Trent

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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