2016 has been a complicated year (to say the very least!) We lost Prince (allow me to repeat that slowly - WE LOST PRINCE!!) As you can tell I'm still not totally over that...
If that wasn't bad enough there was "Brexit" and the rise of right wing fundamentalism across Europe; oh and Donald Trump was elected President of the United States (and my heart spontaneously combust into flames because what is this life? ). Then we lost Fidel.... So yeah - “¡Viva la Revolución!”
....and then one of my FAVOURITE teachers of all time Mr. Apata passed away (he made high school English classes so wonderful!) Sigh... That's him below :)
So 2016 was that year that moved at several WTF's per minute - seriously it was PETTY AF!! You know how Zora Neale Hurston talks about year's that ask questions and year's that answer - well 2016 just left me not really knowing WHAT TO THINK!! But don't get me wrong there were certainly some good(ish) moments - Beyoncé releasing her 6th studio album "Lemonade"; and her baby sis Solange did the damn thing with her release of her latest offering "A Seat at the Table" and then of course there was Kendrick Lamar...But the 'good' moments were fleeting...just too few and far between.
And so with the up and down roller coaster that was the year 2016, I decided to pull together my own list of things that made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. These are the things that brought me joy amidst all the craziness that was. And so here is my list of things I am proud to have done(or been part of) in 2016:
1) I made my first trip to Haiti! In June I was invited by the young feminist art collective Nègès Mawon to showcase "Black Joy : The Art of Play" - a photo series that I've been working on for a couple of years. I was also invited to lead a series of workshops on Feminist Artivism as part of the very first "Feminis? Poukisa?" Art festival. This was my first trip to Haiti and I was honoured to share space and ideas with so many incredible young activists.
2). In November, I started "Curvy Fit Club Antigua" a lifestyle program that focuses on holistic wellness, fitness and health for primarily plus-size women (but open to all). I started this program following my own health challenges and as part of my own fitness goals. I also created it in an effort to build community and offer support to other women struggling to make time for self-care and open to challenging themselves and their bodies. It's been an incredible journey thus far - and along the way we raised $1,500 in support of one participant's mother's cancer treatment (because it takes a village and all that!) I really look forward to watching the space continue to grow!
3). At the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to WRITE MORE. I also committed to taking on much more editing work (which is something I've always loved doing), and to build on my work around supporting women's rights organising. With those goals in mind, I am proud to have edited the 2017 edition of "Women Leading Africa" which takes a look at African women's philanthropic efforts. Women Leading Africa is published by the African Women's Development Fund. I was honoured to work with some amazing African feminists in the design and editing - and I can't wait to share it in early 2017! As part of my work with Women's organisations and movements - I continue to be proud to serve on the boards of the Global Fund for Women, Just Associates (JASS), and to support other organisations that are close to my heart such as Mama Cash and FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund. Check out the GFW Instagram to peep my 'insta-takeover' in November. I also had the incredible pleasure of working with Comic Relief in support of their 2016 grant making efforts. That brought me closer to groups like FORWARD - one of the leading organisations working on FGM on the continent and iSpace Ghana which is doing really really great work teaching young African women coding.
Finally, I feel really honoured to have contributed to Simply Antigua and Barbuda with the Leeward Consultants team. This beautiful 264 page tourism coffee table book presents the islands of Antigua & Barbuda and their people in all our natural beauty and vibrant talent. I was honoured to have been asked to write about some the incredible art, music and culture that Antigua has to offer! Check it out here.
4). Another awesome project that I took on this year was working with Kenyan Artist and Illustrator Lulu Kitololo in re-designing the African Feminist Forum website. We had so much fun working together and it was a real gift to be given the opportunity to amplify some of the amazing contributions being made by feminists from across the African continent.
5). MOVING HOME! In March, I moved back to Antigua (which is where I grew up!) It has been wonderful to be closer to my family and to be able to spend time around loved ones. I've also loved being able to build my own space and create a comfortable home space for myself - filled with art, music, and delicious home cooked meals - All the things I truly love!
6). Another exciting project I worked on this year was my 'insta-takeover' for my friend Chantimedia's "Island Girls Rock" (@IGRTravel) project. It was an awesome opportunity to share some of my favourite places and sites of interest in my small island home - Antigua. There are so many hidden gems across the island and it was a wonderful way to discover new and exciting things that Antigua has to offer.
7) Co-Building the Black Feminisms Forum (BFF) in Bahia, Brazil - Ahhh this project was so much LIFE!! There are so many incredible things about the BFF - from working with an amazing collective of Black Feminists from across the diaspora as part of the Working Group, to working with NSOROMMA on putting together BLACK CANVAS -Bahia, to sharing space with so many incredible Black feminists - the BFF was LIT on all the levels! What a magical opportunity and one that made me think there is hope in spite of our daily struggles. Read more about the BFF here, here and here.
8) Celebrating and Honouring Community & Black Girl Magic! One of my favourite quotes is from an amazing article called: Survival Tips for Black Women Who Are Asked to Do Too Much. It reminds us to: "Kick it, regularly, with your homegirls. This can be magic."
This year, I have done the MOST with my homegirls! From ringing in the New Year in Jamaica, to literally getting in FORMATION with my sister-friends in Miami at the Beyonce tour in May, to celebrating weddings (just find me on 1-800-Bridesmaid), new babies, and eating vegan dim sum in San Francisco, I have made it my mission to show up for and spend time with women who I love. There is NOTHING more magical than being in the company of women who go as hard for you, as you do for them. Believe me. Honestly, Truly.
....and so I share all of these things simply as a reminder - that in spite of everything - we must never forget the beautiful moments...The moments that bring joy, laughter, friendship, courage, hope and so much more. In a world that often feels difficult, dangerous and dark - there are moments of light that burst through the seams. We are our own liberation and the beauty in what we believe is also in what we create. May 2017 be filled with as much beauty and magic as we have the power to manifest.
With so much love,