I’m praying for courage

Happy new year

When Saeed Jones was growing up his mom would tell him, "We don’t make New Year's resolutions in this house; we make determinations. We are a determined household."

I, too, am a determined household but I wrote most of determinations down in Q3 2020 because every year, the end of summer is always when my brain finally wakes up. My deepest apologies to the friends who try to get me into crystals because the only energy I believe in is back to school energy. It is certainly not a coincidence that this newsletter came to be in Q4.

Determinations work for me because I am allergic to the idea of new year’s resolutions. I also cannot “visualize” anything to save my life and I am genuinely baffled when people talk to me about “manifesting” things. That said I find it really soothing and sometimes exciting to carve out time to think about my potential.

“Am I reaching my potential?” is a fundamentally different question than “How can I be number 1?” I find the latter question boring and lacking in ambition, frankly. Being #1 is often about professional accomplishments. It also involves a very narrow definition of success that’s heavily influenced by family, colleagues and all sorts of ragamuffins that are not you. I don’t know everything but it does seem to me that efforts and accomplishments do not necessarily equal a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Living life by someone else’s standards? That’s a recipe for disaster no matter how great you think that person is. Also life is bigger than chasing professional accomplishments so one’s potential should account for that, no?

“Am I reaching my potential?” is about trying to know yourself deeply. It’s also about developing some character. About having a backbone and standing up for yourself and for your community. It’s going to be another long, arduous year but I am determined to summon courage and kindness at every turn.

Happy new year.

I am reading

  • Somebody’s Daughter, an advanced copy of Ashley C. Ford’s memoir out in June. I will have more to say about it soon but in the meantime just know that I am really moved by it and thinking about all the hard but good internal work it takes to let go of the past and propel yourself forward. Do yourself a favor and pre-order it now. Future you will will thank you for the foresight.

  • "Are we witnessing a visitation or a conjuring?" This is a terrific piece about black art history featuring very intimate and very black family snippets and I am really happy it was the first thing I read in the new year.

  • Defund celebrity. Thank you.

  • Missing things you hadn't thought were missable like the myriad of ways we greet each other. I keep dreaming of the day I will be allowed to kiss my siblings and father on the cheek again.

  • Blessed Images. OK this is technically a newsletter that’s mainly just images but y’all the images are blessed. None of us need more email in our life but this is free, infrequent and always makes my day when it lands in my inbox.

I am watching

Black Journal, WNET's news program "about Blacks and for Blacks," is now streaming in full as part of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. You can read more about it here. It’s truly fantastic.

Roger Ebert wrote that Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 ‘Much Ado About Nothingis a progression through a series of picnics, communal bathing, dinners, banquets, dances and courtships” and ain’t that the truth!! This movie is relentlessly cheerful so def give it a stream if you need some cheering up.

I love watching Keanu Reeves struggle to get into the flow of the Shakespearean dialogue and you can see him itching to pepper in a “dude” or “excellent” after every line. True story: he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor but lost to Woody Harrelson for Indecent Proposal.

Hang in there

Kindness, kindness, kindness.

I want to make a New Year’s prayer, not a resolution. I’m praying for courage.

Susan Sontag, in her diary entry dated 1972, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

Do you have have any new year’s traditions? I made Texas caviar and it was delicious! See you Wednesday.