I am blessed enough to work with a staff of young writers who inspire me every single day. They are graduate students, community activists, educators, and content producers who make my job as Managing Editor that much easier. So, I wanted to take some time to spotlight them and give you a chance to get to know them a little better.

Liz Adetiba (Contributing Writer), Jordie Davies (Assistant Editor), Alyx Goodwin (Contributing Writer), Akudo Mez (Social Media Coordinator), and Keith Reid-Cleveland (News Editor) are the core voices of Black Youth Project. I got the chance to ask them a few questions about their thoughts as we move out of 2016 and into 2017. Here are their responses:

1. What was your most memorable Christmas and why?

Liz had a great memory to share. She said, “My most memorable Christmas was Christmas 2005/2006. I was playing basketball for a select team, and the previous year, my mom purchased Starbury’s for me. People at school clowned me for wearing these shoes! But it was better than playing ball in running shoes.”

She explained further that her, “mom and our family friends saw that I’d been putting in a lot of work that year, and they teamed together to buy me my first (and last) pair of Air Jordan’s. I almost died, I was so excited! It made me feel so great to know that they loved me and supported me that much.”

Jordie answered by reflecting on being with her family for the holidays. She said, “I had a wonderful Christmas break in Destin, Florida with my family. I was with my brothers, my sister in law, my niece, my cousins, and my parents after a really tough semester at school. I had just gotten some good grades back and felt amazing walking on the beach and, in some sense I felt, walking in my purpose.”

Akudo got pretty nostalgic saying “I almost got really sad because I couldn’t think of a memorable Christmas. But then I realized that it was never so much about Christmas day, but the build up too it. Any of my childhood Christmases make me long for those feelings of building up to decorating the tree, adorning our home, bottomless cups of hot chocolate, and of course the endless hours of Christmas movies and songs. Childhood Christmases were so special to me because of all of our pre-Christmas rituals it didn’t really matter what I got under the tree, the nostalgia was always in the season and not the day.”

2. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Why or why not?

Keith explained that he doesn’t “make New Year’s resolutions because I’m fully aware that what I wanted in December will likely change by February. I’m a very goal-oriented person. So, as soon as I accomplish something, I’m already looking for the next step and how to take it. I’d rather just work on being the best overall person I can be.

Alyx had a different approach. She said she, “used to try really hard to make resolutions I could keep, but the truth is I’m a little terrible with commitment (lol). It became so easy to fall off because I was the only one keeping myself accountable.”

She continued by clarifying how she makes self-improvement without resolutions. She said, “the last couple of years I’ve been setting intentions instead to help me be mindful of improving myself throughout the year, this has been much easier and much less forced. I believe I will become the woman I am supposed to regardless of the resolutions I set. So rather than being hard on myself trying to dictate who I’m going to be, I let nature take it’s course while I do my best to act on my own energy while at the least focusing on just being a better me.”

Like Alyx, Jordie has a good strategy that’s based on her experiences, “I try not to be too tough on myself, though. My to do list is long enough. I like resolutions because they seem like a good moment to reflect rather than plan. I ask myself what went wrong last year, what do I want to better myself at? I don’t always hold myself to it, but it’s a great moment to consider these things.”

Akudo told me she makes resolutions because “its a great time to self-reflect and see what my personal strengths and weaknesses were for the year. I actually do this a few times a year, but you know the New Year just sounds so FRESH.”

3. What are your plans top plans this holiday season?

Jordie is going to be busy “working on my Master’s paper. Baking a ton of cookies and pies. Trying to get into some un-required reading as well: Umberto Eco’s How to Write a Thesis and Beloved by Toni Morrison.”

Keith is keeping it simple saying that he will be consuming “a lot of food, Netflix and watching Elf on repeat.”

Liz is going to be busy. She told me she has “sooooo much writing to do! I have to write another 10 pages of my thesis, start work on a new investigative piece, and of course produce great content for the Black Youth Project. But besides that work, I plan hanging out with family and watching every season of ‘A Different World.’ I love that show so much and it really puts me in a calm place.”

4. If you could do anything in 2017, what would it be?

Alyx wants to be social telling me, she would like to “attend a concert or festival (I want to go to Broccoli Fest!) and/or attend a conference related to my interests.”

Akudo has big plans saying, “If I could do anything in 2017 it would be to visit my best friend in Spain. That would be my splurge for the year. Other than that 2017 priorities is to get my finances under control.”

Keith was more reflective explaining that he wants “2017 to be a strong enough year that I make this year’s achievements look ordinary. I’ll try not to put an actual marker on what I want to achieve and just focus on some kind of progress. When you stop making progress it’s hard to start up again.”

5. Now that 2016 is coming to a close, what was your favorite thing about it? Least favorite? Thing that gives you hope for 2017?

Akudo had a pretty good outline of her year sayingMy favorite thing for 2016 is that I graduated college this year (and all the incredible music). My least favorite thing was the endless cycle of trauma and drama that played out on the news 24/7. I think as a nation our consciousness was elevated this year and that gives me a lot of hope for 2017.”

Liz, like so many of us, is exasperated at the current year saying, “Good grief, 2016 was a piping hot mess. Not just in terms of America’s current political and social atmosphere, but also in terms of me learning to navigate the complexities of becoming an adult, and getting over failure and disappointment. The best part of 2016, however, was the people I met.”

She went on to say, “The friends I’ve made and connections I’ve formed with people in the last 6 months have been amazing and I’m so grateful for them. Obviously I’m not quite hopeful for the state of American politics in 2017, but I am given hope by the fabulous community of people I’ve surrounded myself with. I can go forward, try, and even fail, and still be supported in my pursuits. I’m ready to experience more of that in the coming year.”

Jordie gave an itemized list (being the doctoral student she is):

Whew. 2016 was a whirlwind! My favorite things are as follows: I pushed myself far past my academic abilities, successfully completing one comprehensive exam in American Politics (grad school isn’t pretty yall) and I began writing and editing for the wonderful Black Youth Project!, I traveled to this beautiful island off of Puerto Rico called Vieques with someone I really love, and I made and kept some wonderful friends/ colleagues for life.”

She went on to break her least favorite things and her hopes for 2017.

“My least favorite: Donald f*cking Trump. I wills say no more because I have elaborated here, here, and also hereI had some moments of fear that were crushing. Grad school isn’t pretty yall. I really missed someone I love.

What Gives Me Hope for 2017…interested and interesting people. People who want to help others, step out of their bubbles and learn. People who want to reach back and pull people up. If we’re going to resist the Donald Trump presidency, we have to be loud, we have to be active, and we can’t be afraid.”

Alyx said  she has had a lot of growth this year, saying that “As every year for the past couple of years, I saw my daughter grow so much, she’s so smart! And as she grows, I grow as a mother and a woman and I’ve really loved every minute of it. I also got a job writing about things I care about (shoutout to Jenn + Black Youth Project) and I’ve grown so much as a writer and activist.

Her least favorite thing was thinking about “just how much work we have to do in relation to the System and reality we are up against as Black folks. I think unfortunately, that’s life right now and for the next however many years, decades so that will likely be my least favorite part of any year.”

I decided to give Alyx the last word because her sentiment gave me hope for 2017.

“Hope, I have a lot of hope. I’m learning about love through a more communal lens and it’s different meanings and learning about radical love. Seeing love in action and learning to expand my understanding of love gives me a lot of hope.”

Again, I am beyond blessed to work with these young folx everyday. Happy holidays from Black Youth Project and we wish you more love, more grace, and more justice as we enter the New Year!

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