Cynthia Francillon

Say good-bye to 2016 and one of the most difficult electoral choices made by Americans. Here's how we move forward.

April Reign
Jan, 03, 2017

This feature originally appeared in the ESSENCE January 2016 issue

We begin 2017 filled with trepidation. After all the negativity that dominated the media as part of the last election cycle, it is time to burn some sage and cleanse our homes and spirits. I invite you to make this a period of purpose and intention. Instead of making New Year's resolutions that will be forgotten before the flowers begin to bloom, consider how you will be purposeful in your everyday life. What intentional steps will you take to ensure that this is your best year ever?

Sadly, we must bid farewell to the most phenomenal First Lady this country has ever seen. The grace, wit and elegance of Michelle Obama may never be matched. I mourn the end of the Obama presidency and will be forever thankful for what it has meant for my daughter to see girls who look like her grow up in the White House.

There is still a ways to go. Issues surrounding equal pay for equal work, state-sanctioned violence and mass incarceration affect us more than any other demographic. How do we build stronger communities when our Black men and women are senselessly killed or disproportionately incarcerated? It is imperative that we mobilize to ensure we continue to make our voices heard.

In addition, I believe we must focus on education. While we understand the necessity of concentrating on the STEM fields, I suggest we begin embracing the lesser-known acronym STEAM, and acknowledge the importance of the arts in schools. Dance, music, theater and other artistic endeavors teach life skills that one cannot glean from a science experiment or an algebraic equation. Often it is through interaction with the arts that our children find ways to express themselves. How do we make certain that our students' creativity is being nurtured?

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While we take the lead on these concerns, it is essential to recognize for whom and with whom we fight. Young Black women have an unquenchable spirit that cannot be denied. Not only are they at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement, but they also have courage that ripples throughout every facet of our existence. Their unapologetic Blackness, coupled with the resolve handed down to them by the ancestors, is inspiring to watch. But we must do more than watch; we must act. What purposeful steps can we take to walk alongside them toward our common goals?

As we look forward, we must also pay homage to those who have paved the way. Last year seemed to be filled with the passing of those who were taken from us too soon. Let us pledge to sit at the feet of our elders so that they may bestow pearls of wisdom on us. Let us record their history while we still can to guarantee that they and their life lessons are not forgotten. If you do not have seniors in your immediate circle, perhaps spending time with an elderly neighbor or someone in an assisted-living center will provide you with an opportunity to learn and grow.

As we fight for a better life for ourselves, our families and our communities, we must practice self-care (see "Revive Your Soul" on page 72). All too often, Black women are viewed as superhuman. Our very nature is to give, to nurture, but we don't turn that tenderness inward often enough. Contrary to what some seem to believe, and we generally attempt to perpetuate, we are finite. We must honor ourselves enough to refill the well before it runs completely dry. I invite you to discover within yourself what it is that restores you and make the time to engage in that activity on a regular basis without excuses or guilt.

I am encouraged by what we see on the horizon. It is a time of empowerment for Black women, as 2016 confirmed once again that #BlackGirlMagic lives in each of us. We must allow the light within to shine so brightly that it inspires those around us. We must take that light and let it guide us along the path of discovery and inspiration. No longer should we wait for the right time, the right job, the right mate, the right bank account balance. We must forge our own destiny with purpose and intention. We will not be denied. We have the power; we always have. Now is our time.