An Open Letter to Mr. Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Emily and I am a 24-year-old “adult” in the beautiful city of Boston.  It feels a little silly to be writing to a man who is so busy, but hopefully by the time this reaches you things will have slowed down a bit…or maybe, just maybe, we will get to have this conversation in person someday.  I just couldn’t let you get too far from the White House without thanking you.

I was 16 when you were elected.  I remember watching with my dad – unable to understand the political intricacies, but fully understanding that history was being made in a big, big way.  As a mixed-race high school student in a predominantly white town, I remember how incredible it felt.  I mean, it felt SO cool to see someone who looked like me earn the most powerful position in the world.  Of course, I had role models like our girl Beyoncé, but you…you were different.  I’ll never forget that feeling of pride.  Thank you for making me proud of who I am.

I was 20 when you ran for reelection.  At this age, I still wasn’t very into politics but being able to vote for the first time ever, I was so excited to vote for you.  By this time, I knew what you stood for and could really appreciate your progressive campaign.  You encouraged hope and optimism and it made me so eager to exercise my right to vote for the first time, and to exercise it for you.  Thank you for being my first, and most sincere vote.

One day after my 21st birthday, terror struck Boston.  I was away at college, but I remember the details of that day and the days that followed in vivid, slow motion.  First came the shock, then the crying, then the fear.  It is absolutely terrifying for this to happen anywhere, but for the first time in my lifetime it was close to home, and it hurt.  I didn’t know how to feel.  Then came you.  I remember watching you speak with such calm empathy and compassion and all of my fears disappeared.  You said we would rebuild.  You said we would come back stronger than ever…and I believed you.  At that moment, your compassion was exactly what I needed.  It wasn’t the first, and wouldn’t be the last time I would look to you for how to react to a situation.  Thank you for easing my fears, and for teaching me to react with love, with hope, and with confidence to keep moving forward.

I was 22 when my grandfather, one of my best friends, passed away.  Mr. Obama, you would have loved him.  In his 86 years of life, you and I can only imagine the things he went through as a black man.  He prevailed, though, in the most glorious of ways.  He was an activist in the community and accomplished so much.  It hurts me to think about how he would feel about our next leader, so instead I try to think about how proud he was of you.  Thank you for being his final president, a true symbol of everything he worked so hard for.

Here I am at age 24, and I am so blessed that for 1/3 of my life I have had such confidence in and admiration for the leader of my country.  I can’t say the same for what is to come, but you told us not to be afraid.  “Be vigilant”, you said, “but do not be afraid”.  You told us to show up and stand up for what is right.  I will do that for you because that is what you did for us.

When I think of you, I think of class.  I think of unwavering grace in the toughest of situations.  When I think of you, I think of hope.

Thank you, Mr. Obama.  You will always have my vote.

 

We Go High.

For as long as I can remember, one of the challenges I’ve faced on a day to day basis is walking by an American flag t-shirt, decoration, etc. without having the urge to buy it.  I have always been proud to be an American and I have always believed that this country is the greatest in the world.  Today, my world has been rocked.  For the first time in my entire life, I am not proud to be an American.  For the first time in my entire life, I feel as though my country is not proud of me.

For as long as I can remember, America has been moving forward.  I have been very fortunate to live in a time of social progress, and while we have not gotten anywhere near perfect, it seems to me that we have always been moving forward.  Yesterday, we pressed pause.  We have voted as a country to come to a screeching halt on making our home a better place for women, for minorities, for immigrants, and for the LGBTQ community.

For as long as I can remember, I have looked at the president of the United States with utmost respect.  I was too young to vote for Bush, and too young to understand much of went on during his presidency, but I always, always respected him as a person.  In the first election in which I was able to participate, I voted for Barack Obama.  I was both proud & thrilled to watch him become president, and I have admired his poise every day since.  His grace has helped me to find my own, and for that, I am forever grateful.  I have never even considered thinking about  our President from a position of  contempt because I have always recognized and  appreciated how difficult the job must be.

Today, that has changed.  I do not respect a man who stands for all the terrible things about America. I do not respect a man who’s victory prompts my 13 year old sister to ask if she will have to leave the country.  I do not respect a man that leaves people asking themselves what they will tell their children.  On January 20th, for the first time in my life, I will not respect the President of the United States.

For as long as I can remember, I have been taught & believed with all of my heart that love is stronger than hate.  I have always clung to hope to extinguish fear.  I’ve written about it countless times, and I have always truly believed it.  I’ve told so many people that there are more good people in the world, in this country, than bad.

Today…well, today, that’s not changing.  This democracy & the fact that a horrible person has been given this title are pushing me to let go of hope. But I refuse.  My heart is broken, and my faith is being tested, but while I can’t believe we are in this position, I know that this is not the best we can do.  This is not the best our country can be.  The best part of the next 4 years will have nothing to do with our “leader”.  The best part will be the love and effort within all of the communities he targets and beyond as we work to stand our ground.  The best part will be  those who object.  It has to be.  It’s all we have.  We cannot stop.  We will again make this country one we are  proud of, that is inclusive and accepting of everyone, regardless of how they identify or who they love or what color their skin is. And for that to happen, I ask all of us to  keep loving, teaching, and believing.  Keep moving.

Forward.  Forward.  Forward.

Do All Lives Matter?

Our society is broken.  We are broken and torn up and losing our minds over an issue that has been prevalent for all of America’s history.  Many of us have no choice but to think about race every single day, while others only think about it when issues like this arise.  Amongst all of the ignorance and outright hatred I’ve seen from people I consider friends or peers, there has also been a great deal of understanding that has been touching to see.  Unfortunately the latter type comments are fewer and far between…I guess I’m a little unique in the sense that not only can I see both sides, but I live both sides every day as a biracial adult in urban America.

I’ve been silent about the Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter issue for reasons ranging from being speechless (shocking, I know) to just not wanting to stir the already overflowing and nauseating pot.  But to be silent is to essentially be part of the problem, right?

Dear All Lives Matter “Activist”,

I envy you.  I envy your ability to turn a blind eye on the shitstorm that is modern day racism.  I, like you, think that all lives matter.  OF COURSE a black life is no more important than a white, hispanic, asian, green, purple, or blue life.  What you are failing to recognize is that 99.99% of people who are saying Black Lives Matter are not insinuating that black lives matter more than other lives.  The point is not that all lives don’t matter.  The point is that right now, in this moment, black lives need attention.  They deserve attention.  Action.  Progress.  This is something that you might not understand which to some extent, isn’t your fault.  If you have never experienced racism, how could you be expected to know that there are entire populations that live their day to day lives being treated as less than others?  Well, I guess you could read a book, but I digress…

All sarcasm aside, how can you genuinely justify saying All Lives Matter when a white man who carried out a massacre in a black church is taken out alive by police, but a black man who MIGHT have been reaching for a gun is killed in cold blood?  How can you say All Lives Matter if when a white man rapes a woman, all we hear about are the records he’s set in swimming, but when a black man MIGHT be reaching for a gun, all we hear about is his distant criminal record?  How can you say All Lives Matter when gun owners jump to the defense of white shooters’ right to bear arms but say nothing when a black man with a license to carry is murdered for this very same right?  This. is. real. life.  I do not understand what can be ambiguous about this concept when the evidence is so clearly there.

I think what’s most mind blowing to me is the fact that those who are not marginalized only come to their population’s defense when another population is striving for equality.  No one was asking for Heterosexual Pride parades before gay people were joyfully celebrating their own pride.  I never see people making jokes about White History Month until it is Black History Month.  Guess what – every day is a heterosexual pride parade and every month is White History Month.  It’s okay, I’m half white…I’m allowed to say that.

Maybe a lot of this comes down to fear or ignorance toward what we don’t understand.  I don’t think any of us can sit here and say we’ve never judged something we couldn’t understand.  I myself have gone back and forth on this topic because I am someone who is (clearly) all for equality.  OF COURSE ALL LIVES MATTER, EMILY, COME ON.  But that’s really not the point right now.  I heard this comparison the other day that really made it clear to me and maybe it will help you, too.  It went something like this…

“Saying All Lives Matter is kind of like going to the doctor with a broken arm and having them say “all bones matter.”  This is true, but right now let’s take care of this broken one.”

I don’t have any answers and I don’t sit here and claim to be helping the cause.  I just think it’s important for everyone to be able to take a step back and realize what the real conversation should be.  Killing police is the FURTHEST thing from a solution, but demonizing black people asking for equal treatment isn’t going to do it either.  What kind of humans are we if we are fighting over who has the right to be angry?

All lives should matter…but right now, they just don’t.

 

Give Up On Giving Up

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into Target with my boyfriend on what was just one of our standard near-daily trips to this promised land. Upon walking in, you are immediately face to face with the women’s clothing section (well played, Target consumer analysts…). Evidently I am no exception to consumer behavior, as I quickly spotted a tank on the rack that read “Give Up on Giving Up”. Seeing as there was only one left and it was my size, I had picked it up and had begun walking away before I could even finish getting the words “I love this!” out of my mouth. My boyfriend was shocked (maybe horrified) at how quickly I had made up my mind without even a second glance at the thing but honestly, who can resist a good, cheap graphic tank? Not I…

Once I actually had the time to process this $12.99 piece of fabric, I started to think more about the message. This came at a time where I was trying to think of something to give up for Lent, and I had already given up on coming up with a new years resolution that I could even begin to stick to seeing as the word “diet” is not in my vocabulary. Could I give up on giving up? What would this mean? I have to do it now since I got the shirt, right?

So I’m giving it a try. I have never been blessed with patience, so unfortunately when things don’t come easily to me I am tempted to get frustrated. I’ve started to pay attention to the number of times the words “I can’t” or “I don’t know” come out of my mouth in a day and I’ve quickly come to realize the positive effects that this slight change could make not only in my personal life, but also in my career, fitness, and anything else I may take on this year. I can. And I don’t always know but I can always find the answer. Imagine what we all can accomplish if we only stop doubting ourselves?

In a world so busy and competitive, it is so easy to stay within our comfort zones and simply fly under the radar. Over the past few months, I’ve quickly realized how detrimental this can be. Sure, anyone can live comfortably and be perfectly happy with their own little world and there is nothing wrong with that mindset. Unless, of course, you want to be heard. To make a difference. To get what you deserve and work to deserve things you may not yet be deserving of. I’ve learned that no one is going to hand you anything if there are people working harder for it. Get up and get it.

Who wants to try this with me? Just for one day, take note of how many times you doubt yourself. You are the only thing holding you back. Unless you are on a low-carb diet…then that is holding you back. Just kidding 🙂

I’ll leave you with some wise words from my girl Meredith Grey:

“DON’T LET FEAR KEEP YOU QUIET. YOU HAVE A VOICE, SO USE IT. SPEAK UP. RAISE YOUR HANDS. SHOUT YOUR ANSWERS. MAKE YOURSELF HEARD. WHATEVER IT TAKES, JUST FIND YOUR VOICE. AND WHEN YOU DO, FILL THE DAMN SILENCE.”

Go get ’em.

The Consequences of Your “Rights”

I am so lucky to live in a country where people are so proud of their rights.  This country was founded on freedom (well, not really but let’s not go there…) and us Americans are pretty darn proud of that freedom.  Our list of rights is pages longer than many countries’ list of clean water sources.  We are so lucky.

One of the rights that many Americans are most proud of is their God-given right to carry a weapon.  With the increasingly prevalent issue this country has with shootings, this right is one that seems to come up time and time again.  People get all up in arms (ha, no pun intended), saying “don’t let these outliers take away our God-given right” Well, guess what.

Your God-given right is killing people.

I was just reading a post that a friend of mine shared about the lack of mass shootings in Australia.  Australia hasn’t experienced one of these tragedies in 19 years.  19 YEARS!!  Meanwhile, America has experienced 355 mass shootings this year – which brings us to over one. per. day.

Chalk it up to the media – sure: the media has a way of glorifying criminals and thus inspiring copycats.  To an extent, I agree.  But is this to say that other countries don’t have as influential of a media outreach?  Surely we can’t be that naive.

Chalk it up to mental illness – fine: many of the people who carry out these acts are mentally ill in some say.  Does this mean there are not mentally ill people in other countries?  Hmm, no…that doesn’t make sense either.

I chalk it up to your precious God-given right.

Australia (just taking this as an example) modified this right just over 19 years ago.  In the 12 days following their most recent mass shooting, the Australian government processed, voted on, and passed lengthy new legislation which banned dozens of assault rifles (you know, the ones killing people in America every single day).  They actually bought the weapons back from their owners, trading a God-given right for peace.  What a concept.  When will we be able to see this rationally?  My god, it could be so simple.

I’m sitting in an airport terminal as I write this, and a 3 year-old girl just approached me and asked if I would teach her how I buttoned my coat, since she only knows how to zipper hers.  I hope the world becomes a better place for young Bella.  Such innocence, while the rest of us adults sit here subconsciously analyzing our fellow passengers, scanning the room for the next crazy person with a God-given right.

It took Australia 12 days.  It’s been two days since our last mass shooting.  What have we done?

How to Lose 10lbs in 15 Minutes

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by someone who cares TOO DAMN MUCH about social media.  It’s everywhere – which filters you should use (you really should use the same one for every photo to achieve the most perfect feed), how often you should post (twice a week is pushing it – twice a day? Social suicide), and just how many likes is enough to warrant not deleting your pic???

Just a few weeks ago, I was watching TV with my younger sisters who have just entered middle school when all of a sudden one of them let out a classic middle school girl shriek.  When I asked her what was wrong, she turned her phone to show me a girl who had only received 14 likes in 2 hours.  Welcome to the 2015 version of passing gel pen notes about each other, I guess…

This is so messed up.  And it’s our fault.  Circulating the internet the past couple days is the story of Essena O’Neill, an Australian teenager who has gone to the extremes of starving herself to get the perfect Instagram post.  Her message “Social Media Is Not Real Life” is so important, and needs to be heard by all of us.  While I do not personally know of anyone who has starved themselves specifically for these photos, I have heard several cases of people using apps and editing to make themselves look starved – all for social media.  I dove into this world today out of dumfounded curiosity.  One google search, one FREE app download, and 15 minutes later, here’s what I came up with:

  
   
While these images may not be so shocking that you would immediately think *that is not natural*, that’s actually just my point.  If I posted the right hand version of any one of these photos, I’m sure I would receive positive feedback and not one suspicious comment about my cinched waistline, enhanced breasts, whitened teeth, and line-less face.  THIS IS THE PROBLEM!  This stuff has become so normal, so expected almost, that it flies right under our radar.  Girls are doing this to feel better about themselves, and the only way they will feel better about themselves is validation from others.  None of these changes do anything to show the amazing personalities that are concealed behind self-conscious desire for positive feedback in the form of a “like”.  And all of this only took me a few minutes, I can’t imagine what I could come up with in the time that some people put into these things. Ugh, so gross.

When I originally read and re-posted Essena’s story, my friend Michael commented on the irony that the publication that told her story was none other than Cosmo magazine.  He had such a good point, and I hadn’t even realized it.  This magazine is one of, if not THE most degrading publications to women.  Masked behind their diet tips and style guides are the (barely) underlying messages that girls need to look, dress, and behave in a certain way.  While it is extremely hypocritical for them to post something of this nature, at least it is a start.  This problem has gotten so gigantic, that I don’t even know where to begin on how we can fix it.  All I know is it will take each one of us individually to at least recognize the issue, and vow not to fall into the trap.  Post pictures because you like them – not because the contents of the picture fall within a perfect square and your favorite filter will make it a good addition to your feed.  Post pictures of memories you want to keep, not edited, doctored images that you happened to think of at a time that will yield maximum likes.  If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the middle school girls who are learning from the standards that WE have managed to fuck up.

P.S. – Never trust a selfie again

P.S.S. – Ladies, don’t you dare ask me what app I used…I won’t tell you!

Music Over Money

Think about the amount of money you spent on your last concert ticket.  For me, it was $80 for a concert at Fenway Park.  Now multiply that number by the amount of total tickets sold for that concert.  At Fenway, it was nearly 50,000.  That adds up to $4 MILLION in ticket sales if everyone paid $80. $4 million, and that was just one night of the dozens on the tour.  I think about this frequently, and how much money the artists must pull in from these types of large scale tours…must be nice!

But even these millionaire musicians had humble beginnings.  Think now about what it must have been like for them starting out – doing anything and everything they can to get noticed, while still having to maintain some sort of income.  It’s really unfortunate when you think about it…some of these new musicians are so extremely talented and just want to provide the world with music and meanwhile, there are plenty of people out there rolling in money for having reality TV shows or working at a job their daddy got them.  When they’re first starting out, young musicians are just looking for the money they need to get going.

Well, my dear friends are flipping the script.  I introduce to you – Copilot.

Copilot is a dream turned reality by my friend Ry McDonald.  The name hails from the first place Ry was when he set his mind to giving music to the world – riding copilot in his dad’s car, listening to The Beatles.  Ry and his angelic co-voice, Maggie, are in that beginning phase right now.  They play anywhere they can, and they’ve recently started traveling to popular areas of Boston to sing for passers-by.  They’ve been collecting tips, but the other day they decided to give the money back.  Yes, they decided to give back some of the money that they have been working so hard to earn.

The duo took on Quincy Market, with a guitar case full of $1 bills.  They had signs that read “if you like our music, please take a dollar.”  They quite literally PAID PEOPLE to listen to them.  Kind of backwards, right?  But backwards isn’t always bad.  If you think about it, what better way to get people’s attention than physically giving them money?  Their goal was to give back to the community, as if their music isn’t already enough!  This philanthropic outlook is exactly what is going to land them on these massive tours, and land my butt in an $80 seat to listen.

Here’s the video recap of their day.  You’ve GOT to check these two out.  If you do nothing else with your night, check.these.two.out.

Facebook: Copilot

Twitter & Insta: @CopilotMusic17