Things feel hard right now. The pandemic is not over — it is still taking lives and leaving people, young and old, with long-term illnesses. Prices for food and gas are still high. As I write this, the city reached the benchmark of 300 lives lost to crime.
Still, the holiday season is upon us and a new year is coming. At this time of year, it’s hard not to look forward and consider the future.
Sometimes hope is thought of as flighty or fragile. But it takes guts, heart, and strength to project yourself forward and imagine something better. As the organizer, educator, and curator Mariame Kaba has said, “hope is a discipline.”
There is hope in childbirth, in making plans to see a friend, in fighting for a better world, and in planning for a new year. Since this is our last issue of 2022, by the time we meet again, the future will be here. In anticipation of this, we asked a few Baltimorians what they wanted to bring with them to 2023.
Bry Reed, educator, and writer
I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.
We have loved each other in and out of time.
– “In and Out of Time” by Maya Angelou
For 24 marvelous years, I’ve been loved. First by my mother and those who loved her and then by generations full of people who chose to love me. If there’s a future worth my life, then I’m bringing all the love I got. I bring my mother’s wise words and full laughter, my best friend Neicy’s ferocity, and all the lessons I’ve learned over the years.
Most of these lessons are learned from conversations with my grandparents. Between them all, they’ve given me centuries worth of wise words and at least a millennium’s worth of questions. With each lesson, they showed me a new way to be in the world based on how they, as Black elders rooted in the South, learned to live well.
Many of their lessons pushed against the common conventions of whiteness and wellness. They were giving me a guidebook that challenged the normative laws of the land — they were pushing against the West.
In the West, we are taught to imagine time linearly. The world and history are taught to us as a straight line from past to future. For me, with the help of my elders and [scholar and professor][Oyeronke Oyewumi, I now think of time as a circle. My future — our future — holds some trials that are familiar and some that are altogether new. This circle (of histories, life, and time) helps us use lessons from people who have loved us in and out (in and out) of time.
Life is for living, loving, eating, screaming, and doing it all (hopefully) with people who care about us enough to carry each other when carrying on alone is too difficult to imagine.
Eze Jackson, emcee, organizer, and event host
In 2023, I will be bringing along the 3 “Ns”:
– In 2020, I became reacquainted with naps. As I get older, I’m finding that naps are the cornerstone of productivity and the quintessential ingredient for cussing fewer people out.
– Nourishment. Imma eat some good food. I’m gonna eat healthily. I don’t care how much it costs or the day or the hour, but if you don’t tip servers, you can’t sit with me at all. Nourish alone, stingy buns.
– No. In 2022, I was finally able to say no to some things. It felt really good to take myself into account for once. Saying no gave me more time to nap and nourish myself, which gave me the ability to do things at a higher level. We can only go up from here.
Jessica Marie Johnson, associate professor, Department of History, Johns Hopkins University
The pandemic is not over, but quarantines appear to be, and I don’t miss that. I am leaving the confusion, fear, estrangement from friends and family, and chaotic access to health care (I had a pandemic baby) in the past. But there was a moment there of possibility, especially for those of us who believe in radical justice, transformative possibility, and crafting new ways of relating to each other and the world. And Baltimore was the heart of it. Between access to vaccines and information thanks to the Baltimore Health Department, and the radical work by organizations like New Generation Scholars and African Diaspora Alliance to keep communities together, build political consciousness, and promote Black and African-centered visions of justice, Black Baltimore proves over and over again that the recipes still work! And it is that recipe I’m bringing into the next year: Build one person at a time, root yourself in history, lead with imagination and creativity, and trust in the hard — even heartbreaking — work of solidarity if you want to change the world.
Kotic Couture, rapper and DJ
I’m carrying a newfound love, strength, determination, and light into the new year. These past few years have been heavy, but I refuse to forget what they have taught me because it’s caused so much growth for me (some painful, expedited growth, but growth nonetheless). I think the biggest thing I’m excited about carrying into the new year is the abundance of love that I hold. I feel the ability to love in a way that I never have before, and there’s an extreme eagerness for me to see how that abundance will guide me through future interactions.
Miss Kam, rapper
Personally, 2022 has been full of releases for me. I’ve been letting go of people, mindsets, habits, and behaviors that no longer serve me. I felt in a constant limbo of wondering, “what stays and what goes?” After months of solitude and facing the deepest parts of myself, I realized what Erykah Badu said was true: “pack light.” So, I’ve decided to bring just a few things that mean the most to me. In 2023 and the future, I’m bringing faith with me. I’m bringing my loved ones who have been riding for me when I didn’t have anything to bring. I’m reclaiming my time, my confidence, my resilience, and all my blessings, and I’m bringing them all with me. I’m bringing my future self to the future and leaving the past in the past. Cheers to packing light!
Patrice Hutton, executive director of Writers in Baltimore Schools
Since pandemic lockdown, I find myself looking at communal spaces and events with a new fondness. I’m sure that’s the case for many of us–taking notice of things we’d taken for granted with a sense of wonder. Marveling at the friend whose dining room table is always open. At cafes with outdoor workspaces where you get sunshine and conversation. At dog parks and community plant swaps. The City-Poly football game.
We all did our best during the pandemic–Zoom cocktail parties and bundled, socially distanced winter hangouts–but there’s no substitute for folks gathering face-to-face. I–alongside probably 300 others–attended Betty Robinson’s memorial service over Zoom in fall 2020. It felt particularly sad that Betty didn’t get an in-person memorial given how expansive her life and organizing work were. No doubt would the service have sparked new connections across Baltimore. But we can still forge those connections.
Red Emma’s is back. We have Lexington Market, Upton Market, R House, and Mount Vernon Marketplace. The Enoch Pratt Free Library. Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park. So much of the city is walkable. We’re lucky to have spots to run into friends and acquaintances. Baltimore does chance encounters like no other.
I want to take my wonder at community and carry it forward; I want to build. “Outdoor co-working spaces with outlets should be a public good,” I half-joked to a friend. I don’t know what any of this looks like, but I want to approach it with an openness, with new attention. That’s what’s on my mind going into 2023. I want to look at spaces–physical, metaphorical–and consider how to build community there, in Betty’s city, in new ways.
Rajani Gudlavalleti, director of mobilization for Baltimore Harm Reduction
Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition is carrying myriad ways of being human into the future. We are consistently moving towards intentional, loving, creative communities absent of the oppressive drug war. Over the past year, we’ve built up more capacity for reflection, slower pacing, flexibility, go-with-the-flowness, and grace. Grace inspires us to take deep sighs full of, “yeah, I still need more of that for myself and others.” In the midst of this, we also carry with us the weight of expectations, politics, quotas, death, pain, anxiety, loss, grief, and woe. We carry meaningful, mobilizing rage intermixed with encouragement to breathe and hydrate. We carry dreams of public spaces designed by and for people seeking safety, dignity, health, autonomy, and fun. We offer naloxone, condoms, safer drug use supplies, COVID-19 tests, and masks for all to carry into their futures. We move forward with love for all who’ve come before us and excitement for all who choose to meet us.
William Walker, founder of A Tribe Called Run
The people that have invested in my growth and vice versa! I love to see people in the process of working toward their dreams. It’s extremely motivating to see it all unfold in real time. Watching my friends work through issues to achieve success is a constant reminder that entrepreneurship isn’t easy or glamorous, but it can be done. Their pursuit of their dreams is a constant reminder for me not to sit on the sideline, but to be an active participant in making my dreams a reality. I firmly believe that you are a reflection of your circle, and I always want to be reminded of that higher standard when I’m in their company.
In addition to my circle, the next thing I want to bring into the new year would be positive and consistent habits. Our daily habits have a big impact on our trajectory; unfortunately, that can be a gift and a curse. By forming good habits and a strong work ethic, I won’t doubt that I’m working responsibly to accomplish my goals. Unfortunately, I don’t think people understand the work it takes to build a brand or lead an organization, and oftentimes the hard work and ugly moments get overshadowed. We only see the highlights or end results that people want to share, but the habits that got them there are the magic we are missing!
The last thing I want to carry into the next year is the confidence to believe in myself! I can tend to overthink or suffer from imposter syndrome, and that’s not fair to my current self or the person that I’m becoming. My journey is my own, and that’s the beauty in the process of life.