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One Life Gone, One Still At Stake and The Twelve Jurors Who Decide it All

In my final year of middle school, the theater department chose 12 Angry Men as their winter play. Written by Reginald Rose in 1954, the story takes place in a jury room as a dozen men deliberate, with a guilty verdict meaning death for the accused, the fate of a city teen. I got the role of Juror 4 — an intelligent, wealthy, and cautious woman. Even though the play was fictional and my fellow thirteen-year-old castmates and I were not weighing the life of a “criminal” in our hands, those six months of rehearsals, blocking, and eventual performances gave birth to my fascination with the jury system. In a society where our race, religion, and nationality color our view of the world, the jury room forces those involved to color outside the lines they’ve lived in. Now, twelve Twin City jurors face this same responsibility as they will decide the fate of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin. On May 25th of last year, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died after being arrested and pinned to the ground under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white officer, for more than nine minutes. Mr. Chauvin and several other Minnesota police officers arrived at the scene after a store clerk reported that Mr. Floyd had paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. After police handcuffed Mr. Floyd, the situation quickly escalated. Outrage would soon lash across the country after a bystander released a video of officer Chauvin holding his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck as he yelled out “I can’t breathe” and yearned for breath. Months of protests occurred after the video went viral, and over 150 cities saw civilians come out to the streets in support of Black Lives Matter. Defendant Chauvin was fired a day after Mr. Floyd’s death and has since pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, he could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree unintentional murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. The charges are individual from one another so that Mr. Chauvin can be convicted of none, some, or all of these counts. The three other former officers involved — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao — are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They will stand trial this summer. Defendant Chauvin’s trial began last Monday and will continue for the next few weeks. Since then, emotional witness testimonies and statements from paramedics, firefighters, Mr. Chauvin’s supervisor, and more have filled in the gaps on what happened on that life-changing Memorial Day. The prosecution argues that the defendant’s restraint of Mr. Floyd occurred for an overly extended time, which was the “substantial” cause of his loss of consciousness and ultimate death in police custody. In contrast, the defense attorneys for the former officer ask jurors to consider mountains of evidence outside the bystander and body camera videos. Eric Nelson, the lawyer for defendant Chauvin, said there are more than 50,000 items in evidence and told jurors the case “is clearly more than about 9 minutes and 29 seconds.” Mr. Floyd's exact cause of death will be looked at in-depth this week, shaping up to be one of the most crucial points of this trial. The New York Times reports that the county medical examiner ruled his death a homicide caused by a combination of the officer's use of force, the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Mr. Floyd's system, and his underlying health conditions. The jury has three Black men, one Black woman, and two women who identified themselves as multiracial. There are two white men and four white women. Both alternates are white women. The jury's racial makeup is surprisingly diverse — even more so than the city of Minneapolis, which has a Black population of 20% percent. All of the jurors come from Hennepin County, which is demographically about 74% white and 14% Black, according to census data. Some of the jurors deciding one of the highest-profile trials in the last decade include a Black grandmother who expressed favorable views of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying: "I am Black. My life matters." An immigrant who has lived in Minnesota for about 20 years and wants to hear more of defendant Chauvin's side before making a judgment. A woman whose uncle is a cop and was "super excited" to get summoned to such a famous case. A Black man who saw the video of Floyd's death; afterward, he told his wife: "It could have been me." Back in December, months before these potential jurors were sworn into court and questioned one-by-one in a process known as voir dire; the jury pool received an extensive 14-page questionnaire in the mail. Prospective jurors were asked about their thoughts on the criminal justice system, if they believe Minnesota police use unequal amounts of force on Black suspects than whites and what knowledge they have of the case from media reports. Some questions aimed to uncover the individual's range of viewpoints like "What podcasts do you regularly listen to?" In contrast, others attempted to understand their knowledge of technical circumstances, such as "Do you have any martial arts training or experience?" "Unless you're living under a rock, there's no one in Minneapolis, and probably no one in the United States, who's not familiar with George Floyd's death," Daniel S. Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, told The Washington Post. "You want people who have heard of the case but are willing to put aside any preexisting biases or any initial opinions about guilt or innocence." The questionnaire helped weed out hundreds of people, and on March 9th, voir dire began. It took about two weeks to carve a pool of more than 300 potential jurors down to 12 with two alternates. For the defense, Nelson, Chauvin's lawyer, questioned potential jurors, while Steve Schleicher questioned them for the prosecution. Under court order, limited information about the jurors has been made public, besides their race, gender, age range, and audio clips of their interviews during jury selection. But from the audio I've heard, Juror 76 stands out. When Nelson asked the Black man in his 30s or 40s why he wants to serve on this jury, he says, "[George Floyd] is a Black man. You see a lot of Black people get killed, and no one is held accountable for it. And you wonder why or what was the decisions. And so with this, maybe I'll be in the room to know why." He lived in the area where Mr. Floyd was killed in and remembered police often riding through the neighborhood after someone had been shot. "It was known for, like, the police to ride through the neighborhood with "Another One Bites The Dust," he states. "And, you know - and it's like they just - like, they antagonized us." The defense eventually dismissed this juror. Prosecutors and defense attorneys can dismiss prospective jurors without cause, which is known as a peremptory challenge. Mr. Chauvin's team was allowed 18 of these challenges and used 14. The prosecution was allowed ten and used eight. The defense generally struck people who expressed a negative view of police and favorable opinions of Black Lives Matter, while the prosecution dismissed those who expressed positive views of police behavior. Both sides also considered the juror's race, which has long been thought to indicate how someone will vote in a trial. Due to unfair generalizations, Black jurors are continuously struck at higher rates than other jurors. Though there are no comprehensive statistics on how often prosecutors strike potential jurors because of their race, looking at American legal systems, especially in the South — it isn't hard to see attorneys upholding such discriminatory practices. In a 2010 report by the Equal Justice Initiative, they found that over half of all juries that delivered death sentences in Houston County, Alabama, between 2005 and 2009 were all white; and the other half had only a single Black juror. This fact is especially unsettling because as of 2014, 42% of individuals on Death Row in the United States were Black. A review by the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center found that in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, prosecutors dismissed 48 percent of qualified Black jurors between 1997 and 2009 and only fourteen percent of potential white jurors. The Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to strike potential jurors because of their race in the 1986 landmark case, Batson v. Kentucky. But, even then, Justice Thurgood Marshall had a feeling Baston was a faulty band-aid on the oozing scab of race-based jury selection. His skepticism was quickly proven true. As soon as Batson was decided, prosecutors came up with methods to avoid it. In a 1996 opinion, an Illinois appellate judge discussed some of the "race-neutral" reasons judges accepted for striking jurors: too old, too young, living with a girlfriend, over-educated, lack of maturity; unemployed, employed as a barber; etc. "New prosecutors are given a manual, probably entitled, 'Handy Race-Neutral Explanations' or '20 Time-Tested Race-Neutral Explanations,'" he joked. But this joke was the reality in courts across America. In the 1990s, prosecutors received handouts listing reasons for striking jurors based on traits like body language. In 2004, a similar list was given to Texas prosecutors, including justifications like "Agreed with O. J. Simpson verdict" and "Watched gospel TV programs." Prosecutors assume Black people are more likely to be victims of the incarceration system, face violence under police's hands, and can comprehend the unequal treatment Black citizens endure in the criminal justice system compared to whites. Thus, they will not sympathize with a white defendant as much as they would with a Black defendant. In recent cases of white police officers committing violence against people of color, this same idea holds. So, one by one, jurors of color are plunged out of the jury pool. For example, in 1992, four Los Angeles policemen — three of them white — were acquitted of the horrendous beating of Rodney King, an African-American man. There were no Black individuals on the jury. Instead, nine white, one Latino, one biracial, and one Asian individual decided that those officers should walk away Scott free after beating a man with batons for fifteen minutes. In 2013, a jury of six women had to decide whether George Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, during an altercation at a Florida townhouse community the year before. Nearly all of the jurors had children. None of them were Black. After three weeks of testimony, the jury acquitted him as well. Suppose six Black mothers made up the jury? Perhaps they would've been able to understand Sybrina Fulton's, Mr. Martin's mother, cries for her 17-year old son's spilled blood on the sidewalk. Ms. Fulton will never receive the closure that the killer of her son is behind bars. Instead, she watches him profit off her son's death. Mary Moriarty, the former chief public defender for Minneapolis, watched the questioning of the potential juror for defendant Chauvin's trial, number 76. She expected him to be struck but hoped he wouldn't be. "We should start," she wrote in a column, "by recognizing that their lived experiences with racism are not justification to excuse them." The elimination of Black jurors in criminal trials is deliberate and has haunting effects. Not to mention, many police officers charged with abusing Black individuals don't even go to trial because their nearly all-white grand juries don't see it fit. More recently, Eric Gardner's killer and Breonna Taylor's murders not facing federal charges are perfect examples. As a North Carolina judge concluded, in 2012, "Race, not reservations about the death penalty, not connections to the criminal justice system, but race, drives prosecution decisions about which citizens may participate in one of the most important and visible aspects of democratic government." Many of us might feel a sliver of hope erupting in our hearts since the twelve jurors for defendant Chauvin's trial come from a variety of different backgrounds. Even if the whole world is watching, the ultimate verdict rests in 24 palms. "Having the jury be diverse will be really important in people's sense of the legitimacy of the process," Irene Oritseweyinmi Joe, a law professor at the University of California at Davis, told The Washington Post. "It's important to think through who the jurors are, what their beliefs are, what their experiences are and the degree to which they've excluded jurors who have seen or believe there is systemic racial bias in the system." Sympathy is the heart of the jury system. The jury on Mr. Chauvin's trial holds the potential to straighten one faulty bone in the body of Minnesota's police department. It is a shame that we will never know how many past juries could've done the same because diversity was seen as a threat. "It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone even if you believe in something very strongly," one juror says in 12 Angry Men. When the verdict for Derek Chauvin is revealed in the upcoming weeks, I'm sure we will know whether or not courage really did prevail in the deliberation room. ~ Watch Updates on Derek Chauvin's Trial Here Read The Full List of Jurors Here

The Toll Racism and Sexualization Takes on Asian-American Women

Daoyou Feng. Hyun Jung Grant. Suncha Kim. Paul Andre Michels. Soon Chung Park. Xiaojie Tan. Delaina Ashley Yaun. Yong Ae Yue. These are the eight victims of fatal shootings at three massage businesses in Atlanta and nearby Cherokee County on Tuesday. Six of the victims were of Asian descent, and two were white. Seven were women. The gunman in the shootings, Robert Aaron Long, said his actions were "not racially motivated," but caused by "sexual addiction." "He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did," said Cherokee County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jay Baker. He made it clear that Long's motive for the shooting had to be either racial or misogynistic — not both. Since the arrival of the Coronavirus last spring, anti-Asian attacks have increased by nearly 150 percent. President Trump addressing the pandemic as the "Wuhan virus" and "China virus," only ignited a more substantial fire against Asian-Americans. Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, told the L.A. Times, "In a recent analysis, we found that a quarter of the incidents we tracked included a perpetrator using language similar to Trump's. Things like 'Wuhan virus,' 'China virus,' 'kung-flu' and 'go back to your country." Those who commit bias crimes tend to target men. Yet, Stop AAPI Hate, a group that collects reports of hate incidents against Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, saw in their recent analysis that out of almost 3,800 incidents recorded in 2020 and 2021, two-thirds of the reports came from women. "People on here literally debating if [the Atlanta shooting] was a misogynistic attack against women or a racist attack against Asians," Jenn Fang, the creator of Asian-American feminist blog, Reappropriate, wrote in a Twitter thread. "What if — wait for it — it was both." Racism and sexism have always been inextricably bonded for Asian-American women, and many agreed with Fang's statement. Unwanted sexual come-ons, racially provoked sexual abuse, and demeaning hypersexualization are regular experiences for Asian-American women. When Capt. Baker said the Atlanta gunman just had a "really bad day," this seemed like yet another excuse for violence against women. Those three words displayed how white men can get a pass for almost anything in America. Many Asian-American women were left wondering, "If Long shot six white women, how differently would this story be told?" United States policy has aided in the fetishization of Asian women and emasculation of Asian men. The Page Act of 1875 barred Chinese women from coming into the country since lawmakers thought they were all prostitutes up to no good. Other laws prohibited mixed-race marriages, leaving many Chinese men as wandering bachelors. Less than a decade later, the Chinese Exclusion Act was put into effect by President Chester A. Arthur, banning both new immigrants and existing residents from becoming U.S. citizens. "Yellow peril" was going around — American's fear of "Asian invasion" by Chinese individuals willing to provide cheap labor. After Pearl Harbor in 1941, though there was no evidence to prove this was the case, anyone of Japanese descent became a potential enemy threat. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing over 100,000 people of Japanese descent into U.S. prison camps. Dr. Suess even created a cartoon where rows of Japanese Americans line together in California to collect a brick of TNT. "Waiting for the signal from home…" the caption says. Throughout the following decades of the 20th century, wars against several East Asian countries only heightened discrimination against Asian-Americans. As white heterosexual male presence increased in East Asia, particularly during the Philippine-American War, World War 1, and the Vietnam War, several harmful stereotypes about Asian women arose. Society painted them as "sexually submissive" and exotic "lotus blossoms" — the perfect accessory for white men in needing of spicing up their lives. Inexpensive sex to American service members became readily available when stationed in lands like Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 1990, an article called "Oriental Girls" was published in Gentleman's Quarterly (G.Q.). It described the Western male's fantasy of an Asian female as someone who doesn't "insist on being treated like a person, fret about career moves" and a break from "those angry feminist seas." On Thursday, Dale Minami, founder of the Asian Law Caucus and former professor of Asian American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, told NPR, "In the last three major wars, the United States fought war against Asian countries - Japan, Korea and Vietnam. And that leads not only to dehumanization of those people simply to justify, you know, psychologically the killing of the, quote, "enemy." And those images remain. The antipathy remains and survives." Western societies have long viewed Asian communities as less developed and advanced, so it is no surprise that soldiers also treated the women they slept in degrading ways. Japan also participated in this sexual imperialism during the 1930s and late 1940s, forcing Chinese, Filipino and Korean women into "comfort women"—a brothel that serviced Japanese soldiers. For the women who weren't impregnated or later ignored by U.S. soldiers, some were brought back to the United States as brides. Kyeyoung Park, a professor of anthropology and Asian-American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The New York Times that if these women later got separated or divorced from their husbands, they started massage parlors. This likely fostered the perception that all Asian-run spas were illicit and the ladies who worked in them were sex workers. The police in Georgia have not said if any of the three spas had ties to sex work. Few details are known of the Atlanta gunman's motive. Still, numerous hate crime tracking organizations notice misogyny paves a path for other types of extremist violence — typically by the hands of "incels" or involuntary celibates. Long grew up in a strict Southern evangelical community, and he seemed to have an extreme fixation on sexual temptation. Many religious men like him feel the guilt, shame, and despair of "failing" abstinence from sex and lust outside heterosexual marriage. Avoiding pornography and resisting inappropriate sexual desire is a significant theme in modern conservative evangelicalism. "So many men boil down how they're doing spiritually to how often they have looked at porn recently,"Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma, told the Times. "Not whether they'd grown in their love toward others, given generously of their time, or spent time connecting with God, but if they masturbated." Brad Onishi, who grew up in Southern California's evangelical community, also said this culture "teaches women to hate their bodies, as the source of temptation, and it teaches men to hate their minds, which lead them into lust and sexual immorality." Long's former roommate, Tyler Bayless, said that one time Long relapsed by visiting a spa parlor to have sex. When he got home, Long asked Bayless to take a knife from him so that he wouldn't hurt himself. It isn't hard to see how the Atlanta gunman came to believe that women are forever the "temptress of men," and those who do not try to maintain modesty are a sinister force to our world. The massage parlors were "a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate." Pop culture also plays a substantial role in the fetishization of Asian women. For example, in "Full Metal Jacket," a Vietnam War movie, two soldiers try to bargain down a sex worker's price. "Me so horny. Me love you long time," she replies. Now, these lines have become what Ellen Wu, author of "The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority," calls a "racially specific type of catcalling." "It's instantly putting you in the position of being a foreigner, an outsider and a sexual stereotype," said writer Margaret Cho on the phrase. "It's an all-in-one combo." You can also look at Broadway musical Miss Saigon for enforcing negative representations of Asian women. It tells the story of an American marine who has a one-night-stand with Kim, a Vietnamese sex worker. Kim becomes pregnant with his son, but the marine leaves Vietnam, and returns to America to marry a white woman. Kim tries to find the "strong G.I. to protect her," and years later, she and her son reunite with the marine and his wife in Thailand. When she realizes the marine has no intention of marrying her, she commits suicide, leaving her son, Tam, under the care of her distanced lover and his wife. The Asian woman risking it all for an American man — how sweet (rolls eyes.) No surprise two white men created the musical back in 1989. The story also subtly hints that perhaps Kim embodies an unfit mother while the marine's wife, a white woman, is better suited to raise her son. Asian women are frequently ridiculed by men of all races — including Asian men, for choosing non-Asian partners. There is no doubt Miss Saigon casts another unfavorable light onto them. Society's dehumanization of Asian-American women makes them frequent subjects to attacks on their culture and gender identity. They are not props for men to abuse, tropes in your next film, or mere objects to be thrown around. Even though I am a woman of color, it is clear that in different minority communities, the women who comprise them experience various pains. In a time of so much hurt, we all need to listen to the cries of those in danger. Hear the voices of Asian women who are so frequently silenced by the world. The victims of the Atlanta shooting didn't need to become victims. If America paid attention to the violence the Asian community has experienced not only in this year, but from the time Asian immigrants came to the "land of the free" in the 1800s, events like these wouldn't happen. In a country built off of the backs of people of color, it is exhausting to see our lives reduced down to headlines in the news and blood on the ground. Those of us who are not of Asian descent need to open our hearts to their stories, open our wallets to donate to AAPI organizations, and realize what affects one group of people can easily affect another. As Jiayang Fan of the New Yorker beautifully wrote, "One of [Long's] victims, Hyun Jung Grant, was a single parent who for years told her son that she worked at a "makeup parlor." Grant might even have sympathized with Long, who is only two years younger than her son. What's shameful is that Long could not bring himself to show any sympathy for her." ~ You can donate to the victim's families down below: Elcias Hernandez Ortiz Family of HyunJungKim Family of Paul Michels Delain Ashley Yaun More organizations you can follow to support Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders: Send Chinatown Love Asian Mental Health Collective Red Canary Song Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP)

Nature's Cereal 🥥 🥄

My mom will be the first to tell you that I am not a breakfast person, and she isn’t wrong! I like Fruit Loops and french toast from time to time, but breakfast and I just don’t see eye to eye. I’ve been trying to get better at this because as we’ve all heard, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” So when I came across a Tik Tok about “nature’s cereal,” created by food lover @natures_food, I just had to try it. Even Lizzo made it, and she loved it! Nature’s cereal is supposed to help with digestion, relieve constipation issues and put your energy levels through the roof. You literally only need five ingredients, so let’s get to mixin’! Ingredients ½ cup blueberries ½ cup blackberries ½ cup pomegranate seeds ½ cup ice cubes ½ cup coconut water Directions Wash your produce! Add the fruits to a bowl, followed by the ice cubes. Pour in coconut water and give everything a quick mix. Enjoy! I really enjoyed this fruit combination. I’m not a massive fan of coconut water, but it worked pretty well here. Below is my Tik Tok of this new treat and you can scroll to see the final product 💘 Have a fantastic week and have fun eating this for breakfast ;) 🤩🤩🤩 💘yum💘

Songs on my "Winter-ish" Playlist

Winter is melting away, and a misty spring season is on the way, but right now, we are in the in-between. Too hot for our puffer jackets but too cold for a zip-up. Our brain tells us it is a little early to start spring cleaning, but our heart feels a sense of change in the air. Those of us who go to the nail salon skip past the blues and purples, our eyes hungry for yellows and greens. Recently in my life, I have felt like a leaf blowing through the wind. Hesitant to fly towards the change bright spring air brings, yet I loathe going back to the same winter chills as before. Temperature changes can undoubtedly produce a new wave of emotions, and I've been feeling them more than ever. So I created a playlist titled "Winter-ish" — the season we are currently living in right now, at least in New York. These sixteen songs gallop from themes of confusion, instability, exploration, and acceptance. While I figure out the next steps I want to take in life; these songs have brought me an inner peace that seems out of reach some days. Whatever you're contemplating right now, I hope these songs bring you similar feelings of relief. "Garden (Say It Like Dat)" by SZA “Garden” is about the craving for reassurance in a relationship while questioning if you even deserve this type of love and attention. I used to hear these lyrics as a conversation between SZA and her lover, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a conversation between SZA and herself. From inflation to deflation of self-worth, the vulnerability to exist as an imperfect being is daunting. But, as we morph into different versions of ourselves, we must remember that identity is a never-ending cycle fueled by all sorts of care. “Can you remind me of my gravity?/ Ground me when I'm tumblin', spiralin', plummetin' down to Earth/ You keep me down to Earth” - SZA "Bad Religion" by Frank Ocean On this sorrowful track, Ocean treats his taxi driver as “his shrink for the hour,” hoping — praying, albeit this stranger can provide clarity for all the issues swirling around his head. There is an unusual catharsis one experience’s when talking to a stranger. This refreshing level of sympathy and empathy tends to wash away when you know someone for too long. In the most hectic moments of our lives, a safe space where we can confide in someone who knows nothing about our past, soley our now, is an underappreciated beauty of the human race. “And on that evening when we grow older still we'll speak about these two young men as though they were two strangers we met on the train and whom we admire and want to help along. And we'll want to call it envy, because to call it regret would break our hearts.” - André Aciman “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski On Mitski’s 4th album, Puberty 2, this lead single encapsulates one turmoil of the pubescent age — figuring out who the hell you want to be while conforming to everyone else’s ideas of who you should be. Mitski sings about such joys of falling in love with “an all-American boy” while realizing that their cultures, thus livelihoods, are opposites. Even as she tries to bridge the gap between herself and the boy, this is a love that should probably never come to fruition. Yet, as the last line hints — this painful awakening allows Mitski to appreciate her background in a stronger sense. “You're the sun, you've never seen the night/ But you hear its song from the morning birds/ Well, I'm not the moon, I'm not even a star/ But awake at night I'll be singing to the birds” - Mitski “Something In the Way” by Nirvana As the twelfth and final song on Nirvana’s Nevermind, “Something In the Way” etches a feeling of despair and uncertainty. Much of lead singer, Kurt Cobain’s life remains a mystery. Today fans still argue whether this track is autobiographical, concerning a time of vagrancy in Cobain’s life. We might never know what the singer meant. Nevertheless, this idea that “something [is] in the way” between ourselves and happiness, wealth, love — whatever, leaves the lyrics up to interpretation forevermore. “The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man.” - Kurt Cobain’s alleged suicide note “in my head” by Ariana Grande Sometimes the facade of what could be, distracts us from the reality of what is. On “in my head” Grande expresses similar feelings of betrayal as she realizes the picture she painted in her head, is not what her lover actually is. It is important to center ourselves and escape the cobwebs of anxiety and frustration that are bound to come when we let our imagination get the better of us. We can only live in the now, and try our best to see what is truly there. “I saw your potential without seein' credentials/ Maybe that's the issue” - Ariana Grande “Moon River” by Frank Ocean A "moon river" is the ghostly reflection of the moon upon a river, and surrounded by comfy vocals, Ocean notes that this "river" is also a symbolic gateway into the hearts of our lovers. Sometimes it seems impossible to balance our yearning to carelessly explore with the urge to settle down with someone we love. If we get into a relationship, there is this idea that self-exploration ends there. Society makes us feel that we can either be alone or together, never both. If you don't comprise your needs for your partner, you're selfish, but if you do, you're weak. Yet, no matter who we are surrounded by, life will only feel fulfilled when we are fulfilled with ourselves. “Two drifters off to see the world/There's such a crazy world to see" - Frank Ocean “Vienna” by Billy Joel As a teenager, our parents, teacher, and grandparents tell us to dream big but wisely. "Vienna" is sung from the perspective of Joel’s father, who preaches similarly, that ambition is lovely, but every goal comes with its risks. If you approach anything too fast, you might burn out halfway through. Instead, we must enjoy the early days of our lives. Not everything we want is going to fall into our laps by the age of 25. Appreciate the process because while tomorrow is only a day away — you still have to get through, well, today. “When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?” - Billy Joel "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by The Muppets Barbershop Quartet This cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana was sung in The Muppets, and parts of the song’s inappropriate lyrics were conveniently sung by Beaker, who can only say “meemee.” The original song was Kurt Cobain’s commentary on how un-meaningful teenage/party culture had become. Ironically, the anthem that was meant to poke fun at the popular kids became a hit record and “meatheads” started to crowd Nirvana's show. All jokes aside, the reason I smacked this song as the midpoint of the playlist is because even when the world seems crazy, little pockets of weirdness can make you smile. "My socks may not match, but my feet are always warm." - Maureen McCullough "Clay Pigeons" by Michael Cera Everyone’s favorite geeky white boy, Michael Cera, sings a modern-day lullaby about catching a train to leave all of his worries behind. In his solitude, he surrounds himself with strangers who he admires and envies. Thrusting yourself into somewhere new can offer a needed break from the sorrows your used to. While Cera doesn’t have much with him on this journey, he makes time to “feed the pigeons come clay.” Even when we might feel lost, there’s an ounce of aid inside us all. “I'm tired of runnin' 'round lookin' for answers to questions that I already know/ I could build me a castle of memories just to have somewhere to go” - Michael Cera "Gravity" (feat. Tyler, The Creator) by Brent Faiyaz & DJ Dahi Brent Faiyaz and Tyler, The Creator, reflect on how their hectic travel schedules strain the relationships they leave behind. Yet, like gravity, both artists find themselves pulled towards the people and memories they thought they were over with. It is easy to feel like we are holding someone back because of our rendezvous, but it is ok to let people into our lives. Not everything we do is a burden. Some things can never let go of each other, which may not be so bad. “No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.” - Charles Dickens "Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Song)" by Kid Cudi In an interview with Generations, Kid Cudi said he wanted this song to be the “millennium “Eye of the Tiger” because as soon as he heard the triumphant beat, he knew this could be his personal “theme song.” Every day, Cudi is fighting an evil bigger than himself, these inner demons destroying every ounce of confidence he has. But as the song goes on, the artist refuses to let the Devil attack his dreams and aspirations in life, grinding until the “25th hour” if he needs to. The bridge is Cudi’s internal monologue, with Cudi’s demons telling him “No” while he shouts out “Yeah!” We all have the heart of a lion. We just need to find it. “I told you, no I'm not a loser, I'll see you in Hell” - Kid Cudi "I’m Looking Through You" by The Beatles The only constant in life is change. Sometimes the person you thought you knew so well becomes unrecognizable — that person might even be yourself! Once you acknowledge that your feelings towards a specific subject have altered, new beginnings unfold from left and right. To let go is hard, but to become something new, we must try. “Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.” - Paul McCartney "Through the Wire" by Kanye West On October 23, 2002, Kanye West got into a car crash that nearly took his life. But since he was wearing his seatbelt, the only thing that broke was his jaw. Two days after being released from the hospital from reconstructive jaw surgery, Mr. West delivered “Through the Wire.” There are so many great lessons weaved into this 4-minute track (and killer rhymes, hello ?!), but my biggest takeaway is: perseverance is critical. Kanye West rapping about this insane accident while still recovering illustrates how important it is to be in the moment. If West can rap while his mouth is wired shut, I can do anything. Sometimes we have to take a step back, look at ourselves in the third person and make a crappy situation into a platinum single. “The only thing this accident’s is saying is, “I am about to hand you the world, just know at any given time I can take it away from you.” - Kanye West "Hey Mama" by Kanye West My mom means the world to me. Whenever I’m having a hard time in life or cruising through teenage blue’s, she never fails to remind me that my purpose on this Earth is more extensive than I can even imagine. “Hey Mama” is Kanye West’s similar love letter to his mother, Donda West, and encapsulates how all children want to make their parents smile. Even if you don’t have a relationship with your mother or father, this song also represents how one person in your life can make a huge difference in how you see yourself. We all deserve to have someone out there that understands us like no one else. “I'm finna talk about my mama if y'all don't mind.” - Kanye West "Kyoto" by Phoebe Bridgers Kyoto is all about impostor syndrome, the feeling of finding it difficult to accept your accomplishments or whatever good comes to you. "I just always want to be where I'm not, which I think is pretty not special of a thought, but it is true," Phoebe Bridgers told Apple Music. This song's cheerful fanfare contrasts with the sorrowful lyrics, yet it captures the essence of exploration beautifully. Whether you're exploring yourself, a new town, a new school, or the people you around, sometimes it feels like we are living someone else's life, and everything around us will vanish in a second. But there is something to appreciate in every new land we frolic, no matter how temporary it might seem. “And you wrote me a letter/But I don't have to read it” - Phoebe Bridgers "It’s Not the Same Anymore" by Rex Orange County I could write an entire thesis on this song, and one day I will, but today is not that day. On this track, Rex Orange County sings about his strange affection for the past. Whether it's self-doubt or feelings of suppression and depression, Rex understands that now his life is different. Similarly, sometimes I look back on younger pictures of myself and feel like I've disappointed little Sanai. This couldn't be farther from the truth because I run a successful blog, I'm a staff writer on two magazines, I'm healthy, and my grades are excellent! But sometimes, I get so caught up in my head that the reality of life gets warped into something unrecognizable. As the final verse rolls on, I realize that “different” doesn't need to mean bad. “Different” offers a chance that things can get better even if they aren't the same as before. “It's not the same anymore/ It's better” - Rex Orange County

V-day Snacks and Movies Out Back

Tomorrow is the day of love, doves, and boxing gloves (you'll understand later)! Well, in other words, tomorrow is Valentine's Day! Whether or not you have a significant other, I hope you can spend tomorrow with someone you care for. Love comes in all shapes and sizes, colors, genders and makes life on Earth a little bit sweeter. As Hugh Grant said in Love Actually, "If you look for it, I got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around." Something that has a special place in my heart is movies! So tomorrow, whether you are cuddling up with your bae, dog, or avocado plushie, here are four romance films to watch and Valentine's Day snacks to eat while viewing love unfold on screen. The Photograph and Pretty Popcorn Mae has learned to love from a distance. Her mother, famous photographer Christina Eames, taught her the hard way. But when Christina dies unexpectedly, one photograph sends Mae down the never-ending tunnel of her mother's secrets. The investigation leads her to a romance with a journalist, Michael Block, and suddenly Mae lets her love spill closer than ever before. Michael and Mae are a sweet and salty mix. Finishing off each other's witty jokes and exhibiting a love so deep it hurts. This Pretty Popcorn recipe is perfect if you want a mix of sweetness and salty in your life. Pretty Popcorn Recipe Ingredients One bag of microwavable popcorn (Orville Redenbacher's is my favorite brand) 3/4 cup pink chocolate candy melts 1/2 cup white chocolate candy melts Valentines M&Ms (or regular ones!) Valentines sprinkles Directions Microwave popcorn according to the instructions on the bag. Set aside. Place the pink candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 40 seconds. Repeat for 20-second intervals until the candy is melted. Drizzle the melted pink candy over the popcorn and toss the mixture until it is coated evenly. Melt the white candy melts and drizzle it over the popcorn. Immediately add the sprinkles and M&Ms. Enjoy! Rocky and Gushing Cake Pops Rocky Balboa is an underdog fighter from lower-class Philadelphia, boxing the pain away with his trainer, Mickey Goldmill. After the opponent of reigning world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed gets injured, Rocky is suddenly chosen to fight this undefeated mastermind. But amid his training days, he falls for Adrain, the sister of his smart mouth meat packing pal. "Adriannnn" and Rocky are ride or dies until the end. Rocky gets beat up a lot, and in these times of crisis, no one makes him feel better than sweet, sweet Adrian. But these red velvet cake pops might just be the new hottie in town. Gushing Cake Pops Recipe Ingredients 1 box of red velvet cake mix 1 box of cream cheese frosting 2 cups of white chocolate chips 1 tbsp coconut oil Directions Make the cake and bake according to the box's directions. Crumble your cake into a large bowl and stir in the frosting until the mixture is like stiff cookie dough. Shape mixture into around 20 cake balls and place on a cookie sheet. Freeze the cake spheres for 15 minutes. Add white chocolate chips and coconut oil to a microwavable safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds intervals until creamy. Stick a toothpick into each cake pop and dip them into the white chocolate covering completely. Allow excess to drip into the bowl. Add sprinkles if desired, and enjoy! Shrek and Heart Poppin' Punch Once Shrek's solitude in the swap is interrupted by annoying fairy tale characters, he learns that they were all banished from their homes by evil Lord Farquad. Eager to get them off his land, he cuts a deal with Farquad to rescue Princess Fiona so she can be his bride. Saving the princess is tough, but it is even more challenging for Fiona to hide her Love for Shrek and her life-altering secret. Shrek probably didn't come to your mind at first when I mentioned romance movies. But five year old me had taste because, because according to my mom, I watched Shrek obsessively at that time. What can I say? I'm a sucker for ogre romances. This Heart Poppin' Punch feels just like Shrek and Fiona's tricky love relationship. Heart Poppin' Punch Recipe Ingredients 8 oz of Cranberry Juice (I love Ocean Spray) 8 oz of Sprite 1 cup of strawberries Directions Pour cranberry juice and sprite in a lovely cup and mix! Pop in a few strawberries That's it! But I'm a Cheerleader and Cheery Mug Cake Megan is a cheerleader and considers herself a typical American teenage girl. She has a nice room, cool friends and a boyfriend, who she doesn't like kissing that much. So she is shocked when her parents say she's a lesbian and send her off to True Directions, a wacky boot camp painted in pastels, to alter her sexual orientation. While there, Megan meets Graham, a rebellious teen lesbian, and for the first time, love feels right. Until you meet the person you have a soft spot for, like Meg, try this awesome mug cake my friend Clementine introduced me to. (This is a modified recipe of Food Network's chocolate mug cake) Cheery Mug Cake Recipe Ingredients 3 tbsp all-purpose flour 3 tbsp sugar 2 tbsp cocoa powder ¼ tsp baking powder 3 tbsp milk 3 tbsp vegetable oil 3 tbsp chocolate chips A package of Valentine's Day-themed M&Ms Sprinkles Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream (optional) Directions Put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a microwave-safe mug. Blend thoroughly with a fork. Add the milk and vegetable oil and blend until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips, M&Ms, and sprinkles Microwave on high for 90 seconds. Let it cool for 2-3 minutes before eating. Scoop vanilla ice cream on top of or beside the mug cake and enjoy! I hope you have an amazing day tomorrow and feel the best you’ve ever felt. I LOVE this blog, and you reading this right now ! 💖 You have a special place in my heart. Stay tuned for a Black History Month post on my Instagram @sanaissliceoflife and a surprise post later this week ;)

What Aesthetic Cake Are You Based on Your Zodiac Sign ?

I have entered my zodiac sign phase once again. We can thank Tik Tok for that. I also have become obsessed with aesthetically pleasing cakes. Again, we can thank Tik Tok for that. I then thought, why not combine the best of both worlds? I now present what aesthetic cake you resemble based on your zodiac sign! I am by no means an astrologer, and this is just for fun ;) From Leo to Taurus and Gemini to Capricorn, zodiac signs come in all shapes and sizes, just like these adorable cakes. Aries (March 21 - April 19) As the first sign of the zodiac, it is no surprise that Aries love nothing more than fresh beginnings and taking matters into their own hands. With excellent organizational skills, you’ll rarely meet an Aries slacking around on the job. Passion, a craving for speed, and competition come naturally to people with this zodiac. Similarly, this sage green cake with a little smiley face is just enough challenge and order for such Aries. Plus, it looks so good! Taurus (April 20 - May 20) Taurus folks are practical and are always willing to view challenges from a grounded perspective. Too committed to their works, this trait can also morph into stubbornness until things go exactly as they planned. Sudden changes are a big no, no, which fortunately makes Taurus very loyal and reliable friends and partners. This lilac cake with adorable sunflowers is right up this Earth signs alley. Purple is a very calm color, and the flowers give the cake the extra flair Taurus signs crave! Gemini (May 21 - June 20) Geminis are iconic for their twin symbolism because, with Geminis, you never know which side you will get. Sociable, curious, and fun, Geminis can quickly become aloof, restless, and paranoid as well. But this sign loves having a good time and often feels like there isn’t enough time to do everything they want in life. Arguably one of the most creative characters, Geminis are masters in the arts (yay for me !) and are always willing to share their ideas with the ones they love. This smiley face cake is so Gemini because I love it, and I’m a Gemini (so every other Gemini can go home.) Just kidding. But seriously, I think all my fellow Geminis will love this cake because it is happy and makes you feel good inside! Cancer (June 21 - July 22) Cancers are highly imaginative, sentimental, and loyal — but they can be one of the most challenging signs to get to know. Guided by their varying emotions and heart, Cancers have difficulty getting adjusted to the world around them. They use this grasp on feelings to help the ones they love and care for people beyond belief. This decorative blue cake gives me Cancer vibes. It is delicate, cool with the right amount of spunk. Cancers know how to be daring when they need to, just like this cake <3 Leo (July 23 - August 22) Leos are natural-born leaders and can achieve anything they put their mind to with their determined spirit. A sun sign capable of uniting different people towards a common cause (several U.S. presidents are Leos), and people are attracted to their charisma wherever they go. Never afraid to ask others for help, Leos can easily forget that other people have needs as well, and the world doesn’t revolve around them. This sprinkled cake with such cute suns is perfect for any Leo. It’s bold, fun, and eye-catching to everyone who passes by. Virgo (August 23 - September 22) Virgos pay attention to every minute detail in the world and are among the most careful zodiac signs. Extremely hard working and responsible, Virgos leave nothing up to chance but can become paranoid if everything is not as perfect as they envisioned. Like their name, this sign may feel like they are always experiencing everything for the first time. Virgos are also natural caretakers and commonly take jobs in the nursing or doctorate industry. This cake is very Virgo to me. It is simple, clean, organized, and reliable. Looks yummy too! Libra (September 23 - October 22) Libras are peace-keepers, gracious, and hate being alone. This sign will do practically anything to avoid conflict, and this lack of authority can make them pity themselves. Libras love engaging discussions and use music, books, and art to captivate their ever-expanding minds. Harmony and justice are the keys to Libra's heart. First of all this cherry cake is too cute !! It would be the perfect cake for Libra's because it is so joyful and I mean who wouldn't love this cake? I can easily see a Libra baking this cake as a peace offering for someone they got into an argument with <3 Scorpio (October 23 - November 21) Scorpios are known for their calm and collected behavior, which can also make them seem ultra-mysterious. This sign is fierce, brave, and passionate and will do whatever it takes to find out the truth. They despise dishonesty, which makes them prone to jealousy quite often. Scorpios have to learn to adjust to different human behaviors, but they can always find themselves around a group of friends since people love their honest ways. This fruity cake is soo Scorpio. Many bursting reds and oranges to fulfill their passionate desires, while sweet and pleasing to look at. Some of the best looking celebs are Scorpios (I'm looking at you, Drake !). Sagittarius (November 22 - December 21) Sagittarius is the zodiac's biggest traveler, and they need to continually be in touch with their natural surroundings to get the most out of life. Natural extroverts, this sign is optimistic, and enthusiastic which pushes them to explore new ideas every day. Their humor knows no bounds, and neither does their curiosity. This universe cake reminds me of Sagittarius folks because it has so many colors and emotions tied into it. It makes me want to explore the world and thank the universe right after. Capricorn (December 22 - January 19) Capricorns possess an inner state of independence that shows throughout their personal and professional life. They are experts at self-control, and their practicality and reliability make people want to follow them to the top. But this can also make Capricorns cold, stiff, and unreasonable when adapting to different points in a relationship. I adore this blue lemon cake for Capricorns because it reminds me of the winter and seems like it has its ish together. Capricorns know a thing or two about that and like to play it on the safe side too. Aquarius (January 20 - February 18) Aquarius signs are limitless people that crave the freedom and expression to do what they want. Naturally shy, these signs become energetic once they are around people they feel comfortable with. Aquarius folks hate feeling constrained and tend to block others out when they feel like their goals are far from being accomplished. This cake is super light and all over the place (in the right way), just like my Aquarius buddies. This cake makes me feel like the sky is limitless. Pisces (February 19 - March 20) Pisces are super friendly and often find themselves surrounded by different types of people. They are selfless, always willing to give without expecting something in return, and are very empathetic beings. Filled with wisdom and artistic talent, people with this sun sign show an early interest in music and are great people to look for when needing advice. This pretty pink cake is perfect for all the pretty Pisces! A type of cake that makes you feel all warm inside, and Pisces people can do just that. I will be dreaming about this cake tonight. ~ I hope you enjoyed this little cake tour ;) My best friend and I actually made our own aesthetic cake two weeks ago and it turned out great <3 If you want to check out more aesthetic cakes, Pinterest and Tik Tok are your places to go !

Five Modern Love Essays to Read this Monday

Brian Rea Modern Love, the famous New York Times column, has featured some of the most powerful, heart wrenching, and quirky essays on love and relationships since 2004. Ever since I started reading Modern Love (thanks to my mom), each story I read has left an imprint on my soul and implanted a lesson in my mind. I now present five Modern Love stories everyone should read in their lifetime. No matter what love you have felt, received, or dreamed of — you will take away something profoundly special from each story. 1. Junk Food Was Our Love Language Written by C Pam Zhang / Illustrated by Brian Rea Eight autumns have passed since her father’s death, and like clockwork, chicken nuggets are right by her side. 2. Lockdown Was Our Breaking Point Written by Monique El-Faizy / Illustrated by Brian Rea Locked in her Parisian apartment with her two sons and husband of two years — the writing on the wall becomes clear: this mid-life crisis relationship was not meant to last. 3. Am I Gay or Straight? Maybe This Fun Quiz Will Tell Me Written by Katie Heaney / Illustrated by Brian Rea After years of taking online quizzes to figure out her sexual orientation, a young woman realizes the answers she’s been looking for were in front of her all along. 4. He Married a Sociopath: Me Written by Patric Gagne / Illustrated by Brian Rea A sociopath learns a lesson from her husband while accepting all the flaws and perks of who she is. 5. My Best Friend Is Gone, and Nothing Feels Right Written by Jared Misner / Illustrated by Brian Rea After a young man’s best friend becomes another body swiped away by the Coronavirus, he realizes he might never love someone again as deeply he did her. And it might not ever be ok, but that is ok. ~ If you want to stay up to date on all things Modern Love —the weekly essays, podcast episodes, and batches of Tiny Love Stories, paired with other relationship-based reads from The Times — sign up for Love Letter, a weekly email. Make sure to check out the “Modern Love” television series, based on this column, on Amazon Prime Video.

10 Stunning Quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today we honor the man, the leader, the legend — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a prominent figure in the civil rights movement, Dr. King used the gift of words rather than violence to preach the evils of segregation on the American frontier. Remembered for his memorable speeches, legendary interviews, and being a pioneering historical Black-figure, the impact of Dr. King's work lives on in all different ways. In this day and age, when our country seems more divided than ever and you may ask yourself, “What is this all for ?” or “How can I aid in positive change ?.” Below, ten quotes from Dr. King shed light on these questions, and provide answers. These words remind me of all the beauty there can be on this Earth if you actively try to be an agent of change. 1. “One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong." - From King's book Strength to Love 2. "We will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope." From his "I Have A Dream" speech. 1963 March on Washington. 3. "Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education." - Written by King in the "The Purpose of Education," a 1947 article for Morehouse College's student newspaper King and folk singer Joan Baez, escorting children to their newly integrated school in Grenada, Mississippi. (1966) 4. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”- From Strength to Love A mural of Malcom X and King in London. 5. "True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." - From his 1957 book Stride Toward Freedom Police officers pushing King around in Montgomery, Alabama, as he is booked for loitering near a courtroom in 1958. King was trying to go into the hearing of a man who was accused of attacking one of King’s colleagues. Charles Moore/Getty Images 6. "The greatest irony and tragedy of all is that our nation, which initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world, is now cast in the mold of being an arch anti-revolutionary." - From King's“The Casualties of the War in Vietnam.” American soldiers in Long Binh, Vietnam, observe King’s birthday on January 15, 1971, 15 years before it was first observed as a federal holiday. 7. "Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love...violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers." - From his December 1964 Nobel lecture. "Martin Luther King leads the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, 21 March 1965." Photograph: AP 8. The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold." - From King's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. King joins a group of Freedom Riders in May 1961. Freedom Riders participated in Freedom Rides; bus trips through the American South in 1961 to protest segregated bus terminals. Comprised of white and African American civil rights activists, they faced horrible police brutality and violence from white protestors along their routes. 9. "History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." - Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story US President Lyndon B. Johnson talks with King and other civil rights leaders at the White House in January 1964. Six months later, on July 2, 1964, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Presidential Library 10. "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." -From the 2002 Coretta Scott King-edited book, In My Own Words. On March 22, 1956, King receives a kiss from his wife, Coretta Scott King,after being released from a Montgomery jail. Completely breathtaking quotes. Check out the New York Time's article : "Martin Luther King Jr. Day: 9 Ways to Honor His Legacy", on other great acts of service you can do today in respect to Dr. King 🖤

Venom in the U.S. Capitol

Shame and anger are the two words that swirl around my mind. Shame on the Trump supporters, white nationalists, and rioters for the madness they conducted yesterday. In my heart, anger wells because America is unraveling at the seams as I grow taller and taller on this land. I am not surprised nor in shock. I just wish the country I live in was better. The rioters who rushed into the U.S. Capitol were only able to do so because of the white privilege on their backs. The same white privilege they claim they "don't have" is the reason why four people died yesterday instead of hundreds more. If Black people or any other minority ever did anything like this, today would be a day of mourning. I would be writing a very different post. The hypocrisy is unbelievable — America is unbelievable. Actor Michael Keaton posted something on his Instagram today that struck a chord in my bones. "When you see an insurrection like this in other countries, it's people who are truly oppressed-usually under the rule of a despot. You rioters(white terrorists) are NOT oppressed. For one thing police don't shoot people unnecessarily who look like you …" Most if not all of the people apart of the coup yesterday are the MOST privileged people in America. This is how they react when something doesn't go their way? Attack the government of the country they "love" so much? Black Americans, Asians, Jewish Americans the Latinx community, and Indigenous Americans have gone through hell and back in this land, and look at the people trying to crush our democracy. How the tables have turned. Our president (Inauguration Day couldn't come sooner) does not act like anyone outside of Trump America exists. He and his supporters are living in a Disney World Land while we are on a burning planet. Yesterday a man wore a sweatshirt that said: "Camp Auschwitz" on the front and "STAFF" on the back. My stomach flipped. What world are they living in? What person, what president, would look at supporters like this and be proud? Trump set the fire under white supremacists, and the fact of the matter is these people aren't going away. The rioters live in America, have houses here, businesses, families. Domestic terrorism is an ugly beast. Again and again, I ask, how did this all happen? Sometimes change feels so out of reach. It feels like no matter what I do, nothing will ever change. But I will not let the ugly creature that is fear poison my mind. So I think about James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and all of my gleaming Black heroes from above, and I soldier on. You must too. When I am afraid, I write because my voice can peek its head out of all the noise that clouds my thoughts. Today is my little sister's 7th birthday (her golden birthday), so I feel a bit better knowing that cake will be in my stomach soon. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that when she's 15 like me, she will not have to watch her country crumble again on t.v. Stay safe, everyone, and I'll see you on Monday. S.R.

5 Tips To Help You Achieve Your New Year's Resolutions

US News Happy January 4th! You have survived four days into the new year, and you deserve a pat on the back. 2021 will hopefully be a year full of love, happiness, reflection, and Covid vaccines 😉 2020 was rough. There were times of loneliness, despair, grief, and an itch for something new to happen in the months of quarantine. But I am so grateful for the things many people did not have access to last year and still don’t now: shelter, food, family and friends, and good health. Hundreds of thousands of people had empty seats at the dinner table for New Year’s Eve, and that pains me beyond belief. Gratitude can be difficult to achieve and implement into daily life. This year I want to work on that more than ever. With the new year comes New Year’s Resolutions. I am a big believer in resolutions for the new year and always have a sheet of construction paper and markers ready on January 1st to jot down my list for the year. But keeping New Year’s Resolutions can be so HARD! Life whips you off of your feet, and by March, you’ve already forgotten what it is you want to achieve this year. According to the researcher Richard Wiseman, 88% of Americans do not follow through with their resolutions. Sometimes it feels as if New Year’s Resolutions are meant to be broken. But I’m here to offer you five tips to make sure you stick with your New Year’s Resolutions for 2021 ! #1 Create Specific Goals “Drink more water” is not enough. It is too vague, and this is just a resolution waiting to fall through the cracks. Look at the past resolutions you have attempted but did not complete, and examine why they weren’t successful. For example, one of my 2020 resolutions was “To get better at makeup.” I did not get better at makeup, and with all that time stuffed up in the house, I had time! But my goal was way too vague! What does “get better at makeup” really mean? Does that mean I’m able to do a perfect cut crease, impressive eye shadow looks, or I’m James Charles status by the end of the year? I have no clue. I can quickly fix that resolution if I drill down to what exactly I want to perfect in the makeup realm. For example, I could say: “Improve my eyeshadow skills by watching one makeup Youtube video every day” or “Practice makeup for 30 minutes every day.” The key term there is “every day (week, month, etc.).” Now your resolution is no longer just a resolution. It is a habit. #2 Be Reasonable The more practical you are, the more likely your resolutions will get done ! You know your schedule better than anyone else. If you don’t think you can read 100 books a year, as @BookyBecky encouraged you to do on Instagram, that is ok! Start small. Count how many books you read last year and make your resolution to read ten more books than that. Baby steps! To write resolutions, you have to have hope and faith in yourself. There are only so many hours in a day, and it’s challenging to get every little thing done, but that doesn’t mean you can’t always try to do a bit better. Take a second to think about what you want to accomplish this year and fly. No matter how silly or embarrassing, if it matters to you, it matters. #3 Write Your Resolutions Down On Paper Don’t write them down in your notes app or speak about your goals once the clock hits 12. Write them down on something physical! It could be on a looseleaf sheet, fancy scrapbook paper, or a literal napkin. Anything counts. Every year I grab a sheet of either colored poster or construction paper, grab a sharpie, and list my goals. You should also keep your list in a place where you can see it every day. In August last year, I redecorated my room and made the mistake of moving my 2020 resolutions list into the corner wall in my room that faces my dresser. I could never see the list unless I got up and craned my neck into the corner, and naturally, I forgot about my goals. This year, I placed my 2021 list on the wall in front of my desk. That is the section of my room that I am in the most. A constant reminder of what I should be working on. #4 Make Your Resolutions Public These are my ten New Years Resolutions : Read 40 new books Watch (and finish) five new television series Get in touch with my soul and spirituality Drink 32 oz of water every day Fine-tune and establish my writing persona Strengthen my poetry skills by examining different poets Finish 100 movies list! Listen to 20 new music albums Collage and journal more often Now I am relying on you to hold me accountable for these resolutions! At the end of the year, I will make a blog post updating you all on my success rate with each goal. Making your New Years Resolutions public is a great way to express your seriousness on completing each activity. It's always helpful to let other people in on your goals because they might even help you! You can post your resolutions on social media or just tell your parents or friends. I told my mom my seconds after I completed my 2021 list, and it was quite exhilarating. If you want to, you can have one person in your life, hold you accountable for completing each resolution. Say one thing you want to achieve is not straightening your hair for the entire year. It would be a good idea to text your friend who’s obsessed with hair care and update them about your progress. They can be your sponsor. #5 Do not write too many resolutions ! For 2020, I had fifteen resolutions. But I think the perfect number is ten. Not too little and not too much. As I mentioned before, you never want your goals to be too broad, so having three resolutions might not work. However, you also don't want to write fifty new years resolutions because that puts a lot of pressure on yourself! One year I had 25 resolutions, and I divided each up into specific categories. Way too complicated! If you see that you've completed one of your resolutions halfway through the year, you can always add another one. Improving yourself doesn't end with writing these resolutions. This is only the beginning. All of these tips and tricks will set you on the right track to complete your New Year's goals. I plan to create a monthly follow up sheet that tracks the progress I've made on each resolution in that period. And if you don't complete everything you hoped for by December 31st, it is ok! After all, we are only human.

Ten Films That Made My 2020

The longest year of our lives is about to turn into dust and get whipped away by the winds of years passed. I’m not mad. Even when the universe hit the world with the hardest tragedies, we soldiered on and tried to find the good in our lives. For me, that “good” was movies. In 2020 I watched 144 films for the first time! That is insane, and what’s even crazier is that I can remember watching each movie like it was yesterday. On my Letterboxd, you can find my full "2020 Film List - Ranked". All of these films, even the horrendous ones (I’m looking at you 365 Days), made me learn more about our world, myself, and the lives of those around me. I only went to the movie theaters a handful of times this year. Once Covid-19 struck, movie theaters were the first to go. I thank my laptop and iTunes for being by my side when it felt like the whole world was crumbling apart. There is nothing more healing to the soul than snuggling under the covers and watching an incredible movie. Out of the 144 films I watched, ten movies in particular, made my 2020. All of these movies are special to me for a specific reason, whether they comforted me in a dark time in my life or made me laugh until tears rolled down my eyes. Movies have a way of doing everything and nothing you imagined. Getting lost in a world so unlike your own is exhilarating, scary, and awakening. Thank you to the universe, for opening me up to the film world. And thank you to every director, actor, producer, writer, and more for giving me these ten films below. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) (dir. Aaron Sorkin, starring Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne) Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 follows the 1969 trial of the eight political radicals who were accused of inciting the riots that broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film is hilarious, snappy, and a very theatrical re-enactment of an infamous American courtroom drama. Sorkin has had his hand in courtroom dramas for some time now since he is the mastermind behind “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway. The intelligent and pouncing dialogue, bursting riot scenes, and dramatics of this star-studded cast kept my parents and me engaged for the entire 130-minute duration. It isn’t hard to see the parallels between this year and the ’60s as the film presents. The tension between citizens and police, uprisings of marginalized groups, and the question of what ‘radical’ really means is all woven together in this timely piece. Soul (2020) (dir. Pete Docter , starring Jammie Foxx and Tina Fey) Soul introduces Pixar’s first Black male lead in Joe Gardener (Jamie Foxx), a middle school music teacher who longs to be a jazz musician on the big stage. After decades of rejection, Joe lands a gig with visiting jazz legend, Dorthea Williams, after a former student puts in a good word for him. Filled with the hope that this performance could be the turning point of his career, Joe rushes home to get prepare — when he falls into a manhole, and his life gets cut tragically short. After his fall, Joe’s soul is supposed to head to the Great Beyond (aka the afterlife), but he desperately wants to return to Earth. Joe then meets a bratty unborn soul, Soul 22 (Tina Fey), who can go to Earth but refuses to go because she doesn’t see the point in living. Joe and Soul 22 make an interesting pair as we learn that being alive isn’t the same thing as living. This film is a fantastic homage to New York City living from the iconic diss at the struggling NBA team, the New York Knicks, to the vibrant storefronts and taxi cabs. Soul is a reminder that one’s purpose in life is never set in stone and can only ever come from within. If it doesn’t, uncertainty and unhappiness lie ahead. The Lobster (2015) (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Colin Farell and Rachel Weisz) Greek filmmaker, Yorgos Lanthimos, directed this bleak and cynical satire on our society's obsession with love, relationships, and commitment. In this dystopian world, a single person has 45 days after a break up to find a new partner, and if they don't, they will be turned into an animal (of their choice, of course.) Colin Farell brilliantly plays the newly single Dave, who enters a facility where single people try to find a mate. The facility resembles the treatment center in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and spares no expense containing the human emotion "singles" feel. There are frequently seminars about the dangers of being single. (A woman walking by herself is attacked. A woman walking with a man is safe. So on.) Personal connection is pushed to the side because if you want to escape social humiliation and getting turned into an animal, you will marry the first person you have a connection with. The Lobster stabs a pitchfork right through everything Valentine's Day heart you've ever seen. It made me question the ideas of a "soulmate" and "the right person will come along."In Lanthimos's style, he doesn't answer these questions. Instead, he leaves you with a chilling, "We'll Never Know." Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) (dir. Edgar Wright, starring Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead) In lockdown, my love for merely being a living, breathing, and healthy human, grew as did my appreciation for bubble tea, Netflix Party, and Michael Cera, of course. Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, a 22-year old Candian wannabe rockstar, who falls in love with an American girl he meets at a party, Ramona Flowers. First, he has to dump his 17-year-old girlfriend Knives Chau, and then he can finally be with the gorgeous girl with purple hair that stalks his dream. Scott Pilgrim kind of gets Knives out of the way. But no one told him that he also has to defeat Ramona’s seven deadly exes to date her ?! Ramona Flowers is certainly a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (read my article on that here). But, unlike most MPDG movies, the male love interest eventually realizes the MPDG's potential to be something more than an a person to fix their miserable life. The ending scene of the movie beautifully portrays the growth that is supposed to happen in any relationship. Scott Pilgrim has the perfect amount of obscenity that it's still good. You’ll be quoting this movie for weeks and playing the soundtrack non-stop as well. At least that’s what I did! Manchester by the Sea (2016) (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, starring Cassey Affleck and Michelle Williams) In Manchester by the Sea, your heart will get thrown all over the emotional clouds before hitting the ground with pain more intense than you ever thought possible. Casey Affleck plays depressive loner Lee Chandler, who spends his days as a janitor in Boston. After the death of his treasured older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), he is now the guardian and must take care of Joe’s only son Patrick (Lucas Hedges.) With impeccably seamless flashbacks given throughout the film, we see Lee’s relationship with Joe and Patrick from years before. As a tiny boy on his father’s prized fishing boat cracking jokes with his uncle, those memories of Patrick flood back into Lee’s mind as tensions between him and his now stubborn teenage nephew arise. Through these flashbacks, we also learn that Patrick’s mother was a drug addict and has been absent for most of his life. As the film digs through Lee’s mind capsule, we learn about the entirely different life he once led that makes residents of Manchester, Masschuttes refer to him as “the Lee Chandler.” I’ve never witnessed a film so stunning with its storytelling, dialogue, and cinematography. It comes as no surprise that director Kenneth Lonergan was once a playwright. In a small town whose minds are narrow, pain seeps through nonetheless. This is a film about forgiveness and the price of redemption. Manchester by the Sea is not a story about what it means to fly too close to the sun. It is a story about what it means to get burned by the sun until your skin is pickling red and how one day you can see the sun and not wince in fear anymore. Beautiful Boy (2019) (dir. Felix Van Groeningen, starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet) Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet come together in the most deeply felt and pulling way I have seen to represent father and son David and Nic Sheff. Beautiful Boy is based on each of their memoirs: David’s Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and Nic’s Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines. After he and his wife separate, David struggles to help their teenage son, Nic, who begins experimenting with drugs and later gets addicted to methamphetamines. Beautiful Boy is close and intimate, from where the film takes place in woodsy Marin County, California, to Carell and Chalamet’s chemistry on screen. Chalamet breaks down the helplessness, resentment, and numbness of Nic. While Carell demonstrates a heartbreaking performance of a father who wants to help his son be the beautiful boy he knows he can be. As John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” flows throughout the scenes, teardrops will fall, soft as the song itself. We all have someone in our life we want to protect from the monsters that haunt them. Even if we know we can’t, the harm in not trying is more significant than any pain at all. “The monster's gone, he's on the run/ And your daddy's here/ Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful/ Beautiful boy” The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) (dir. Wes Anderson, starring Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori) You can fall in love so much harder for a movie the second time you watch it. The first time I watched this Wes Anderson masterpiece, I was half asleep, and truthfully I didn't remember the last thirty minutes. The second time around, my whole body felt as pastel pink as the Grand Budapest Hotel's color and little Mendl's boxes. I was blown away at how happy, mushy and warm a film could make me feel in just an hour and a half! This 2014 critically-acclaimed film tells the legendary concierge Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) and his exciting friendship with young employee Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who becomes his trustworthy protege. Monsieur Gustave and Zero work at the bustling Grand Budapest Hotel in Europe, and within its colorful walls, love, war, theft, and greed explode. Featuring other star-studded actors like Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, and Adrien Brody, this movie is genuinely unforgettable. Like a Mendl's box, when you unfold its pretty ribbon, you are in for a delightful surprise. American Psycho (2000) (dir. Mary Harron, starring Christian Bale and Jared Leto) Once in a while, I show my "film bro" side, and one must not be afraid of that! Christian Bale plays a wealthy and neat New York investment executive named Patrick Bateman. From nine to five, he is nothing but the man with starched white shirts basking in the privileges of a white American male. Evaluating whose business card is the best is his favorite past time with his co-workers because fonts and getting a reservation at Dorsia are Patrick's largest concerns in life. That is until his psychopathic alternate ego takes over, and he goes on a rampage of slaughterings, rapings, and torture to fulfill his gruesome and illicit fantasies. American Psycho is mind-bending, head-scratching, controversial, and entirely up to your interpretation. Run wild. Call Me By Your Name (2017) (dir. Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer) Somewhere in 1980s Northern Italy, surrounded by lush trees, sunbathed streets, cracking villas, and a glimmering blue pool, 17-year-old Elio Pearlman (Timothée Chalamet) falls in love with an older man named Oliver (Armie Hammer). Elio returns to his family's summer home in Italy with his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an esteemed professor, and his mother (Amira Casar.) Oliver, an American doctoral student, arrives for Elio's father's annual internship and is everything Elio is not. He is tall, confident, gorgeous, and bold. When Oliver leaves, he always says, "Later," making him an even bigger mystery to the Pearlman family. Elio is shy, gawky, and everything from the way he talks to his pastimes are like a flowing bottle of molasses — long and drawn out. The two fall in love amid psychedelic dances, pissy girlfriends (or sidepieces), peaches, and mountain runs. The question: "Is it better to speak or not to speak ?" is echoed as bright as the colors in this film. In a world of in-betweens, we see two young men grow into their identities, grow away from it, and get lost in a love so deep it hurts. Whenever I need a reminder of why I love film, I watch Call Me By Your Name. Nothing will ever compare to this masterpiece. Brokeback Mountain (2005) (dir. Ang Lee, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall) Two modern-day cowboys, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhall), meet during 1963 at a summer job tending sheep on a Wyoming mountainside. Ennis is quiet and offers nothing but his timid smile, while Jack, a rodeo rider, is a bit more outgoing and spontaneous. After a few days have passed on the mountains and whiskey has seeped into their system, the intense feelings between the two rise quickly, and they passionately (and violently) have sex. "This is a one-shot thing we got going on here," Ennis says the next day. But as the film unfolds, we see this is far from the truth. After the summer ends, years pass by and both men live their lives, get married, have kids, and so on. But, Ennis and Jack always find themselves back together. Brokeback Mountain destroyed me in a way I've never felt before. This film is a masterpiece in all respects. The intimacy between Ledger and Gyllenhall will leave you speechless, as they convey the beautiful but depressing truth that love can survive through the darkest times if you don't let fear rule the way. I can' wait for all the beautiful films 2021 will bring. See you next year !⭐⭐

Chasing snow

❄️❄️❄️ Chasing snow ~ A poem by Sanai Rashid Snow falls onto cracked pavements, broken homes and shattered dreams. The white angels' cover-up a pain so evident burying each feeling of distress further down and down and down. Until all you can see are ghostly white blankets. Your body trembles, and for once, it isn't consumed with fear. It is bubbling with freedom. You pour water on the glue that has stuck you onto your bed for the last six months (but in all honestly, you didn't want to get up) and you wash your face for the first time brush off the plaque that stains your teeth lotion the skin that resembles the Sahara desert put on red long johns, mittens, gloves, coats and snap on your snow boots. You hammer down the stairs and you're not thinking about the asynchronous classwork you have to do Right now, everything on your to-do list can stick a carrot up their rear. For snow is here. Now you are out the door, and your feet are making footprints in the snow! You are here, right now, making your mark on the world. Your body is like a toaster oven, warm and fuzzy from layers of clothes and you smile before you take the final plunge and fall onto the snow. Time flies by. The light lemonade sun that shone when you first went outside, has now been replaced with a hard boiled egg moon, and a dark chocolate sky. Hours of rolling around, sticking out your tongue for fresh snowflakes, snowman building and ice spinning are now over. As you peel off your clothes, run your frozen hands under hot water and sip hot cocoa on the couch, you wonder Which is better? The chase for happiness or happiness itself? The chase is filled with hope, longing, a craving for something more then what you currently have. But when you achieve that happiness it eventually goes stale. The expiration date grows nearer. Maybe happiness never goes "stale." It just melts into something different, Like a cup of Dip N Dots. Like butter on a pan. Or snow. The thrill of snow is that it is temporary. You have to appreciate it while you can. And when you are chasing something that never stays for too long, you better run while you can.

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