Celebrating Two Years of baltimoreblackwoman: 2016 – Year in Review

This has been both a tough and a rewarding year: The Worst of Times… and The Best of Times. I am proud that my blog has managed to draw new readers and followers (even though I didn’t write as many articles as I planned to), and that there have been more comments, not only from fellow bloggers, but also from people searching the Internet who, on finding an article of mine, took the time to both read and comment on my work.

In a separate post, I’ll talk more about my plans for year 3 of baltimoreblackwoman. But I want to start with a recap of this year.

The Worst of Times

It has been, in large part, a Year of Mourning. The deaths of so many of my artistic heroes—musicians, actors, writers, and thinkers—have left me with huge holes in my heart and have forced me to examine my own mortality more deeply than I really care to. It’s bad enough that I’ve lost so many people in my personal life in recent years, but I’ve learned to live with those losses; it’s what we do. Those who remain grieve together and remember the meaning of our loved ones in our lives. But when our cultural icons, especially those of our own generation, start dying off too, those losses really magnify how short life is, how fragile it is, and how poignant and sad the losses are.

When David Bowie died last January, I expressed my grief in blog posts and shared favorite songs with friends on Facebook, and played his music loud and proud in my living room. I did the same when Prince died. But as the year progressed and more and more pieces of the tapestry of my life unraveled, I turned inward. The double loss—a day apart—of Carrie Fisher [whom (along with Patty Duke) I admired more for her public reckoning with bipolar disorder (which I have also tried to do in my writing)], and of her mother, Debbie Reynolds [whose turn as Grace’s mother on Will and Grace made me laugh and cry (in recognition of the fraught relationship between mothers and daughters everywhere] just stopped me in my tracks. I’ve been humming “Tammy,” my favorite Debbie Reynolds song, which I’ve known since I was 4 years old(!) incessantly in my head over the last two days. But I can’t bring myself to sit down at my keyboard and play it. Even though I know that doing so might just make me feel better.

But it is the impending death of Democracy as we know it, as the next president prepares to take office, that has left me with a severe case of PTSD. Mostly, I just want to withdraw to a bunker for the duration, with my head under my pillow and blankets covering me. At the same time, this bizarre upending of the Obama Presidency by The Apprentice has caused me many apoplectic moments, like a dying fish gasping on the beach with its mouth in a perfect “O”. I have struggled to write about the 2016 Election, managing only a few posts of my own, instead, relying on the words of fellow bloggers like Skydancing, Kurt Brindley, and The Leon Kwasi Chronicles to speak for me. I did manage to “like” or comment on many of their posts. Similarly, I shared dozens of Facebook posts that expressed my angst, anger, and disdain over this year in politics.

After all is said and done, though, I am still here, alive and well (despite having 3 colonoscopies this year), with a roof over my head and family, friends, neighbors, and a dog to love and care for. And so far, at least, the world is still spinning round.

The Best of Times

This year has also been a time of new beginnings, goals set and met, old friendships renewed, and new friendships found. Many of these developments are directly related to my work on baltimoreblackwoman!

My article about the wonderful Shades of Yale concert my mother and I attended in January led to my meeting and becoming friends with the woman who brought the singing group to her synagogue, Beth Am. This budding friendship not only helped me rekindle ties to my old childhood neighborhoods in West Baltimore; it gave me a chance to test my mettle, when I was asked to join the board of the synagogue’s community organization. Now, I am relearning old skills in organizational development, group dynamics, and other areas of knowledge that I haven’t used since I retired from my job 3 years ago. But more importantly, I have gained a new appreciation for how my old neighborhoods have evolved since my youth, how much the infusion of new blood into these neighborhoods is changing Baltimore in positive and hopeful ways, and how just saying “Hello” to someone new can turn your entire life around! I’ve become part of a community that I would not have found on my own, explored parts of my city that I might not have done otherwise, discovered new issues to focus on in my writing, and learned more about myself, the world around me, and my place in the world, in the process. Even better than that, I have gained a new family—the instant bond I formed with my new friend’s mother is a precious gift. And in broadening my experiences and relationships, I have found new sacred spaces: spaces, situations, and environments where I can aspire to be my best self.

I met some of the goals I set for the year: to be more involved in my community, and to read more works by Black writers such as Ta Nehisi Coates and Joy Ann Reid. I raised my voice in support of causes I believe in, by signing petitions, raising awareness on social media, and in a few cases making donations. These causes range from the Resistance against the demise of our Democracy, to reversals of convictions of people proven to be innocent of their purported crimes, to gun control legislation and mental health initiatives.

On balance, 2016 has been a year of change (good and bad) and growth, much better than I’d hoped for.

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