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2020 — Ten Reflections

Last week Niara said to me, “2020 was low-key your year.” And you know what—as brutal as 2020 was, I couldn’t argue with her.

I went back to grad school after a hiatus, signed to WeSpeak models, reached the 6-figure milestone with my freelance business, finished mixing the Imanigold EP, started a podcast, and I’m wrapping up the year surrounded by a community of brilliant, creative, beautiful, kind, loving people who I support, and who allow me to support them.

Not one of those things listed came easily, whatsoever. The business, podcast, and school successes came with lots of tears—and taught me so much resilience. I had to loosen my grip on some friendships that were not serving me anymore, which was an excruciating three-month process of heartbreak and soul-searching.

And when it comes to my art, music, modeling, and everything else, I’ve had to believe in myself and my creative vision more than ever. I was forced to declare how vital my art is. “Why are you focusing on music in a pandemic? There are more important things right now,” I would tell myself, disparagingly. But I fought this voice, reminding myself art is what makes life worth living. I’m so glad I did. I am better for it, and I believe the world is, too.

In reflection, celebration, and mourning of all that we’ve seen in 2020, Niara and I chose ten themes that were important to us this year and asked ten Imanigold Collective members and friends to share on the theme that resonated with them most. I hope you enjoy this moment of reflection and gather strength from your own perseverance, power, and creativity.

 With all my heart,

 April Kae


Blackness in 2020: Here We Are Still

SAMIAH
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I think a mirror has been put up against the worst parts of us. For 12 months, we were forced to face ourselves—one-on-one with the reality of who we’ve become. And so many of us (humans) shuddered at the sight of something almost unrecognizable. We had to see who we are in grief, in loneliness, in devastation, unfiltered. With few of our traditional means of emotional suppression accessible, so many of our demons long left sedated somewhere dark and remote, came clawing to the surface.


And at the end of it, here we are. We are fighting with every fiber of our being to heal from a seemingly endless season of grieving. Reeling from unprecedented loss. Holding ourselves together with whatever it is we have left. Here we are. & I think that’s more than enough.


In Hebrew, there’s a word, hineni, that ultimately translates to “here I am.”


I lost my grandmother, who showed me the spirit of the universe through Judaism and the Hebrew language. I’ve carried her wisdom closely these last few months, and despite it all, I can say “hineni” with a genuine belief that better days are to come.


So, if you and I are here, there’s still light to look for. No matter what anyone else may say about success, productivity, motivation, and what you “should’ve done” with the time you had in quarantine—the fact that we are here is enough. This shit was hard as fuck. We’ve got to breathe deeply, knowing how incredible it is to be able to say, “here I am,” still.


When the Pandemic Struck

WENDELL
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I spent the early days of the pandemic in my hometown of Wichita, Kansas. I’d just ended six months of traveling across the country after getting laid off from a job on the east coast.


I was living off a cushy severance package and putting together a coaching business teaching people how to transform their lives through a mix of practices from Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and Roleplaying Games.


When the pandemic struck, I was living in my friends’ spare bedroom. We’d just gotten into a comfortable rhythm of sharing life together when we learned that that time was to be extended indefinitely.
I’d only had plans to only kick it in Wichita for a few months before heading on the road again. One day while taking a walk, my intuition (in the form of the image of a motherly figure) told me that I should consider STAYING PUT.


Truth be told, I have non-trivial feelings of guilt surrounding how EASY it was for me to follow this advice. March and April in Wichita can still be a bit cold, and the pandemic gave me an excuse to stay inside.


I got pretty close with my roommates as we adjusted to the new normal. We baked a lot of bread and watched TV and movies together. I learned the magic of bidets when toilet paper became scarce. For introverts, this was a welcome break from the bustle of everyday life. I was so happy to have a home that the first few months kind of blew by.


COVID-19 would have many people in the world, learning how to adapt to many disruptive changes in reality. The ineptitude of governmental response and the limits of their own ability to live in isolation. Having already lived this life, I considered myself lucky that I’d already learned how to adapt to a different way of living.


Voting in 2020—For the First Time Ever

AMELIA
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2020 has been the most confusing year yet for me. For my whole life, I have stayed out of politics as it’s not exactly my scene. This year, however, I turned 18 and was able to vote for the first time. The few months leading up to the election were empowering, infuriating, and heartbreaking. It seemed like the world was crumbling in front of me.


Keeping my decency and humanity was also something weighing on my mind during the few weeks before the election. I struggled a lot with trying to remove people from their political views so that I didn’t completely hate someone who thought differently than I did. Having to decide whether to continue being someone’s friend or family member because of their views troubled me.
The difference I saw between this election and past ones was how aware everyone seemed to be. Everybody I came in contact with had a strong opinion one way or the other. Everybody’s mind was on the election, and it seemed to be the topic of every discussion.


The days following November 3rd, I sat in my room staring at the red and blue map for days, constantly checking and crossing my fingers.


The day President-Elect Joe Biden and Madam Vice President Kamala Harris gave their speeches, I was in tears coming to the full realization that someone who looks like me, a powerful Black woman, was going to be in office and was going to help lead our country into a hopefully better year—and years to come.


I am hopeful for 2021 and look back on 2020, wishing I could give my unaware end of 2019 self a hug.


Women in Music

JAZMINE
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2020 was a year of many things being shut down. And while a lot was on pause, women in music did not.
For me, music is a way to escape the world, and during a pandemic, it was pivotal in keeping this year somewhat ordinary. Yet, even in a pandemic, many women in music went above and beyond and have taken this time to create.


One of my personal new favorites this year was Charli XCX’s fourth studio album, How I’m Feeling Now, which was written and recorded in just a few months. Using her classic hyper pop style, Charli beautifully demonstrated just how she was feeling. And for me, she gave me a way to be able to put in my headphones and drown out the noise of the world—the stress that comes with a pandemic.
Another massive release this year was WAP, an instant hit recorded by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. It went straight to the top of the charts and became the most-streamed song within a week, with 93 million streams after just six days of the release. It also earned Cardi B the Billboard’s Women in Music, Woman of the Year Award. For me, this song is not only catchy and fun to dance to but, it’s hugely empowering to see women who own their sexuality.


While she may be controversial, Taylor Swift also had a great year. Earlier this year, she came out with her tell-all documentary, Miss Americana. She even shared how she believes the youth are the only ones who can change our world, her experience with an eating disorder, and her experience with sexual assault. Swift also came out with her eighth studio album, Folklore, which was hugely successful, and got me through a bout of depression this year.


Music has been expanding since the beginning of time, and 2020 was a huge year for many women in the industry. With 2021 quickly approaching, I’m excited to hear all the new sounds the year will bring.


This One is for the Gays

NIARA
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We can all agree that this was a mentally, physically, and financially exhausting year, but the gays made it all worthwhile.


This year I’ve come across more queer content on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu than ever. We’ve had shows like Ratched, The Umbrella Academy, and The Haunting of Bly Manor that give us all the feels when our faves (like Sarah Paulson) give us some of the best storytelling of the year. With the release of arguably the most popular zombie game of the 21st century, The Last Of Us II, this year, we are able to witness a love story between two gay main characters, Ellie and Dina. In a fucking zombie game!!!


This year meant a lot to the LGBTQ+ community, myself included. It’s shown that sexuality is just another complex part of a person, but it doesn’t have to be a personality trait. Love is normal and should be celebrated, and stories should be told by people that understand the depth of the story they’re telling.


When it comes to queer representation, this year gives me so much hope. We love that gay shit, and it’s here to stay.


Divine Quran-timing, an Opportunity for a Small Business

TAMAR
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COVID-19 forced the world to stop with what I like to call “divine Quaran-timing.” I was out of work for a few weeks back in March when we first shut down. It gave me so much time to think—to really dig within myself and tap into my creative side. Divine Quaran-timing showed me that we only have control over the decisions we make every day. Life simply happens sometimes! We can’t slow it down or speed it up.


With the extra time on my hands, I figured it was time to stop making excuses and pursue the business idea I’d been pushing to the side for years. After social distancing meet-ups with friends, long nights of research, and a much-needed conversation with my business-savvy father, everything clicked, and I was ready to get to work.


Starting my company, LUNAG, has brought me so much joy and a sense of productivity in every aspect of my life. It woke the “go-getter” in me. It was a way for me to express the rebirth 2020 has given me, and I’m excited about the development and growth that 2021 will bring.


Lil Nas X

DOMINIQUE
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COVID-19 forced the world to stop with what I like to call “divine Quaran-timing.” I was out of work for a few weeks back in March when we first shut down. It gave me so much time to think—to really dig within myself and tap into my creative side. Divine Quaran-timing showed me that we only have control over the decisions we make every day. Life simply happens sometimes! We can’t slow it down or speed it up.


With the extra time on my hands, I figured it was time to stop making excuses and pursue the business idea I’d been pushing to the side for years. After social distancing meet-ups with friends, long nights of research, and a much-needed conversation with my business-savvy father, everything clicked, and I was ready to get to work.
Starting my company, LUNAG, has brought me so much joy and a sense of productivity in every aspect of my life. It woke the “go-getter” in me. It was a way for me to express the rebirth 2020 has given me, and I’m excited about the development and growth that 2021 will bring.


Trying to Stay Well in a Sick World

MAAY
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Wellness in 2020 was a mess: a beautiful, connecting, chaotic, sad, desperate mess. In May, I was fired due to the pandemic. I took inventory of my mental state and the state of those around me. Everyone seemed hopeful, so I decided to be optimistic too. 

I’m proud that humanity is still here, holding onto hope despite the devastation and oppression we wake up to daily.

It has been a transformative year for wellness in terms of access. Within the first few weeks of the pandemic, some of my mindfulness, education, and fitness colleagues had transformed their practices to social media and Patreon. I have had more access to wellness during this pandemic than before. I hope that this experience sparks conversations that maintain the platforms, organizations, and programs pushing for unhindered access to wellness.

My wellness journey has felt like one long, partly cloudy day. I can remember the first few weeks of the pandemic. I had just finished my yoga certification and was excited for the time off to work on my creative goals. I made sure to meditate twice daily.

Weeks later, I was fired. My fridge stopped working. I lost my yoga mat to floods (yes, plural) and couldn’t tell you the last time I practiced. I snapped at people in line at the grocery store for not maintaining proper distance, and I missed my mother desperately. I was not well, but I had hope because those around me kept hope.

Now that 2020 is finally coming to a close, I feel genuinely optimistic. 


A Relationship Check-In for the New Year

MORGAN
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Reflecting on 2020 is kind of a daunting task. “Sure, let’s dwell even more on our stress, trauma, and collective exhaustion.” If it feels overwhelming right now, it’s ok to take a nap first.
When you’re up to it, though, there’s value in taking stock. For me, a check-in after a friend annoyed me prevented a significant fracture in our relationship. And when I started feeling queasy in a summer romance, checking in helped me end it before it got worse. Responding to low-stakes conflict with a quick inventory means we can put out the fire while it’s still small.
We’re living in a period of heightened need, which means we can benefit from re-examining the relationships in our lives. Whether romantic, platonic, familial, or professional, the people in our orbit can make or break our ability to cope with crises beyond our control.


I’ve designed the following exercise to help gauge whether or not your relationship(s) are still serving you. (And my standard disclaimer for these kinds of resources: I am not a medical or psychiatric professional, and this isn’t intended to be diagnostic. Instead, this is a framework around which you can explore your feelings and better understand your own needs.)


Rate how true these statements feel, on a scale of 1 to 5:
(1 being Totally False, 5 being Totally True)

I feel satisfied with this current dynamic.
I feel clear about what I need from this partner.
I feel clear about what this partner needs from me.
I feel clear about what this partner wants to build with me, if anything.
I know what setting boundaries means.
It’s easy to tell this person what I’m thinking.
It’s easy to tell this person what I want and need.
I feel heard when I express myself.
They never deny my lived experience (gaslight).
They work to change harmful behavior when they become aware of it.
They freely speak up when something bothers them.
I’m not always the person initiating emotional labor.
We can fight without abusive tones or language.
We can fight without manipulation or coercion.
We resolve fights in a satisfying way.
I feel no resentments toward this partner.
I don’t feel good when they experience jealousy or fear.
I don’t feel relieved when I’m away from them.
I don’t feel fear that this person will hurt me.
I don’t feel fear that this person will leave me.


These (20) statements will yield you a score of 20-100. 


20-30: Very Unsatisfied
31-50: Unsatisfied
51-60: Somewhat Satisfied
61-80: Satisfied
80-100: Very Satisfied


I hope this exercise supports you to hone in on improvement areas and start conversations with the people in your life. Let’s be mindful of where we spend our energy as we cautiously step into 2021.


I am Not Immortal, and I Am Not Immune to Divine Timing

MIKAYLA
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2020 took a lot from all of us, but what we gained was perspective—that hindsight 2020.


See, life has this funny way of making us feel so comfortable that we forget how fragile we truly are. We walk through our days, relishing in the promises of tomorrow and putting off what we could do today in the name of the future. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the time we have here is unlimited until something like death comes around the corner, reminding us all that none of us are immune to the circle of life.


This year was that stark reminder for everyone, I think, or at least for me it was. It was a reminder that we all need a sense of urgency when it comes to bringing to fruition our best, highest selves. It’s a reminder that being a GOAT, a ceiling breaker, and a ground shaker doesn’t make you exempt from the happenings of mother nature and the universe. The loss that we’ve experienced on a collective level with Kobe Bryant, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chadwick Bosman and the loss we’ve experienced on an individual level in this season has brought into hard focus the importance of our personal responsibility to leave this place better than when we came here. It has reminded us all of the importance of every moment that we’re granted here in this physical realm and the need to make them all count.


If nothing else, 2020 has bestowed upon us the responsibility to both ourselves and the world to bring forth the greatest versions of ourselves and to become the people we were created to be. That looks different for everyone, but at the core, we owe it to ourselves and everyone around us to cultivate our divine gifts. To cultivate the people we want to be, and the spaces we want to occupy and keeping this responsibility at the forefront of mind is what 2020 has done for me. It’s been anxiety-inducing, for sure, but more than anything else, it has shifted my perspective of loss to that of which inspires me to be better. I am not immortal, and I am not immune to my divine timing, so with 2021, I vow to move forward daily towards the most powerful, intentional, and impactful version of me.


April Kae

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