Photo Gallery: ATL Protest

“This could be one of the great Trojan horses.” – Donald Trump 

Aside from Atlanta being a city full of immigrants and refugees, we’re all still really mad that he said our beloved home is “in horrible shape and falling apart.” On Sunday January 29th, hundreds of people gathered at the airport to protest Trump’s Muslim Ban. Not only is it completely unconstitutional, it targets millions upon millions of innocent people.

Working with refugees over the summer really put everything into perspective for me. These are actual people with families, friends, and entire lives that they had to leave behind. We tend to think of refugees as people who have never known anything other than war. While this is unfortunately true for most children coming out of the region, most adults had careers and families before they were displaced. Refugee is their status but it’s not their livelihood; they are more than their circumstances.

Some people, like Donald Trump, stereotype refugees as having some type of secret plan to be a “Trojan horse” for terrorism. What these people fail to realize is, these people are escaping the very same terrorism that we’re so afraid of. The difference is, all of the action is going on in their backyards and continues to destroy their lives on a daily basis. I encourage all of you to make an effort to get to know someone from a different country. You never know what you can learn from them and how a short conversation can create a world of difference in your life!

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MLK Day in Birmingham

I’ve found that going to school in Alabama definitely has it perks, especially when it comes to visiting historical sights. I’m guilty of placing Atlanta at the center of the Civil Rights Movement but so much happened in Birmingham and really Alabama in general. This past Sunday (also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday), I had the privilege of attending a church service at the 16th Street Baptist Church. For those unfamiliar with the history of the 16th Street Baptist Church, in 1963 the KKK bombed the building and killed 4 little girls attending Sunday school and injured around 22 others. Today, the church stands as a National Historical Landmark and continues to have weekly services.

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Being in this church reminded me just how important the role of the Church as a meeting place and  Christianity itself was during the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not just a well educated activist, he also attended Crozer Theological Seminary to become a minister. We all know about his speeches and his marches but I think we often times forget that he did this with a Christian conscience. Does that mean that all of his beliefs came straight out of the Bible? Of course not. He studied numerous philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Locke and was influenced by the writings of Marx and the teachings  of Ghandi. But he did all of this with his faith in mind. He said himself that “the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

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The most important thing to take away here is that social justice and Christianity go hand in hand. We see this not just from Martin Luther King Jr.’s life but also by looking at how Jesus lived his life. He didn’t just come to preach a message of salvation, he came to help those who weren’t being helped by their governments and religious leaders. Too often today, social justice is equated with a liberal way of thinking and looked down upon in conservative circles. These same circles that look down on social justice also claim to be Christian. But Christianity is more than just going to church and living your own personal life according to what you deem to be a moral standard. God explicitly tells us we have to care about other people. As if “Love one another as I have loved you” didn’t make it clear enough:

Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

This verse was mentioned at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration service at 16th Street and it just so happens to be one of my favorite. It’s one of those verses that doesn’t need a bunch of dictionaries and interpretations to understand. God doesn’t just WANT us to act just justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, but he requires it! This doesn’t mean we all have to be out in the streets protesting and shutting down highways  (because it’s not for everyone) but it does mean we have an obligation to speak up against hate speech and injustices around the world and care for those who have been overlooked or targeted by society and help in anyway we can, just like Jesus did back in his day.

What 2016 Taught Me

So plot twist: 2016 actuually wasn’t a horrible year for me! As soon as the New Years Eve festivities were over, I was ready to have the best year possible and leave behind the mess that was 2015. I guess I should use “mess” loosley because it wasn’t ALL terrible but 2015 was a year full of lessons that I put into action in 2016.

2015. Ahhh, yes. The year I graduated, went to Europe for the first time, moved away from home, started college, and met a ton of new people. With all of that being said, I definitely can’t say the entire year was bad (I mean, c’mon I drank wine in Paris). But everything I experienced in 2015 changed the way I see myself, the world around me, and the relationships I had in my life. I began to really think about what was adding value to my life and what was prohibiting me from being the best version of myself. After all, you can’t expect your life to change if YOU aren’t willing to find what needs to change.

So after some soul searching and heavy reflecting, I came into 2016 with the mindset that it was going to be my year no matter what life decided to throw at me. Of course, that meant some of my habits were going to have to change. I’ve never been one to make outlandish resolutions like “I’m going to wake up at 5 AM everyday and exercise for two hours and then spend the rest of the day eating nothing but vegetables and fruits!” Because let’s be real, that’s just not going to happen. But I did make a few some mentality and lifestyle changes that helped me out so much throughout the year.

For me, this started out with weeding out the good and bad relationships in my life. Who was adding unneeded stress into my life and who was a source of constant support? I found that some of my friends were acting more like we were in competition with each other rather than serving as a source of mutual support. Anytime I had exciting news to share, it turned into a “who can one up who” type of thing. As young people trying to find our place in this world, this type of negative energy just isn’t beneficial to either party. As someone who is super bad at letting go and doesn’t like to hurt peoples’ feelings, this was beyond challenging. But in the end, I could literally feel the dead weight being taken out of my life and it brought me closer to my true friends!

Another thing I learned is the importance of the food we put in our bodies. It’s so true when they say you are what you eat. If you’re constantly eating junk food, you’re not going to feel your best. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m without a doubt a recovering fast food addict. Zaxbys, Chick-Fil-A, and Wendy’s have all gotten way too many of money over the years. However, 2016 was the year I decided to finally give up my chicken nuggets addiction and become a vegetarian!!! As someone who (no joke) ate chicken nuggets/chicken tenders for almost everyday, this hasn’t been easy and it tests my self-control on a daily basis. Especially, living in the south where there’s a Chick-Fil-A on almost every street. I resist the urge to go buy that 8 count nugget meal by looking at cool recipes on Pinterest and keeping in mind how much better I feel when I don’t have meat in my body!

2016 also taught me that you get what you put out. If you’re constantly putting out negative energy, whether it be through your conversations with friends or what you post on social media, then you’re going to live a negative life. Now, I’ll be honest, we all love to partake in gossip here and there and I’m no different. I’m not going to lie and say that I never listen to gossip if it comes my way but I do try to not spread things around.  That’s so much wasted time and energy that you would’ve used on something else that would actually make you feel better about yourself! Instead of putting out hateful or judgemental words, compliment someone instead! I try to compliment at least one person a day and trust me, you’ll feel so good when you see how happy a few nice words can make somebody.

And I can’t talk about what I learned in 2016 without mentioning my time spent volunteering. Over the summer, I volunteered to teach English at the International Rescue Committee and (clichés aside) it really did change my outlook on life. I could write an entire post about my experience but the most important thing I took away from my time at the IRC was that happiness really is a daily choice that we have to make. Every morning, we had a morning message and part of it was “How are you feeling today?” Almost every single day, the answer from everybody was “I feel happy!” Of course, there were some days (especially the rainy ones) when the response was “I feel tired.” But that’s more than understandable for an 8AM class. I would sit there and think to myself: These are people who had to flee their homes due to war and famine, leave all of their family and friends to come to a new country, where so many people are protesting their right to be here, yet they don’t let any of that effect their happiness. It really put the things I get upset about into perspective. Suddenly, me not being upset about not being able to go on vacation or buy a new shirt from Topshop seemed so silly.

So I say all of that to say this: the outcome of this year is in your hands. You have the power to make 2017 YOUR year or a repeat of 2016. And remember, as the old saying goes: A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. Take whatever trials you faced in 2016 and use them to make 2017 to better yourself!

Thank you so much for reading and here’s to a wonderful 2017!

Talk to you soon,

Kanisha Lucille (: