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Incredible Women

10 Incredible Women on what brings them strength, positivity and hope

Clockwise from top left: Gabrielle Richardson; Camille A. Brown (center, in red); Candace Parker; Aja Monet; Rachel Ricketts; Raquel Willis; Allyson Felix

Raising the voices of the next generation, communities coming together and demanding action, and revolutionary acts of self-care. To mark Black History Month (US), PORTER asks a series of inspirational thought leaders from across different industries to reflect on where they find resilience and optimism in the most challenging times, and what is bringing them hope for meaningful change in 2021

GABRIELLE RICHARDSON, model and activist

“This past year, we have seen so many systems that we have previously put our faith in crumble. Our political, healthcare, and social systems have made themselves abundantly clear that they’re unsustainable. But, through the rubble, I am excited about a rebirth. People taking initiative to create change and realizing it’s not going to come from above, that it will require laying some real groundwork by everyone, and that it will be uncomfortable. What gives me hope is the combination of dissatisfaction, drive, and love. I find joy from life. I think, during these difficult times, I’ve learned to explore my relationship with gratitude. When you are feeling awful, take a safe walk outside, look around at your surroundings and breathe it in – observe! It will undoubtedly make you feel better. The fact that we even exist in this moment is proof that so many unlikely probabilities are working in our favor.”@fridacashflow

Logan Browning

LOGAN BROWNING, actor

“Every day is a blessing. Good days, bad days and mediocre days are all a wonderful gift. Difficult times are inevitable, so when I accept and allow whatever my circumstance is, I am able to experience it with gratitude and grace. When I am suffering, I become mindful of all the times I wasn’t suffering, and I become immensely grateful to be having the experience. I know that everything is temporary, so everything is an opportunity to try out the best version of myself I have to offer. I care for myself by spending time with myself. When I am alone, I get to know my dreams and my fears. I am able to nurture those parts of myself so that when the world puts a door to one of them in front of me, I am prepared. I’ve learned to embrace my alone time through the wise words of [playwright] Lorraine Hansberry: ‘Never be afraid to sit a while and think’. I find hope in the ability for humans to have grace, compassion, and understanding for each other. Even if it’s just one person. Even if it’s just me. We aren’t stagnant. People can change. That is exciting.” @loganlaurice

CANDACE PARKER, basketball player and broadcaster

“What’s giving me hope is this younger generation. You know, you look in the past and it was one or two people that would stand up or speak out, and now we’re seeing entire generations of people who are standing together – and not just for things that benefit themselves. That’s what gives me hope: we’re seeing men stand up and speak for women; we’re seeing white people stand up for Black Lives Matter; we’re seeing straight people stand up for the LGBTQ+ community. We’re seeing more people standing up for what they know is right, rather than just what has always been done. I have an 11-year-old daughter and I could say that I’ve taught her so much, but really, honestly, it’s the other way round. That gives me so much hope, that kid-like belief in the world. In the way they speak, in the conversations they drive. I told her last week, ‘You have a female vice president, now you know that you could be president’. She was like, ‘You didn’t think I could be president before?’” candaceparker.com

RAQUEL WILLIS, writer and activist

“There’s always so much work to be done, but it definitely feels like the start of a new era. In the aftermath of 2020, I’ve realized that even when things are difficult and hard, we have the capacity to find hope and resilience through the human experience. It’s been powerful to witness the transformation from thinking beyond the self to thinking about the collective – whether it’s healthcare, police brutality, safety, security. A constant source of inspiration for me is in the streets, in community activism and organizing. I find it in the work that other Black trans people are leading, particularly across the United States, to continue to build community together, to challenge the status quo and to break down restrictive norms in the face of so much ire and disparity. I see it in my family, in conversations with my mom about her experience of growing up as a young Black woman in the [American] South in the 1960s and ’70s, and how much has shifted since then. Looking at history, I feel I have no excuse in this moment to be absent from the action, when I have more at my disposal than our foremothers did. I try, though, to extend grace to myself, to own the humanity of my experience. There are moments when I feel powerful and capable and there are moments when I don’t, and I have to own both parts.” raquelwillis.com

SINDISO KHUMALO, designer

“It has been a brutal time, to say the least. Many of my friends and family have lost loved ones to Covid-19 in the pandemic. This has really been a time for us to take stock of what truly matters in our lives. Saying that, I remain hopeful for the future, especially that issues around Black Lives Matter and gender-based violence are prominent in conversations, and I only hope we can all make an effort to bring positive change to the world. We have a lot of healing to do, now and post-pandemic.

“In my children is where I find my joy. And for resilience and optimism, I pray. I have crystals in my office, my car and in my home; and I light candles and imphepho (African incense) daily. I try to make time every day for meditation and prayer. I have also started exercising again, which really helps with dealing with all the noise in one’s head. So those are my two daily rituals that help me in this disruptive time.” sindisokhumalo.com

ALLYSON FELIX, track and field athlete

“We have pulled back the curtain on so much work that needs to be done, and this transformation period has been extremely painful for us all, but I am inspired by this recent awakening and the changes that have already been made. The lessons learned; the voices we have been able to uplift. And I find privilege in being part of this journey. I can make a difference; we all can make such a difference. I find joy and optimism in my daughter, Camryn, and every morning I turn to either my journal or meditation to set my intention for the day, or note something that I am grateful for. Self-evaluation and stillness have helped my wellbeing immensely.” allysonfelix.com

AJA MONET, writer and poet

“Being a part of a movement of people working each and every day to transform our culture and what we value brings me hope. I lean on the legacy of my elders who came before me and in awe of those who will come after me. We are witnessing a shift in our interior worlds and therein everything around us must drastically change.

“I find joy in so many things. In breath, in presence, in music, in poetry, in prayer, in food, in being of service to others. I want everyone to experience the full depth and joy in their lives and we need to provide for the material conditions of all people so that we can democratize joy. This brings me joy, sharing it with others.” ajamonet.com

Sindiso Khumalo

RACHEL RICKETTS, writer and activist

“I find strength in the love, support, nourishment and community care from other Black women and femmes – living and otherwise. We have been continuously forced to endure unspeakable atrocities for centuries, and yet we dig deep to cultivate joy, resilience and laughter for ourselves and our communities. In the midst of it all, we continue to ride or die, not only for one another, but for the advancement of the collective as a whole.

“I care for myself by partaking in acts of soul care, which can be anything from meditation or breathwork to calling in community care, to saying no (as a complete sentence) or refusing to conform to preconceived stereotypes of who society tells me I can or ought to be. I rest, I say no, and I prioritize my comfort and wellbeing above all else, which, as a Black woman, is a revolutionary act.” rachelricketts.com

Kirby

KIRBY, singer-songwriter

“I used to think being in love was some out-of-body experience. You go through life searching for that ‘high’, that feeling, until one day you realize that finding love in the little things is what will give you the daily perseverance to keep going. I stopped chasing highs and moments and started chasing presence. I love being busy, but this pandemic has taught me the joy of being still. Cultivating hope through the power you have in your hands versus waiting for something to come to you so that you feel hopeful. I am way more connected to the idea of inspiring hope in my life instead of waiting on hope to feel inspired. Relationships, conversations and forgiveness bring me hope. It’s one thing to forgive, but to be on the receiving end of forgiveness reminds you that reconciliation is truly possible. It reminds you that just because a bridge is burned, it doesn’t mean it can’t be rebuilt with better tools and better materials. That’s how I choose to see the world right now. Individual change is the catalyst to a changed world.” @singkirbysing

CAMILLE A. BROWN, choreographer

“What brings me joy and hope is lifting up and celebrating other people. I have started a mentorship program during this time, gathering both past and current members of my company, to celebrate them, but also to lift up the next generation. I get to connect mentees with the most amazing people. That’s what makes me excited and helps me to keep going, that it’s never just about you, it’s about the community you build. I started the Black Girl Spectrum tour around 2015, when I invited a few young Black women on tour with the company to see behind the scenes, to see that all this was possible, that you can be all things. Thankfully we can relaunch that again this year, and that brings me hope. The beautiful, authentic work that people continue to create with such boldness and fearlessness, to speak their truth and take a stand – that gives me hope.” camilleabrown.org