Amy Shearn
Senior Editor, Forge @ Medium // Bylines: New York Times, Oprah, Slate // Latest novel: Unseen City https://redhenpress.org/products/unseen-city-by-amy-shearn
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Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Here’s the first thing I want to say: Weird holidays are fine. In fact, all holidays were always weird, remember? And the next thing I want to say is: Now is the time to reassess, reconfigure, and existentially zhuzh up our family traditions.

I wrote about this recently for Forge:

Something that’s helped me as I stare down the barrel of the weirdest holiday season ever is to remember that many of our standard holiday traditions aren’t so sacred anyway, and were in fact landed upon out of convenience or coincidence. As Sasha Sagan, author of the book For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals For Finding Meaning In Our Unlikely World, told me, “Everything is new on the scale of human history. The things we’re holding on to because we feel this pressure from our relatives or ancestors, we can only hold on for so long. …


Let’s free ourselves from what was never really working in the first place

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Photo: Jim McGuire/Getty Images

After I separated from my husband last winter, I didn’t want my kids to feel their entire world had been shaken up — but I also was nervous about how it would all work. No matter how consciously my ex and I tried to uncouple, it was going to be bizarre and dislocating. And that was before the pandemic even happened.

Last year at this time, I was preemptively mourning the things the four of us surely wouldn’t do anymore: watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons get blown up, going to see Santa at Macy’s, and… some that have nothing to do with Macy’s, I’m sure. It wasn’t that I loved these things so much; it was more that we had done them since the kids were little. …


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Zendaya at the 72nd Annual Emmy Awards. Photo: ABC/Getty Images

In a stunning photoshoot for ESSENCE, actress Zendaya pays tribute to Donyale Luna, the first Black supermodel. Both women are trailblazers: Last year, Zendaya became the youngest woman ever to win the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama. In 1966, Luna was the first Black woman to appear on the cover of the British edition of Vogue.

Zendaya told ESSENCE:

I had so much fun on this shoot paying homage to Donyale Luna, the first Black supermodel. A lot of what I do, specifically within fashion, is a tribute to fashion icons who came before me — many of whom are Black women. I love the way it turned out. I’m very proud of it. It’s one of my favorite cover shoots I’ve ever done.


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Photo: Randy Holmes/Getty Images

For the third year in a row, People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” is a Black man. This year, Michael B. Jordan receives the honor. The 33-year-old actor, who has starred in films like Creed and Black Panther, has also been active in the Black Lives Matter movement and this year’s election. What’s more, according to People, his company, Outlier Society Productions, was “the first to adopt an inclusion rider, which mandates that filmmakers enlist a diverse cast and crew.

Which is all great! What is less great is that the Sexiest Man has almost always been White; Jordan is only the fifth Black man to win the significant (if sliiiightly superficial) honor in its 35 years of existence. As Kadeen Griffiths wrote for Bustle back in 2005, “It’s just a natural fact of life that White men are going to be overly represented on lists like this, but I don’t want to keep accepting that as a ‘fact.’ I want that to change. I want to look at People’s Sexiest Man Alive list each year and see various representations of what sexy looks like, across different cultures.” …


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Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

Everyone’s favorite pandemic-era distraction/therapy/game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, has a winter update coming up, and it’s good news for players of color.

As Patricia Hernandez reports for Polygon, the update’s tweaks will “make a notable difference for Black fans, or players of color. You can now, for instance, give your character dreadlocks or an afro, or a fade. There’s also a new curly natural hair option, and some extremely cute puffs. You can also just opt out altogether and go bald now too. Choices! There are six new hair options in total.”

As LEVEL editor-in-chief Jermaine Hall put it, “We all have hair journeys, and most would talk about it at length if the opportunity presented itself.”

Now maybe people’s Animal Crossing selves can have their own hair journeys (and help us get through another pandemic season at home while they’re at it).


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Image courtesy of Darius Foroux

As we enter our most tradition-laden time of year — the Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s Eve corridor otherwise known as The Holidays — many of us are struggling to accept the 2020 version of events. We’re starving for things to feel like they used to. We’re stressed about the idea of disappointing others.

It’s a tough time all around. But one thing that can help us through it, as writer Darius Foroux points out, is to “participate in a classic Stoic exercise”:

This is something Epictetus talked about in his philosophy school. He said, “When you are traveling by ship, you can go to the shore, enjoy the scenery, collect shells, or pick flowers. But when you are called back to the ship, you need to drop everything and hurry back, otherwise the ship may leave without you.” …


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Photo: Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Many anti-racism activists breathed sighs of relief when the presidential race was called for the Biden/Harris ticket. Surely this multiracial ticket is guaranteed to be an improvement when it comes to racial justice and equality — right?

Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, isn’t taking any chances. As the New York Post reports, she wrote a letter to the president-elect and vice president-elect, calling out their individual records on issues of race, challenging them to use their time in the White House to correct past errors.

Without the resounding support of Black people, we would be saddled with a very different electoral outcome. In short, Black people won this election. Alongside Black-led organizations around the nation, Black Lives Matter invested heavily in this election. “Vote and Organize” became our motto, and our electoral justice efforts reached more than 60 million voters. …


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Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Teen girls, as many of us know well, can be ruthless in their honesty. So it’s fairly fascinating to get a peek at the way 10 AP U.S. History students view our country’s first female vice president. Caroline Kitchener writes in The Lily about Brittney Caldwell’s Atlanta high school students:

The students recognized the significance of the moment. It was exciting to see a Black and Indian woman take the stage on Saturday night, declaring victory as the country’s first female vice president. …


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Kai Heinrich / Flickr

Towards the end of my marriage, I ordered a dress from a company that sells ethically sourced clothing. When the dress arrived, my soon-to-be-ex-husband made fun of the dress, down to the brown paper and twine it came wrapped in. Sure, it was a little precious, but as soon as I put this garment on, I knew I had found the dress for the way I wanted life to be. He hated it. Oh well! Soon I was moving out, bringing only the clothes that sparked goddamn joy.

I’m wearing the dress right now. It’s not cute. I mean, I think it’s cute. I love it. It’s dowdy! It’s shapeless! It has brown and black stripes! And yes, it has pockets! It’s non-ironic-librarian-drab, screaming (or rather, whispering) to be worn with a cardigan and clogs, the shoe of choice for, as Lauren Mechling wrote in the New Yorker, a life that is comfortable both physically and spiritually, not “off the grid but grid-adjacent. It’s a fuzzy, fancy realm, littered with alpaca sweaters, Rachel Cusk novels, and trees that grow indoors, in charmingly primitive ceramic pots.” …


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Photo: Terry Wyatt/Stringer/Getty Images

And that is how you accept an award: Maren Morris used her time on stage at the 2020 Country Music Association Awards to thank Black artists who have inspired her and helped form the genre. In her acceptance speech for winning Female Vocalist of the Year, Morris said:

There are so many amazing Black women that pioneered and continue to pioneer this genre, and I know they’re going to come after me — they’ve come before me — but you’ve made this genre so, so beautiful. I hope you know that we see you. …

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