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A tribute to those that inspired me in 2016, including me 

My year in renew

This year helped me sink knee-deep in my own biases.

I could recount the shameless political sufferings we all reckoned to resolve against our personal ethos; or the over 700 people killed by police since January; or the absence of a progressive agenda to score equal academic achievement for the 133,000 students walking into Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools each day.

I could even cement the stinging feeling of fear and anger that met me the day it was announced the police officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott would not be convicted for his crime.

But the statistics will always be shared among the people. Thus, I won't close out the year by grappling with how to tell the story. It's being told and shouted and researched from the corners of Tyvola Road, South Boulevard and Ardrey Kell Road.

What's more important is that the process of waking ourselves up is understood on all levels.

I have the privilege of being disruptive and challenging while pursuing the kind of justice that oft feels elusive. I am degreed. I carry my mother's eyes. My father's spirit. I'm not afraid. And I don't have to be. I am tolerable in this city. I'm well-versed on the words that open doors. The conversations that grant me access to rooms where my opinion is valued. I have the skill set to extrapolate trends and data from the macro into the micro of Charlotte's chief concerns.

Others do not.

And I no longer pretend to speak for them. They are the ones that took to the streets to march for their freedom. They were assaulted with slurs, given ultimatums to either back down or risk their humanity. They stood against a systemically backwards system that has been bought and sold without vision in the name of a city that has grossly put corporate profits above protecting the integrity of its communities and its people. They are the ones that hold city council accountable for their neglect.

They are the ones that remind us of Charlotte's immigrant, LGBTQ and other marginalized communities that we fail to acknowledge in our dissent; the abusive policies they experience, the invisibility they feel, the silence. They can tell their stories better than I can.

I'm two years in. Four addresses. A string of former "relationships". A regrettable 20 pounds added to my hips and thighs courtesy of too much sweet tea and Mert's fried catfish. Two extra tattoos embedding the Queen City forever on my frame. Leaving the "church" in search of the God I'm convinced crafted holiness in our humanity. And yet, I'm still not settled into my voice.

My Charlotte in 2016 comforted me with images of folks fighting with the best sides of themselves; many times it was on my behalf.

People like David Jessup, stamping the city in places where he makes the privilege take responsibility for those being left behind; who showed up to my bEARTHday celebration with candles I now use for meditation and writing.

Or Freda Hendley, who helped me build a better business with both profit and people in mind.

Or Alvin Jacobs, Jr., whose photography captures all the storylines of our neglect and the ingrained ignorance of Charlotte's residents that we pretend not to see.

Or Scott Lundgren, whose incessant study of culture and history and art remind me to appreciate the crevices of Charlotte's hope and culture.

The Hannah Levinsons who remind me that books are my friends, confidants and counselors.

The Jenifer Danielses who help me to pair intellect with action.

And the countless editors who exchange my worth for public declarations of freedom, reminding me that I started as a writer and my responsibility to the narrative is to sharpen it. Every time. Relentlessly.

Some have credited me with helping to move the community or the culture forward. But I'm just here trying to keep my sanity, pay my rent, ride my bike up Randolph Road and remind myself that Carol Taplin's granddaughter has a duty to see people and to let them speak for themselves.

The end of 2016 also marks the end of my 20s. At nearly three decades of incarnation, I'm happy to shed that old self in favor of a new brand of thinking, assessing and acting.

My contribution and celebration of this finite age was marked by presenting a new conversation on Charlotte's future a la the #BLKTECHCLT series I held at Google Fiber last week. Folks with stories and startups, private equity and corporate jobs, showed up in droves, packing their hope and their brilliance for a brighter Charlotte in the new year, and I was happy to join them in that.

I'll see you on the other side, Charlotte.

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