2021 Edition: Things we read, watched, listened to, and laughed at that carried us through last year

Human Impact Partners
8 min readJan 6, 2022

HIP staff reflect on a few of the things that inspired us, moved us and got us through the past year

By Human Impact Partners Staff

meme: Illustration of a Brown person with shoulder length black hair, wearing a yellow t-shirt, arms raised as if just having “dunked” their laptop; the laptop flies in mid air on a blue background. Text at top reads “mentally i’m here”
adrienne maree brown’s *masterful* meme curation was a salve throughout the year and the subject of many G-chat laughs

During HIP’s last staff meeting of 2021, we gathered together to share articles, videos, artwork, and other content that moved us over the past year. The practice is a new annual tradition for us, begun in 2020 as a way to reflect on the many rays of hope and inspiration that guided us through an incredibly difficult time, while building strength together for the period ahead.

We needed these beacons over the past year, as navigating an ever-changing “new normal” — in our work, our families, and our communities — took all the resilience and adaptability we could cultivate. Above all, what carried us forward was the deepening and growth in our relationships with each other and with you. As our colleague Stephani shared, “What inspired me in 2021 does not have a link I can share,” describing the intentional communities and relationships that she has nurtured and been nurtured by along racial, intergenerational, and spiritual lines.

This is what gives us the energy we need to face the critical challenges of our time. In that spirit, here are just a few of the many messages and images that brought us strength over the past year, as offerings from our team to you.

Read — articles, zines, books, poems, spells

Excerpt from Sean Thomas Dougherty’s Second O of Sorrow
  • The Second O of Sorrow These words from Sean Thomas Dougherty so succinctly sum up the power of words and communication, particularly to heal. Encourages me to keep writing, keep speaking up, keep sharing of myself.
  • On Earth We’re Briefly GorgeousThis novel came out in 2019, but I read it this year and felt so held by the nuance with which Ocean Vuong described grief, love, and intergenerational relationships.
  • I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store — ​​This year would have been the 80th birthday of Emmett Till. This poem from Eve Ewing is from several years ago, but speaks to me about how far we have to go and about what the world could look like were it not for racism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy.
Vision Act Zine from the ICE Out of California Coalition
  • Vision Act ZineThe line-up of legislators on the California Assembly Floor sharing stories of people harmed by ICE transfers was so powerful. The ICE Out of California Coalition did a tremendous job coordinating this, in reflection of their commitment to centering the leadership of directly impacted folks.
  • The Darwin Variant, and/or Love of the FittestThis blog post by adrienne maree brown made me think! I find myself returning to this during moments of anger.
  • Revolutionary Letters I Enjoyed perusing Diane di Prima’s 1971 poetry collection — very material, specific and of its time — and seeing where it threaded in and out of today’s revolution.

And as you learn the magic, learn to believe it

Don’t be ‘surprised’ when it works, you undercut

your power.

-Diane di Prima, Revolutionary Letter #46

Monarch butterflies may be thriving

Watch — webinars, clips, Tik Toks, music videos

Why Abolish instead of Defund — @mistercapehart breaks it down
  • Why Abolish instead of Defund TikTok“Always down to explain what abolition means, but never down to compromise on its goals just to be more palatable.”– @mistercapehart breaks it down
  • This action targeting Joe Manchin and this 266-mile walk for a Green New DealI’ve been consistently inspired by youth climate activists and the ways that so many young people are addressing the realities of climate chaos and collective climate anxiety by organizing and taking action in new, bold, and creative ways. This generation gives me hope for our future!
  • Roller-skating and techno TikTokI’ve found deep joy in the inspiration for new skills during this pandemic. Music and movement make me feel alive!
  • The Linda Lindas performing live at the LA Public Library— Racist Sexist Boy. Enough said!
The Linda Lindas rocking out at the LA Public Library

Listen — podcasts, radio, music, meditations

Octavia’s Parables Podcast from adrienne maree brown and Toshi Reagon
  • Winds of ChangeThis totally engrossing podcast gave me the escapism and mystery that I so needed in 2021. 1980’s rock ballads, American pop culture, CIA operatives, Soviet drama — it had it all. Sidenote: the podcast creator, Patrick Radeen Keefe, is one of the best narrative nonfiction writers out there.
  • Reading Octavia PodcastThis podcast from adrienne maree brown and Toshi Reagon on the “Parable of the Sower” and “Parable of the Talents” books by Octavia Butler. It has been a balm to hear them unpack this intense sci-fi series and ask questions of listeners along the way to make space for community building in a time of deep uncertainty and structural violence.
  • Talks and Meditations by Tara BrachI’ve turned to Tara Brach’s guided meditations and talks on mindfulness throughout the year to help me pause, reflect, and allow emotions to flow through me. They’ve been a refuge for me, especially during moments of grief and anxiety.
  • Another Hundred People, CompanyToo many songs to think of but in memory of Stephen Sondheim, a song I love so much because of the way it sums up New York City and cities in general.
  • Morning Becomes Eclectic Every morning from 9am-12pm Pacific, LA’s public radio station KCRW streams the very best music show that I’ve heard in my 40+ years of listening to the radio virtually all day long (and very loudly). Hosted by Anthony Valadez and Novena Carmel, it’s a mix of new releases, classics, international and alternative sounds. Even though I live in Oakland, I can stream it live or play their archived shows any time I want. Bookmark it!
Novena Carmel and Anthony Valadez, hosts of KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic

Explore — websites, spaces, organizing, etc.

Photo of Gidimt’en (Coyote) Camp from Indigenous Environmental Network
  • Indigenous womxn led climate justice work, like Indigenous Environmental Network, and this HIA 2021 saw some powerful organizing for climate justice led by Indigenous womxn, which sparked hope and a worldview shift for people all over the world.
  • The House of Afros, Capes & CurlsI loved being in fellowship with people despite our physical distance. My cup was routinely filled through games, books, in-depth conversations, Marvel shows, and great movies. Space for joy is a real blessing.
  • Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2021 This list shouldn’t exist. The number of murders of trans and gender non-conforming people has been rising over the past few years, and 2021 was the highest number on record. Watching this list grow over the course of the year inspired me to reconnect with and be there for my community, to hold tight to those around me, and work even harder to spend that critical time with my friends and loved ones.

View — illustrations, photos, graphics, art

Photo by Christine Mitchell
  • Photo above; redwood forest in Oakland, CA—After a year and a half of COVID exhaustion and heartbreak, a walk through Oakland’s redwoods with HIP’s Sophie Simon-Ortiz is just what my soul needed — a reminder to stay rooted and to behold the vastness of the world.
  • Grant me absence from the market of meaningsThis 2010 acrylic painting by contemporary Southern Indian artist NS Harsha, whose work focuses on economic globalization and the absurdity of the modern world. Something peaceful and powerful and logical about the incomprehensibility of the image — people feeding carrots into sewing machines to create an interconnected ocean river — that moved me.
Kid art! It fills my house faster than I’d like, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it

LOLs — we needed these as much as ever

A Bernie meme mashup from Shannon Tracey
  • Bernie and the mittens! I have more Bernie-with-mittens memes saved to my computer than any other type of image. They were such a bright spot last January, and even now, when I’m feeling down, they cheer me up!
  • Ask a Cardiologist: Should Carrie Have Called 911?I don’t watch much TV but the commentary on Vulture.com cracks me up and helps me be a teeny bit more culturally relevant. I haven’t seen a single episode of Sex and the City, but this recent article lifted my spirits!
Some of the HIP staff being silly at our annual all-staff retreat, November 2021

As we face the year ahead and continue building toward a future that centers our collective health, we feel so much gratitude and love to be in movement with all of you. And we want to know what’s inspired, moved, and resonated with you over this past year! Share the messages that carried you at info@humanimpact.org, tweet us at @HumanImpact_HIP, or tag us on instagram at @PHAwakened 💚

Human Impact Partners transforms the field of public health to center equity and builds collective power with social justice movements.

📌 Did you know? Human Impact Partners provides health equity capacity building to public health organizations. Contact us to learn more about our offerings at info[at]humanimpact.org.



Human Impact Partners

Bringing the power of public health to campaigns and movements for a just society