2023 Edition: The art, people, books, shows, and moments that moved us last year
HIP staff reflect on a some of the things that inspired, touched, and brought us joy in 2023
By Human Impact Partners Staff
“There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
— Toni Morrison, No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear
“This piece forced me to stop and reckon with the ‘defeatism’ and hopelessness I was feeling after weeks of witnessing genocide,” a HIP staff member shared at the last staff meeting of 2023, where we gathered for our annual tradition of reflecting on poems, songs, art, moments, and movements that spoke to us over the past year. “I felt inspired reading Morrison’s own experience with hopelessness and how she channeled her despair into her writing.”
In the long and difficult work of dismantling systems of violence and oppression that harm us and our communities, we’ve found that taking time to be in awe and gratitude together is critical to continue our work effectively — and we’re excited to invite you into this practice once again.
The ongoing genocide in Palestine continues to weigh heavily on us, and was central in our individual and collective reflecting on the year.
We have been deeply moved by the collective struggle for Palestinian liberation, and the power of people coming together in a myriad of ways — each bringing their own blessings, stories, and tools — to grieve, to organize, to heal, to fight. We shared in grief and rage for the lives and land enduring destruction and violence right now, and awe over the solidarity movements across the world supporting a ceasefire and liberation on a larger, more radical, and more visible level than we’ve seen in the past.
Our collection begins with these offerings from our staff:
- ‘I’m not just covering the news — I’m living it’: Gaza’s citizen journalists chronicling life in war — Palestinian citizen journalists like Bisan Owda @wizard_bisan1, Plestia Alaqad @byplestia, and Motaz Azaiza @Motaz_azaiza who have been risking their lives every single day to share on the ground updates about the devastation in Gaza. I am inspired by, awed, and heartbroken by these young people’s bravery and courage.
- Gazan doctors are heroes — working to heal and save lives in the midst of unthinkable violence and trauma, and without fuel, water, light, or medicine. For more from health workers, check out this Fang Collective action led by health workers, interrupting Senator Jack Reed to demand he call for a ceasefire in the name of public health.
- Jewish settlers stole my house. It’s not my fault they’re Jewish — Listening to Mohammed El-Kurd, Palestinian poet, writer, journalist, and organizer read this live during a Haymarket Books live youtube event was incredibly moving and humanizing.
- Anti-Zionist Jews mobilizing for Palestine —such as Jewish Voice For Peace’s organizing for Palestine — including this action in Grand Central Terminal, in San Francisco, and Oakland (see photo below). One staff reflected: “As the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I have felt deeply grateful for the growing movement of Anti-Zionist Jews who are speaking out and courageously taking action in support of Palestinian liberation. It is because of our ancestors’ resistance and resilience that we are here to demand that never again means an end to this genocide — ‘mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.’” Another staff shared: “As a Jewish person, it has meant so much to be able to look to them for solidarity, community, actions, and more… I have been inspired by all the mass mobilizations around the world calling for ceasefire in Gaza and in particular all the actions of Jews speaking out to say ‘not in our name’ and ‘never again for anyone.’”
What we read — articles, blogs, books, posts, prayers
- Alejandria Fights Back/ ¡La lucha de Alejandria! by Leticia Hernández-Linares and the Rise-Home Stories Project — I’ve been inspired by all the work happening to break the housing crisis down into something we can all understand and take action around. As a parent of a young child, I’ve been especially inspired by work like Alejandria Fights Back that even a young person can relate to — because it’s not that complicated, WE ALL NEED A HOME!
- “US unions winning big gains amid ‘Great Reset’ in worker power” — So many workers this year took action together to build a better world and it’s having concrete payoffs — better pay, benefits, and conditions. In 2024, may these victories lead to more victories!
- A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers — We cannot make a better world possible unless we hold onto hope during challenging times. This solarpunk novella tells the story of a lush beautiful just world that came back from the brink of disaster. Just the right kind of dissociation to come back stronger.
- Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet — This book for young ones tells the story of how humans evolved, and how we are related to all creatures. It’s a simple, sweet, and grounding message.
- Pennsylvania Probation Reform Bill and Meek Mill’s influence — I was heartened to see how Meek Mill was committed to engaging in the cumbersome processes related to bills, to ensure what happened to him wouldn’t happen to others. It’s a huge deal to do any reform on these oppressive practices. It’s not perfect, but it is work.
- The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes — While I read this book a few years ago, I have been reflecting on it this past year and thinking about how I want to show up in 2024 and the things that I enthusiastically want to say Yes (and No) to.
- We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders by Linda Sarsour — This book sat on my shelf, unread, for a year. I follow her on Instagram and look to her leadership, but I felt moved to read and really embody her words this year. As a Black woman who strongly believes in solidarity movements, I have learned so much about being a supporter and follower of global liberation movements.
- America’s Endangered Species Act turns 50 in 2023; the Center for Biological Diversity says it has saved 291 species so far, and that 80 percent of species on the endangered species list are on the road to recovery. I am especially moved that wolves, that were once hunted to near extinction, have made a comeback. About 6,000 now inhabit the lower 48 states.
What we listened to — songs, podcasts, stories
- Taína Asili’s song “Abolition” — My dear friend Taína’s song “Abolition” and other songs have been my go-to this during trainings and presentations. Her music and lyrics show how our movements are interconnected, and help me envision the future we are working to build.
- Stolen podcast — This was the year that I spent more time reading and learning about Native/Indigenous experiences in the U.S. and Canada and this two-season podcast was a deeply moving part of that. The first season focuses on the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the second focuses on the residential school system in Canada. Hearing Native people’s voices and experiences in long-form was so powerful, and journalist Connie Walker is amazing as she explores these issues in her family and community.
- Sally McMullin’s instagram, Black Stories We Should All Know @sallymcmullin — I love how Sally brings little snippets of Black stories that we should all know!
- Chicxs Rockerxs Southeast LA — I was inspired by my 9 year-old daughter’s performance for Chicxs Rockerxs Southeast LA summer camp showcase, which is an amazing and empowering bilingual music, social justice, and mentorship camp for girls and gender expansive youth. Campers learned an instrument, wrote, and performed an original song at the end of the week-long camp. It was so healing for my inner-feminist, pre-teen heart!
- Free audiobooks from my library via Libby — This year I finally discovered audiobooks. Recently, I’ve been listening to Braiding Sweetgrass (read by the author) while I lay in bed with my kids until they fall asleep.
- Podcasts about education, like Teaching Texas and Sold a Story.
What we watched — webinars, clips, Tik Toks, music videos
- MerPeople Docuseries — I love the mermaid aesthetic, and I was so enamored by the artistry of these folks! I was also moved by the deep sense of belonging and support fostered by the Mer community.
- Burkina Faso’s president, Ibrahim Traoré, explains how needs to change—Burkina Faso and the legacy of Thomas Sankara have played such a huge role in igniting the decolonial spirit on the African continent. It’s beautiful to see how decades later his predecessor is continuing the work to liberate Africa from colonial rule.
- The walking tour and visit to the Black Panther Party Alumni Legacy Network that HIP participated in this year, led by Dr. Saturu Ned, CEO and Co-founder of the Network, was deeply inspiring. We have the work of so many organizers who came before us to thank for the progress that’s already been made, and for the foundational work to deepen how we talk about our struggles. They were doing intersectionality before that was even a word!
- Carla Morrison concert at the Hollywood Bowl and her NPR Tiny Desk concert — Mexican singer-songwriter Carla Morrison’s concert at the Hollywood Bowl this summer was both healing and joyful. Her amazing performance and discussion of mental health, love, and finding joy outside of capitalism with your chosen community made me cry, laugh, sing my heart out, and reflect on my purpose.
- Grand Crew — I desperately needed to laugh this year and Grand Crew was just the wonderful and hilarious representation I needed! A show with black folks existing and laughing and falling in love and being successful brought me great joy.
- Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé — Queen Bey does not need much of an introduction. Her creativity, storytelling, passion, and fashion constantly inspire me. What inspired me most about this film was she didn’t forget about the people who couldn’t attend any of her world tour dates, she brought the concert to us! 10s, 10s, 10s across the board!
- Amanda Seales — Talk about walking the walk. From acting in one of my favorite TV shows, Insecure, to showing up and showing our for our Palestinian sisters and brothers, Amanda Seales does it all! She’s been blacklisted in Hollywood, dropped by both her talent agencies, and criticized by her peers. Yet she doesn’t stop. She is the epitome of “my liberation is tied to your liberation”!
What we saw, felt, and beyond — images, collections, travels, photos, graphics, art
- I had the opportunity to travel to Vermont for work with the Vermont Department of Health during peak leaf changing season. I savored the opportunity to spend time in the peace of nature, which is always humbling and grounding (photo above).
- Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence — I feel so profoundly lucky that I was able to see Kehinde Wiley’s exhibit at the deYoung Museum in 2023. His paintings and sculptures confront the silence surrounding systemic violence against Black people, and the legacy of colonialism, and racism. It was so beautiful and devastating at the same time, and I was in awe of the love he could show to and engender for Black people through his work.
- My daily walks along the Mississippi River near my home have been a source of inspiration and healing for me this year. Water is life. It is steadfast and endures, though is also ever changing and flowing, carving new paths. Many artists and musicians have found inspiration in the river, as well, including two Twin Cities singer songwriters I want to share: Mayyadda’s song Mississippi, and Jayanthi Kyle, That’s How the River Flows.
- Some bees nap in flowers — Bees are struggling to recover from collapse of their colonies due to lethal pesticides. This year, during really hard times, I’ve come upon several taking naps in flowers, resting from their most important work of pollinating the world’s food. We should take some tips from them.
- Photography collage by Jonathan Hernández at Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City — This collage illustrates how intertwined and globalized our struggles for freedom and acts of resistance are. It can be easy to forget how strong our numbers are (photo below).
- Witnessing mama humpbacks teaching their babies how to breach felt like a blessing this year. The joy and power of it! And on the same note, I was blown away by this incredible whale whispering video by healer Michaela Harrison.
- And more whales — It seems like lifetimes ago, but earlier this year the world watched in surprise — and to some of us, glee — as orca whales (and later, in coalition with dolphins) interrupted business as usual and interfered with fancy yachts in several areas around the world, seemingly in some coordination. This “orcanizing” showed us the deep wisdom and power and leadership of non-human animals in trying to stabilize and “right” our such imbalanced world.
- This image (below) came from a tweet by author and abolitionist Dan Berger, adapted into art by Mariame Kaba and Laura Chow Reeve. It speaks to the “already but not yet” of this moment — honoring the importance of the work we’re doing, but knowing there is still more to do.
- On a summer trip, I was kayaking on a lake when I ventured into a quiet corner shielded from wind, where the water was calm. I floated through lillypads and could only hear the sound of soft water, a gentle breeze in the trees, and a loon’s call. It was one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and calming moments I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve closed my eyes to remember the feeling many times since.
- Memorials/visual resistance in public places everywhere — January: Stolpersteine in Oslo, Norway; November: Subtly done abolition sticker on a BART train (photos below).
The WNBA! — The WNBA deserves far more recognition than it gets! 2023 has shown that the fans want more. As a fan of basketball, I’m excited to see where the league is headed but there is a lot more work to be done. Counting down the days until Oakland gets a team!
We inspired each other this year!
We held many retreats in 2023: HIP’s Research, Housing Justice, Policy and Organizing, and Capacity Building teams, and our annual HIP staff retreat. These were much-needed opportunities to reflect, build, and connect. As one HIP staff member reflected, “Getting to hang out with colleagues during co-working week and staff retreat inspired me. I am so grateful to be in this fight with such brilliant, creative, dedicated folks!”
And one LOL to close us out:
- @jaythechou on X: “Photoshop Paddington into a movie, game, or TV show until I forget” — A silly distraction that I found about three years late, but it brought me joy to scroll through and appreciate scenes I recognized (and wonder at the many I didn’t).
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.