Photo: Michael Sohn/AP Photo

A Beautiful Perspective asked advocates and organizers two simple questions: What is your New Year’s resolution? And what advice do they have for people who want to join the fight?

2017 was a year of constant strife.

From white nationalists marching in Charlottesville to apocalyptic tensions on the Korean Peninsula, from a tragic massacre in Las Vegas to the daily dragging of one’s self through the polarized political and cultural landscape, 2017 felt taut as piano wire.

Still, there were moments of hope: lawyers flocking to airports to assist those affected by the Muslim travel ban, the biggest single-day protest in American history, the exposure of sexual predators who for too long have been allowed to creep around wreaking havoc on people’s lives and careers. So, 2017 was a year of constant strife, but also a year of constant struggle—and what felt like, sometimes, something approaching success.

In an effort to make 2018 suck less, A Beautiful Perspective reached out to activists, organizers, artists and politicians to find out what their New Year’s resolutions are and what advice they would give to others gearing up to fight for their beliefs in the New Year. Here’s what they had to say:

Brittany Packnett

VP of National Community Alliances, Teach for America

Packnett helped organize the protests in Ferguson and is the co-founder of Campaign Zero, which seeks to end police violence via policy. She most recently launched Love + Power, a platform focused on empowering people through fashion.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

Every year I select a word to focus on for the year to help guide my decisions, life and work. 2017’s word was ‘intention,’ and it led me to be more deliberate in creating and curating the world I wanted to exist in. In 2018, my word is ‘unafraid.’ Fear is a natural human reaction, especially in the face of the dangerous injustices we fight. But just because fear exists doesn’t mean I have to be afraid. I don’t have to let fear win. Whether on the protest line or taking on new adventures, I choose to be unafraid.

What advice do you have for people looking to fight for what they believe in, and make 2018 suck less?

Where does your talent and your passion intersect? Find the intersection, and start your work there. We each have a role, and you are uniquely positioned to push work forward that I am not. If you move forward in your lane, and me in mine, we can get further, faster, and get there together—instead of in conflict. There is room for all of us to win, and there is room for all of us to work.”

Andrés Cano 

Candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives

Cano has earned national recognition for helping to fight HIV in Arizona’s Latinx community and for his support of LGBTQ rights.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

“I’m going to make drinking water fun. Adding some fresh berries and mint to my water bottle will go a long way in keeping me full and hydrated.”

What advice do you have for people looking to fight for what they believe in, and make 2018 suck less?

Don’t get distracted. Too often my loved ones—even I—get bogged down on what they don’t have rather than embracing and being thankful for all the blessings right in front of us.

What matters most at all times of the year is internal happiness, self-care and time with those that matter most. Stay focused.”

Emma Robbins

Diné artist, activist and organizer

Emma Robbins splits her time between the Navajo Reservation and Los Angeles, where she works as a director at DIGDEEP Water, a human rights organization that helps people access clean running water.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

“I have two New Year’s resolutions. The first is to be kinder, more patient, and to educate, opposed to jumping to anger, frustration and hate. It’s something that I’ve definitely gotten better at over the years, and that has really improved my life and getting the message out, but I want to work even harder at it.

“For example, not jumping to shaming or calling someone racist when I see them doing something like dressing as an “Indian” or doing red face (which I really, really loathe), but rather explain to them that their actions are hurtful and wrong, and let them know how they can correct it. Better to try and talk to someone from the heart opposed to slashing them down and shutting down any convos whatsoever. Branching from that, I want to be nicer and kinder to my partner, who is a white male and who I’ve learned is not ‘the enemy,’ but a huge advocate, ally and supporter. It sounds silly, but it’s real! It’s easy to lump everyone together (white dudes) and forget that who they are does not define what they are. Sure, a lot of white men are huge causes of awful things (the current U.S. president, Henry Kissinger, Andrew Jackson, Harvey Weinstein), but not all of them. Really, just not being so quick to judge is what I’m trying to be better at!

“The second is to take time every day to practice and to learn more of my Navajo language. Our culture is rapidly fading and a huge part of that is because fewer and fewer of us are able to speak our language fluently. I am fortunate enough to have many people in my life who are fluent and spend time on my own reservation every month where I am able to work on it actively and want to take advantage of it.”

What advice do you have for people looking to fight for what they believe in, and make 2018 suck less?

“Research, research, research! Once you find what you’re looking to fight for, arm yourself with knowledge and make sure you know exactly who and what you’re up against, what resources and groups exist, and how you can contribute … Remember, not everyone needs to be on the front lines. Some people need to be organizing bail funds for those who are on the front lines and get arrested, or someone who can dedicate their time to social media, in order to get the info out when the mainstream media won’t pay attention. Everyone plays a role, and all of those roles are important.

“If you have not figured out what you want to fight for, read the news, prowl FB pages, get on Twitter, talk to family and friends, research what’s coming up for a vote, search until something catches your eye. … [D]on’t let people tell you that what you’re fighting for isn’t important. Every fight is important, no matter how small.”

Sameer Jha 

Founder, Empathy Alliance

Sameer Jha is the 16-year-old force behind Empathy Alliance, a nonprofit that works with students and educators to make schools and clubs more welcoming for LGBTQ+ students.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

“My New Year’s resolution is to make one positive change in the world. I’d like to say that I did something tangible and helpful for my community, especially young queer South Asians like me.”

What advice do you have for people looking to fight for what they believe in, and make 2018 suck less?

“I think we, as activists, should work on communication and connection. We should draw each other into the issues we’re fighting for and make each fight everyone’s fight. If we work in solidarity with each other, we will get support in furthering our own issues too.”

Michele Lee

Disability access advocate

An Americans with Disabilities Act 25 Advancing Leadership fellow in 2017, Michele Lee also serves on the Business Advisory Board of Chicago’s Shirley Ryan AbilityLab research hospital and as a local guide for Google Maps, gathering accessibility information on various locations around the city.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

“As a wheelchair user, it is a daily struggle to live my life like everyone else. Getting to and from work, meeting up with friends and going to the doctor’s is not easy when places are not accessible. It plain sucks. My New Year’s resolution is to stay positive in the face of adversity and not get frustrated when a place or space is not wheelchair accessible while being proactive in raising awareness about accessibility. When a place is accessible, it is inclusive of everyone, from a person in a wheelchair to a person pushing a stroller or cart, a traveler with luggage, an elderly person with a cane or walker and everyone in between.”

What advice do you have for people looking to fight for what they believe in, and make 2018 suck less?

“If I can get more people to understand the importance of accessibility, 2018 would suck less for me and many others in my situation.”

André Perez

Filmmaker and founder of the Transgender Oral History Project

Perez is currently working on the documentary America In Transition and is the co-founder of Project Fierce Chicago, which finds transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ youth. Perez is also involved in #HireTransChicago, an organization advocating for the hiring of TGNC employees.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

“My resolution is to cultivate more spaces for joy in my life. As a queer trans person and a Puerto Rican, I am a part of many communities that are under attack right now. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel hopeless in the face of so much hate, indifference and violence. I am 100 percent committed to fighting for my communities and all oppressed communities as I always have been. I also am working to see self-care as a crucial part of that fight, restoring my own energy so that I can continue the struggle. I have come to see that the future of our movements depends on supporting one another in cultivating balance.”

What advice do you have for people looking to fight for what they believe in, and make 2018 suck less?

“We have to work through our fears because they are standing in the way of real solidarity. If you’re afraid that you’re gonna do it wrong, that you’re not good enough, that you don’t know enough, that you’re not the right person, then you can’t just let that fear demobilize you. We need one another to work through all the excuses and barriers so that we can step up.

“When you’re ready to get involved, that doesn’t mean you need to run to the front. Particularly if you’re an ally, show up ready to support people, and learn about what people have been doing before you got there. Come prepared to commit the time that is needed to understanding the complicated reality we live in and be accountable when you fuck up. We need to participate in communities of resistance where we can grow because making the world suck less is a marathon, not a sprint.”