These last few months have been a whirlwind of unknown circumstances coupled with emotions that have run the gamut. What started out as a year of hope for a new decade quickly turned into something much different than what we originally imagined when ringing in the New Year. Many have even jokingly asked for a “2020 redo,” but what if all that has happened thus far was actually intended to lead us further?
For the majority of the population, the threat and then the experience of a pandemic sent families into self-isolation. The time together allowed for many to look internally within the walls of their own homes at what truly mattered most. Material things once thought to be of significant importance proved insignificant when it came to the health and wellness of loved ones. In essence, we saw what truly mattered vs. what we thought was important; for many, COVID-19 brought about a sense of awakening.
But over the last two months there has been an even bigger awakening, one that has forced us to look externally—outside of the confines of the bubble we’ve wrapped ourselves in—and confront the injustices taking place right outside our very own doors. What we are witnessing is by no means “new,” but a racial divide that has enveloped not only our country, but the world as a whole.
It is an awakening that is long overdue. Humanity is no longer willing to tolerate the social injustices that have plagued us for so many years.
Along with the fight for racial equality, this is a fight for gender, sexual orientation, and inclusion for all. People are tired of the same narrative and are no longer willing to accept the discrimination that has long been conferred upon them. Now is the time for everyone, regardless of color, to use their voices and take action. At the end of the day, it is about loving people for who they are.
It’s impossible to truly understand someone else’s plight when you have never had to walk a day in their shoes. But if you accept the fact that you may never understand, and vow to listen, learn, and commit to be a part of the movement for change, then there is hope for a better future.
The conversations are not easy ones, but they are necessary, and must remain continuous in order to keep moving forward. For parents, those conversations may be tough, but when we say the children are our future, how can we expect them to help one another if we do not lead by example?
One way to do that is by using our voices to inspire the change needed for a world that is completely inclusive. That is why we at BELLA are using ours to educate and inspire others. Our hope as we look toward the future is to shine a bright light on what it means to simply be human.
As we are focused on change, we have asked others to share with us their hopes for the future, which have been compiled into this series of beautiful and moving letters. The hope we all share is for equality and opportunities afforded to all and a desire for people to listen with an open mind and an open heart to appreciate one another’s differences.
JACOB ALI WERTHEIMER GRANDSON OF MUHAMMAD ALI, ACTIVIST + HARVARD UNIVERSITY STUDENT
I would like to send a salute to all of my people—my brothers and sisters—who have been out protesting, marching, and risking their lives—not just now, but every day just by being Black in America. I am blessed to be a part of the richest tradition on this earth filled with its most beautiful, gifted, loving, and righteous people.
Allow me to quote the revolutionary and true queen that was Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer—rest in peace—when I say, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I don’t want my mother to live in a world in which she has to be worried about her son just taking a jog because of his ethnicity. I don’t want the children I bring into this world someday to be punished for the beautiful blood that runs through their veins. I don’t want to see my aunts and uncles and cousins suffer any longer. I don’t want my grandfather’s love, blood, sweat, and tears to be in vain. I don’t want to see my friends— the people I love so dearly—killed, incarcerated, and abused because they were born.
W.E.B. Du Bois said, “One could not be a calm, cool, and collected scientist while Negroes were lynched, murdered, and starved,” and those words still ring true to this very day. While Du Bois said that from the perspective of being a Black man, I don’t see how it cannot apply to every single person in this nation.
White America, I look at you in particular, and for obvious reason. It is time for white Americans to do more than say they’re supportive from the side. It’s not enough to say, “I’m not racist,” have a couple Black friends, and continue living your life. Even if you are not racist yourself, you still not only benefit from the systems of oppression that attack my people mercilessly, but also are a part of the larger white community. Your silence and complicity only exacerbates the issue.
White privilege is a fact of society; I’m not shaming you for being born into it, but I will take note if you are not making a concerted effort, if you are not using using your voice—using that privilege—to help enact a change while American people are being lynched, murdered, and starved.
In saying this, I want to make an important distinction: Many people call this a Black problem, but it is not. We are not the problem. These are atrocities inflicted upon Black people. This is not a problem of the oppressed; it is the oppressor who has the problem, and while we will continue to fight back and demand justice as we always have, the oppressors ultimately need to look themselves in the eyes and fix their own issue. It is the world of white supremacy that is built on fabrication—the lie that white men and women are somehow greater.
I urge you to look at yourselves and challenge yourselves. You owe it to yourself, to your community, and to your country to find emancipation from the chains of hatred and racism that still exist.
CHRISTOPHER ANASTASIO + TRICIA RIGGS TV HOST, AUTHOR + LIFESTYLE EXPERT
To Our Precious Son Roman,
When you came into our lives, you came as a representation of everything we wish for the world to be—a joining in perfect harmony of race, culture, and background. You are the manifestation of the love two people from different backgrounds can produce when we make the conscious choice to see each other as fellow human beings—nothing more, nothing less.
Son, when you grow up and become more aware of the world around you and its troubles, you may find your innocence with respect to skin color challenged. The world may try to tell you a different story than the one you came to know at home and in the comfort of your closest loved ones. The world may try to impart its pain on you, bend you to its will.
It’s in those moments that you must call upon that very innocence—that knowledge that, as imperfect as we all are, what lies in our heart is where the determination of our character as human beings begins and ends. You can drive back the pain directed at you by drawing upon this knowledge and by summoning the contents of your heart to show the world a better example of what we can and should always be striving for.
Our hope for the future is bright, because our hope is embodied in you.
TALI PETTO STUDENT
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been very important to me since I have learned about white privilege, police brutality, and the widespread racism in the U.S. I believe that as a white teenage girl growing up in New Jersey, I am definitely privileged due to the color of my skin. I have always known that I need to use my privilege for good and fight for those whose voices have been ignored for hundreds of years.
With this being said, the world seems pretty scary right now, but I believe there is hope. The best part of the BLM protests is that thousands of young people are coming together to fight for something that we all care very strongly about. We are the generation that will finally make a change. My hope for the future is that my peers and I will continue to fight for what’s right so that future generations don’t have to.
Hopefully, all of our voices together will be strong enough to make a substantial change to the unjust treatment of Black kids, teens, and adults in the U.S., and eventually all over the world. I genuinely believe that my generation—united—will be the generation that ends racism once and for all.
BRITNEY WINTERS CEO, UPGRADE BOUTIQUE
My hope for the future is that the world can appreciate others for their differences while recognizing that we’re all human. I hope that people recognize that our differences make us unique, and our varied voices actually empower us and create stronger communities. Diversity of thought and experience is how we can create a better future.
I hope for the future that more Black- and Brown-owned businesses receive the capital they need to fund their dreams as easily as white men do. I hope that minority-owned businesses get the press coverage as easily as white-owned businesses do.
My hope for the future is that there’s equity in education and that children of color are afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts. Our country needs to be uprooted and changed fromthe bottom to the top. It is systematically defunct, and I hope this time is the revolution we need and not just another social media challenge.
My hope for the future is that we all recognize and see humanity in one another.
All my love and optimism, Britney Winters
YOLANDA F. JOHNSON FOUNDER OF WOC, WOMEN OF COLOR IN FUNDRAISING AND PHILANTHROPY
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” ~Psalm 90:12
On this particular day, the sun is shining; the sky is blue; and I am smiling at a hazy Hudson River. Life has still not returned to normal, and it has been quite daunting to live through a pandemic, in addition to civil unrest around the racial inequity in our country. However, I am a pragmatic optimist, and this moment in time has taught me to honor and value each and every day. By doing so, I have learned important lessons and gained wisdom that will carry through, so that you, the future, will be an even better place than ever before.
I am restless today. I feel that we as humankind are on the cusp of something different, something potentially new, heading toward a truly just society. I am restless, and I promise you I will do everything in my power today to ensure we can grasp this moment and enact change, planting the seeds so that you will be a place of peace, love, and equality. I believe that you will be such an amazing place, and I very much look forward to seeing it come to fruition. Here’s to you!
With hope and gratitude, Yolanda F.
RENEE GREENSTEIN QVC DESIGNER, PRESIDENT + OWNER OF TWO CHICKS IN THE BACKROOM
In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the definition of “hope” is as follows: “Hope” seems close to “wish:” “To cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” Whatever the details, hope, in general, means a desire for things to change for the better and to want that better situation very much.
Being Jewish and a woman of color in America, my biggest hope is for equality. The world I grew up in wasn’t easy. I have a very distinct memory, one that remains with me to this day. I was walking into synagogue and it seemed like every head in the congregation turned to my direction. All of those heads turning in my direction left an indelible mark in my memory; obviously, it’s one that is not easily forgotten over time.
At the time, I thought to myself, “Why is everyone looking at me? Is there someone behind me?” but it set in…it was me. I stood out from the rest of the congregation; it was then I knew that I was different. Because I was raised to have a strong belief in self-worth, even at that young age—with all of those eyes on me—I didn’t feel different. So I thought, Why should they see me differently?
As I got older, I embraced that I would always be different and that no one but me puts a value on my worth because of skin color, religion, or sex. However, being in the field of fashion design, when I first started that field of work it was predominantly male. I took knocks—some hard and some not so hard. Regardless, I took them and forged forward. I was interviewing for a job one day and I happened to be the only woman in the room with four other men waiting to be interviewed. When the receptionist called my name, I proceeded into the interview, and the gentleman interviewer said to me, “For a broad, you’re asking for a lot of money!” I pondered that very direct statement for a moment, and thought, “How could this be?” I was just as qualified to do this very straightforward job as the four other men behind me were.
As women, we should not have to fight so hard for equality in our lives. I know I have had to work harder to get to where I am today, and I do not regret one day of that work nor the experiences it allotted me. It instilled more insight, and I still work hard every day. As a woman, I know in my heart I am not alone when I say that.
For my son, Corey, and my grandchildren, Aya and Levi, my wish is for them to experience an inclusive world. Everyone deserves to grow up in a safe and equal environment where there is no judgement by gender, race, age, creed, or sexuality. I pray we can come together as one and share the equality that we all deserve.
As a mother, I worry every day about the inclusion and equality issues within today’s world, but I shouldn’t have to. What I have read is heart-wrenching. What I have watched is gut-wrenching. Will there be an end to the destruction that has crossed all nationalities? Will we remove the hate? Likely, no, as hate is something that is learned. That being said we can educate our children, grandchildren, and even our neighbors, and it’s with that education that the hope then becomes reality that generations to come will see and embrace a brighter future within an inclusive society. And then my hope will be fulfilled.
Sincerely, Renee Greenstein
DARNELL “SUPERCHEF” FERGUSON CELEBRITY CHEF + OWNER OF SUPERCHEFS
With all that’s going on in the world today, I’m so proud and encouraged to see the younger generation brave enough to speak their mind and fight for what they believe. My hope is that we continue to move forward and that our efforts lead to people of color having a fair shot in this world. It is so important that we continue to use our voice, platform, and actions to fight for equality and the greater good; that we don’t get intimidated or back down from those who present a challenge to that vision and that we refuse to take a step backward. This effort has to lead to change, and it has to be worth something.
I think we should all learn from the way Muhammad Ali lived his life. We need to be willing to sacrifice our comfort to speak for those who have no voice. We have to put the God-given rights of every man, woman, and child at the forefront of our lives, so we know what we’re fighting for every day.
Sincerely, Darnell Ferguson
JULIE LONGYEAR HERBAL CHEMIST + FOUNDER OF BLISSOMA
We are in the midst of a great awakening, and it is as necessary as it is painful. Healing often begins from a place where the discomfort has grown so great that there is no choice but to address the problem. That is where we currently are, and our actions from here forward will determine how well and quickly we can find peace. Our unrest is a message, asking us to address things we have been ignoring. My hope is that people will not turn away. We must humbly examine ourselves and our own contributions to the inequities and injustice around us.
The truth is that we have been an unhealthy society for a long time now, and we simply reached the flash point. I personally believe that all conflict is an opportunity. Conflict comes from a misalignment, a miscommunication, or a wrong committed. Rather than bemoaning that the conflict occurs, I hope people will regard this as a chance to discover why the conflict has occurred and how we can better tend to one another. This messy, tender process gives us the chance to create a better, healthier future.
Every person deserves to be supported, respected, and offered the opportunity to be his or her best. This is how I design products as well, with deep support in mind, so this philosophy about healing is something that applies not just to the body, but to communities. Instead of punishment, offer nourishment. Instead of using force, we must soften.
We would not expect a plant to grow well in poor soil, with little sun and nourishment, being stepped on and cut at. Similarly, we cannot expect people to be their best when their essential human needs are not served. When the needs of people are served, they can grow and blossom to their fullest potential.
I hope we can build the community structures that will truly serve people. It is absolutely time to reimagine how we care for one another.
Sincerely, Julie Longyear
AMANDA TALTY CEO + PRESIDENT OF TOURETTE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
Though the current state of the world may not be what we expected when we rang in the new year, I have learned to see a lot of promise, potential, and most of all hope for what comes next. As a leader of a national nonprofit, the Tourette Association of America, the last three months have been some of the most incredibly challenging times to navigate as an organization. Though challenging, it has afforded me time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like time with my family to learn and grow with one another.
Promise that as human beings we will learn to accept differences, be open to learning, and be more empathetic and understanding to diverse populations including those impacted by Tourette syndrome, Tic disorders; mental health issues; gender, race, and equality issues; and other disparities.
Embrace the potential to collaborate and work with more like-minded organizations through virtual and in-person programming, training, and awareness-based activities. If there is one thing we have learned over the course of the last three months, it’s our ability to do good work doesn’t stop if we’re not all in the same location.
Hope that we will all be better and do better. People impacted by disabilities have long been misunderstood and mocked. These incredibly resilient individuals are children and adults—human beings—with hopes, dreams, and feelings. As a leader in charge of implementing real change, I hope to create a world where people are seen for who they are and not their disability.
Sincerely, Amanda Talty
ELIZABETH POTTS FOUNDER OF VINTAGE JEWELRY ONLINE RETAILER, THE MOONSTONED
My Dearest Heart,
When I think about the times you have been born into, I know it’s easy to think of despair. We close our eyes only to see the light of fires burning, buildings and cars torched in outrage glowing behind our eyelids. We hear collective voices chanting, crying as feet pound the pavements, fists in the air with the rhythm of a movement. We feel the angst, the heartbreak, the uncomfortable itching before breaking through skin that has been too snug for too long.
When I open my eyes and look at you, I see hope. I see the possibility of banishing the old ways of living, scraping back the layers of hate, of misogyny, of false gods, and salacious pride. I see the magic in your face, your willingness to see the good despite all of the mistakes that you have inherited. I see the opportunity for change; walls being torn down, a government with seats filled with the bodies of many colors, denominations, and histories. I see forests blooming and blossoming, spreading lush and green to heal the scars that we had left there before. When you reach out to touch my face, I can feel the softness in your fingertips and imagine the way that you will change this world and care for others, for the planet. I see a new way of holding one another accountable; where integrity and honesty have more weight than paper money.
When you smile at me, I feel this tug deep inside my belly to fight that every mother can feel this hope, this possibility in her babe’s eyes. The world—it is changing. When I look at you, I know that we will change it for the better.
All my love, all my hope, Elizabeth
DEBORA BALARDINI BOARD OF THE LEAGUE OF PROFESSIONAL THEATER WOMEN
In the 30 years that I’ve been in the arts—and the 20 years I’ve practiced Hatha yoga—I’ve learned that to align with hope that is rooted in equity, or retrieve it when it feels lost, [we must] start with the breath and the body. As an artist who embraces my Brazilian, Afro Brazilian, and Indigenous Brazilian roots, I’ve had to learn complicated lessons by watching people make Black jokes in my Afro Brazilian father’s face and see him be repeatedly disrespected in front of his family. I didn’t realize at the time that the oppression I witnessed was not isolated.
As if life wasn’t complicated enough, my experiences living at the tail end of the Brazilian dictatorship in the 1980s, and having the government show up the night before our premiere to make its preferred revision, changed my life. I’ve learned that empathy, equity, and solidarity are sacred teachers. It means we don’t have to parade apathy that is really a cloak to cover guilt, shame, and other stuck feelings.
With young people who have their lives ahead of them, to be resilient when confronting injustice, you’ll need to shine the brightest light you have inside. It connects you to your life purpose, your voice, and your ability to be resilient when confronting injustice.
My hope for the future is that you embrace that art is as critical for radical change as your voice is as a vehicle for protests, peaceful or otherwise. Art, beyond celebrity and entertainment, is a vehicle to reconnect with hope. To achieve equity and inclusion, and make real, lasting change, there is no room for elitism, vanity social media posts with the “right” hashtags, or faux concern for #BlackLivesMatter. If it’s not equitable, it’s not art.
My hope for the future is that #BlackLivesMatter will be an effective global movement in overhauling the demeaning assault on Black/African American and other people of the diaspora who are marginalized, murdered unjustly, and profiled worldwide. My hope for the future is that institutionalized racism is turned into institutionalized anti-racism education through all stages of schooling.
I also hope we are so unified globally that children of multicultural families, regardless of what assumptions we make about how they look, are supported in their developing awareness and have autonomy over their own identities rather than being vilified. Listen, always, with a willingness to hear.
Best, Debora Balardini
ASHLI HAYNES ACTRESS + WRITER
Dear BELLA Reader,
We are in the midst of a collective crisis. Based on the trajectory of 2020, it’s tempting to believe the end of the world is near. Between the spread of COVID-19, World War III being nearly instigated by the U.S. attack on Iran, the death of a number of legends (Kobe Bryant, Little Richard, B. Smith, Irrfan Khan, and Lynn Shelton, just to name a few), Trump’s acquittal, economic crisis, various natural disasters, the sweep of social unrest sparked all over the globe by the genocide of Black people in the U.S. at the hands of police brutality, the U.S. government and its entities, that assessment would not be inaccurate. Collectively, we’re stressed, anxious, hurting, and tired. The world as we know it is coming to an end.
We’re in the midst of a global energetic shift. Our collective trauma, faulty foundations, imbalance, and everything that has proven to no longer work is bubbling to the surface so that these things can be exposed, dealt with, transmuted, and cleared away. Our survival relies upon acknowledging the connection between our external circumstances and our internal environment. We, as a people, are sick. The sickness that was once hidden, denied, and allowed to fester and grow deep within us is now manifesting in very real, physical ways in our external environments.
We can no longer turn a blind eye to social injustice. We can no longer continue to ignore our intuition and go with the flow in an effort to maintain the status quo. We must recognize the gift of opportunity life is now presenting to us. There’s not enough “love and light” lingo to spiritually bypass what we are currently facing. Peace of mind and a clear heart demands confrontation, truth, awareness, and integration.
We’re caught between two worlds: the old paradigm, which clearly isn’t working, and the new, which is full of uncertainty and transformation. This is our opportunity to decide which world to lean into. It takes a lot of work to maintain a high vibration. You don’t just heal a few wounds and are then healed for the rest of your life. Being happy and healthy takes work. It’s a conscious, continuous, and active commitment—a daily effort.
Self-work isn’t donning a pair of rose-colored glasses to live in a state of denial. The actual work requires taking a long, hard look at yourself, your life and choices; examining the sickness that has lived within you; digging deep to the root of your trauma, pain, and shadow; and choosing to uproot it from its core. It requires a dedication to honesty and compassion. It takes time, vulnerability, and discomfort.
In the end, it will all have been worth it because healing the world requires healing yourself. Life is not easy, but it is beautiful, BELLAs. Value life as though it were the most profound, loving, thoughtful, divine, miraculous gift one could ever receive; because that’s exactly what it is. You only get one. Cherish it.
Love, Ashli Haynes
KAN CAO SCIENTIST + FOUNDER OF BLUELENE
We have witnessed unprecedented change in the last three months that has come at a huge cost to our society, but it has also provided us with new lessons for a better future for all. We now know that under dire circumstances, innovation can happen at warp speed, with agility, and without the insurmountable hurdles of regulated process. I hope that going forward, we keep our priorities on the solutions innovation is meant to create and flatten down the hurdles that elongate time to market.
Communication with our customers, employees, and stakeholders has never been this critically important. For the last decade, we thought that “Emotional Intelligence” in leaders is the answer to creating positive work and community culture. What we have learned from these unprecedented times is that we need to step up to “Human(ity) Intelligence” to ensure we treat our employees, business partners, and community stakeholders with unequaled respect, empathy, and transparency.
I hope that people now embrace the fact that leadership does not depend on our position in a business or community hierarchy. Instead, we are all agents of change through our personal thought leadership. Our words, or the lack thereof, speak volumes; our thoughts create an energy that is felt by everyone around us; and our actions, or the lack thereof, will create the legacy we leave behind for our children and for the world.
Sincerely, Dr. Kan Cao
JORDAN SCOTT FOUNDER, CEO AND CHIEF EDITOR OF COBBLE
I think about you all the time—when I wake up in the morning, when I go to bed at night. Sexy, right? Mostly I think about what I wish you are. How I wish you’re different from today, and how I wish you stay the same. Personally, I’m on a mission to better understand and advance how we love each other.
My business is couples. Our romantic relationships are often the building block of our lives—they lead to adventures, to big steps forward, to new generations. At Cobble, we aim to help people in relationships make decisions. Even the smallest decisions like “where should we get dinner tonight?” add up to countless memories and experiences that become our lives. We create technology that guides couples toward better, faster decisions so that they spend less time planning and more time living.
I hope that you’re a world where we continue to place an emphasis and importance on our relationships—they are, after all, the closest we understand to be the meaning of life. If not for the people we love, why else are we here?
I hope that you continue to become a world where love really does win. When all else feels dark (and 2020 has been a banner year for just that), it’s the people we love who keep us going. We’re on a mission to show and lift up love in all its forms—young or old, Black or white, gay or straight—and in that way, show us how we’re all really on the same mission, and that should make us feel closer than ever. Love proves that we have more in common than not. When we feel connected, we move in the same direction.
Whatever I build—whatever we build—as women we have a responsibility to lift up each other’s businesses and missions. For Cobble, that’s featuring the women-owned (and especially BIPOC women) businesses, from restaurants to events and beyond, for couples to make decisions on. Truly whatever we do, I hope female entrepreneurs are building to build others up.
I hope you are still a magical land where humans try to create “previously thought of as impossible” stuff, and that more people are given the access and opportunity to go for it. I hope women continue to take an active role in shaping you—based on the incredible entrepreneurial women I meet today, I’d find it hard to believe otherwise. If that’s the case, I bet you’re pretty bright.
DENISE CESARE EDUCATOR + AUTHOR OF “MOMENTS IN MOTION WITH LOVE”
A Message to All Our Beautiful Children:
The Universe is speaking to us, let’s listen with an open heart, mind, and soul.It is important that you know how precious you are in this world.Always remember to BELIEVE in yourself and let your light shine in this moment. We will teach and learn from each other; with learning there is healing…together we can heal. You are hope and you are LOVE!The future is waiting for you and you are our Future!I believe in you!
Sincerely, Denise Cesare
NICOLE YOUNG TV HOST, AUTHOR + LIFESTYLE EXPERT
I am so proud of you, World! You really stepped up your game and rose to the occasion! The strides you’ve made in the last five years—where racial equality and justice for Black lives are concerned—are so impressive. I know I’ve been critical of you, so I just have to give you the credit because it’s due!
The way you finally grabbed racism by its ugly horns back in 2020 still warms my heart. It is so comforting to know that my son is no longer in danger of being discriminated against, held back, harmed, or killed by anyone just for being Black, and that the same is true for all Black men. I can sleep soundly at night and spend my days migraine headache-free knowing that being Black is no longer a detriment to my life, my business, and my potential for earning.
You really turned yourself around, World, and in such a short span of time! You deserve so much respect and adoration.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Nicole Young