On Resolutions

We are grateful to Aurielle Marie for helping our organization be more accountable to the values we espouse, and we hope their insight sparks robust conversation in more literary communities around belonging, activating personal responsibility, applying lessons, and change as a practice. As a nonprofit, we offer the caveat that this essay series reflects the author’s opinions and lived experience as an organizer and literary citizen.

This is the third letter in a series of 10 dedicated to engaging The Offing’s literary network in social justice and a value shift toward equity within our respective organizations. The letter was originally sent on December 28, 2020.

Here’s the truth: This year, you’ve been through a lot. You’ve survived murder hornets and #BREXIT and terrible wildfires along the West Coast. The koalas lost their homes, and the government lost the children of undocumented migrants, who traveled here courageously to seek asylum. We were sullied through a contentious impeachment trial, and an even more embattled election season. We slung ourselves into the streets or online to join the largest uprising against state-sanctioned police terrorism in our history. We’ve weathered the losses, mourned loved ones, and tried to hold our heads above water through the cycles of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. We’ve endured a lot in 365 days, and it has been anything but easy. I am encouraged by the brilliant writers, community organizers, artists, teachers, health care workers, therapists, content creators, comedians, thought-leaders, scientists, and scholars who kept us alive and afloat this year. You deserve peace, and we collectively, are owed some kind of stillness.

For a while, each year around this time I’d be fully in my new year, new me bag. I would throw myself into disparaging and self-limiting practices, from weight loss to romantic conquests to materialistic desires. Even though I knew it wasn’t serving me, I only had access to this yearly ritual that mirrored the worst parts of the systems I desperately wanted to divorce in my daily life. I struggled to find a practice that aligned with my values, until I realized my friends, my heroes, and my peers are my greatest models. 

Bronte Velez is a longtime friend and teacher, and the creator of Lead to Life, a cooperative that practices alchemy as a freedom praxis. With the help of local communities, Bronte collects and melts down surrendered guns, and from the molten lead she molds shovels. Each shovel is then used to plant life into the earth of the surrounding community. From Bronte, I learn what it means to hold a capacity to imagine, meaning, I learn again and again how vital dreaming is to liberation. Resolutions are marketed as modes of discipline, cumbersome rigidity that bring shame, even fear, and self-doubt. Instead, I try to orient myself toward the things in which I believed, and used the end of the year as a space to expand this capacity to imagine. One year, I stumbled across excerpts from the journals of Octavia Butler, an afrofuturist, savant, and prolific writer. She’d manifested every single morsel of the life she acquired, and told us so in her writings. “This is my life. I write bestselling novels,” she’d write over and over, “See to it! So be it! See to it!” And so it became.

What we’ve been missing, in our mad dash to make ourselves thinner or richer every new year, is the space to create an annual ritual of dream making… of imagining. In the New Years since, I focus every atom on envisioning the world in which I want to live and the life I claim for myself and my folk. Then, I work backwards and set intentions, or resolutions, for the year that will ultimately build that world for me. It would serve us all better to start our year with an acute awareness of how we want to live it, to be loved inside of it, to learn from it, and to lose ourselves within it. What do you want — really want — for this country and our world in the new year? What political goal or dream comes to mind when you allow yourself the capacity to imagine?

I’m thinking of you, reader, studying this on your daily commute, or sharing your own political discoveries with loved ones. I’m thinking of how tenderly you’ve leaned into learning and growing, despite what monsters this year tried to make of us. I think of the difference in positionality between us, and of course, I think of our similarities. I must admit I began this essay project with the goal of “educating” or “changing” you, perhaps even impressing with my candor or tone or literary style. These are silly intentions based in ego or fear or doubt. What is truer is that I fiercely desire a world different than this one. I would like to think I will be a part of bringing that world about, but the truth is I don’t know if I have what it takes. I can only try and fail, as I’m sure you’re tired of me reminding you. I am afraid of that failure, though, and what it may cost us. So allow me to model my intention ritual, gifted to me in part by my brilliant friend Bronte, and also by the incomparable Octavia Butler.

Aurielle Marie’s Resolutions:

I live in a world free from police violence! 

  1. This year, I will volunteer 10 hours to support Atlantians working to #CloseTheJailATL.

  2. This year, I will read two books on carcerality and abolition.

  3. This year, I am going to join a local abolitionist organization.

  4. This year, I am organizing more with racial justice coalitions.

  5. This year, I am going to write more openly and honestly about policing and abolition in my essays, poems, and on social media.


I do not sacrifice my values for a career or financial gain!

  1. This year, I will book readings with venues that offer gender neutral bathrooms, have accessible entryways, are safe places for Black people, and support social justice.

  2. This year, I prioritize Black and LGBTQ readers.

  3. This year, I will physicalize freedom on the page. I will write poems and essays that reflect the things I believe, namely racial justice and radical imagination.


Your tasks in preparation for the new year:

  1. Watch this awesome documentary short about Bronte and her work with Lead to Life. Consider what it means to, as Bronte said, “gather to shift something.” Who are you gathered with? What are you shifting?

  2. Consider these 13 Resolutions for a Social Justice New Year. Which of these did you work to realize in 2020? How can you expand upon this alchemizing in 2021?

  3. With these questions and dreams in mind, build your new and improved 2021 New Year’s Resolutions list. Share your discoveries, thoughts, and ideas with your friends, family and comrades.


Special task for Black folks: 

Beloved, someone gifted me. And even as I am still trying to receive the gift, I want to pass it on. Rest. Rest is our inheritance, our birthright, and is a freedom praxis. I don’t know yet what this means, or how to find it. But I’m going to try. Join me in making rest an idea to explore and imagine inside of. As I’m learning language and embodied strategies, I’m following The Nap Ministry. Join me there!

Happy New Year, friends. So be it! See to it!

Vote, or...

I believe we each have a fight, specific and distinct to us. I do not believe that toil begins or ends at the ballot box.

With Liberty, and Justice, for All.

I invite you to orient yourself toward justice, to move as one who believes that your freedom is inextricably linked to mine, and act beyond your comfort or convenience.

Heavy Lifting

Maybe she stood by him no matter what, because she’d suffered enough heartache. She married her childhood sweetheart and had my brother and me before things fell apart. Her father, who had meant everything to her, died tragically in the projects almost a decade ago. Bernard was her one and only son, and even though it could happen, she didn’t want to believe she could lose him too.