Reach deeeep into the depths of your memory and see if you can recall when you were asked this question: What do you want to be when you grow up?  

Do you remember what age you were or what your answer was? Fireman? Astronaut?  

Yeah. I feel like kids aren’t even waiting to be asked that question anymore. They’re out here snatching up goals.  

Just check out 11-year-old Lauren Elizabeth Hood who is already building an impressive legacy for herself after becoming two-time Alabama State Level 4 Gymnastic Champion on Dec. 4The future Olympian, as her parents, Anthony and Robin, call her, came out of the competition adorned in medals despite the hurdles the coronavirus pandemic threw her way.  

“It feels goodamazing,” Lauren said of her win. “My gymnastics dream is to gain more confidence, be braver and to one day compete at the Olympics and be famous. I would love to be like Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas but better.” 

Lauren was inspired to do gymnastics at age 2 after witnessing the melanin magic of other Olympic gymnasts who looked like her. Noticing how their daughter expressed joy through flipping, dancing and jumping off furniture, her parents decided to enroll her in the sport. Lauren now practices her #BlackGirlMagic at JamJev Gymnastics in Birmingham. 

When the pandemic put life on pause, Lauren tried to keep up by doing virtual classes. Lauren returned to the gym in mid-June to learn she could barely lift her body up. But she didn’t stop. She’s on the road to #OlympianHood. Quitting wasn’t an option. So with the help of her village, which includes her teammates, coaches and family, she got back on that mat, focused on building back her strength and bah-bam – she earned the top spot for the second year in a row.  

And that’s her advice for anyone who is trying to achieve their dreamsJust keep pushing through. 

“Give it your best and do not give up,” Lauren said. “It’s one of the best things you can ever do because you build confidence, strength (mentally and physically), and skill.” 

Ho, Ho, ho! Go vote, vote, vote! 

‘Tis the season to start voting (again). Fa la la la laaaa, la la la laaaa 

I’m sure Georgia is on a lot of people’s minds as we creep closer to the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections.  While it feels like this election season is dragging on forever, Alabama natives LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright, founders of Black Voters Matter, are making sure everyone feels the holiday cheer with the 12 Days of Christmas voter outreach tour. The grassroots nonprofit is giving away Christmas groceries and toys to hundreds of families across the Peach State. 

Brown introduced Twitter to the Black Soul Santa” and “the blackest sleigh in America” during an event at Americus, Georgia. And y’all better listen to Brown’s message: 

“if you want Santa Claus to come to your house to bring you and your family some gifts, What they got to do, Cliff?” Brown said.  

“They gotta vote,” Cliff replied. “In fact, ho, ho, ho. Go vote, vote, vote.”

Young, Southern and Black 

(Courtesy of Margaret Wroblewski)

Like Black Voters Matter, those featured in Reckon’s “Young, Southern and Black” series raising the bar when it comes to the future of the South.  

Take next-generation movement worker Amber Scales. During her time at the University of Alabama, she went toe-to-toe with The Machine, an underground society controlled by white-led sororities and fraternities who try to tamper with campus elections. A Georgia native, Scales is now a fellow with Fair Fight. Yes, that Fair fight.  

For my story, she chatted about how Black women have always fought racism in elections and why allies can step up to help Black women create a better South. So what kept Scales grounded as she swerved through a dizzying election year while dealing with the see-sawing emotions of life after college? (You know, when you want to make a living, but you also want to do something you love every day?)Watching Black creatives thrive on the latest platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse and living up the virtual life with her friends with Zoom happy hours and Netflix movie dates.  

“I have a support system of great wonderful people who make sure we check on each otherWhen someone is feeling the pandemic really hard, there is usually someone who can step in and be there for that person,” she said. So, I am grateful for friends who are like family and family, who is blessed to be together at this time. The way we can support each other and hold each up.” 

Now, I hear y’all. Building a community isn’t always easy for many folks (raises hand). Throw in a pandemic and racial turmoil on top of it all and putting yourself out there can get very ratchet very quickly. So I tapped one of my favorite Instagram sages, Mimi Cole, a “therapist in training” (as she calls herself) who grew up in Virginia, went to Vanderbilt University for her undergrad in medicine, health and society and is now in grad school at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She gave me a few tips on how to build up your support system during this time.  

I would say try apps like Bumble or connect with neighbors if that feels safe to you,” she said. “Reach out to a new person each week or so who you want to reconnect with. Look at Instagram’s suggested people and engage on social media, plan a Zoom call with old friends to reconnect. Most of all, I would recommend finding a therapist. They can be a great source of connection and support.”  

Another facet of Black Joy is taking time for rest and restoration. So you won’t see me next week as I embrace a pause for myself. But I am interested to know how Black Joy got you through the year because 2020 was a whole decade. Send me an email at jdunigan@al.com and share your happiness and laughter with us! Also, take a minute to check out and join the Black Magic Project’s Facebook page where we celebrate and discuss Black culture and community.

Keep spreading your Black Magic and happy holidays!