We had so many plans. The year, nay the whole decade was stretched out before us, beckoning with open arms. Until it smacked us in the face. Hard.
Some call it the great shit show, pure horror, the worst year ever. Annus horribilisimus. Others accepted 2020 as a huge reset. An astrological challenge to wake up, shake up and do better by our fellow humans and the planet at large.
In a piece I wrote for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) blog, I talked about 2020 as a ‘giant edit’. A chance to revisit and rewrite your story. When I interviewed TV chef Andi Oliver for Bringing Up Race, she described the impact of the pandemic perfectly:
2020 was about looking at the man in the mirror so hard that the glass shattered and we saw our true selves instead. It wasn’t always pretty, much of it was devastatingly painful, and yet through self-reflection so much has emerged. A chance to reconsider how we do everything, from work/life patterns to the
assholes people we pick as leaders. A focus on what actually matters. Learning to put more value in the jobs that society relies on: health workers, teachers, caretakers. A return to simplicity. The joy of little things. A global awakening to anti-racism. Possibility. Transformation. Hope.
In a year defined by the term ‘social distancing’ in some ways we became more connected than ever. We hung out on Zoom conferences and parties. We spent more time with household members. We looked out for neighbours. We recognised that, when all is said and done, all we really have is each other.
By Christmas Eve, the news was pretty grim. 1 in 85 people in England had tested positive for coronavirus. London and other parts of the country entered Tier 4 with so many families unable to share Christmas together. For the first time ever, UNICEF was roped in to feed hungry children in the UK. And to cap it all, Santa’s second sleigh (aka Royal Mail) buckled under the weight and couldn’t deliver everyone’s gifts in time.
One week on, the headlines aren’t much happier. Yet looking back on 2020, there is much to feel grateful for. In a Facebook group post asking people to share their good news, the comments were filled with wonderful stories: career highs, bouncy babies, people beating life-threatening illnesses. People celebrating just making it through to December 31. After a year like this, it’s so important to count every single blessing.
On a personal note, this has been one of the most amazing years of my life. The year I became a published author and wrote a book that is changing the way people think, feel and act about race and racism.
I’ve shared my Top 9 photos of the year on Instagram above, based on likes and comments. Here’s some more photos of events and experiences that defined 2020 for me.
Van Gogh Experience
On Valentine’s Day, Abiye and I visited the Van Gogh immersive experience on the South Bank. Little did we know it would be our last cultural outing for the entire year.
In March, our family was shocked by news of my mum’s younger sister Auntie Anagam passing away suddenly. Due mainly to Covid factors, the funeral was postponed until October in Nigeria. Many family and friends watched from overseas via Zoom and Facebook Live. It wasn’t the only Zoom funeral I attended in 2020, but it was the most shattering.
We also welcomed several babies into our extended family in 2020, including my utterly adorable niece Tiara. Her middle name is Anagam, named after her late great aunt.
The brutal murder of George Floyd by police sparked a worldwide uprising. I wrote this in response, my most shared post of 2020.
An Unexpected Honour
I’m still blown away by the Evening Standard listing Bringing Up Race with luminaries such as Yaa Gyasi, Caitlin Moran, Elena Ferrante, Richard Osman and Bolu Babalola.
Virtual Book Party
We didn’t get to party in person but my Virtual Book Launch was a beautiful event, with so much love in the room/Zoom. Thank you to nearly 100 of you who attended live!
10 Years of BAT
15 Year Anniversary
We celebrated 15 years together with a weekend outside London (my first and only trip in 2020). We did hours of walking, lots of eating and it was absolutely perfect. Love you, Abiye.
On the now infamous 20/10/20, the Nigerian army shot at unarmed civilians in a peaceful Lagos protest. There has been no clear statement or accountability from the Nigerian government to date. Still the #EndSars movement against police brutality served up hope for a better Nigeria.
Hello Biden. Bye Bye Trump.
This photo gives me all the feels. Can you imagine Agent Orange doing this? Anyway, who cares because Trump is OUT. In 2021, we will joyfully welcome a new American leader who can speak in proper sentences. And the first female, African American and Indian American VP. Boo ya.
Guardian Book Quiz
Booker Prize winning author Bernadine Evaristo made my entire Christmas by giving Bringing Up Race an incredible (and hilarious) shout in the Guardian’s Big Book Quiz. Can you guess the answer? LMAO.
After moving to relatives and living out of suitcases for 2 months, our kitchen revamp was finally completed just days before Christmas. There are still some bits left to do but we’re thrilled with the new look. Dark walls, dark cabinets, moved stuff around to make better use of the space and light. It was a joy to have Christmas dinner together in the brand new kitchen.
What I Read in 2020
While writing a book, I didn’t do much actual reading so my book pile is STACKED. That said, I managed to read some incredible books including two that I inhaled over Christmas break. Books I loved in 2020:
- Untamed – a manifesto for female liberation by the phenomenal Glennon Doyle.
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: sharp, clever, gripping.
- Girl by Kenya Hunt: a rousing collection of essays on Black womanhood.
- Homegoing: the Yaa Gyasi masterpiece on slavery and generational trauma.
- The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin: funny, moving and memorable.
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: the one book that kept me going while I wrote my own.
What I Watched
The best thing on TV was Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You. I also binge watched the brilliant Chewing Gum (Michaela’s TV debut that clearly had an influence on Fleabag). We couldn’t get enough of:
- Watchmen starring the kick ass babe Regina King;
- Succession, a darkly comic family drama;
- Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s evocative series of period films about the Black British experience;
- The Crown (such great acting and casting); The Queen’s Gambit — sexy, compelling and made us all want to learn chess;
- The Mandalorian, featuring the so-cute-I-will-munch-his-ears Baby Yoda.
- And who can forget the wild ride that was Tiger King?
What will 2021 bring? Nobody knows. The only thing we can say for certain is that we have to learn to embrace the unknowable and go with the flow. At least the ‘no-deal Brexit’ charade is over, there’s the promise of more people getting the vaccine and we can look forward to the election of somebody who is not Trump.
As for me, I’m working on some cool ideas including a lovely book project that I will reveal as soon as I can. I haven’t chosen a word for the year yet but I know that it will choose me, when I’m ready.
Thank you for being part of my community, for all your wonderful feedback and shares for Bringing Up Race, for helping spread the message of kindness, conversation and anti-racism in our homes and communities. Wishing you all better and brighter days in 2021.
Love from Uju and the Babes x