2016: The Year of Realizing Things


After an unbelievable election season, tons of celebrity deaths, the release of amazing albums and a sudden interest in animal rights, 2016 has certainly been interesting for the American people.

At the beginning of the year, pop culture icon, famous culture appropriator and expert at all things lips and plastic surgery Kylie Jenner set the tone for 2016.

“I feel like this year is really about, like, the year of just realizing stuff,” Jenner said in an interview for her app. “And everyone around me, we’re all just realizing things.”

She definitely wasn’t wrong.

Perhaps the first devastating thing to happen in 2016 was the celebrity deaths that seemed untimely and random, making us all realize that all great things must come to an end. A few notable deaths included English singer and songwriter David Bowie, actor Alan Rickman, pop icon Prince and boxer and activist Mohammed Ali.

While I personally did not feel a personal connection or have an unwavering admiration for any of these people (except Rickman for playing the role of Severus Snape for about 10 years, but I know he’s more than his role in the Harry Potter series), the fans of these people seemed to be in deep mourning. I soon realized that most of these fans weren’t just mourning the deaths of their favorite celebrities or idols; they were mourning the deaths of their inspirations.

Bowie’s constant reinvention of himself with every album amazed English and American audiences. Prince empowered the world by mastering several genres of music while being openly sexual in his lyrics and being confident with his androgynous look. Rickman, while arguably not as influential as others in this list, brought many beloved fictional characters to life in more than 40 movies. Ali taught the world that you don’t have to be constricted to one area (in his case, boxing) and can show interest in other things like activism and be just as iconic.

However, if your specialty is sports, you can still be well known. You can grow up to be an Olympian for Team USA like swimmer Michael Phelps, gymnast Simone Biles, or USM’s own track and field star Tori Bowie. Athletes from every state in the USA dominating the Rio 2016 Olympics made us all proud to be an American. Hopefully, that feeling of pride in our country will return in four years.

Speaking of great, it was more than a great year in the music industry, particularly for black artists. The Knowles sisters, Beyoncé with her visual album Lemonade and Solange Knowles with A Seat at the Table, managed to showcase honest (mostly depressing) emotions of black women nationwide while empowering them- often at the disdain of conservatives. Frank Ocean, who was MIA for about four years, reappeared with his album Blonde, which unsurprisingly received rave reviews. Rihanna continued to prove how bad ass she is with songs like “Needed Me,” “Work,” and “Love on the Brain” on her ANTI album. Kanye West embraced his alter ego Pablo and explores topics like self-discovery, religions, and all things related to being “Famous.”

What did I realize from these artists? Artists have the power to inspire a nation with feelings of strength and confidence while also empathizing with their fans’ struggles, and that is what makes an artist legendary.

Another thing I realized in 2016 is that that you don’t have to be a human to be considered legendary. The death of Cincinnati Zoo gorilla Harambe (may he rest in peace) in May shocked the internet. Surprisingly, he has stayed relevant for months after his death. While I certainly do not have a problem with advocating for animal rights, I do have a problem with people wasting their vote on this dead gorilla.

Thanks to Twitter, I realized that people are willing to throw away their vote by writing in a dead gorilla in a very important election cycle for laughs. I would compare voting for Harambe to voting for a third party candidate like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, but that’s not funny. That’s just sad.

But speaking of the election that most of us wish never happened, I, as a black woman, realized that blatant racism and misogyny won. I realized that many of my friends, many who are minorities, are rightfully scared for their lives due to an increase in hate crimes since Trump was announced president. I realized that white supremacy won due to the Neo-Nazis cheering for Trump more enthusiastically than before with for his cabinet picks. I realized that I took Obama’s presidency, his beautiful, graceful black family, and his friendship with VP Joe Biden for granted.

Most importantly, I realized that I can’t claim that Trump isn’t our president-elect no matter how much I wish he wasn’t because that won’t change anything. What we can attempt to change is our mindsets. Instead of being so determined in feeling hurt by Trump being elected, we can try to be hopeful of the years to come. I’m tired of victimizing myself. While I am at times worried about my personal safety, I refuse to live in fear.

I believe that we should continue to protest for issues that matter to us (Shout out to the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors for winning the fight to reroute the pipeline away from Native American grounds,) advocate for those who don’t have a voice, and most importantly, take a break from politics every once in a while for our mental health.

Just like the election, 2016 has been quite a memorable year. Though while writing this article I realized that I don’t remember half of what happened this year, I also realized that I am hopeful of what is to come in 2017.