What can I say… 2020 is feeling more and more like a season of Black Mirror, with each new month akin to a new episode, complete with a new natural, social or political horror. Opening strong with January, which featured a potential third world war and following with February’s fires in Australia. In March the world  finally realized COVID-19 was not only a Chinese problem. April saw a global quarantine and in May the Pentagon bizarrely released U.F.O footage. As if this wasn’t enough of an emotional rollercoaster, May ended with the police-killing of George Floyd, leading to a protest-laden June. And it is June that has perhaps been the most important month of this super unrealistic show we call reality.

With the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the US and beyond, social media has become a heated platform for both activists and those against the movement. It’s so easy to get caught in a bubble. For example, living in NYC and attending a liberal arts school, I have been surrounded by enlightened, liberal people of diverse backgrounds. Things like the BLM movement, Feminism and LGBTQ+ rights seem so self-evident – to the point where it can be easy to think that the whole world should believe this, too. However, in June, seeing #whitelivesmatter posts, countless videos of police brutality, white civilians pulling firearms on protesters and reading incredibly ignorant comments – some even by childhood acquaintances – has been heartbreaking and eye-opening.

I am not a confrontational person. I am a reader, a thinker, a writer – but not a discusser. June has showed me that EACH of us need to do our part to end systemic racism in our own circles. As a South African, my country and ancestry has its own painful past. While my family and friends back home certainly think of themselves as anti-racist, this month has shown me just how deep prejudice runs. I always grew up hearing about how Apartheid ended decades ago, why is there still violence and dissent surrounding it. I cringe to think about how I naïvely never questioned that narrative until recently. Slavery, Apartheid, segregation… While these systems are no longer in place lawfully, not only do the consequences from them starkly remain, many of the injustices that occurred then are STILL occurring right now. And so, how can we imagine healing from the past when the present hasn’t even been resolved?? This isn’t outrage about black people being murdered decades, or centuries ago (which would also be justified), this is outrage about black people being murdered and mistreated right now. And it needs to end.

So, with this sobering mindset, I spent the month educating myself and plan to use this knowledge as I navigate through whatever the next episodes of life may bring.

I’ve been doing a monthly mood board as a diary of things I’ve been inspired by, loving, dreaming of. Obviously, June was largely inspired by BLM. This month’s roundup:

1. Dreaming of / Brooklyn NYC

After living in Brooklyn for almost two years, June was my last month in The City That Never Sleeps. This was bittersweet, since a pandemic-stricken NYC is not exactly where dreams are made of. However, amidst the chaos of packing up my life, the spirit of protest and justice on the streets was inspiring. I’m dreaming of a future where I can live here again.

Photo by @xx_niquita_xx

2. Obsessed with / Maison Martin Margiela’s Replica Jazz Club

This long-time favorite scent seemed an apt obsession this month, considering it’s inspired by Brooklyn. This is a male fragrance but I’d honestly recommend it to anyone. I’m a big fan of the entire Replica fragrance range and the fact that each scent is meant to be reminiscent of a time/place specific memory.

Photo by me

3. Lusting after/ Brother Vellies & Telfar

Again, two long-time favorite brands that also happen to be black-owned! Founded by powerhouse Aurora James, Brother Vellies is a luxury accessories brand founded with the goal of keeping African artisanal practices alive. It’s manufactured around the globe – including South Africa. I am lusting after a pair feather-trimmed or animal print boots…

Photo via @brothervellies

Like Brother Vellies, Telfar is a Brooklyn-based fashion label by prodigy Telfar Clemens. A favorite amongst the fashion-literate, his Vegan leather shopping bags have somewhat of cult status. Called the Bushwick Birken (since it’s way more affordable and … cool … than the Hermes version), this piece is ALWAYS sold out, much like its namesake. I’m on the waitlist. Here’s hoping.

Photo via @telfarglobal

4. Wearing / Mejuri’s snake ring

Since I’m currently rotating through a quarantine wardrobe made up of mostly comfy workout outfits, I’ve been looking to jewelry to liven up my very casual fashion future. Mejuri is my favorite jewelry brand since they have durable real gold pieces and I can’t be bothered to take jewelry off for sleeping/showering. While their croissant-shaped pieces will always have a special place in my gluten-free, France-obsessed heart, I’ve been eyeing this snake-shaped piece this month…

Photo by @discodaydream

5. Inspired by / Titty Butt Studio

I’ve followed this South African artist for a while, but her recent forays into textural oil paint has been a big creative inspiration this month – especially since I’ve rediscovered painting myself (quarantine arts and crafts amirite).

Photo via @tittybutt.studio

6. Following / @thegreatunlearn

If like me, you find yourself on Instagram more often than you’re proud of, I suggest following informational accounts like @thegreatunlearn. Curated by academic Rachel Cargle, this is like a virtual classroom for unlearning racial bias.

Image by me, inspired by the words of Rachel Cargle

7. Reading / Books on racism

Here’s my current reading list, based on several recommendations. I’ve worked through Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, Robin diAngelo’s White Fragility, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race and Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime. The latter is set in Apartheid South Africa, so it hits close to home. I was impressed by the way Noah’s storytelling clearly brought across racial oppression as the root of poverty and crime in South Africa without ever saying this outright.

I highly recommend all of them. Reading is one of the most accessible and entertaining forms of educating ourselves and contributing to a more anti-racist future.

-Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

-Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

-Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

-White Fragility: Why It’s Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

-So You Want To Talk About Race by Iljeoma Oluo

-How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

-The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Photo via @mvb

8. Watching / Just Mercy

If reading isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of material on Netflix – 13th, When They See Us, and Dear White People to name a few. As a foreigner who knows little about the American criminal justice system, I was really moved by Just Mercy, the true story of a young, black Harvard law graduate who appeals an unjust murder conviction.

Image by me