That's a wrap, 2017, and what a year you've been. Time to take stock and suit up for the year ahead. Considering what this year's been like, I'm currently sizing armor.
Above all, what I try to never lose sight of during the year is that my job as a metro columnist is a privilege, one that I try to never take for granted, especially as one of the too few women of color, specifically Latinas, with this platform.
The people and stories and causes I champion in this space may change, but the goal is always the same: to amplify the lives that those in power — whether in boardrooms or newsrooms — often overlook, and to have a lively, meaningful ongoing conversation with readers that teaches us all a little something.
To fill my notebook and smartphone and head with facts by hitting the streets and talking to people and then writing straight from the heart, no punches pulled.
I don't always know for sure if I succeeded, but often readers will let me know that something I wrote left an impression:
"Hey," they ask, "whatever happened to …"
As we end the year, here's an update on a few columns and causes that resonated with readers.
Ismarie Gomez: The world could use a little more Ismarie, I wrote when I shared the story about an inspiring little girl whose family lost everything to Hurricane Maria, but was still willing to give up what little she had for those less fortunate. After hearing her story, donations poured in. She and her mom were able to go back to Puerto Rico to reunite with her father, who had stayed behind, for Christmas.
@Wallo267: Wallace "@Wallo267" Peeples is one of those people whose story and spirit just keeps on giving long after I profiled how he had built a huge Instagram following with contraband cellphones while still in prison. Just 10 months out, he's well on his way to building a motivational movement while lifting others up with him. When Wallo took over my Instagram for the day, he introduced us to some great people, including Brian Ward, a young balloon artist whose story reminded us all of how much potential there is in this city's young people. Since the column, he's focused on his booming balloon business and paying it forward, the @Wallo267 way. He's partnered with friends to start a project to help people living in shelters get back on their feet.
Ancestry Brothers: The brothers who went on the genealogy research website in hopes of finding their father and instead found each other finally met in person in Philadelphia, and cemented their brotherly bond in the most Philly of ways: over cheesesteaks. Dalessandro's Steaks, to be exact. The two are still searching for their father, but in the meantime, they've found each other and a shared love of sandwiches.
Hurricane Couple: A little over a month after Tobi Russeck was airlifted out of St. Thomas with contractions after Hurricane Irma, she and her husband, Ray Sperbeck, welcomed Baby Harry. Everyone is healthy and happy and looking forward to a hurricane-free new year.
Moms of murdered children: I spent a good part of the year chronicling the heartbreaking stories of mothers who lost their children — and of one who lost two — to this city's gun violence. With 315 homicides as of Saturday afternoon — the first time murders have surpassed 300 since 2012 — I could have told one of these stories nearly every day. Of those lost, 30 were teenagers. For the second year in a row, this spring, I called those affected by gun violence in this city — which as I've said is every single one of us in one way or another — to the Art Museum steps to call attention to an epidemic that continues to lack sufficient attention. More than anything, I wanted to at least be able to write that some of the pain the mothers live with was eased by the people who killed their children being caught. But most of the murders remain unsolved.
Trump and the Pandora's Box of -isms that his presidency has unleashed took up a lot of space in our heads and hearts, and in this column. And here's where I'm at as we all struggle to keep up with the twisted reality show our country has become: The assault on women, on black and brown people, on Muslims and Mexicans, and on gay and transgender people, on truth, and on reality-based journalism must be resisted with every fiber of our American beings.
Speaking of the resistance, no other group inspires me more than the grassroots and frankly fierce Tuesdays With Toomey group, which has never, ever, not once taken its eyes off the daily assault against our democracy.
If 2017 should have taught us anything, it's that even the most imaginative among us probably can't come up with what likely lies ahead. But whatever it is, I'm going to follow Tuesdays With Toomey's lead and take it all on with the words written on my new favorite resistance T-shirt: sin miedo.