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This is Us writer Kay Oyegun shares her case for optimism

January 22, 2018

• Kay Oyegun


1. Express your thoughts about 2017 in an image, GIF, or noise.



Everything confounded me in 2017, like Roy Moore–way? Why?




2. What did you take for granted in 2016 that you’re extremely grateful for in 2018?


I got a text last night from a really, really good friend that said: "Hey, checking in on you." It was a simple, innocuous, and frankly loving text which warranted an in-kind response. But instead, I responded back: "I’m fine, why? What have you heard?"

I’ve been so fortunate to know, and be surrounded by, the most amazing, thoughtful, fiercely loyal, and brilliant women — women I've been able to lean on and call on in my times of joy and sorrow. Yet over the last few years — and particularly in 2016, when so much changed for me professionally — I've allowed those cherished friendships to go untended. This is a major sin, because without these women, I would be completely lost. In high school, my best friend and polar opposite, taught me to speak up. In college, I had my African Queens who each allowed me to be vulnerable and honest, and who taught me how to cook to sustain myself. And in my 20s, it was my sistren: a sprawling group of amazing women who have shown me that my dreams are valid and worth pursuing. I love them all so completely.



Most of these dynamic women have been black women — and my heart beats for black women. In 2016, when the veil of American exceptionalism, xenophobia, sexism, and good-ol'-fashioned racism was stripped, I found comfort in black sisterhood because, while the rest of the world was waking up to the ills of this country, we were already acquainted with the all-too-familiar stench of injustice. And rather than sit idly by as hell broke loose, we pushed each other to the forefront. Whether it was challenging the narratives in our art, putting our bodies and energies into protest, or stepping up and into political spaces, we mobilized and fought. We also managed to make time for self care — and that included sending texts to each other just to see how the other was doing. As I’m consciously working on nurturing my female friendships, I’ll be the one to reach out next time. Maybe even with an actual phone call.



I look constantly at this photograph of Toni Morrison's 1977 writing group (pictured: Toni Morrison, June Jordan, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, Lori Sharpe and Audrey Edwards) as a reminder of the power of black female friendship.




3. What piece of art—film, book, album, performance, painting, whatevs—restores your faith in humanity?


At the recommendation of a friend I ordered the book of poems Salt by Nayyirah Waheed. Without being hyperbolic, this book floored me. I’ve never been big into poetry, finding a lot of it quite inaccessible. But Ms. Waheed changed that for me. Her work is minimalist and stirring. With such succinct language, Nayyirah can conjure up vivid imagery and tap into a complex history of womanhood and identity. I’ve transcribed most of her work and taped it up around my room. Her poems are deeply personal yet universal — and just so incredibly beautiful. She personifies humanity to be, and I’m constantly inspired by her.







4. What happened in 2017 that actually made the world a better place?


I call 2017 the year of, “What you not gon' do….” because in 2017, everybody and her mother called out everything. Thanks to Twitter, no misdeed went undragged, and no incident of foolery went unchecked. From the #MeToo campaign gaining new life after it was founded a decade ago by Tarana Burke, to people calling out every instance of Hollywood whitewashing, I LOVED the fact that people felt galvanized to act, to shine a light in all the dark places.





5. What are you determined to do—or make or change—in 2018?



I'm a bit risk averse. Even that sentence is dithering: I’m either risk averse or not. Why did I write “a bit?” It’s my Taurus nature (I have no idea if this is a thing), but I need to be absolutely certain of the outcome of any given situation before I a big decision. It has become increasingly clear that life is finite, and, sadly, we really are speeding toward the end. This is not pessimism. There is a certain freedom in knowing that what you do now truly matters because there is only a handful (obviously more than a handful, but you get my point) nows left. All of that is to say, I'm more determined than ever to truly be present in everything. I’m determined to nurture my friends, to be of service to those in need, and to seek and maintain love. It might sound like a Pollyanna. But with all the crazy shit going on, we could use some more Pollyannas.


Channel your inner Pollyanna and create and share your Case for Optimism! And don't forget that 100 Days of Optimism is looking for stories of hope, change, redemption and inspiration...and offering career-changing prizes to eligible filmmakers. Get the deets.


Kay Oyegun

When Kay turns 55, her age will finally align with her personality (see photo, left, of her on her 21st birthday yelling at someone). When Kay isn't yelling, she's a television and film writer, staffing currently on a little show called This Is Us.



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