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This is an introduction for a weekly series of reflections on equality in America – social, political, and economic – and what 2018 means for our country, whose greatest strength is its diversity. The last year was a tumultuous period for the American people. Donald Trump’s first year in office witnessed the massive surge of social justice movements, both domestically and abroad. Tough questions and harsher truths concerning the inherent inequality of race, gender, and LGBTQ rights were brought to the forefront of the American political conversation. Women, minorities, and the LGBT community won tremendous victories while also suffering major setbacks, many of which delivered directly from the White House.    The untimely, tragic death of social justice activist Erica Garner on December 30th 2017 – the daughter of Black Lives Matter icon Eric Garner – was a jarring reminder of the continued struggle that minorities face to achieve equality on a daily basis. Despite a growing awareness and visibility of the many injustices still being committed in America, this year has still seen black men disproportionate victims of police brutality, excessive force and a broken criminal justice system. And awareness alone is insufficient to combat the deeply rooted, systemic racism minorities face when trying to achieve equal opportunities in employment, education and representation. In the last few months alone, the #MeToo hastag, which began with revelations of horrific sexual assault, harassment and abuse committed by Hollywood’s most powerful men, has turned into a global movement for gender equality. The movement has not only revealed the systemic nature of the problem in entertainment, but in every corner of society. While originating within a single industry, the #MeToo hashtag became a rallying cry for women – and men – to speak openly about their daily experiences with harassment and demand fundamental change on global scale. It was a watershed moment in American history, though years, decades and centuries in the making. It was so significant that Time Magazine named “The Silence Breakers” – those who bravely spoke out against assault harassment – as its 2017 Person of the Year. Trump’s election was a particularly shocking moment for the LGBT community. The last year has been to many a “horrific” year for LGBT rights. His administration has rolled back numerous, hard-earned protections and victories from previous years. Only several days ago, Trump summarily fired the remaining cabinet of his HIV/AIDS council who hadn’t already resigned, in what GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Ellis called part of his  “continuous effort to erase LGBTQ people and people living with HIV from the fabric of our country”. What does equality look like in America today? Compared to fifty years ago, are we any closer to the ideals written in our Constitution, that we as people are granted “certain unalienable rights… Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” As we enter 2018, it is essential to review events and movements that contextualize where we stand as a country in terms of equality, and most importantly, what we as citizens can do to bring about lasting change.

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