We’re grateful to be starting the new year with a tentative sense of hope. The worst days of the pandemic are (hopefully) behind us. Two vaccines have secured emergency use authorizations. A new administration will soon be setting up shop in the White House. There’s a lot to look forward to.
If we’ve learned anything from 2020, though, it’s that there’s so much work to be done on the vast systemic problems in our country. While the New Year is a time for self-care, reflection, and recharging, it’s also time to think about how we can continue contributing to the greater good. If 2020 was a year of chaos, 2021 can become a year to rebuild.
The question on our minds as we stand on the threshold of 2021, then, is this: What next? Many of us were caught unaware by the events of the last year. But now we have a better sense of what’s broken and needs fixing. We’ve got a head start. What should we do with it?
We know you have limited time, resources, and emotional energy. So here’s a shortlist of key 2021 dates, along with some simple ideas for how to continue to educate yourself, support the causes you care about, and stay involved — for this year and beyond.
January 5, 2021
Georgia’s runoff election for the U.S. Senate
Joe Biden’s presidential win was a big deal, but the push isn’t over. On Jan. 5, Georgia’s runoff elections for two empty Senate seats in the state take place. If Dems Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock win those seats, the party split in the Senate will be 50-50 — which means it will be much easier to pass progressive legislation. In other words, a Democratic win in this election will be key to Joe Biden having a successful presidency. Thousands of activists, and even celebrities like Kerry Washington and Demi Lovato, have been busy getting out the vote for these elections, which saw record early-voting numbers.
Take action: The election is tomorrow, but it’s not too late to still make a difference. If you live in Georgia or have friends there, make sure they have voted or plan to vote tomorrow. Join the final push by phone banking and donating through Jon Ossoff’s campaign, Raphael Warnock's campaign, GAsenate.com, and organizations like Fair Fight and Black Voters Matter.
January 20, 2021
Joe Biden is inaugurated
Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration will look unlike any other, thanks to both the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that President Trump is not expected to attend. But count on it to be historic despite its unconventional format. You can pull up a virtual seat through one of the major TV stations, as well as Facebook Live, Twitter, or YouTube.
Take action: Celebrate the swearing-in of the 46th president (and the exit of President Donald Trump)! Now is also the time to learn more about Biden’s cabinet and what it means for America, including historic nominations such as Rep. Deb Haaland for interior secretary, as well as his all-women communications team.
As Breonna Taylor's mother wrote in an open letter to Biden: "We need your actions to show that you are different than those who pay lip-service to our losses while doing nothing to show that our loved ones' lives mattered." The people who Biden surrounds himself with are the ones who’ll have the greatest influence over his policies, which is why it’s essential to be familiar with his team.
March 8, 2021
Likely trial date for police officers who killed George Floyd
The four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the killing of George Floyd are set for a March 2021 trial date. (A hearing to delay the trial, however, is currently scheduled for Jan. 11, so stay tuned.) Derek Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for roughly 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him, has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao are facing charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
“Since George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, more people are socially aware of the effects of police brutality and capitalism on our society, which has made people challenge a lot of beliefs they previously held,” Glenn Foster, Lead Organizer of The Freedom Neighborhood, an abolitionist collective in Washington, D.C., told Refinery29. “It's going to cause disruption, but the positive benefit of the disruption is the exposure to systems that truly don't benefit the people, one of those being our police.”
Take action: While the protests of 2020 may be over, the fight for justice and Black lives continues. You can find many ways to support Black Lives Matter and learn about racial injustice here.
April 3, 2021
One-year anniversary of the CDC’s face mask guidelines
On this day in 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidelines around face coverings. Until April 3, the recommendation was that only healthcare workers and sick people needed to wear a mask — truly bizarre to think about now, but it underscores how little we knew about the virus. Then the CDC updated its recs to strongly suggest that everyone wear cloth face coverings, though the agency continued to tell the general public not to wear medical-grade face masks; there weren’t even enough for healthcare workers.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA. Vaccinations have already begun with high-risk healthcare workers going first, and by the second quarter of 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimates that the U.S. could see the "overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated." Even so, for now, vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike are still being told to wear face masks.
Take action: To commemorate this day, consider refreshing your supply of cloth face masks, which you should be doing every six to 12 months, or whenever you can see light through the cloth when you hold them up to a lamp or the sun, says Natasha Bhuyan, MD, a regional director and provider with One Medical. Ideally, you’d have several masks you could rotate through to help them last longer. Here’s how you can make your own face mask, and some top-rated options to buy.
August 12 to 22, 2021
Copenhagen 2021 celebrates WorldPride & the EuroGames
For the first time ever, WorldPride (a licensed title given by InterPride to a local Pride event that aims to promote LGBTQ+ issues on a global level) and EuroGames (a LGBTQ+ multi-sport event) are being celebrated together in a 10-day experience called Copenhagen 2021. For now, the planned programming includes two Pride Parades, concerts, parties, human rights events, sporting competitions, and more. There will also be a summit centered on LGBTQ+ immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees and a Sports Leader Conference, which will aim to open up conversations about LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports, focusing on trans and non-binary athletes, reports GayTimes.
The organizers have created contingency plans in the event that COVID-19 is still widespread enough in the summer of 2021 to make this programming unsafe, and will refund ticket and registration fees in the event of a total cancellation.
Take action: You may not be able to travel to Copenhagen for the celebration. If you’re based in the U.S., you can participate in a local Pride event during Pride Month in June. But you can also take this opportunity to learn more about how to support LGBTQ+ equality. Actions as simple as putting your pronouns next to your Zoom username can make a huge difference. So can speaking up against bills that threaten LGBTQ+ rights, such as transphobic sports bans. “Calling your elected official is also really powerful,” Keygan Miller, a senior advocacy associate for The Trevor Project, previously told Refinery29. “They do pay attention to what their constituents say.” Here’s how to find and reach out to your local elected official.
November 1 to 12, 2021
The UN’s Climate Change Conference
2021 will be a decisive year for combating climate change. After Trump’s disastrous record — he has withdrawn from the Paris Climate agreement, consistently scaled back environmental protections, and denied that climate change even exists — we’ll be closely watching Joe Biden’s administration to see if he fulfills his promises.
With his cabinet picks, Biden has been sending signals that climate change is priority for him. Biden’s climate change plan, which has essentially embraced the framework of the Green New Deal, aims to end carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 with a broad investment in jobs and infrastructure. This includes $2 trillion for clean energy projects, as well as a promise to direct 40% of its climate spending to marginalized communities.
Take action: Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, consider leveling up your dedication to the fight against climate change. If you already live a low-carbon lifestyle, you could join a local campaign to learn to organize and mobilize, or pledge to be more vocal in your own social circle to help educate your connections about the realities of the climate crisis. Scope out specific strategies for getting involved here.
November 2, 2021
Mayoral elections in many large cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and NYC
Mayoral terms are four years long, and this year, mayors in some major cities are up for reelection — including Atlanta’s Keisha Lance Bottoms — while others, like New York City’s Bill de Blasio, are unable to run for a third term due to term limits. These elections feel especially pressing this year, after the pandemic, racial justice issues, and climate change have brought to the forefront the need for new leadership in many cities, including New York City, where numerous candidates from various political affiliations and walks of life have already announced their campaigns.
Roughly 80% of Americans live in urban areas, so mayors play a key role in our everyday lives. “Mayors are key decision-makers on issues like affordable housing, police accountability and public safety, public transit, small business opportunities, and more — your mayor can make your city an amazing place to live and work in, or a place you can barely afford to stay,” Amanda Litman, the co-founder and executive director of Run for Something, told Refinery29.
Take action: First things first: Make sure you’re registered to vote. Next, consider volunteering on a mayoral campaign: You can usually sign up to phone bank, text bank, canvass, or volunteer some other way by filling out a form on your favorite mayoral candidate’s website. You don’t need any special experience — just bring yourself, an open mind, and your enthusiasm. Getting involved feels good.