1. The Election
In some of the lowest moments of the year, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spent the year trading jabs at each other and scrambling to unite a divided public behind them. After terrible debate performances and the loss of the popular vote, Donald Trump clinched enough electoral votes to take home the American presidency in an upset even he likely didn’t see coming.
2. Water Crisis In Flint
Flint water became contaminated with lead after Flint River became the city’s drinking water source in April 2014, endangering the health of thousands in the city, which boasts a predominately African-American community. But it wasn’t until this year that officials began to face the music for their involvement. The crisis remains ongoing with thousands still lacking access to clean, drinkable water.
3. Terror At Pulse Nightclub
In the worst terror attack since 9/11, 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire at an Orlando nightclub on June 12, killing 49 and wounding 53. For the families of the victims, who were mostly LGBTQ+ and people of color, the horror was absolutely immeasurable. As President Obama noted, “f we don’t act, we will keep seeing more massacres like this — because we’ll be choosing to allow them to happen.”
4. The Loss Of Legends
2016 was a brutal, brutal year in terms of loss of cultural icons. Millions mourned in complete shock at the loss of artists like Prince, David Bowie, Natalie Cole, George Michael and many many more.
5. The Shooting of Alton Sterling
In July, viral video captured the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling at the hands of police. Sterling, who was selling CDs in the parking lot of a local business, with permission from the owner, was killed after cops shot him while he was on the ground, subdued and at close range. Protests erupted nationwide, but especially in Baton Rouge where residents were horrified at the brutal death.
6. The Shootings In Dallas
Following weeks of brutality against unarmed African Americans, tension against police hit a violent, deadly peak with the shooting of 5 officers at an otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter rally. As so, direct lines were unfairly drawn between the movement and the shooter, Micah Johnson. But as BLM founder Alicia Garza said, “Black activists have raised the call for an end of violence, not an escalation of it. “
7. The Tragedy of Kalief Browder
Kalief Browder, the young man wrongfully accused of robbery who spent three torturous years at Rikers Island, tragically committed suicide at the age of 22 in 2014. Two years later, NY officials passed “Kalief’s Law” to ensure a speedy trial but not before more tragedy struck the family. Just as music mogul and producer Jay Z was developing a short documentary on Kalief’s ordeal, his mother died of a “broken heart.”
8. Farewell to the Obamas
With just weeks to go in the historic presidency of Barack Obama, millions of Americans are mourning the end of a momentous 8 years. Under an Obama presidency, the first family was the absolute picture of perfection. From the lovely relationship between the couple to Michelle’s impeccable style and intelligence to the brilliance of Sasha and Malia, it’s been a pleasure to watch this family evolve. They will be missed
9. The Opening Of The African American Museum
Just three months ago, more history was made in Washington with the opening of the African American History Museum at the Smithsonian. As President Obama noted, “This national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are.” The museum has become one of the nation’s largest attractions after opening with a bang. Ruth Bonner, whose father was born a slave, was even invited to ring the opening bell.
After months of protesting, the Standing Rock Sioux celebrated a momentous victory over American greed when it was declared that the proposed pipeline would not run through their sacred land and water supply. The victory was hard fought, to say the least, as cops and state officials employed violent and abusive tactics like water hoses and tear gas on the Sioux, who stood strong in the face of brutal opposition.
11. The Shooting Of Terence Crutcher
In September, video emerged of another unarmed Black man being killed by police. This time, it was in Tulsa and the victim was 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, who police would later describe on radio as someone who looked “like a bad guy.” As per usual, officer Betty Shelby’s attorneys charge that she believed she was in danger, even though she was the armed professional. An arraignment is set for February.
12. Nate Parker’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him
After months of critical praise and excitement for his Nat Turner biopic “Birth Of A Nation,” Parker’s past involvement in a 1999 rape case at Penn State came back to haunt him and resulted in a media firestorm. In spite of his name being cleared in the case, many criticized Parker for his reaction to questions about the case during press rounds for the film. Box office sales, as a result, were less than expected.
13. Black Girl Magic In Rio
From Simone Biles to Simone Manuel, Black female athletes showed up and showed out at the summer Olympic games in Brazil. In gymnastics, swimming and track and field, Black women broke records and made us all beam with pride.
14. Black Miss USA Crowned
Miss District of Columbia 2016, Deshauna Barber, was crowned Miss USA this summer, beating out the competition and slaying her way to the top with her impressive credentials as an army officer and I.T. specialist for the federal government and of course, gorgeous good looks.
15. Harriet Tubman On The $20 Bill
The hero who led hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad could pop up on the bill as early as 2030, according to reports.
16. Terror Around The World
From attacks on crowds in Berlin and Paris to airport bombings in Belgium and Turkey to tragic bombings in Iraq and Syria, it was a terrible year for extremist violence in 2016.
17. West Point Cadets Under Fire
Earlier this year, a group of 16 African-American female graduating cadets came under investigation by West Point officials after a picture circulated of the group raising their fists. Apparently, it was believed this gesture meant they support the Black Lives Matter Movement. The cadets were cleared to graduate but the message about the division between Black pride and American identity was also made clear.
After stellar performances from Black actors like her husband Will Smith, actress Jada Pinkett-Smith encouraged a boycott of the Academy Awards – and also challenged Black actors, directors and writers to reinvest in their communities. Writer and cultural commentator April Reign created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and a call for inclusion was born. While this year is (only slightly) better, the fight continues.
19. Dylann Roof Found Guilty
Earlier this month, a federal jury took less than 2 hours to find Dylann Roof guilty of all 33 charges in the Mother Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof confessed to killing nine people last year at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is now facing the death penalty.