Defined by feel-good highs (#Serena Slam! Riley Curry grabs the mic! Trevor Noah takes late night!); devastating lows (the Charleston Massacre, the mysterious death of Sandra Bland); and reasons to believe in a better day (Marilyn Mosby fights for justice, the #BlackLivesMatter movement soldiers on), 2015 was beautifully, painfully and undeniably impactful for African-Americans. Jamilah Lemieux and Rembert Browne put the podcast on rewind, then fast-forward to the parts that count.
The Movement Mattered
Jamilah Lemieux: Last year was, in many ways, defined by the events of its final quarter: the deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, and the protests that took place across the country as a result. Pundits and critics wondered, ‘Is this a movement, or a moment?’ I think 2015 answered that quite clearly: movement. Some people may not agree because we aren’t seeing daily coverage of marches, and the entire world isn’t fixed yet—and there are still Black people dying in the streets, every day—many of them unarmed and at the hands of the police. The sustained presence of social justice organizing and the significant shift in how police violence is covered in the media (it’s covered!), however, is credited to this new movement and the many people who are committing their lives to keeping it going. From I-will-die-for-this-in-the-streets protestors to new-media journos such as Shaun King, our grandkids will learn about 2015; I believe that wholeheartedly.
Politics & News
Rembert Browne: Bree Newsome was already known in many circles as a prominent artist and activist before June 27. But when she climbed that 30-foot pole and took down the Confederate flag that flew at the South Carolina state capitol, she became a hero. The image of her descending with that flag made a clear statement: Enough is enough. And this was only 10 days after declared White supremacist Dylann Roof took the lives of nine Black South Carolinians in an AME church. Enough was enough. Newsome’s act (which had also followed the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.) was one that would knowingly come with arrest, and was especially poignant. It was proof there is still room for civil disobedience, if it is for the betterment of society.
JL: Not just room, but the need for civil disobedience, which we’ve been seeing consistently for the past year, and change. That the flag, with all its White supremacist symbolism, was there when South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s body lay in state is unconscionable. Even worse, the national conversation around racially motivated hate crimes (such as what happened in Charleston) got real quiet after the flag came down for good.
We also got another national superhero in the form of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. She demanded that the six local police officers involved in the death of unarmed Freddie Gray face serious criminal charges. Following the days of uprisings, Mosby looked her city—and the world—in the eye and said this young man deserved justice. Mind you, Gray wasn’t merely at the wrong place at the wrong time; he was someone who had a criminal history. The fact that she stood up for a person so many of our own people might’ve disregarded meant so much. All Black lives matter.
RB: The following four sentences are realities I have said aloud in 2015, causing me to stub my toe and curse each time: “Ben Carson is running for president.” “The author of the Black History Month book favorite Gifted Hands, Ben Carson, is running for president.” “Ben Carson is running to be the Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency.” “Oh no, Ben Carson is the front-running Republican nominee for the presidency; it’s time to take my copy of Gifted Hands off the shelf and use it as a doorstop.” Regardless of where you stand, it’s impossible not to be thrown for a loop when you imagine that the first Black U.S. president, Barack Obama, is followed—immediately—by a second Black president. Even more so when you consider that second Black president could be Ben Carson, the brain surgeon already in the history books. What a time to be alive.
JL: Especially considering Carson’s greatest competition for the GOP ticket at this point is reality show star and tycoon Donald Trump. Not knowing much about D.C. housing laws, I’m hoping the current First Family will just squat for four to eight more years. At least until Sasha Obama graduates from Howard.
RB: Make that Spelman.
Read more in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of EBONY Magazine.