Only one more day is left on the 2016 calendar, and it seems as though the world couldn’t be happier about it. From natural disasters to the election of Donald Trump to an overwhelming deluge of celebrity deaths, the past year has been quite the newsmaker with an abundance of poignant lows and only a smattering of profound highs (which is partially why it was so difficult to select only ten events to discuss.)
We kicked off 2016 with the Flint Water Crisis, though the small, majority-Black town has been struggling with lead-contaminated water since 2014. The state of Michigan’s decision to switch Flint’s water source from the Detroit River to the lower-quality Flint River has resulted in an outbreak of legionnaire’s disease, among other illnesses. Poor people in Flint were (and still are) relegated to using bottled water for drinking, cooking, bathing and more. Though President Obama officially declared the water crisis a disaster back in January, a few months later criminal charges were filed against officials from the Governor’s office.
The transition from winter to spring brought us the death of one of the most talented and influential musicians the world had ever seen: Prince. The 57 year-old rock and roll star who gave us hits such as “I Would Die 4 U” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover” passed away in his famed Paisley Park compound. Fans from around the world took his death quite hard, reflecting on not only his impact in music, but his generosity and unapologetic blackness and queerness—never one or the other.
Just a few months later, Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali also passed away as well. Though heartbreaking to many, Ali’s death in the middle of a presidential campaign season marred by rampant Islamophobia and anti-blackness gave the world a chance to reflect on the unrivaled, defiant legacy of one of America’s Black Muslim heroes.
Then came the summer of slaughter, where Black Americans were shot and killed by police officers in what at some point seemed like a never ending nightmare.
In virtually all of these incidents, the murders of these individuals were at some point captured on video. Who will ever be able to forget Diamond Reynolds’ trembling voice as she tries to reason with the officer who shot and killed her boyfriend in the family car, with her child witnessing the entire ordeal in the backseat? Protests ensued in Charlotte, Milwaukee, Baton Rouge and many other cities around the country.
In October, Hurricane Matthew caused even more death and destruction in Haiti, an island that had already weathered a devastating earthquake just years before, as well as a cholera outbreak caused by the United Nations. Over 1,000 people died, and many more were injured as a result of the Hurricane. Though recovery efforts are well underway, it’ll take a lot more funds and helping hands to restore Haiti to its fullest potential.
(If you’re still with me after reading through all these tragedies–good on you! Though it doesn’t get better. But, if you couldn’t get through it, I understand.)
The latter half of the year brought about the scandal that seemed to never die: Nate Parker’s rape allegations and the resulting impact on his film, ‘Birth of a Nation’. Back in 1999, Parker and his friend Jean Celestin (who is also a co-collaborator for BOAN) were accused of rape, and later acquitted. The scandal resurfaced upon the release of Parker’s film, and the months-long conversations surrounding the scandal shed a lot of light on race and Hollywood, as well as misogyny and sexual violence within the Black community.
Yet all was not lost for Black cinema in 2016. Barry Jenkins ‘Moonlight’ wowed both critics and audiences around the country, and is well on its way to becoming one of the most beautiful and profound films we’ve seen in a very long time. Rarely has a film covered Black gay love and lust, drug abuse and the school to prison pipeline in such a powerful way.
And then there was the election. Donald J. Trump, who kicked off his campaign by calling undocumented Mexicans “rapists,” then vowing to both ban Muslims from entering the country and bring back “law and order” (as well as the racial implications that go along with it) won the U.S. presidential election, and will be sworn in January 20th. With many of his cabinet picks already announced, marginalized communities around the country are already preparing to organize against an agenda that all but openly endorses white supremacy.
Moving onto slightly happier things, Native American protesters and activists mobilizing against the Dakota Access Pipeline won an indefinite victory when the US Army Corps Engineers rejected requests to have the pipeline cut through sacred tribal land at Standing Rock. While some attributed the much desired outcome to President Obama, the victory was a result of people power, plain and simple.
That’s it for 2016 (about time.) May the new year bring us more justice, more love and more people power.