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Black triumphs and successes in 2018

By Janiah Adams -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Dec 25, 2018 - 4:15:24 PM

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(l) Black Panther movie poster (r) Basketball star and philanthropist LeBron James opened a school in Akron, Ohio.

This year held many sad moments in the Black community. From seemingly perpetual police brutality to girls going missing, it can feel as though there’s too much work to be done. But when we rewind the clock and reflect on 2018, we see that Black people in America have made strides to proclaim, “we want better for our people.”

The year kicked off with the much-anticipated Marvel film, Black Panther. The movie, starring Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, was the epitome of Black excellence on the screen to many.

Businesses owned by Black women grew 164 percent.

“I don’t think we should underestimate the impact Black Panther had,” said Raymond Winbush, a professor at Morgan State University and author of “The Warrior Method: A Parents’ Guide to Rearing Healthy Black Boys.”

“It energized a lot of Black people to look into their roots, outside of this country,” he explained.

As of May, Black Panther grossed roughly $1.3 billion at the box office. The movie boosted Mr. Jordan to be more recognized across Hollywood and prompted conversations of Black Americans’ relationship to the Motherland. Not only that, but it contributed to the ongoing women’s movement with the portrayal of Black women as warriors.

“It was entertainment at its best and did cause us to look deeper into our connections to Africa,” said Prof. Winbush.

Stemming from Black Panther, rapper Kendrick Lamar had the opportunity to showcase his musical genius by being the mastermind behind the official Black Panther album. He also was recognized with Grammy and Golden Globe nominations for the project. This year Kendrick Lamar, 31, also became the first non-classical or jazz artist to receive a Pulitzer Prize for his album titled, “DAMN.”

A few months later, springing into summer, June, July and August counted for huge wins for the Black community.

In June, the BIG3, a 3-on-3 basketball league featuring mostly retired NBA players, had their first game. The league was founded by hip hop artist, actor and businessman Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz.

In July, basketball star and philanthropist LeBron James opened a school in Akron, Ohio. His “I Promise” School, a public school, features an eight-hour school day, a support circle for students after lunch, and GED courses and job placement for parents, according to Time.

Tio Hardiman, a Chicago activist and a recent Democratic candidate running for Illinois’ governor’s seat, greatly applauded Mr. James for this effort.

“Lebron James is what you call a true visionary, intellectual thought leader for Blacks to understand,” Mr. Hardiman said. “What he’s doing is the best example in the last 30 years because he’s single-handedly opening up schools and making sure these young people obtain college degrees. He does a lot off the court. That’s a success.”


Throughout the year, the world watched as the NFL continued its fight with Colin Kaepernick and his supporters. Since the star quarterback kneeled during the National Anthem in a preseason game on September 1, 2016 to protest police brutality and social injustice, the quarterback has not gotten another job playing in the league. In August, almost 1,000 people showed up to the NFL’s headquarters in New York to protest the NFL. Now, celebrities across the board have turned down the coveted Superbowl half-time performance scheduled for February 2019 in support of Mr. Kaepernick, including artists such as Rihanna and Cardi B.

“It seems like many of the athletes and entertainers are becoming more political,” Mr. Winbush said. “It’s not just Colin Kaepernick anymore, but it’s others as well and he may have been part of the inspiration. I applaud even Black Twitter for condemning Jermaine Dupri for saying he’s going to perform at the Superbowl.”

Aside from culture and entertainment, 2018 also brought social and economic successes for the Black folks

Guidant Financial, a small business financing firm based in Washington, conducted a survey of business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Out of Blacks who responded to the survey, 62 percent were men and 38 percent were women. A study done by the U.S. Census showed that Black-owned businesses have increased since the end of the recession.

News gets better for Black women-owned businesses. American Express commissioned the 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report, and the report showed that although women-owned businesses have grown 58 percent from 2007 to 2018, businesses owned by Black women grew 164 percent. That’s almost three times the previous rate.  In 2018, there are 2.4 million Black women-owned businesses.

Several initiatives were in place this year to ensure the growth and cultivation of Black-owned businesses. The Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit celebrated its 23rd anniversary during the summer; Black Tech Week welcomed Blacks specialized in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields; and AfroTech convened on the West Coast in a gathering of Black techies in early November.

“We need to make sure we support Black businesses,” said Ruban Roberts, president of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP. “We have a number of them that are growing and they need to be supported by us. It’s something that Minister (Louis) Farrakhan has been preaching for years,” he said referring to the Nation of Islam leader.

Something else that was shown throughout the year, culminating on Nov. 6, was the turnout of Blacks to the polls in this year’s midterm elections.  “Black folks seemed more energized this year in terms of their voting habits and political involvement,” Mr. Winbush noted.

Jahana Hayes— First Black woman elected to Congress in Connecticut
Blacks in states such as Florida, where Democrat Andrew Gillum ran to be Florida’s first Black governor, rallied daily urging people to vote. Voters turned out in large numbers to pass Amendment 4, which would give ex-felons back their right to vote. The amendment passed, but Mr. Gillum didn’t see the same success. Neither did Democrat Stacey Abrams, who ran to be Georgia’s first Black female governor.

However, Democrat Lauren Underwood, 31, became one of the youngest Black candidates elected to Congress. Many Blacks prevailed across the country in the elections.

“When you look at the number of Black women that have been elected to office this year, it is definitely the year of the woman, and the year of the Black woman,” Mr. Roberts said.

Mr. Hardiman believes Black politicians came through with a criminal justice reform bill, known as First Step Act, aimed at prison reform and reducing over-criminalization. It passed through Congress with a 358-36 margin and is pushing closer to becoming law.

“There’s been a major, major transformation in criminal justice reform,” Mr. Hardiman said. “It’s a huge priority. The Trump administration just passed sweeping changes to criminal justice reform. I’d consider that a success, considering many African Americans are behind bars. That’s a result of African American leaders addressing that issue,” he said. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, strongly backed the bill.

Although Blacks had major successes in 2018, Mr. Roberts doesn’t want anyone to slow down going into 2019.

“We have made some strides, but I don’t want us to be disillusioned,” he said. “As a community, we have to collectively work together to address the social ills.” A few aspects he believes Blacks should focus on in 2019 is education and economics.

“One of the things we need to do is stay mobilized and not be discouraged,” he said. It is good more Blacks have attained key decision-making positions, he continued.  “We need to know our history and we need to put a premium on education. There are a number of mentoring programs for Black young men and girls.”

Mr. Hardiman said success in the Black community is like a double-edged sword. “When I talk about success, I’m thinking about economic success, intellectual and reducing the gun violence in our communities and that hasn’t happened yet,” he said. “In inner-city areas, we still struggle with homicides. So, once we work on reducing that rate, about 75 percent, then we can look at success in that area.” He also believes education should be at the forefront.  

“Moving forward into 2019, we as Black leaders should develop a plan to really reduce gun violence in all of our communities nationwide. We have the Historically Black Colleges in different cities and states, but the things is this: We need institutions in our neighborhoods, building intellectual institutions. So when teens leave out their doorway, they can walk right into an institution of higher learning in a close proximity,” said Mr. Hardiman, who has worked for years in Chicago to curb gun and gang violence.

With all that has been done in 2018, and all that is hoped for, Mr. Roberts encourages Black activists, organizers, politicians and others to keep going.

“We need to really just prepare our youth and ourselves to be equipped to deal with the issues on an economic, political and social level for 2019 and beyond,” he said.