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Black America’s Dark Summer

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHANIE MEI-LING, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Published 09/07/2020 | Reading Time 5 min 42 sec 

By BWSTimes Editorial Staff 

Summer of 2020 will mark one of Black America’s most trying years in our journey in America. The Black Wall Street Times editorial board pieced together a brief summary for this Labor Day to mark it. It was a summer plagued by more police shootings, a raging novel virus disproportionately affecting Black Americans, and the death of two Black America icons. 

March on Washington

What took place in Washington D.C. this summer was another historic event 57-years in the making that shouldn’t have needed to be repeated, A second March on Washington amid a global pandemic to call out the nation’s continued ill-treatment of Black Americans. Led by the National Action Network (NAN), its founding president and current CEO, Rev. Al Sharpton, addressed the thousands who had gathered at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial.

“57 years ago in 1963, there was a struggle in Birmingham, Alabama. There was the assassination of Medgar Evers, the head of the Mississippi NAACP. In the middle of struggle and murder, they came to Washington to demand that the federal government give them a civil rights act and voting rights. They marched that day, in a hot blistering day like today, saying that as we struggle, we need legislation. And they stayed on that movement until they got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Rev. Sharpton said, adding, “So we didn’t just come today to have a show. Demonstration without legislation will not lead to change. We didn’t come out and stand in this heat because we didn’t have nothing to do. We’ve come to let you know that we will come out by these numbers in the heat and stand in the heat, that we will stand in the polls all day long. They keep telling me about how it’s a shame that Black parents have to have “the conversation” with our children, how we have to explain if a cop stops you, don’t reach for the glove compartment, don’t talk back, the conversation. Well, we’ve had the conversation for decades. It’s time we have a conversation with America. We need to have a conversation about your racism, about your bigotry, about your hate, about how you would put your knee on our neck while we cry for our lives. We need a new conversation,” the reverend declared.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOSHUA RASHAAD MCFADDEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

John Lewis Tragic Passing

The loss of civil rights icon John Lewis marked the end of an era and the passing of an activism baton to the next generation. Lewis had battled Stage IV pancreatic cancer for years and served as a Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district until his passing on July 17, 2020. A member of the Big Six, Lewis was one of the instrumental organizers for the original March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, A. Philip Randolph and others in 1963. The images of Lewis and others during Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge left a deep impression on a nation that continues to battle racial reckoning to this day.

Juneteenth 2020 

Tr*mp’s announcement to kick off his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, galvanized Tulsans into action on Juneteenth. Initially canceled due to COVID-19, Black Tulsa leaders and their White Tula accomplices were able to put together an event that surpassed last year in mere days — 7-days to be exact. The event consisted of local Tulsa artists including Dr. View and Steph Simon, a national gospel recording artist Le’Andria Johnson, local activists Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Nehemiah D. Frank, Greg Robinson, and Dr. Reverend Robert Turner, and national Civil Rights icon activist, Al Sharpton. Tulsa’s Juneteenth festival was a celebration of the ending of institutional slavery in America and Tulsa’s rich Black Wall Street history. By the end of Trump’s Rally on Saturday evening, a diverse group of people threw a block party on the historic Greenwood Avenue. The camaraderie and support of this event is another example of how strong the Tulsa community is, and the richness of the city’s often forgotten Black heritage. 

A Son of Black Wall Street Ran for Mayor

Facing an uphill battle since his declaration to run, Greg Robinson, a 30-year-old Black community organizing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, launched a grassroots campaign to overturn the status quo in Tr*mp country. Robinson’s charming charisma, humble spirit, and ability to connect to Spanish-speaking voters through his bilingual skills proved handy along his campaign trail. In just 76-days, not only did he raise $250,000 — more than half of what his incumbent entered the race with, but he garnered national endorsements from some of the Democratic Party royalty.

“The most important people up here right now to me are my two godsons. Because when I think about the risk that I took, and I think about why I had to take them, its embodied in these two young boys — these two young kings. Because of that, tonight is a win for us. I can say that even with the realization that I’m not going to be the next mayor of Tulsa because there are things that are bigger than the political games that we’ve become a custom to playing. There are things larger than the divisive rhetoric that we’ve fallen into,” Robinson said.

Chadwick Boseman Tragic Passing

On August 28, it was confirmed that Chadwick Boseman passed away after years of battling colon cancer. The news of this loss rocked the Black community, as well as the world. Boseman was a cultural icon and real-life hero, exemplifying, and embodying Black excellence. His portrayal of significant historical importance, such as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall, brought alive some of Black America’s greats! Though, his most prominent role came in the form of Marvel superhero Black Panther. Boseman’s death was hard to fathom for many. Hearing about his death left Broken all heartbroken and in disbelief, as Boseman hid his illness from the public for years. We can all learn from Chadwick that we all can touch others’ lives through our work, whatever our work may be. Chadwick strategically lent the last years of his life to the culture, and we will forever be grateful for the legacy he left behind.

NBA Activism 

First, Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus; then, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, a Utah Jazz player, tested positive. And with those two positive cases, the NBA abruptly suspended their season, March 11, 2020. Finally, the world came to acknowledge that COVID-19 was, in fact, a threat that we should all consider. After nearly four months on the sideline, NBA teams and their players resumed the season at the ESPN World of Sports in Walt Disney World, Florida. However, it isn’t the virtual crowd in the league’s new bubble that has the world buzzing. When the NBA resumed their season, they took a clear stance on the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the world–and that stance is: BLACK LIVES MATTER! In large part, the season stood behind its players in support as athletes became more vocal on racial injustice and police brutality. As fans tune into this year’s playoffs, they will see Black Lives Matter near center court and odes to the movement on the back of players’ jerseys. Oh, and shoutout to OKC Thunder’s Chris Paul for reppin’ apparel in honor of Oklahoma’s HBCU, Langston University.

BLM Protester Pour into America’s Streets 

America was jolted out of its pandemic stupor when a video of George Floyd’s murder surfaced May 25, 2020, murdered at Minneapolis police’s hands. Galvanized was the world as Floyd used his final breaths calling out for his mama. Protests broke out, spreading like wildfire all across the globe. This dramatic cycle of events mirrors the reaction seen in Ferguson, in Dallas, in Louisville, and every city that is bubbling with anger at police killings. Only time will tell whether this wave of protest is genuinely different, or whether Black Americans have merely thirsted for so long that we are drinking sand. What is known, though, is that this blaze will not extinguish quickly. And with new, powerful forces at play in this modern era, Americans are no longer willing to accept our state and federal government’s failing efforts.

George Floyd, 46
Breonna Taylor, 26
Ataliana Jefferson, 28
Aura Rosser, 40
Stephon Clark, 22
Botham Jean, 26
Terence Crutcher, 40
Philando Castille, 32
Alton Sterling, 37
Michelle Cusseaux, 50
Freddie Gray, 25
Tanisha Fonville, 20
Eric Garner, 43
Akai Gurley, 28
Gabriella Nevarez, 22
Tamir Rice, 12
Michael Brown, 18
Tanisha Anderson, 37
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