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By Nehemiah D. Frank, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
2020 was the year from hell we hope never to relive; there is no easier way to put it. At minimal, we lost our smiles and the joy of hearing pure laughter, muffled by N95 masks; that’s if we were fortunate enough to find or afford one.
An invisible microscopic invader emptied public squares, altered our lives, and made it nearly a crime for anyone under 50 to physically engage with the elderly.
In racially homogeneous countries, like China, people were snatched from the streets and jailed for breaking quarantine. In America, the gumbo of humanity spoiled due to political polarization. We could not, for the life of us, get on the same page. And we paid the ultimate price. 330,000 Americans, and counting, succumbing to a deadly virus — a result of an incompetent, racially divisive U.S. President who, as of Sunday, December 27, 2020, spent his 296th visit to a golf course.
Had our greatness been measured by how we handled the pandemic, we would rank last behind every “shithole country”.
Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. President Trump! You Earned an F in 2020!
Besides the iconic Black American personages that we lost this year — Katherin Johnson (who inspired Hidden Figures) and John Lewis (our civil right hero), some of them dying of the coronavirus, Bruce Williamson (a singer from The Temptations), Herman Cain (a former Republican Presidential Candidate and former owner of God Father’s Pizza), and Carol Sutton (an actress from Queen Sugar) — we all lost someone who impacted our lives: be it sports, film, music, education, science or politics.
This year was like a horribly written sequel to Groundhog Day; it was the year that didn’t seem to want to end or let up.
While Trump played golf for the 100th time since being sworn in, I watched COVID-19 rob the happiness in some of my friends as they lost their parents one by one.
I paced back and forth in my living room, alone at home — my fiancé forced to work overtime and play Russian Roulette with our health and lives as a first responder in a Nation that didn’t have a plan — and I wondered if it would be my family’s turn next to lose someone.
On August 22, 2020, I lost my father to — what my mother and I believe was — a Covid-19 related heart attack. It was on the day Trump spent his 134th day golfing since becoming our Nation’s Commander-in-Chief.
The emotional wound from my father’s death still burns fresh in the center of my chest, and the sounds of his gun solutes to honor his years of service for the U.S. Air Force hum my ears even as I write.
Trump’s dingy and too large of a signature branding my deceased father’s military honor letter would be another personal slap from our narcissistic president amplifying this shitty year.
This President, unquestionably, downplayed the seriousness of the virus as early as January 2020, stating, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China,” his ignorance on full display for the world to see as covid raptured souls from American bodies like a biblical plague.
If the virus were meant to be a lesson for humans to take better care of the planet — the world’s mega metropolises experiencing crystal clear skies for the first time since the Industrial Revolution due to the slowing of commerce — Trump sure in the hell didn’t get that objective. And if he did, he sure in the hell didn’t give a rats ass about following CDC Covid-19 guidelines.
This year, social and physical distancing became buzzwords that many of us took seriously as a means to mitigate further spread of the virus, while others risked their own health and the health of others to satisfy their own selfish desires.
My concerns about coming into contact with an anti-masker caused me as well as others much anxiety. I slapped my chest, ran a few 5Ks a week and boosted my vitamin in-take to up my chances of survival and to mitigate possible Covid-19 damage to my body should I contract it.
Nevertheless, Trump’s antagonistic nature had him defying his own Covid-19 Task Force’s recommendations to stay home and not hold large gatherings.
He selfishly held his 2020 reelection campaign in-person, coupled with holding holiday events at the White House, all while some of us are still adjusting to missing family members from our dinner tables.
Unlike Pontius Pilate, the blood is on this President’s hands.
During Juneteenth weekend, he symbolically spat into the faces of our ancestors while turning a blind eye to our coveted Black History, choosing to hold his reelection rally during our culture’s commemoration of the end of slavery. Moreover, he did it in a city that witnessed the worst massacre against Black lives on American soil. And he did it maskless; his supporters followed his lead.
Furthermore, his Back-the-Blue quasi-cultural-counter movement permeated our social-political landscape, our local politicians allowing Tulsa to become the first U.S. city to erase a Black Lives Matter mural and hold a Trump Rally during a global pandemic that is still killing millions.
Commonsense had appeared to have gone out the cosmic window.
As the city’s road workers scraped the bright yellow lettering from the historic Greenwood Ave, we cried, and our ancestors cried with us.
We cried for Breonna Taylor and for Ahmaud Arbery.
We cried for the 401 years of racial injustice, for the 99 years of justice denied since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and we cried painfully less than a month after watching George Floyd’s modern-day lynching publicly.
The trauma internalized in 2020 will be spent years on the couches of mental health professionals; more the reason to pass Medicare for all and recognize health care as a human right.
Even after shutting down highways and confirming that we found some of the missing Black victims from 1921 in a mass grave, our racial justice cries seemingly fell onto the death ears of our elected officials.
The saddest part about losing hundreds of thousands of Americans, suffering my own personal loss, and the racial justice denied after millions poured into American streets this past year is conceiving that 74 million Americans opted to vote for four more years of incompetence and racial division.
2020 was f*cking mess.
The only way I survived 2020 was because my community, and all of our non-Black allies, showed why we Americans are still resilient people. While Trump spewed his hateful rhetoric along with bootlicking T.W. Shannon and Mr. yessir Sheriff Vic Regalado at the BOK Center, Oklahoma City and Tulsans of every color, creed, economic and religious background danced in the streets, masked up, on Black Wall Street.
My optimism can only have me believe that in 2020 we truly hit rock bottom and can only go upward as a collective American people in 2021.
By Autumn Brown, Managing Editor
Everyone is referring to 2020 as a “crazy” year that we’re all glad to see go. And truthfully speaking, we should have seen the foreshadowing of the dark times that lay ahead of us when a foggy sky took Kobe and Gigi from our worlds on January 26, 2020. I still remember that thick, murky haze I was in for days after the news of their death. I have never cried over a celebrity’s death, and as much as I grieved the death of a legend, it was Gigi, Alyssa, and Payton whom I mourned the most; thirteen-year-old girls whose unevolved lives were forever cemented in those windy skies that morning.
This year gave way to the most deadly virus in the 21st century and cast a spotlight on police brutality–the most lethal weapon formed against Black bodies. In terms of the virus, failing leadership made the American public privy to the incompetence of those in power and the money thirsty implications of capitalism. We were able to see that America is not united, by any means, and that individualism will always outrank the community’s good.
On a personal level, we all struggled in some way or another. For some, 2020 was an awakening, a kick in the butt to shed stagnation and get moving on goals and dreams. For others, loved ones were lost–both in death and existentially.
Right in the middle of quarantine, when it felt like I was living life outside of myself, my best friend of over a decade chose to end our friendship abruptly. I was blindsided, again, and that was the breaking point for me. I felt betrayed, tossed out like trash, and like I meant nothing.
But what this year didn’t let you do is stay down for long.
That moment was defining, and in a way, unbeknownst to me, my year would begin to turn around. Like a caterpillar, my world was turned upside down, and within my protective casing, I hibernated within my cocoon and took this time alone as I began a radical transformation.
20/20 vision is a term used in the field of optometry to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. Though, having 20/20 vision does not necessarily mean you have perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance.
For anyone who knows me or has had the pleasure of trying on my thick ass glasses, you’ll know that my eyesight is very far from perfect. But this year sharpened my vision and provided me with a level of clarity that will propel me into the new year. I’ve learned so much about myself, my resilience, and the power of my mindset. In a way, despite the mass amounts of pain and suffering, we have all endured this year, the reacquaintance with our passions and our energies have been the glimmer of beauty that 2020 has offered us.
20/20 vision doesn’t mean perfection. It means sharpness or clarity of vision. And for us all, no matter where we stand politically, religiously, etc., this year has offered transparency that we can no longer stay blind to. The eyes of America are open, and our vision has been fine-tuned. How we move forward is a personal endeavor, but now we have the visual capabilities to see life in enhanced resolution.
And speaking of the resolution, I have decided that instead of making a New Year’s resolution that centers around work and professional aspirations, I’d make resolutions that feed my soul and realign me with my playful nature. So my resolutions are simple: learn to dance (rhythmically); as long as Megan Thee Stallion continues releasing music, strengthening my knees is a must. And, I want to learn the piano bridge to DMX’s Ruff Ryders’ anthem while rapping along with the words.
But all in all, I resolve to live: fearless, radically, and without apologies.
We’ll see you in 2021!!!!!
2020 Sports Wrap
By Mike Creef, Senior Writer
Kobe & Gigi’s Death
On January 26, 2020, a mother woke her sleeping husband and child, a monotonous task that mother’s do daily. But this mother, I imagine, prepared a light breakfast, ensured her daughter, Gigi, had her shoes and jersey then kissed both her husband and daughter and wished them good luck. A monotonous task, indeed, and one that Vanessa Bryant would never have the pleasure of doing again.
We should have known the kind of year we’d be in for when we lost one of the most beloved sports figures in the world, Kobe “Bean” Bryant, as well as his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, and seven others, in an untimely helicopter crash.
Gigi, along with her teammates and their parents, were traveling with Kobe to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California for a youth basketball tournament. Their helicopter would crash just before 10 AM PT near Calabasas, California.
A dense fog in the area, confusing their pilot, caused the copter to strike the hillside without warning, killing everyone on impact.
Rumors of the crash began trending on every social media channel.
Then, time stood still as the media confirmed it was Kobe, Gigi, and the others.
We couldn’t have imagined this happening to one of the world’s best NBA players, let alone three promising young talents who never got the chance to actualize their dreams and goals.
It was just too much.
A mother lost her child and her husband on the same day.
Children lost their parents.
The world lost a legend.
The somber blanket that lay over this tragedy is heavy and far-reaching. It created a wound that has scarred a great deal of people, and the world of sports–the world overall–is forever changed.
Athletes and leagues across the globe paid tribute to Kobe and Gigi in the following weeks in a memorial service held at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles, California where Kobe brought home 5 NBA Titles.
Our condolences to the friends and families of:
NBA’s Bubble Season
On March 11, 2020, moments before tip-off between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz basketball teams took to the courts in Chesapeake Energy Arena, officials discovered that an unidentified Jazz player had tested positive for COVID-19.
A voice broke over arena speakers informing anxious fans that the game had been postponed. It was a moment that was foreign to the National Basketball Association (NBA). A COVID storm had disrupted the game.
As the evening progressed, the NBA would suspend future games indefinitely until they could ensure a future path that could guarantee the safety of its players.
Four and a half months later, on July 31, 2020, the NBA resumed play in Orlando, Florida, in The Bubble, reserving hotels at Disney where teams quarantined from the general public.
Players were tested daily for the virus and restricted from leaving the premises. Their family and friends were not permitted visits, until the last two playoff rounds. Many players opened up about the challenges of being inside a quarantine bubble for as long as 90-days.
Overall, the NBA Bubble was a huge success. NBA teams played 172 games and reported zero Covid-19 cases!
Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, deserves incredible praise for pulling off something that many thought would be impossible.
And the best team, the Los Angeles Lakers, won their 17th NBA Championship!
Social Justice Takeover in Sports
On top of dealing with their respective seasons amid a pandemic, athletes across all sports could not hide from the social justice issues highlighted throughout 2020. Players joined in on marches across the country over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, continued to protest during the national anthem’s playing, and wore clothing that brought awareness to different issues.
Nowhere was the courage more on display than with NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace.
Amid pressure from protests around the country, NASCAR decided to ban the confederate flag from its events and properties, a long-overdue move. Less than two weeks after the ban, Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only black driver in its top racing series, wore a shirt with the statement “Black Lives Matter” before a race.
A few days after wearing that shirt, a noose was found in his garage stall at an Alabama race. Wallace appeared on many media outlets leading the charge for NASCAR to “drive real change and champion a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone.” He later signed a multi-year deal to be the first driver for the newly formed race team owned by Michael Jordan, NASCAR’s first black majority owner.
Namoi Osaka sporting a Breonna Taylor mask to raise awareness of this disproportionately of abusive treatment and killings by ill-trained police officers of Black lives. | Photo courtesy of ESPN
Naomi Osaka Emerges in New Role
For 23-year-old Naomi Osaka, 2020 began on a low point but finished on a mountaintop. She suffered a loss to rising-sensation Coco Gauff, who’s only 15, at the Australian Open (Osaka was the defending champion).
Once protests began around the country, Osaka started to speak up on social media as well as in interviews about how “before I am an athlete, I am a black woman.”
After George Floyd’s killing, she threatened to pull out of the Cincinnati Masters during her semi-finals round. The event listened to its top player and decided to postpone its matches. Osaka later withdrew from the finals because of a hamstring injury suffered in her semi-finals win.
She next made headlines by not only her play on the court but what she wore off it. Winning her third Grand Slam (US Open) in front of crowd-less arenas, Osaka wore seven different masks to her seven matches, each with the name of an unarmed black person that was killed by police unjustly.
She wore the masks to “make people start talking”, and that she did. Having those names front and center during her post-game interviews forced people to, at the very least, give thought to the names and possibly even look into their significance.
Social Justice in 2020
By Nehemiah Frank, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
As ill-trained and racists police officers continued placing Black bodies into a permanent sleep, their parents forced to put their Black children’s bodies six-feet-under before having the luxury of seeing their own grandchildren born — Ahmaud Arbery (February 2020) and Breonna Taylor (March 2020), by May 2020, the boiling kettle finally blew its top.
George Floyd’s modern-day public lynching became the final lash on Black America’s raw back; we had had enough.
A video recording of a police officer’s knee on another Black man’s neck, squeezing his life from his body as he screamed for his deceased mother was the trigger that was needed for Americans of every color, creed and economic status to mask-up and hit the streets during a deadly pandemic.
Our banner cry was racial justice for Black America.
And while some of us illegally reclaimed our long-overdue reparations through looting, and casts our 400-years of bottled up anger against commerce through riots, some of us painted bright, colorful street murals with our banner cry: BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Such as the looters received judgment, in some U.S. cities, those who painted the street murals were equally criminalized.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, city officials along with their Mayor, G.T. Bynum, a politician who ran on racial reconciliation, but welcomed Trump to his city amid the pandemic, turned a blind eye as city street workers peeled a Black Lives Matter street mural from the historic Greenwood Avenue in the historic Black Wall Street/Greenwood District. The same district that experienced the worst race massacre against Black lives on American soil and was recently recreated on film in two HBO series: the Watchmen and Lovecraft Country.
Upwards of 300 Black inhabitants were murdered, many of them lynched in broad daylight, our homes and businesses looted, bombed and burned, while our community members watched in horror and were forced into concentration camps during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Black America unquestionably and righteously judged the soul of America in 2020 by pouring into the streets and proclaiming that our Black lives f*cking matter.
This year we remembered that all skin folk ain’t kinfolk. We snatched Candace Owens‘s, T.W. Shannon‘s and Daniel Camron‘s Black cards indefinitely, all while gaining the confidence to tell Becky and her brother Ken to shut TF up and stop calling the police on us.
By November of 2020, we regurgitated the Trump Administration, showing up to the polls to save our Black asses from the abyss of another 4-year of the Donald-christ.
We had had enough of the man who demonized Black Lives Matter marchers as terrorists, further endangering our Black bodies.
We made Biden win in heavily populated Black cities that our southern ancestors had moved to decades ago via the great migration, and we turned an old confederate stronghold Blue.
Hence, it was Black votes that ushered in the Biden-Harris Presidency, a new administration that plans to:
- Advance the economic mobility of African Americans and close the racial wealth and income gaps.
- Expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in our education system.
- Make far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race.
- Strengthen America’s commitment to justice.
- Make the right to vote and the right to equal protection real for African Americans.
In 2020, we learned to shut shit down again, as our parents and grandparents did during the ’60s. And we will shut shit TF down again in 2021 if Biden’s Administration doesn’t show TF up for Black America like we showed up for him this past November.
Politics in 2020
By Erika Stone-Burnett, Senior Writer
For Only $200/Month, You Too Can Sponsor an American During Covid19
Ten months into a pandemic that has killed over 330,000 citizens, Congress finally voted to provide Americans with some financial relief. Following a Christmas Day in which millions were set to lose unemployment benefits, our government of mostly-white men and women — all of whom make at least $175,000 as legislators and receive Obamacare as well as taxpayer-funded retirement — agreed to provide Americans with $600 in direct payments. This relief comes six months after the first stimulus of $1200, which was held up because then-President Trump wanted his name and signature on each check.
The deal, presented to Trump in Florida though public health experts warned against traveling during the holidays during a pandemic that has sickened millions of Americans, was previously delayed. Further, the deal was signed so late in December that payments and unemployment benefits extensions will likely face a delay, although the support will be retroactive.
Trump, who engendered unlikely allies when he initially insisted that the American people needed $2000 in direct cash, didn’t comment on the 70% reduction to his original suggestion; this is unsurprising for a man who has likely never grocery shopped in his life.
The stimulus, which also averted a government shutdown, includes a moratorium on evictions, support for nutrition assistance, and an extra $300 per week in federal unemployment insurance, was signed on Sunday evening. Trump announced his decision with his usual mixture of braggadocio and xenophobia. This hallmark has some mental health professionals worried about signs of a mood disorder: “As President of the United States it is my responsibility to protect the people of our country from the economic devastation and hardship that was caused by the China virus,” he stated.
Biden Won, Now What?
On the evening of November 3rd, Trump was ahead in exit polls, as Americans risked their lives and health to vote in person. Millions of people prepared for another four years of anti-black legislation, economic destruction for working people, xenophobia, brown children in cages, limiting women’s rights, and restrictions on LGBTQ+ communities, among other inhumane policies.
However, after railing against “mail-in ballots” for weeks, support for Biden trickled in, empowered by a nominee who wasn’t afraid to count every vote. In the end, Biden won a decided victory — one that was confirmed in court multiple times as republicans tried desperately to use the judicial branch of government to subvert democracy. Black citizens, finally emboldened by the power of their voices at the polls, exhaled in relief. But what’s in store for 2021?
Biden, the original author of the 1986 Crime Bill that targeted individuals and communities of color, has expressed a modicum of regret for supporting anti-black legislation earlier in his career. For his running mate, he chose Kamala Desi Harris, now the first Black Vice President, the first woman Vice President, and the first Black woman Vice President. Biden has made good on his promise to include Black women in his cabinet and as his advisors, including Linda Thomas-Greenwood as the Ambassador to the United Nations, Danielle Conley as Deputy Presidential counsel, and Elizabeth Wilkins as Senior Advisor to the White House Chief of Staff.
However, Biden faces challenges in his plans to support Black communities. The Georgia runoff Senate election on January 5th, which pits Reverend Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev Dr. MLK Jr’s spiritual home, and Jon Ossoff against Kelly Loeffler and Tom Perdue, respectively. That election will decide the fate of Congress. If Rev Warnock and Mr. Ossoff win, Biden will have a chance to implement his plans with a democratic legislative branch’s support. If not, equity for Black citizens will continue at the hands of republican Mitch McConnell, known as “an accomplice in refusing racial progress in this nation.“
Lost Legends in 2020
By Nehemiah Frank, Autumn Brown, Mike Creef, & Erika Stone-Burnett
Chadwick Boseman (1976-2020)
Chadwick Boseman will forever be remembered as Black America’s African King — T’Challa. As a displaced African people, it’s been a long time coming and was badly needed. T’Challa was the only African King we knew, even if he was a fictional character.
It’s why we mourned his death so hard.
A kid mourns the loss of his superhero, Black Panther, while making the Wakanda forever sign.
Boseman gave us a version of ourselves we had trouble seeing. His familiar swag on camera reminded us of what we had been robbed of since 1619 — our Black Authencity.
The fear of African spirituality, demonized by centuries of western propaganda through Hollyhood and the public school system was instantly eradicated in a Marvel film that shattered box office records and unleashed something within our Black collective spirits.
We remembered that WE are shit! We wore African attire to his coronation at movie theaters across the country. Boseman and Ryan Coolger thanked us, by allowing our children to see their collective team’s movie free of charge.
Boseman’s acting brilliance reminded us that our ancestors are still among us, rooting us on. And gave us the pride of reclaiming Africa as our true home. His mastery of film birth by a willingness to allow the ancestors to tap into his soul and retell our Black stories: as Jackie Robinson in “42”, as Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall”, and as James Brown in “Get on Up.”
We are forever inspired and empowered by Boseman’s young, gifted, and Blackness.
We will miss you, dear brother, as you now walk with Robinson, Marshall, Brown, and the African Kings from antiquity who fathered you into existence and shaped the path for you to make your flame bright for us all to admire.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933- 2020)
In September 2020, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, leaving a reliably-liberal hole in the Supreme Court, as well as in the hearts of feminists seemingly everywhere. After all, Ms. Ginsburg was a founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, which fought for legal protections for women. But she didn’t represent all feminism, nor all women.
While RBG empowered working women, supporting policies that eventually trickled down to help Black women, her focus was on equality between the sexes, not racism or reparations. The woman, known as the Notorious RBG, rarely hired Black laws clerks to work for her, and initially thought Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racist police brutality was disrespectful.
Scholars and historians admit RBG rarely considered race as a working member of the judicial branch of government. In her private life, she did not often discuss her Judaism nor her experiences as a first-generation American, two aspects of her identity that could have shared some similarities with BIPOC. While simply confirming that her Ashkenazi ethnicity was part of her life, RBG examined equity within legal protections and discrimination based on sex and gender.
However, as laws are enforced inequitably, unfairly targeting Black neighborhoods and people, RBG’s legacy does prove some support for Black communities. In fact, the moniker Notorious RBG stemmed from her dissent against striking down portions of the Voter Rights Act, which she likened to politicians banning umbrellas because they themselves aren’t getting wet.
RBG was quickly replaced on the Supreme Court by Amy Coney Barrett, a woman with two adopted Black children, who believes that “racism persists,” but does not acknowledge SCOTUS’ role in addressing racist policies. Ms. Barrett believes that legislators should tackle racism, not judges.
We remembered that WE are shit! We wore African attire to his coronation at movie theaters across the country. Boseman and Ryan Coolger thanked us, by allowing our children to see their collective team’s movie free of charge.
John Lewis (1940-2020)
There is no comparing John Lewis to any other human being on the planet. Placing his life’s work into a category simply can’t be done. He was merely God’s servant who spent his journey bending the arc of justice towards righteousness.
When Lewis spoke, conviction poured from his tongue and forged a path towards racial reconciliation and restorative justice in a nation that punished him physically, beating him and throwing him into jail multiple times throughout his life.
Lewis marched as an equal to giants, standing at the foothills of the mountain with Dr. Martin Luther King. Lewis, too, delivered speeches that planted seeds for our freedom to cast a ballot without the fear of being lynched.
His battle scars on the Edmund Pettus Bridge gave us the power of the vote.
We Will Never Forget The Grace, Compassion, and Forgiveness taught through Lewis’s work!
Little Richard (1932 – 2020)
It’s not often someone gets dubbed “The Innovator”, “The Originator”, and “The Architect of Rock and Roll”.
Yet these were all nicknames that were given to Richard Wayne Penniman, famously known as Little Richard.
His most popular work produced in the ‘50s where his unique raspy vocals, upbeat piano playing, and uptempo music helped shape rock and roll as well as rhythm and blues for generations.
Richard is credited as one of the first Black artists to reach audiences of all races.
At a time when some were still fighting to keep segregation alive, Richard’s fans consisted of both White and Black Americans.
His famous admirer, Elvis Presley, recorded covers of Richard’s songs and even told him that he was the greatest inspiration of his career.
It’s clear Little Richard was someone who was a connector of people and could cross boundaries others could not.
In 1986, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s First-Class as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
His most popular hit “Tutti Frutti” was entered in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry for his role in ushering a new era of music as well as helping bridge the racial divide on the music charts.
Mental Health in 2020
By Deon Osborne, Staff Writer
Before 2020, the collective mental health of our country was nothing to celebrate. Our suicide rate was beginning to decline after a twenty-year hike, and depression among teens was rising.
Fortunately, people and communities across the nation were making moves to address it. The Black Wall Street Times even reported on a group of Black men who created a mental health app.
But no one could have been prepared for a pandemic that would cause a nationwide shutdown for months. Depression among adults skyrocketed, and the school lockdowns had an even more severe impact on our already fragile youth.
Worse still, countless episodes of violent racism and police brutality culminated in the viral murder of George Floyd, an immortalized martyr. His death sparked the largest, most prolonged acts of civil disobedience in the nation’s history.
An image of unbearable trauma became a symbol for unbreakable strength as communities pushed for diverting police funds to other services, including mental health.
And as individuals with mental health challenges continued to die at the hands of police, as the family of Bennie Edwards experienced in OKC, cities across the nation have increasingly adopted crisis response teams for mental health as a therapeutic way to heal their communities.
In 2020, the existential threats of the coronavirus and police violence stood out as two of the most traumatic elements of the year. But the year wasn’t defined by destruction. It was defined by those who dared to keep building.
Education in 2020
By Nehemiah Frank, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
There is nothing positive to say about how America’s public educational system handled learning in 2020. It failed horribly and negatively impacted our Black kids’ academic progress as it has done year after year since Brown v Board of Education (1954).
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, we already knew how bad public education has treated majority-Black attended schools.
The vast inequity, underfunding, and culturally incompetent teachers who don’t live in our neighborhoods were there before the COVID storm arrived, and if we don’t change funding models, like property taxes and implement educational justice for Black children, our kids will continue suffering.
40% of Black businesses shuttered since the pandemic arrived on our shores, resulting in mandatory closures in an effort to mitigate the spread of a virus that disproportionately affects Black families.
Many of us experienced high unemployment, struggled to keep food on the table, debated over which bills to pay and which ones to laps, all while supervising our children’s learning and discovering how ill some of these teachers’ talk to our children.
We begged for high-speed internet for our children while they received low-grade computers. Some of our children were forced to attend remote learning on their cell phones.
So how do we change that narrative in 2021?
First, we have to take the political polarization out of the conversations where are children should be centered. We need to place the power back into the hands of Black parents and their families and let them decide what’s best for their children and reserve our criticisms.
We have to accept the fact that not every school is a good fit for everyone’s child, be it public, private or charter.
We need to see the positives in accepting parents’ rights to choose, that it means we’re allowing them to have complete autonomy over their families’ futures.
That they are doing what makes sense according to their family values which are to be trusted and respected by those who are observing from the outside.
Year in Financial Review in 2020
By Kevin Matthews, Contributing Writer
Just a few days into 2020, I walked into the radio station WHCR 90.3 FM in New York City and gave the listeners 5 stocks that I thought would do well for the year. At that point in time, no one could have predicted that in less than 90 days the entire world would be shut down due to a global pandemic, followed by a recession, massive unemployment, and more than 17 million deaths worldwide. What was even less predictable was the fact that the stock market would then rebound to record highs multiple times less than 9 months later.
As a nation, we had gone nearly 11 years from June 2009 without so much as a hiccup for the economy. For those who were investing since the Great Recession in December 2007, you would have seen a gain of more than 150% in the S&P 500 through December 2020. (The S&P 500 comprises the United States’ 500 largest companies like Tesla, Amazon, and Google.)
While the coronavirus vaccine is being distributed there are still many unknown factors for 2021 including a new presidential administration and life after the virus. To understand some of the factors that may lie ahead in the financial markets, let us take a moment to reflect on some of what happened in 2020 and how this may impact the financial world in the New Year.
What happened in 2020?
The Restaurant and Travel Industry were Crushed
For obvious health reasons, state and local governments shut down to promote social distancing protocols. That had a very large impact on businesses in the restaurant and travel space. Airline stocks like Southwest (SWA) and Delta (DAL) fell dramatically along with hotel stocks like Marriot (MAR). At the top of 2020 Marriot was trading at $151 per share by April it was below $60.
The Federal Reserve Cut Interest Rates
In response to the pandemic, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to help spur lending to businesses and gave lower rates to consumers with debt allowing for cheaper mortgages and an easier route to pay off credit cards. This measure was also used in 2008 and generally helps to boost the economy and the stock market. This was one reason why the market recovered so quickly this year but it also hurt savers as savings rates at many banks dropped significantly through 2020 and will likely remain that way for the next few years.
Retail Investors Flooded the Stock Market
With lower interest rates and student loan payments suspended, millions of first-time investors flooded the stock market with enthusiasm. With investing apps like Robinhood, investors piled into companies like Tesla, up nearly 700% for the year, and drugmaker Moderna up more than 560%. Investors were also burned by companies like Kodak, AMC, and Hertz all of which experienced financial woes due to the pandemic.
Steaming Services Took Off
With movie theaters shuttered in many parts of the country, stocks like Netflix (NFLX) and Disney (DIS) were up significantly, cashing-in by releasing captivating content to audiences clamoring for something to keep them busy while at home.
What is expected for 2021?
The big question for 2021 is this: How much of what we experienced in 2020 will stay the same? One of the biggest drivers for the stock market was how we as a country shifted to a work-from-home and delivery culture. It is one of the biggest drivers as to why a company like Zoom (ZM) had done so well, up more than 450% in 2020. But will Zoom and other video conferencing services continue to do well when the world begins traveling again? The food delivery company, DoorDash which went public in November saw a record number of consumers in 2020. Their financial fate likely hinges on people preferring to stay at home versus going into restaurants post-pandemic. Will companies like AMC survive if Disney and Warner Brothers continue to release their movies via streaming and not exclusively to theaters?
With a new administration, we can expect a bigger focus on clean energy and a much more stable international landscape with fewer trade wars, tariffs, and the vaccine. This is leading some to believe that companies in the electric vehicle and cannabis space along with travel and hospitality stocks will see the highest gains.
While those areas may seem profitable now, it is not guaranteed with the Senate still up for grabs because of Georgia’s two run off seats still open. Most investors would do well by staying put with solid index funds like Vanguard’s Total U.S. Stock Market (VTI) fund which essentially owns the entire U.S. stock market putting the investor in a good position to grow their wealth over the long term.