2018: The Burton Wire’s Top News Stories

By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D

1. Legends Lost

The world lost major influencers, legends, trailblazers and icons during 2018. Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin went to glory this year after losing a battle with pancreatic cancer. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and former wife of the late South African president Nelson Mandela, passed away in April. Model and actress Kim Porter succumbed to the flu, passing away in November and leaving behind four children. Joseph Jackson, the man who helped create two of the world’s most beloved superstars Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson died of pancreatic cancer. Jazz legend Nancy Wilson passed away this year as did Broadway actress Ethel Ayler, beloved actor Reg E. Cathey, Temptations singer Dennis Edwards, gospel singer Yvonne Staples and global icon Hugh Masekela. Rappers Craig Mack and Jabulani Tsambo, Hip-Hop pioneer DJ Lovebug Starski and rising stars XXXtentacion and Linda ‘ProKid’ Mkhizealso left us in 2018. Science trailblazer Raye Montague and Olivia Hooker, one of the last survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riots and among the first black women in the U.S. Coast Guard died. Tuskegee Airman Floyd J. Carter, Sr. transitioned while Internet sensation Young Busco died just hours after his last post at age 31. The media world lost legends Lerone Bennett, Jr., Les Payne and Ray Taliaferro while the arts world lost actress Olivia Cole, choreographer Arthur Mitchell, poet Ntozake Shange and The Last Poets’ Jalal Mansur Nuriddin. Civil Rights lions Dorothy Cotton, Vel Phillips, Linda Brown, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, Reverend Wyatt T. Walker, Zola Skweyiya and Frankie Muse Freeman passed away this year. The sports world lost Jose Castillo, Luis Valbuena, Willie “Stretch” McCovey, Wayde Sims, Ray Emery, Hal Greer, Ed Charles, Edwin Jackson, Rasual Butler, Oscar Gamble, Chameka Scott, Cyrille Regis, Nicholas Bett, Jlloyd,JoJo White. South African legends (politics) Sandy Mokwena (actor), David Phetoe (actor) and Edna Molewa (politics) also died. Miss Universe and Miss USA 1995 Chelsi Smith of liver cancer at age 45.

2. #BlackGirlMagic Happens in U.S. Politics

Ayanna Pressley became the first Black woman elected to Congress in Massachusetts. Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum became the first Black nominees for governor of Georgia and Florida. Both lost to voter suppression tactics by the GOP. For example, Abrams opponent Brian Kemp refused to step down from the office of Secretary of State even though it was his office which oversaw the Gubernatorial election. Lucy McBath, gun control activist and mother of slain teenager Jordan Davis, won her 6th Congressional district election, occupying a seat once held by Republican Newt Gingrich and handing GOP favorite Karen Handel a sound defeat. More than 70 black women ran for office in the state of Alabama. In Illinois, 31-year-old Democrat Lauren Underwood won in a predominantly white and solidly Republican district, becoming one of the youngest black candidates elected to Congress. Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar won her race, becoming America’s first Somali-American woman in Congress. Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, became one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year, won her race, becoming the first black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. California Senator Kamala Harris helped usher in the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, which passed unanimously in December making lynching a federal crime. The act was introduced by the chamber’s three African-American senators: California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott.

3. Ethiopia and Eritrea Sign ‘Declaration of Peace and Friendship’

Ethiopia and Eritrea have declared their “state of war” over after landmark talks between the neighbouring countries’ leaders, as part of a historic agreement that will see the opening of embassies, development of ports and resumption of flights. The rapprochement ends a decades-long cold war over border disputes that hurt both countries. Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel, quoting from a “Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship,” said at the time of the announcent, “a new era of peace and friendship has been ushered (in).” The “state of war that existed between the two countries has come to an end”, he wrote on Twitter.”

4. The Diaspora is Winning the War on Stereotypes One News Story at a Time

Following China’s ban on ivory last year, ivory demand has dropped by almost half, and poaching rates are falling in places like Kenya. Niger revealed that it has planted 200 million new trees in three decades, the largest positive transformation of the environment in African history. In the forests of central Africa, the population of mountain gorillas, one of the world’s most endangered species, was reported to have increased by 25% since 2010, to over 1,000. Rwanda became the first developing nation to provide universal eye care to all of its citizens, by training 3,000 nurses in over 500 health clinics. Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate trachoma. In 2000, it threatened 2.8 million people (15% of the population) with blindness. New research revealed that in the last two decades, female genital mutilation has fallen from 57.7% to 14.1% in north Africa, from 73.6% to 25.4% in west Africa, and from 71.4% to 8% in east Africa. Morocco passed a landmark law that criminalizes violence against women, and imposes harsh penalties on perpetrators. Trinidad and Tobago’s high court ruled that the Caribbean nation’s colonial-era law banning gay sex was unconstitutional. The share of black men in poverty in the United States fell from 41% in 1960 to 18% today, and their share in the middle class rose from 38% to 57% in the same time.

5. 911 Calls on Black People Living While Black in the U.S.

Black people in the United States had the police called on them for studying in a university while black, returning to their home while black, mowing the lawn while black, cashing a paycheck at a bank while black, golfing too slowly while black, eating at Subway while black, meeting at Starbucks while black and selling water while black among many other ridiculous incidents. Emboldened by white nationalism and white supremacy embraced and endorsed by the current White House, hate crimes and hateful crimes targeting black folks of all ages are on the rise. For example, Teresa Klein, a white woman lied on a 9-year-old black boy about groping her — a claim that was proven false. In Dallas, Botham Shem Jean was killed in his apartment by Amber Guygera, a neighbor who is also a police officer. Guygera was eventually charged with murder. Racial profiling is not new but black folks putting folks on blast via social media and getting some form of justice is relatively new.

This post was written by The Burton Wire’s founder & editor-in-chief Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

This article originally appeared in The Burton Wire

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