As we mark the first days of the new year and the beginning of another decade, African Americans can point to the past 10 years as an epoch of progress. Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, was elected for a second term in office while new forms of activism utilized social media to launch new social justice initiatives like Black Lives Matter.
Of course, we similarly witnessed a wave of resentment and related examples of backlash from those opposed to justice for all with the election of President Donald Trump whose campaign promise, “Make America Great Again,” bore all of the signs of a nation unwilling to abandon its centuries-old legacy of white supremacy.
For those living in the District, 2019 will go down as the year when the D.C. swing, go-go music, was finally given the recognition that it has long deserved. It will also go down in history as the year when several local sports teams, first the Mystics and a few weeks later the Nationals, emerged as champions in their respective leagues and brought home the gold.
With the Nats capturing their first World Series title after decades of disappointment, the comeback kids served as a perfect example of why you should never give up, no matter what the odds you may face or the obstacles standing in your way.
Meanwhile, for those who, like me, have a peculiar attraction and insatiable predilection for all things political, we didn’t need to focus on the shenanigans emanating from the White House. But needless to say, with Trump being impeached and becoming only the third U.S. President in history to be sanctioned in said manner and a divided U.S. Senate who must still determine the final outcome for #45, 2020 has the makings of becoming another year to remember.
Yielding to the temptation for blunders, buffoonery, braggadocio and questionable business deals resulted in the resignation of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh with indiscretions from their pasts brought to light and nearly upending the political careers of two of Virginia’s rising stars, Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and the tenuous future for D.C. Council member Jack Evans after his colleagues voted unanimously for his expulsion in the wake of repeated ethics violations.
Turning the spotlight back to all things D.C., efforts led by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton to secure statehood for the residents of the District while notable, continued to be stymied by dominant voices on the Hill and other power brokers similarly opposed. In addition, those in the DMV also suffered through more Metro shutdowns and miscues in a region where rush hour never seems to end and where the obvious lack of affordable housing, particularly in D.C. — a manifestation of ongoing gentrification — has forced more Blacks to leave the place once fondly referred to as Chocolate City for parts unknown.
Despite the efforts of Mayor Bowser and several creative, new initiatives, the District, in many troubling ways, bears disheartening similarities to the challenges faced by the cities of London and Paris as delineated in the Charles Dickens classic, “A Tale of Two Cities.”
However, for D.C., the “cities” in question are actually communities — wards where their location west or east of the river tends to define the opportunities and pathways that residents can expect — or lack thereof.
Perhaps as we enter the new decade, the new age “Roaring Twenties,” Americans will finally recognize the urgency of slowing the powerful locomotive that is global warming, refuse to allow the mayhem that comes with mass shootings and our obsession for possessing guns to the detriment of public safety and demand the halt of policies and practices that have allowed the heinous surge of white nationalism and the frequency of other incidents of domestic terrorism against people of color.
Meanwhile, we still do not know what the future holds for immigrants caught in a vicious game of intolerance. Nor do we know if the U.S. Supreme Court will honor the separation of power as conceived by the Founding Fathers with several cases scheduled later this year including the future of abortion, or if they will instead follow lockstep with the President as if they owe their allegiance to him and not to the Constitution.
One thing for certain, as Trump seems to have few concerns, at least publicly, about the whole impeachment process, it might be wise for Americans, Blacks in particular, to keep our sights on the upcoming elections next fall and make sure we show up in numbers not even seen when Barack Obama was elected as the nation’s first Black president.
And while I’m an avid supporter of picket lines, protests and powwows, if we really want to see real and lasting change, Black Americans must claim their seats at the tables where decisions are made. There’s nothing wrong with being in the spotlight, having your words retweeted or being among those whose actions are surging on at the top of today’s newsfeeds.
Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines. Now is the time to stand up for someone and for something.