2016, a year of celebrity deaths, protests, a horrible election outcome, Olympic history, and unapologetically black movements, films, television, and albums. Let’s a take a look back!
The Bad…let’s start and end this one real quick.
He who shall not be named
He didn’t win the popular vote but enough Americans voted for him and that’s an issue! It did however open some of America’s most ignorant and blind to the rooted racism, xenophobia, and sexism in the USA. If Hillary would have won, the same mindset would continue to prevail.
The Obama’s Leaving
So much progress and achievement from Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and their family. The Obama’s showed how poised and mature they were in a firestorm of racism and ignorance. Obama ended the 2008 recession, provided affordable health care, lowered gas prices, brought diversity in ethnicity and gender identity to the White House, all with no personal scandals. Michelle Obama was one of the most influential first ladies to step foot in the White House. Her may initiatives towards food reform and education caused many to wonder if she would run for president in 2020 (she denied and I don’t blame her). It’ll be hard to see them and their legacy leave the White House.
Police Killings and Mass Shootings
2016 brought more murders at the hand of the people who are supposed to protect us. Philando Castille,Korryn Gaines, Alton Sterling, Keith Scott, Janet Wilson were some of the high profiled cases along with the many who were not reported in the media. 2016 also brought no charges to the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.
The Pulse Nightclub Shooting
The mass shooting at Pulse Night Club, a gay bar in Orlando, FL, took the lives of 49 innocent people. This and countless killings of LGBTQ individuals in the country showed the pervasive homophobia that is still widely ignored.
The Birth of a Nation and Rape Culture
I, like many, was excited for the film adaption of America’s controversial figure, Nat Turner. The directorial debut from Nate Parker was about the famous slave revolt led by Turner in Southampton County, VA. There was early praise and accomplishments attached to the film; it was the highest selling film to date at Sundance. Then, a past rape case involving a fellow female student, Nate Parker and friend Jean Celestin, who was also a writer on the film, resurfaced. Parker was acquitted while Celestin was convicted and then the case was later overturned.
The whole situation opened the gateway to continued lack of empathy for women and rape victims, a dialogue of possible racism, and a moral tug of war in supporting the film. Some felt as though there was a witch hunt against Parker because of the topic of his film. Tons of black people suddenly sided with the very broken justice system when it came to Parker’s “acquittal”. Of course, compared to other controversies surrounding white filmmakers, the backlash was stronger. Case in point, Casey Affleck continued to receive praise towards his film, Manchester by the Sea while having multiple sexual assault and harassment accusations against him. Parker didn’t help the situation by giving a roller coaster response to the incident; one minute he was apologetic, the next he didn’t understand what was going on. One of the only organizations to show the film love was the The NAACP Image Awards.
I’m just gonna leave this photo collage here. Listening to Purple Rain, Dear Mama and watching Martin won’t be the same.
Phew! That was a bad rewind…Now
The Side Eyes of 2016
The halt of the Dakota Access Pipeline
The protest against the North Dakota oil pipeline, demonstrated how unifying together to protect humans and nature can go a long way. Thousands of indigenous people of America along with people of different ethnicities banded together to protest a greedy initiative that could potentially poison the water of many. The protectors were met with dog attacks, mace, and freezing water while demonstrating peacefully. In early December, the Obama administration halted plans for future construction. Time will tell whether the pipeline will continue especially under a new bigoted administration.
Possible Solution to the Flint Water Crisis
The unfortunate Flint Water crisis has made national news for the past few years. To save money, Flint officials made an unethical and dire decision to switch its water source from the Detroit Water Department to the untreated water of the Flint River. This resulted in a high level of lead in the water which caused death and sickness amongst the Flint community. On December 8th, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act passed Congress with $170 million for Flint. Hopefully, it resolves the situation and the rest of the world does not forget about Flint and the other cities affected by pollution.
Ok, I want to end on a positive note
The GOOD of 2016
With devastation came tons of amazing and unapologetic black work from artist, filmmakers, writers, politicians and athletes.
Colin Kapernick and multiple WNBA players used their platform to stand against racism in 2016. In true American fashion, a barrage of insults, threats, and “protest at another time” comments followed the events. Kapernick also held multiple events including the, “Know Your Rights” camp for underprivileged youth. He was not alone in 2016; many NFL players, high school players, and other athletes kneeled in support of the movement.
The 2016 RIO Games
The 2016 Summer Olympics brought the world the first competing refugee team, the first woman to compete wearing a Hijab (Ibtihaj Muhammad), and the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event (Simone Manuel). Gymnast, Simone Biles showed up and showed out winning four gold medals and one bronze. Usain Bolt continued as the reigning gold medalist in the men’s track and field races, the US Women’s 4×100 defended their Olympic Gold title, and Michelle Carter became the first American Women to win gold in the shot put.
Unapologetic Music and Legendary Releases
Artist who have relatively been on hush mode about social justice let it loose in 2016. America’s favorite R&B/Pop Queen Bee decided to make a statement with her liberating project, Lemonade. She collaborated with talented artist and filmmakers to bring forth a project that celebrated Yoruba culture, paid homage to police shooting victims, and uplifted black people specifically black women. Let’s not forget her amazing super bowl homage to the Black Panther Movement.
Solange dropped her third release, A Seat at the Table, with stunning visuals and performances to follow. The project represented her creativity, vocals, and her unique sense of style. 2016 also brought us the highly anticipated release from Frank Ocean and albums from hip hop legends, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Vic Mensa, J Cole, Abdu Ali, Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, Princess Nokia, Anderson Paak, Kaytranada, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino all released stellar projects as well.
Film and Television
There were so many great television debuts this year. Donald Glover’s, Atlanta, took a unique and sometimes bizarre look at the music scene in Atlanta, Marc Lamont Hill debuted his talk show on VH1, and Luke Cage brought enough soul to fill the entire Marvel Universe. Issa Rae’s Insecure gave black millennials so much life; between the humor, the music and the realistic code switching, Insecure brought it every Sunday.
Queen Sugar brought such great talent and diverse characters. It shined a rare light on activism, farming while black, and mental illness in the black community.
We can’t forget about one of the saddest losses in television history, Poussey Washington! I never cried that hard for a fictional character in my life. The entire time I thought “why her!”. After reading that Poussey’s death symbolized the high profile police fatalities in recent times, I thought differently. The way fans felt about a fictional character’s death is the same way families around the world feel with their own loss but quadruple the emotion. We also lost Glenn and Abraham in a gruesome season 7 opening of The Walking Dead. RIP to them all.
Diverse Representation in Cinema
Along with great television came more diverse stories from talented writers and directors. Moonlight continues to gain praise throughout the award season for its dark but uplifting story of a young black male struggling with his identity. The film introduced some very talented new actors (hey Trevante 😉 ) and proved that our stories can be presented with quality and artistry.
Hidden Figures reveals one of America’s best kept secrets, unheard and unseen in cinema; black women contributing to the field of science and math. Fences, Queen of Katwe, and the 13th also showcased diversity and will continue to make waves in 2017.
Politics and Activism
Not everything related to politics was a circus act. Many black and brown men and women were elected as mayors, senators, and representatives. 21 year old Jewell Jones was elected as the youngest state representative ever in Michigan, Michael Tubbs became Stockton, California’s first black mayor and youngest at only 26 years old, and Kamalah Harris became California’s new Democratic senator-elect, and only the second African American woman to be elected to the Senate.
Here’s a glass for your white tears
It’s so refreshing when black folks not only stand up for their people but do it unapologetically. No “all lives matter” bs, no “all cops aren’t bad” bs, and no “can we all get along” bs. Jesse Williams did just that at the 2016 BET Awards when he accepted his Humanitarian Award. He thanked black women, organizers, and got right to the point about Americas racist actions against African Americans.
Taylor Amari Little perfectly summarized what most “woke” black people have known or deal with in regards to the colonization of black culture. Her presentation entitled, “white people stay colonizing” took a historical look at American “slang” and “dance crazes” rooted in black culture. This goes for music, fashion, and hairstyles as well. Little also started “The Temple Project” which services the homeless in Detroit and “Queer Ummah” an organization for queer Muslims.
Ericka Hart represented so much in 2016. After being diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Hart realized there was little visibility and knowledge of black queer women with regards to the disease. She wanted to show that she was no victim and felt just as sexy as anyone else. Her photos from Afro Punk 2016 were liberating and inspiring.
Oh yeah, one last thing!
The creation of Neon Fade. I started this blog in the summer of 2016 and I hope to continue to bring unapologetic, fun, and informative articles in 2017. Thank you to everyone who has contributed, liked, or followed NeonFade!
Here’s to a great 2017!