Much like 1968, 2020 is a year that will be examined deeply and repeatedly because of its tectonic shifts in world politics, public health, democracy and mass protests against racial injustice.
But 2020 is unique in the sense that the nation was forced to reckon with its original sins while in the throes of a global pandemic.
It was the year of coronavirus– which struck in the early winter and continues to have a stronghold on the nation thanks to a blindsiding surge in late fall. COVID-19 preys on those at greater health risks and most economically compelled to work in public, and often without sufficient protection.
As with most public health crises, Black, Brown and Native American people are disproportionately affected. And with this pandemic we’ve seen the greatest loss among older segments of the population all over the world. The greatest loss of life has been in the U.S. – and shamefully it continues under the reprehensible leadership of Donald Trump.
We’ve suffered gravely under Trump and the Republicans who assist his despotism. African Americans are three times more likely to get coronavirus than white Americans and close to 45% of Black businesses are no longer solvent today due to the economic slowdown caused by this global health crisis.
The pandemic of U.S. racism was recognized in tandem with an unprecedented global public health crisis. The entire world reacted after seeing George Floyd strangled to death by the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white cop in Minneapolis. The revealing video was bravely shot and shared from the cell phone of 17-year-old Darnella Frazier.
Millions of people also took to the streets to protest in the name of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the continued killings of people of color by law enforcement.
The unrest in response to police violence against Black people also gave birth to a cultural revolution the likes of which many activists never envisioned. It harkened to the days of the Ferguson and Occupy Wall Street uprisings – echoing within the actions was a pristine clarity of our country’s desperate need for tangible change and for alliances to be built which could ensure it. A culturally, socioeconomically and ethnically diverse army of allies stood on the frontlines with a call to action. They stood on behalf of those repeatedly pushed to the margins, people of color, women and children of color, people with varying physical and mental health abilities and challenges.
There was also a demand for inclusion and diversity within the political machine. The call for a Black woman president or vice president was answered with former Vice President and democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s decision to select former Attorney General of the state of California and California Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate. Their ticket won the presidential election in November. Harris will become the first Black woman to serve as vice president of the United States of America upon her swearing in next month.
That energy was reverberated with the mantra from the Black Women’s March and Rally held in St. Louis a few days before the primary elections in August. The event was organized by Julia Davis to support Kimberly Gardner and Tishaura Jones. Both women were – and continue to be –under constant attack by Republican elected officials, mainstream media, and those Black folks who do their bidding. The mantra: “I am my sister’s keeper, I am my brother’s keeper,” was chanted at the rally because Gardner’s job was being threatened personally by President Donald Trump after she charged Mark and Patricia McCloskey for brandishing weapons against protesters over the summer.
We must protect our Black elected officials when they are doing their job and are committed to serving the people. We must stand up for them, and also respectfully let them know when we disagree. The St. Louis American is dedicated to continuing to provide a strong platform for discussion in the community, providing access for our leaders, our organizations and individuals, who have something to say in our pages and through our digital platforms. We seek to reflect our communities’ concerns, to stimulate and make us aware of our potential when we work together for our shared purposes. We will continue to maximize our resources to increase opportunities for African Americans and save Black lives.
There have been some declarative changes this year. Individuals and groups outside our communities, who were shocked by horrific racist state violence, and the vice grip systemic racism has on the U.S. chose not to be complicit with it. They proved their resentment for white supremacy touted by the president by turning out in unprecedented numbers to cast their votes in November against him.
In our region, people came together across diverse backgrounds and mounted a tidal wave of support to re-elect Gardner and Tishaura P. Jones. That movement peaked with the dramatic election of Cori Bush as the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress.
A pastor and registered nurse, Bush’s name and reputation grew with each battle as she remained committed as an activist on the ground in St. Louis from the frontlines of Ferguson and the Stockley verdict protests.
Bush’s return to the streets to protest the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor thrust her to the forefront as she made her second run for Congress against the Clay political dynasty in the 1st Congressional District of Missouri.
For over two decades, William Lacy Clay represented a more than 50-percent Black district, as had his father William “Bill” Clay, who served in Congress for 32 years – and made history as the first Black man to hold the office. Bush’s race and rematch against Lacy Clay, a titan of Black political power in St. Louis, and a commanding presence in Washington, D.C., amounted to a watershed moment in Black St. Louis political history.
With her determination to serve and fight for justice, she has landed a heavyweight appointment to the House Judiciary Committee.
The region – and the nation –will be watching Bush’s every move. We must gather around her and support her as a community while she learns the best ways to maneuver and legislate to protect and bolster Black and Brown lives, and the lives of all people, when she begins her history-making Congressional tenure on Jan. 20.
Mayor Krewson’s decision not to run for re-election, leaves the door open for the already announced candidates St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, Alderman Cara Spencer of the 20th Ward and others to compete to replace her.
We are optimistic as we prepare for a new political landscape in 2021, but we will enter the new year as a nation still stifled by COVID-19. As we move on into the new year, let us remember Jazmond Dixon. Dixon, a Black woman, was the first documented COVID-19 fatality within the St. Louis region.
Let us also remember all of the lives lost before and after her due to this deadly virus – and honor the medical professionals, first responders and other essential workers who have bravely put their lives on the line to serve and protect others as the deadly coronavirus continues to rage on.