2020: The Year in Review
Notable happenings and events of one of the most consequential years in history
Councilman Jack Evans Resigns
Longtime D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans resigned from his Ward 2 amidst allegations that he used his political power for financial gain. Two attorneys from O’Melveny & Myers presented a report to the council which cited Evans for more than a dozen ethics violations within the last five years that included failing to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in outside income. Evans also served on the Metro board of directors and became one of the most passionate transit advocates in the D.C. region. He stressed how the federal government needed to provide more financial support to the transit agency. Evans, the longest-serving elected official in the city’s history, served his last day for the ward on Jan. 17. He sought re-election in the June 2 primary but voters did not support his effort. Political newcomer Brooke Pinto won November’s general election to represent the ward.
‘Dean of Senators’ Laid to Rest
Gentle. Firm. Infectious smile. Racquetball phenom. Those are just a few words family, friends and former colleagues used to describe Maryland state Sen. Ulysses Currie on Jan. 11 during his funeral attended by hundreds at Allen Chapel AME Church in Southeast. Currie, 82, worked nearly 30 years in the Prince George’s County public school system as a teacher, principal and supervisor of the county’s Head Start program. He garnered the title “Dean of Senators” in recognition of his decades of service as a state lawmaker. Currie, who died Dec. 27 at his home in Forestville, made education his primary focus, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees and pursuing doctoral studies in early childhood development at the University of Maryland in College Park. During one of his final votes in 2018, legislators chose to rename the state’s Head Start program the “Ulysses Currie Head Start Program.”
Impeachment Trial of Trump Begins
Member of the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, delivered two articles of impeachment against Republican President Donald Trump to the Senate on Jan. 15. A month earlier, the House passed a resolution to remove Trump from office with allegations that he abused his power leading to obstruction of Congress. After the House delivered the resolution to impeach Trump, the Senate held a trial that included no witnesses. With a Republican majority, the Senate acquitted Trump on Feb. 5. It marked just the third impeachment trial of a president in U.S. history.
Kobe Bryant Dies in Helicopter Crash
Kobe Bryant, a future NBA Hall of Famer who retired from professional basketball in April 2016, died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in California. Bryant, 42, was killed along with eight others including his daughter, Gianna, while traveling to the Mamba Academy for Gianna’s basketball practice and game in Thousand Oaks. In February, Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, sued the estate of the deceased pilot, Ara Zobayan, and Island Express for allowing the pilot to fly in unsafe conditions. The Los Angeles Times reported in June the National Transportation Safety Board released text messages, emails and other correspondence documenting the flight. Bryant played 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers where he won five championships. He was also an 18-time NBA All-Star, a member of the All-NBA team 15 times and chosen as the NBA’s most valuable player in 2008.
Kweisi Mfume Returns to Congress
Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume won a special primary election Feb. 4 to secure the slot for the 7th Congressional district, filling the seat of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) Mfume, 72, received about 44 percent of the vote in a crowded field that included Cummings’ widow, Maya Rockeymore Cummings and state Sen. Jill Carter. Mfume easily won the Nov. 3 general election against his Republican opponent Kimberly Klacik, a Black woman who had the support of President Trump. The district includes a majority of Baltimore City and part of its suburbs. Before his tenure as NAACP president, Mfume served in the House of Representatives from 1986-96 during which he represented the same district.
Demands Rise for Grocery Stores East of the River
D.C. City Councilman Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) pushed for legislation and money to end food desserts in Wards 7 and 8 and provide more full-service grocery stores. Gray, 72, said the two wards have only three grocery stores. The other six wards in the city have an average of nearly eight grocery stores. During the former mayor’s fight to bring needed services to his ward, he defeated six challengers in the June 2 primary and ran unopposed in November’s general election. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many inequities which include communities without fresh food options.
Legislation Calls for Fully Funding Maryland’s HBCUs
Maryland advocates and alumni of the state’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities pushed for approval of a bill to settle a more than 13-year-old lawsuit. The bill was among the priorities of the Legislative Black Caucus and sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne Jones. It sought $577 million over a 10-year period to establish new programs, invest in scholarships and financial aid programs and recruit new faculty. The proposed to be distributed as follows: $24 million for Morgan State University; $16.7 million for Bowie State University; $9.6 million for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and $7.2 million for Coppin State University. The legislature approved the measure the following month, but Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it. With a Democratic majority in Annapolis, lawmakers can override Hogan’s veto when the legislature convenes on Jan. 13.
Go-Go Becomes Official Music of D.C.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed legislation Feb. 19 to make go-go the official music of the District. D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) championed the legislation with support from local go-go legends including Sugar Bear from EU, James Funk with Rare Essence and Proper Utensils and local activist Ron Moten. The support grew through the “Don’t Mute DC” movement which began after a noise complaint last year forced the music to be turned off from speakers at a T-Mobile store owned by Donald Campbell of Central Communications at 7th Street and Florida Avenue in Northwest. The landmark venue showcased the beat that “cranked” on D.C. streets for more than 50 years ago thanks to the late Chuck Brown and other contemporaries. The coronavirus pandemic has halted in-person shows but virtual events have been held such as The DC Lottery celebrating Radio One’s 40th anniversary in October. The virtual block party showcased performances by Rayshun LaMarr and the Chuck Brown Band.
Biden Marches Forward on Super Tuesday
Former Vice President Joe Biden received delegate support from nine states March 3 to capture the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. The day, heralded as “Super Tuesday,” counts as the part of the election cycle when the most states and U.S. territories — approximately 15 — hold primaries or caucuses. Several days before Biden captured victories in states such as Texas, Minnesota and North Carolina, he won South Carolina after securing the endorsement of veteran Rep. James Clyburn (D-South Carolina). “Biden is going to be very successful and he will be our nominee. I really deeply feel he will be the next president of the United States,” Clyburn said. Not only did Biden win the nomination, he chose California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. With their victory in November, Harris became the first woman and the first candidate of Black and Asian descent elected as vice president of the U.S.
Maryland Creates Coronavirus Response Team
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced on March 9 the state would create a seven-member coronavirus response team comprised of medical and emergency experts to advise the state on how to respond and handle the virus. Hogan also issued a mandatory order for state employees to not travel out of state and for state agencies to institute a period of telework for some employees “to limit the spread of the virus.” In addition, he received information after a 90-minute meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and “top-ranking” federal officials indicated that adults 60 and older should avoid gatherings or events with large crowds. One week after the announcement, Hogan announced the closure of bars, restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters based on a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people. In-person instruction at schools ended March 16 — an order remaining in force for the rest of the 2019-20 school year — with virtual learning serving as an alternative form of instruction. Most schools throughout the Greater Washington Area continue with virtual learning models.
House Approves Coronavirus Response Act
The House approved an $8.3 billion emergency package on March 14 that included $500 million for nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers laid off from their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Another $400 million went toward local food banks. Several emergency measures approved have timelines such as the Famers to Families Food Box program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency announced last month to deliver a fourth round of food boxes, approximately 5.4 million, for “Americans in need” through Dec. 31.
Virtual Learning Becomes the Norm; More Businesses Close
D.C. Public School students returned to the classroom but at home engaged in video conferences, PowerPoint presentations and other online academic activities amid the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public health state of emergency and ordered in-person instruction at schools to begin “distance learning” or instruction away from the school buildings. Students received a $1.1 million Digital Equity Fund from private entities and nonprofit organizations to expand internet access and computer devices for students. Meanwhile, Bowser worked with the governors of Maryland and Virginia in a region-wide response against the virus. Bowser and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the closure of non-essential businesses and venues including gyms, spas and parks. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam became the first state leader in the nation to announce the full closure of schools for the rest of the school year.
D.C. Joins Md. and Va. with Stay-at-Home Order
As the coronavirus continued to ravage much of the country, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser counted among many leaders who issued stay-at-home orders. She made the announcement less than a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and as the nation’s death toll surpassed that of the 9/11 terror attacks. The mayor’s order, which specified that residents could only leave their residences to engage in essential activities, went into effect for most of the spring and remained effective through mid-summer when D.C. and other cities began phased reopening processes.
Religious Leaders Celebrate Easter Virtually
Amid a global pandemic, Christians throughout the D.C. metropolitan area took Palm Sunday and Easter celebrations to the virtual world via Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube and other platforms. Adherents of the Jewish and Muslim faiths took similar steps during a time of the year that ushered in Passover celebrations and the culmination of Ramadan. In many instances, religious leaders used their platforms to lift congregants’ spirits and preach a larger message about the power of the Spirit.
Campaign Enlists Cuban Doctors to U.S.
The “Get Out of Cuba’s Way” campaign was launched as part of an effort to enlist Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade as a resource for U.S. doctors treating COVID-19 patients. In the weeks after the coronavirus reached pandemic status, the medical brigade, to the chagrin of the Trump administration, dispatched doctors to more than 60 countries to help quell its spread. Cuba, once the target of a U.S. trade embargo, kept its number of COVID-19 cases low. Its doctors have also been credited with the development of effective treatments.
Crowds Swarm Annapolis for ‘Reopen Maryland’ Demand
Shortly after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) issued a stay-at-home order, Maryland residents launched an online group dedicated to the First Amendment, economic sustainability, and the growth of Maryland businesses. hey would showcase their intent during a protest in Annapolis where protesters, some of whom donned “Trump 2020” signage, drove around the city’s Church Circle, honking their horns and waving their signs as a call to reopen the state. The gathering mirrored similar protests which continued to take place across the country in the wake of the pandemic.
D.C. Faces Recession, City’s Financial Officer Says
Weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, the District began to experience the economic impact of ceasing economic activity. During an April 24 virtual press conference, Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt announced the District’s recession status and predicted an economic recovery period of no less than two years. Meeting that goal, he said, would require a reduction of more than $720 million in the District’s FY 2020 operating budget. An additional $773 million in cuts would be reflected in D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s FY 2021 budget proposal. The report, and DeWitt’s recommendations, laid the groundwork for the phased reopening that would take place later in the summer.
Teacher Appreciation Week Returns
During this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week, teachers received their accolades from the confines of their homes from which they had been conducting virtual lessons since March. The occasion appeared more reflective than celebratory, with teachers across the city assessing their level of student and parent engagement, the manner in which they teach content and reflecting on changes that have impacted their profession during a pandemic that had no end in sight.
Virtual HBCU Commencement Touts 2020 Grads
Comedian Kevin Hart led a who’s who of public figures and celebrities including former President Barack Obama, Doug E. Fresh, Anthony Hamilton and Steve Harvey, in honoring the 2020 graduates of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities. The National HBCU Commencement Celebration, a brainchild of Paul Quinn College’s Michael Sorrell, served as a means of encouraging those who completed their studies during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. As commencement speaker, Obama not only pointed out the unusual gathering of sports rivals sharing the virtual stage but primed the graduates to use their HBCU education to effect change at a unique time.
MoCo Police Shooting of Finan Berhe Causes Fury
During an early May confrontation in a White Oak park, Montgomery County Police Sergeant David Cohen fatally shot Finan Berhe multiple times in the chest. Though authorities cited Berhe’s possession of a knife, friends and family said he suffered from mental health issues. The deadly encounter sparked protests, led by Berhe’s family and the Silver Spring Justice Coalition. Weeks later, after George Floyd’s death, community members would continue to coalesce around this cause, along with the preservation of an African burial ground on River Road and other issues of importance to Montgomery County’s residents of color.
D.C. and America Burn as Anger Reaches Boiling Point
The District counted among 30 major U.S. cities where protests sparked in the wake of George Floyd’s on-camera death, allegedly at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin who pressed his knee into a handcuffed Floyd for more than eight minutes. Rallies across the country not only attracted celebrities and public officials but pitted protesters against police and federal forces dispatched to quell the unrest. These protests also reinvigorated conversations about police reform and the passage of legislation in many jurisdictions to defund police departments.
George Upsets Todd in Ward 4; Other Incumbents Hold On
D.C. Councilmember Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), a Green Team affiliate and favorite among elder constituents, lost his reelection bid to Janeese Lewis George, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist who amassed support from Attorney General Karl Racine, D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At large) and local progressives to clinch victory earlier this year. In the months following the Democratic primaries, Councilmember-elect George has continued to immerse herself in a bevy of issues including community-police relations in the wake of Karon Hylton-Brown’s death.
‘Black Lives Matter’ Mural Sparks Emotional Responses
Less than two weeks after George Floyd’s on-camera death sparked protests across the country, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) commissioned the painting of a “Black Lives Matter” mural, stretching more than two blocks along 16th Street and starting at Lafayette Park. The decision occurred in the wake of federal military forces who allegedly attacked peaceful protesters. The mural, located in the newly-minted Black Lives Matter Plaza, has since been the scene of subsequent protests and celebrations including the election of Joe Biden to the White House. It has also sparked conversation about the D.C. police’s allegedly aggressive tactics during Bowser’s time in office.
Washington Informer Makes Editorial History
This summer, during its 55th year in existence, The Washington Informer received five awards from the D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Those awards were in the following categories: William J. Ford, beat reporting; Stacy Brown, best news series; Anthony Tilghman, photography; Sam P.K. Collins, non-breaking news; and D. Kevin McNeir, commentary & criticism. Each year, the D.C. chapter of SPJ joins its regional counterparts to honor solid reporting done in respective jurisdictions. The contests attract news organizations representing a variety of mediums. This year, The Washington Informer competed with some of industry’s best including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Axios.
Protesters Circle the Fish Market Following Racial Incident
Protests continued outside The Fish Market in Clinton, Md., that had been closed for more than a week, as organizers and patrons decided to showcase Black-owned businesses across the street.
To accentuate that point, the event took place on America’s holiday, the Fourth of July.
“We are not only promoting our business, [but] we need people to understand we are important as well,” said Valerie Taylor, who’s owned Taylor Design with her husband, Brian, for 22 years. “In order for us to move up in our ranks, we must protest. We must let people know what’s going on.”
Other merchants such as Deidra Coleman know employees at The Fish Market who’ve explained how working conditions haven’t been ideal. That’s why merchants are collecting donations for those workers while the market remains closed.
Farrakhan Issues Call to Morality
In his first public address since February — and in his own words one of the last times the world will hear from him — the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, 87, of the Nation of Islam (NOI), delivered a July Fourth message which raised a clarion call to international leaders, including President Donald Trump, and to those who guide global communities of faith.
And while he acknowledged his long-declining physical health, which began over a decade ago due to cancer and a subsequent heart attack, he spoke for well over three hours, sitting when necessary and relying on the support of several Fruit of Islam members who kept him from falling. Nonetheless, he mustered the strength to deliver his message which addressed the current state of affairs in the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic and clarification on several issues for which he has long been criticized including anti-Semitism, homosexuality and Black nationalism.
Football Team Scraps Racist Name
Through a tumultuous series of events occurring over the past few months, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and leadership worked in unison on July 3 to review a possible name change of the oldest team in the NFL.
Just 10 days later, the organization announced that the team would retire the name “Redskins” and its logo of a Native American man.
“On July 3rd, we announced the commencement of a thorough review of the team’s name,” the franchise said in a statement. “That review has begun in earnest. As part of this process, we want to keep our sponsors, fans and community apprised of our thinking as we go forward. Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review.
“Dan Snyder and Coach [Ron] Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition-rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years,” the statement said.
Obama Eulogizes John Lewis
A loud shout of cheers went up outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where crowds watching on a big-screen television rose from their lawn chairs and makeshift seats as former President Barack Obama approached the famous pulpit to deliver the eulogy for Rep. John Lewis.
Inside the historic building where mourners observed social distancing guidelines that prevented an above-capacity gathering, the crowd rose in unison as Obama declared Lewis a “founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.”
The former president spoke fervently about Lewis’ battle to secure rights — including voting rights — for African Americans and, by extension, all United States citizens.
“Congressman John Lewis devoted his time on this Earth fighting the very attacks on democracy we’re seeing circulate right now,” Obama said.
COVID-19 Forces Online Instruction
Amid a national resurgence in COVID-19 cases and nonstop protests among teachers and other community members, D.C. officials announced that the 2020-2021 school year will commence online, as requested by a sizable amount of people who participated in a survey earlier this month.
Kamala Harris Surfaces with VP Nod
Following months of speculation and debate over whether Biden should pick a Black woman as his running mate, Harris was named Aug. 11 as Biden’s choice.
Biden reportedly had called Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), former Ambassador Susan Rice, and three other candidates to inform them that morning that they were not his pick.
Harris had routinely been seen as the top pick, but her clashes with Biden during the Democratic debates appeared to give Biden pause.
However, Biden had been photographed in recent weeks with talking points that noted not to hold a grudge against Harris. After the Nov. 3 election which Biden and Harris won with a record more than 80 million votes, Harris will become the first Black and first woman vice president in U.S. history when they’re sworn in Jan. 20.
Rent Strike at Woodner
The rent strike among more than 150 tenants at the Woodner Apartments, considered one of the largest apartment complexes in the District, received more attention in August as the coronavirus pandemic continued.
Instead of paying rent, many participants, like Modesto King, decided to save what little money they have, or purchase food, toiletries and other items deemed a greater priority.
And while their campaign to get rent canceled during the coronavirus pandemic has gained some traction, subsequent negotiations haven’t brought about the change intended by those organizing the strike.
Though management proposed a payment plan where tenants could pay a portion of their overdue rent balance later without penalty, King said such an overture wouldn’t suffice at a time when he sees food lines getting longer and families becoming increasingly anxious.
COVID-19 Storms to Top of African American Death Causes
America’s economic situation plummeted since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and families across race and ethnicity feel the pain, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution which says that the coronavirus now stands as the third leading cause of death among African Americans.
“If I told you on January 1 that a new virus that we did not even know about would, in August, be the third-leading cause of death for Black Americans, our hair should have been set on fire and we would have an extensive public policy response to this unprecedented pandemic,” noted Trevon Logan, professor of economics at the Ohio State University.
Logan co-authored the report, “The Hamilton Project, Racial Economic Inequality Amid the COVID-19 Crisis,” with Bradley L. Hardy of the American University in Northwest.
“In 2020, more Black Americans will die of COVID-19 than will succumb to diabetes, strokes, accidents, or pneumonia. In fact, COVID-19 is currently the third leading cause of death for African Americans,” Logan and Hardy concluded.
’63 March on Washington Remembered
Crowds gathered in the District on Aug. 28 with the Lincoln Memorial at their backs and many of the participants wearing masks and practicing social distancing — cognizant of the ongoing coronavirus health pandemic.
They assembled to mark the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held in 1963 on the same grounds as the march organized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, John Lewis and other leaders from the civil rights movement.
However, as those who traveled from near and far to attend the recent Commitment March illustrated, this call for racial justice amid a slew of nationwide protests against police brutality, continues to be dominated by a new generation – many of whom have grown tired of waiting for the right to simply breathe.
Police Interaction Debated After Another Youth Dies
In the days after the release of body-camera footage showing Deon Kay’s last moments, debates raged about his alleged possession of a gun, and how he and other young people in his Southeast community should behave when interacting with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
During a recent vigil for Kay, many of those who converged on the corner of Mellon Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue made known their position on the matter when, seconds before releasing several balloons into the sky, they loudly chanted a widely popular, and obscene, slogan often aimed at law enforcement officials.
In the several minutes leading up to the climactic end to an emotionally charged event, a bevy of community members, including Kay’s older sister, spoke before an audience of nearly a hundred about the young man they said had been criminalized by forces responsible for his Sept. 2 death.
Pancreatic Cancer Claims ‘Notorious RBG’
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the venerable Supreme Court justice renowned for her championing of gender equality and women’s rights, died Sept. 18. She was 87.
The iconic liberal justice died of complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas, the high court said.
Initially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009, Ginsburg underwent treatment several for recurrences of the disease, though she vowed not to retire as long as she was physically capable of serving.
Her death came less than two months before the presidential election in November. The Republican-led Senate, which refused to vote on a Supreme Court nomination by former President Barack Obama in his last year in office, pushed through Trump nominee Amy Barrett Cohen to succeed Ginsburg, just a couple of weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
Kentucky’s Black AG Helps Fuel Tone-Deaf Trump Administration on Race
The failure to indict Louisville Metro Police Department officers following the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, 26, a Black emergency medical technician, after a botched drug raid at her apartment triggered outrage and disgust over how little Black lives matter in America, particularly under the racially insensitive administration of President Donald Trump.
While the Sept. 23 decision by the grand jury in Louisville doesn’t directly fall under his administration’s jurisdiction, it’s clear that it at least had Trump’s imprint in the form of Daniel Cameron, state attorney general who’s both a Republican and a devout supporter of the president.
Like the president, who often plays as fast and loose with the truth and has fought for four years to prevent the release of items like his personal tax returns and business dealings, Cameron has refused to provide the public with exactly what he presented to the grand jury.
Despite calls for transparency by Taylor’s attorneys, Kentucky’s governor and the at-large public, Cameron has steadfastly ignored such requests. Three members of the grand jury have since come forward through attorneys to reveal that Cameron did not seek murder or other felony indictments against the officers.
Josey-Herring Sworn in as D.C. Superior Court’s First Female Chief Judge
In a historic ceremony conducted virtually on Oct. 16, D.C. Superior Court Associate Judge Anita Josey-Herring became the first African American woman to lead the D.C. Superior Court as chief judge. Herring also became the trial court’s first female leader, also.
As chief judge, Herring will serve a four-year term and assign cases and responsibilities to the 61 associate judges of the Superior Court’s nine divisions. The ceremony took place in the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse in Northwest.
The outgoing Chief Judge Robert Morin presided over the event, U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan read the commission of Josey-Herring becoming the chief judge and D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge Herbert Dixon administered the oath while her husband, Albert Herring, held the Bible. In her remarks, Josey-Herring said, “I put my name for this position because I believe in justice.”
“Justice without respect to persons,” she said. “I believe in equal rights for the rich and the poor and I will defend the U.S. Constitution.”
Yearwood Determined to Retire Historic Building’s Mortgage
While buildings, as the creation and inspirations of architects and engineers, represent projects made of bricks, concrete and steel — some edifices have infrequently been afforded such honor and respect with local folklore that they’ve become almost human.
Perhaps that explains why one adage, used to imagine how history took shape in buildings through human ingenuity as trailblazers of the past paved the way for brighter tomorrows, continues to be uttered: if these walls could talk.
Consider the five-story Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage, over a century old, nestled within a community mainly comprised of residential dwellings along 12th Street NW. Decades ago, the community served as a major artery for the comings and goings of Blacks visiting, living, or working in the District.
In more prosperous times, more than 41,000 people frequented the Center each year to utilize the multi-purpose facility and to engage in a diverse array of programs — conceived, created and coordinated by Thomasina W. Yearwood, president/CEO, TMCT — a position she’s held since TMCT’s founding 20 years ago. However, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, Yearwood said the Center has largely become quiet, but a $2.3 million renovation mortgage still must be taken care of.
“As our organization, named in honor of the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice, enters another fiscal year as a community pillar, we’re appealing to individuals across the nation to assist the Board of Directors in shouldering $3 million in remaining renovations costs needed to keep our physical location, the historic YMCA building based in D.C.’s historic Shaw neighborhood, debt-free,” she said.
Gladys Weatherspoon Wins Seat to Prince George’s Circuit Court
Anecdotal evidence has shown hundreds of attorneys selected as Circuit Court judges in Maryland either worked as local or state prosecutors, or went through a vetting process screened by bipartisan groups that has helped choose the majority of judges later appointed by the governor since 1970. Gladys Weatherspoon, a practicing defense attorney for 25 years, did neither and ran an independent campaign for Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge.
According to unofficial results, she received the most votes with 216,676 on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Weatherspoon joined the four candidates who ran as a slate to win a 15-year term on the bench.
Circuit court judges hear major criminal cases that involve a person charged with a felony and major civil cases such as divorce and child support. Appeals in cases from the county’s district court, which handle lower level offenses, are also heard on the circuit court.
D.C. Council Set to Have Female Majority in 2021
Vickie A. Wright-Smith passionately believes women should become a sustaining political force in District politics.
She has practiced what she preaches by serving as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in her Columbia Heights area in Ward 1. Wright-Smith participates in District Democratic politics and has an active membership with DC Women in Politics (WIN), an organization designed to support women’s political ambitions.
On Nov. 4, Wright-Smith has an upbeat attitude about the general elections that took place. She rejoiced about the victories of Christina Henderson as an independent at-large councilmember and Janeese Lewis George as the D.C. Council’s Ward 4 representative. The presence of Henderson and George will make the D.C. Council a majority female legislative body and Wright-Smith said that makes her happy.
“I saw it coming,” she said. “Christina has the endorsement of Councilmember David Grosso and we in DC WIN worked to get her elected. Women will have seven seats on the D.C. Council and that constitutes a majority. We should see real change at the John A. Wilson Building now that there are more of us on the council.”
The new council will take office in January and kick off Council Period 24.
President-Elect Biden: ‘The African American Community Stood Up for Me Again’
“Especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest — the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.” — President-elect Joe Biden, Nov. 7
Black people are sure to remember those remarks that a triumphant President-elect Joe Biden made shortly after taking the stage to celebrate his victory over Republican Donald Trump.
“I said from the outset I wanted a campaign that represented America, and I think we did that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like,” Biden remarked during his victory speech at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del.
Presidential campaign experts credit the endorsement of Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) which produced a win in the South Carolina Democratic primary that propelled the former vice president to the party nomination. While Trump won more support among Blacks this year than in 2016, Biden got 87 percent of the African American vote, performing better among Black voters than any other demographic group.
The race for the White House was decided in racially diverse urban centers and increasingly diverse suburbs in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona and the District formerly represented by the late Congressman John Lewis in Georgia. NBC noted that “the Black people who make up 39 percent or more of the population in those areas chose Biden, with some exceptions.”
Biden and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, will be sworn on Jan. 20 at the U.S. Capitol in what will be a virtual ceremony. A small crowd of people will be at the ceremony, but the Biden inauguration team encourages Americans to view the event on television.
District Renames One Judiciary Square Building in Honor of Marion Barry
Cora Masters Barry has spent a great deal of time since the passing of her husband, former four-term mayor and D.C. Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr., trying to keep his legacy alive in the District.
Since his death on Nov. 23, 2014, she has worked with District leaders on projects such as having a statute of his likeness in front of the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest. On Nov. 12, Cora Barry celebrated another milestone when city leaders dedicated the One Judiciary Square Building in Northwest as the “Marion S. Barry, Jr. Building.”
“This is a significant, historic event that is the beginning, not only of telling the story of the contributions of Marion S. Barry, Jr., but also of the city,” Cora Barry said. “My husband loved Washington, D.C. and its residents. He would be honored to know that Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson have honored his legacy in this wonderful way. I want to thank them.”
Cora Barry continues to work on other ways to honor Marion Barry, with a thoroughfare east of the Anacostia River and possibly Ballou Senior High School in Ward 8 named for him.
Violence Erupts in Nation’s Capital During MAGA Rally
Thousands of white nationalists gathered with far-right militia groups on Freedom Plaza in D.C. on Nov. 14 to vocalize their support of lame-duck President Donald Trump and help bolster his false claims that Democrats stole the 2020 election.
With many of the participants refusing to use face coverings, the pro-Trump demonstrators included members of Boogaloo and the Proud Boys. Police reported at least 20 arrests after many in the crowd lingered into the night, hurling rocks, bottles and other objects at counterdemonstrators and even innocent passersby.
Numerous videos uploaded to the internet showed that appeared to be members of the Proud Boys knocking a man to the ground, stomping on and brutally kicking him as a woman attempted to come to the man’s aid.
“Radical left ANTIFA scum was easily rebuffed today by the big D.C. MAGA Rally crowd, only to return at night, after 99 percent of the crowd had left, to assault elderly people and families,” Trump tweeted. “Police got there but late. Mayor is not doing her job.”
New Coronavirus Vaccine Requires ‘Trust of African American Community’
News that Pfizer/BioNTech have announced that their coronavirus vaccine resulted in a more than 90 percent effective rate in preventing COVID-19, for those without previous infection, comes as the U.S. continues to see record-breaking new cases.
For the first time on Thursday, Nov. 12, the U.S. surpassed 150,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. The total number of cases has soared past 10.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Both California and Texas have recorded more than 1 million total cases, while states like Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have seen significant rises in COVID-19 infections.
Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, one of the world’s foremost immunologists and president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, counts as a recent appointee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s commission responsible for ultimately approving any vaccines including Pfizer’s. Hildreth, an African American, insists that any vaccine must have the confidence of Blacks.
“I’ve made the decision that I’m going to participate in one of the vaccine trials. The trust issue cannot be overstated,” Hildreth said. “We have to have more trusted messengers and more trusted opinion leaders to make this work.”
Efforts are ongoing by public health and some African American leaders for Blacks to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite the history of abuse by the country’s medical system.
Thanksgiving Spirit — And Free Food — Are Abundant in Prince George’s County
Allison Canada of Capitol Heights drove to the nearby Peppermill Community Center last weekend to pick up free food for the Thanksgiving holiday, but supplies were exhausted in about an hour.
Her disappointment was short-lived though. Less than five minutes later, she spotted a line of vehicles stretched about a block long to receive free meals outside Impact One Church in Capitol Heights, decided to pull in line and wait.
“I got a turkey, apples, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, string beans, macaroni and cheese, canned corn, cornbread. Glad I turned around,” said Canada, a program assistant at The Pathways Schools based in Silver Spring. “With what’s going on, it’s appreciated. I have three kids at home. This helps a lot. It’s free food. I can save money and get more food. It shows the public people care.”
Impact One Church served as one of the many locations in Prince George’s County that distributed free meals for Thanksgiving on Nov. 21. This year, COVID-19 has presented additional mental, social and physical challenges to the majority-Black jurisdiction that caused thousands of workers to become unemployed and face evictions from their homes.
Even worse: the virus claimed 900 Prince Georgians in about seven months.
Efforts continue in Prince George’s County by churches and social service organizations to provide food to hungry families.
Electoral College Seals President-Elect Biden’s Victory
The nation’s Electoral College officially stamped Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president-elect and vice president-elect on Dec. 14.
A total of 538 electors from every state and the District took part in the critical portion of the U.S. electoral process, voting to affirm the votes cast during the 2020 election. Locally and in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, women served as the three electors from the District — each casting their vote for Biden and Harris.
“I represent those who have been undervalued and underrepresented,” said Meedie Bardonille, a District elector who serves as a registered nurse and chair of the District of Columbia Board of Nursing.
A Howard University graduate, Bardonille said she cast her vote with a greater sense of pride with Harris also counting as a Bison.
“It is validation that we cracked not just the glass ceiling, but the concrete walls built to keep us out, and have finally taken our place at the political table,” Bardonille said.
On Jan. 6, Congress will review the Electoral College results and are expected to approve them despite likely Republican opposition to the process.
MPD Releases Photos of Church Fires During Pro-Trump Rally and Investigating Incidents as Hate Crimes
The D.C. Metropolitan Police are investigating vandalism directed at four downtown D.C. churches — two of them Black churches steeped in history — in the wake of violence lined to pro-Trump demonstrations on Dec. 12 that left four people stabbed and 32 people arrested.
“D.C.’s faith-based organizations are at the very heart of our community, giving us hope in the face of darkness. An attack on them is an attack on all of us. This weekend, we saw forces of hate seeking to use destruction and intimidation to tear us apart. We will not let that happen, and continue to stand together strong and United to Love,” Bowser said in a tweet.
D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham released photos and details of the incident and said that at approximately 6 p.m., the suspects ignited a banner in the 900 block of 11th Street NW, which is home to Asbury United Methodist Church. The police also said that one suspect was arrested and charged with assault with a knife in the 500 block of 11th Street following an incident in which one man stabbed four people in a clash between opposing groups following the pro-Trump rally. In addition to anti-BLM protests at Asbury and the Metropolitan AME Church, similar action occurred at nearby Luther Place Memorial and Mount Vernon Place United Methodist churches.
On Dec. 18, Asbury unveiled a new BLM banner at a prayer rally in front of the church.
District Officials Announce Rollout for COVID-19 Vaccines
With more than a little fanfare and lots of hope, the Bowser administration took possession of the first wave of vaccine to block the novel coronavirus less than three days after the vaccine had received formal federal approval for human use.
Now, District officials, along with the other local, state and federal officials must figure out how, when and where to stage inoculations. And, most critically, who’s first?
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, along with D.C. Director of Health Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, explained the process at a news conference on Dec. 10. The mayor said she realizes District residents want this pandemic to end.
“I know that we are all ready for this pandemic to be over,” she said. “And there is good news: a vaccine is on the way. D.C. Health has been preparing for the eventual arrival of a vaccine since the beginning of the pandemic. Since March, our community has worked hard and sacrificed to save lives and protect our most vulnerable residents.”
Bowser said, “Now we are ready to lead an equitable distribution of a safe and effective vaccine” adding “the next few weeks and months will be critical.”
COVID-19 vaccinations have taken place at Children’s National Hospital and the United Medical Center, as well as the other designated sites for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the District. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will circulate in the District within the coming days.