As 2010 closes out and we reflect on the coming year, we urge each of you to do your part to set a different tone for 2011.

As 2010 closes out and we reflect on the coming year, we urge each of you to do your part to set a different tone for 2011.

This year the news was grim: African Americans continued to be depressed by the recession, climbing to unemployment rates nearly three times the national average.

African Americans led the statistics in being the most impoverished group in the city, also suffering the most from hunger. As the administrative office made leadership changes within the Chicago Public Schools, national statistics were handed down this year that showed that our Black boys are not only underachieving, they are half of the nation’s dropouts. Then some of the city’s Black leaders were hardly an example for the young people, succumbing to greed and corruption. An alderman plead guilty to bribery and fraud charges and a county worker was charged with bilking the cash-strapped county out of thousands of dollars in a scheme where she funneled county contracts and their bounty back into her own company.

We lost giants in the community with the deaths of Rev. Dr. Claude Wyatt Jr., Edna Stewart of Edna’s Restaurant, Bishop Arthur Brazier, Albertina Walker and Dr. Margaret Burroughs. Our neighborhood streets were again bloodied with carnage from gun violence. And three Black cops, five police officers in total, lost their lives in senseless acts of violence. In politics, we weren’t able to hold on to the legacy Black U.S. Senate seat for this state and turned it over to a Republican.

But as grim as the year was, there was some brightness. A former cop who thought he had escaped the gavel of justice for the torture he meted out to Black arrestees was found guilty of crimes related to those actions. Though the sun set on one family dynasty’s presence on the county board, another person of color led a successful campaign to capture the post. We welcomed the First Family home this spring for the first time since they left their Hyde Park home for the White House. The man who succeed the city’s first Black mayor after his death announced this summer that he would not seek a historic fifth term as the city’s leader. That paves the way for the community to once again unite and help give Chicago its second elected Black mayor.

January 1 is Emancipation Day. It’s the day that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s not just the first day of the new year, it is the beginning of a fresh start. Analysts have said the economy is emerging from recession, though our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and young people who are out of work can’t seem to tell. But use Jan. 1 as an opportunity to start anew. Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition will hold a jobs rally on Emancipation Day, helping people to start to look forward to freedom from joblessness. New laws will take effect that should give us pause to slow down on the roadways and speak up against violence taking place in our public schools. Starting Jan. 1, make a vow to free our neighborhoods from the perpetrators of violence by speaking up. Plan to be a part of the community groups that march and demand action, money and results. Get ready to cut those things out your diet that tear your body down so that African Americans can start to make their way from the top of poor health and increased mortality statistics.

Jan. 1 is Emancipation Day, you may think you are free now, but consider how free you would really be without rampant violence, poverty, illness and joblessness.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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