2018 didn’t disappoint in the news department. Chicago, as usual, had its fill of highs and lows. The Chicago Defender decided to take a look back through the year and highlight some of the most important—as well as popular—stories of the year.
It’s been said there’s nothing like Chicago politics. Well, this year, you could say: Illinois politics. The statewide election for governor was one for the record books. Governor-elect JB Pritzker spent a record breaking $171 million on his race to defeat incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner, who shelled out close to $70 million himself. All of that money floating around made for some pretty nasty ads, including the surfacing of old tapes from the Rod Blagojevich days. And because Pritzker began his journey to unseat Rauner way back in April 2017, this race seemed like one of the longest in history.
Some highs about that election: Pritzker chose Juliana Stratton as his running mate—which will make her the first African American Lieutenant Governor on January 14, 2019.
The elections also brought us a new attorney general, Chicago Attorney and former IL State Senator Kwame Raoul and a sister upset an incumbent U.S. Congressman in a suburban district (Lauren Underwood—14th District); come 2019, Underwood, 32, will be the youngest Black Congresswoman in D.C. and a part of a new class we’re looking forward to watching and hoping they can make a difference in a Trump-era Congress. (see story at https://chicagodefender.com/2018/11/06/jb-pritzker-wins/)
Rahm Emanuel Will Not Seek a Third Term/Mayoral Race
And if those statewide elections were not enough, the race for Chicago mayor heated up—even though the election isn’t until 2019. With incumbent, 2-term Mayor Rahm Emanuel announcing in September that he would not seek reelection, the candidate field burst completely open with everyone and their mama throwing their hat in the race (yep, currently at 21 candidates, it certainly feels like everyone is running). So as we look forward to greeting 2019, brace yourselves, Chicago, for the ads, and know that Emanuel will be thrown completely under the bus as his successor tries to emerge in a crowded field that boasts 11 Black candidates—some with lots of experience, like Cook County Board President and former alderman Toni Preckwinkle, and many new faces, like activist Ja’mal Green and Neal Sales-Griffin. The Chicago Defender has profiled many of these candidates and will bring you more personal up close interviews in 2019. Stay tuned to hear these candidates share what they have in mind specifically for our community. We want to know and get them on record to hold them accountable.
(see https://chicagodefender.com/2018/09/12/who-do-we-need-as-mayor/ and https://chicagodefender.com/2018/12/05/twenty-one-candidates-who-made-the-deadline-to-run-for-mayor/ as well as profiles on individual candidates)
Jason Van Dyke Found Guilty!
We really haven’t seen people holding their breaths awaiting a verdict like this since OJ Simpson was first tried for Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman’s murder (remember that?) Well, this October, folks gathered around computers this time (rather than just TVs), holding their breath and waiting for the verdict after the trial of the police officer who shot and killed Laquan McDonald in October 2014. Part of the concern was that the city would erupt into violence when the verdict came back not guilty. But many were surprised. It was a guilty verdict; Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. A huge sigh of relief was heard along with shouts of joy. We did it! Finally, someone was held responsible for the death of a Black man…the marches, protests, cries for help and even hip hop songs seemed to have at least been noticed. The city (and nation) still holds its breath as we await sentencing (currently scheduled for January 18, 2019); all eyes still watch our city as we watch and wait for justice to be served.
Protesters Shut Down Dan Ryan (and Lakeshore Drive)
In July we saw the power of organization when peaceful protestors shut down the Dan Ryan. Led by priest and activist Father Michael Pfleger of the Faith Community of St. Sabina, protestors marched from 79th and State to block traffic from passing through the interstate. The issue at hand: gun violence and police violence in our community, which unfortunately was still a major issue in 2018. A subsequent protest, led by Tio Hardimon and Rev. Greg Livingston, was planned on Lakeshore Drive during a Cubs game in August. It garnered less attention and ended with a split between organizers, one refusing to participate in a planned shutdown of the Kennedy expressway during Labor Day weekend.
While President Donald Trump still reigned in the White House in 2018, we found out just how much our nation—and especially Chicago—loves the Obamas when the former first lady’s book hit the streets and broke records immediately. Michelle Obama, who was born and raised right on the Southeast Side of Chicago, announced the release of her book with a national and world-wide tour. She had us waiting online for tickets like it was Anita Baker’s farewell tour and paying prices more like it was a Beyonce and Jay-Z concert. She opened her tour right here in Chicago and was interviewed by another beloved Chicagoan Oprah Winfrey. While eyebrows were raised about the ticket prices (although her publicist kept reminding us that a portion of the tickets were donated to groups working with girls, etc) and some controversial pieces were included in the book (her description of Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright!), for the most part readers seemed to enjoy the 400+ -page recollection of Obama’s life—starting off as a young South Sider born to hard-working and loving parents and blossoming before our eyes into the first African American first lady of the United States. She mentioned the Defender in her book and even wrote our readers a special letter. We appreciate her love and the salute to her city! See https://chicagodefender.com/2018/11/12/open-letter-from-michelle-obama-exclusively-for-the-chicago-defender/
Aretha Franklin Dies
While clearly a Detroit girl, Aretha Franklin left a lasting impression on Chicago—and the world. The Queen of Soul died in August after a very long battle with cancer. Franklin had a stellar career and a long send-off to match. Her long-time friend and publicist journalist Clarence Waldron shared with us her love of the city and Mother Josephine Wade’s (of Captain Hard Time) gumbo. And we have the queen’s velvety voice as a gift to us all. https://chicagodefender.com/2018/08/21/chicago-remembers-the-queen-of-soul/
Mercy Hospital Shooting Kills Black Doctor
Bronzeville—or as some noted South Loop—was rattled on November 19 when parts of King Dr. and Michigan Ave were shut down when a gunman took to the hospital. He killed his former fiancé, Black doctor Tamara O’Neal, after an altercation in the parking lot and then ran into the hospital, shooting and killing a police officer, Samuel Jimenez, and pharmacist Dayna Less. Mass shootings have become a real fear as we’ve seen gunmen take over schools, clubs and other public places and this one was too close to home. The story also left us even more aware of the horrific danger of domestic violence. We hope and pray this sister’s death is not in vain.
Other notable stories:
Missing Black Girls in the City
The Violence Continues
Obama Presidential Center
Bill Cosby Found Guilty of Sexual Assault
Box Office Blockbuster Black Panther Celebrations Fictional African Country
Many died this year, but a few notables include:
Black Star Founder and Activist Phil Jackson
Author and Longtime Editor of Ebony Magazine Lerone Bennett, Jr.
Gospel Singer Edwin Hawkins
Father of South African Jazz Hugh Masekela
Civil Rights Activist Wyatt Tee Walker
Ensa Cosby, Daughter of Bill and Camille Cosby
Author Ntozake Shange
Songbird Nancy Wilson
Chicago Music Retailer and The Experience’s Dedry Jones
Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin
Former Secretary-General of United Nations Kofi Annan
South African Leader Winnie Mandela
Linda Brown (Brown vs. Board of Education)
Chicago Fire Actress and Chicago Native Dushan Monique Brown
Comic Book Writer Stan Lee
Former President George Bush
Former First Lady Barbara Bush
Actor Burt Reynolds
Entertainment Host Robin Leach
Too many on the streets of Chicago due to gun violence