Black America’s Top Headlines In 2021

Photo: Getty Images

If you can believe it, we’re making our way to a new year. 2021 is winding down and, it has been a ride –– to say the least.

Following the unprecedentedly tumultuous 2020, we all looked ahead to 2021, seeking to leave behind the worst of a global pandemic and incalculable loss in our own homes, neighborhoods, and as a collective.

And while we continue to move forward, expectant of the promise of yet another new year, there’s still plenty of work to do, and hopefully, we’ll get to reap the work of our hands –– on our own, in our families, and as a family.

Before we toast to making it to 2022, though, let’s take a look back at Black America’s Top 10 Moments of 2021.

Kamala Harris Made History

Kamala Harris was sworn in as the nation’s first Black, South Asian and woman vice president. The Howard University alumna is also the first HBCU graduate to hold the position, too.

Photo: Getty Images

Vaccines Arrived And Black People Helped Make It Possible

At the end of 2020, the US delivered the first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to healthcare workers and elderly individuals. In 2021, we saw the efforts of Black leaders, churches, barbershops, and salons distribute the jabs to our communities, especially as vaccine access and distribution lagged.

Photo: Getty Images

100 Years Later: Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors Testified Before Congress

This year marked 100 years since a group of white people burned the thriving Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma to the ground, killing hundreds and driving out the Black families who ran successful businesses there. Three survivors, Viola Fletcher, her younger brother, Hughes Van Ellis, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, testified before Congress about the Massacre’s lasting impact on Black Tulsans.

Photo: Getty Images

Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka Took A Stand For Mental Health In Sports

Gymnastics star Simone Biles and tennis champion Naomi Osaka brought the conversation about mental health to the forefront in sports. Both athletes backed out of major competitions to focus on their mental health, a step that generated important conversation about individual well-being.

Photo: Getty Images

Black And Missing: A Much-Needed Conversation Received More Attention

This year, the tragic disappearances of Jelani Day, Daniel Robinson, Miya Marcano, and so many others renewed attention on the disproportionate amount of Black people who are reported missing each year. Black women and girls are reported missing at alarming rates, yet media coverage of disappearances is not equitable.

We heard from the Black and Missing Foundation which has continuously worked to serve families and friends of missing people. The state of Minnesota also implemented a task force to address the issue.

Photo: Getty Images

Natural Disasters Shed Light on The Impact of Environmental Racism

In February, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi saw historic winter storms that left hundreds of thousands without power and water for days at a time. Hundreds died as a result, and early data indicates that power was taken first from Black communities, highlighting the lasting impact of red-lining and environmental racism.

On August 26, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, causing billions in damage and displacing communities from New Orleans, through Mississippi before the storm’s remnants traveled thousands of miles to reach New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In December, more than 50 tornadoes were recorded touching down across Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and several other states. The damage is wide-reaching, and relief efforts are still underway.

Photo: Getty Images

Beyoncé and JAY-Z Made GRAMMY’s History

Music’s power couple broke GRAMMY Award records this year. In February, Beyoncé broke the all-time record of most wins by a female artist after winning her 28th golden gramophone trophy for “Best R&B Performance” for “Black Parade” from her album Black is King.

JAY-Z beat out Quincy Jones in 2021, securing the most nominations of any artist. The rapper was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year, too.

Photo: Getty Images

Juneteenth Became A Federal Holiday

June 19, known as Juneteenth, was officially made a federal holiday this year. The new addition to federal holidays received mixed reviews, some calling for the designation as to teach Black history on a national level, while others said keeping our traditions within our community is a form of honoring them, too.

Photo: Getty Images

The Legends We Lost

The Cases We Watched
In 2021, we saw some of the cases of police brutality and racial injustice go to trial. We, unfortunately, raised the names of others lost to the same injustice this year.

Together, we watched the trials of Derek Chauvin who was convicted of murdering George Floyd. The same day Chauvin was found guilty, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was gunned down by Ohio police.

We watched the trial of the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery. The officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor have yet to be held accountable in a court of law.

We saw the cop who shot Jacob Blake, Jr. return to work, while Kyle Rittenhouse –– who killed two protesters during demonstrations against the shooting was found not guilty.

The trial of the cop who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson was delayed yet again this year. The paramedics and officers involved in Elijah McClain‘s death were indicted this year –– two years after his death.

The fight for justice for Casey Goodson Jr. moved forward in 2021 after the cop who shot him was charged.

In Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the family of Andrew Brown continues to fight for justice despite his shooting death being labeled “justified.”

So many names go unsaid, but the impact within our community is considerable. For Black-led resources on mental health and support, please click HERE.

Honorable Mentions

It’s hard to narrow a whole 365 days to just a few top moments. We didn’t forget about social media, either! Check out our list of the top moments on social media in 2021.

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