Chicago Defender: The News Stories that Defined Chicago in 2023, Part 1

Black excellence. Black history. Black issues.

From our purview, those themes characterized 2023. It was our great pleasure to profile the best and brightest from the realms of business, politics, social justice, sports, the arts and entertainment. We zoomed in on the lives of our history makers. Yet, we also covered those nagging issues plaguing our city. 

This year was historic in that Chicago voters elected its third Black mayor ever in Brandon Johnson. 

It has also been an “eventful” one for the New Mayor, who has grappled with the migrant issue, a politically manufactured humanitarian crisis impacting our city and others in simple and profound ways.

Every year brings about loss, but 2023 was especially painful in that we lost so many of our homegrown luminaries, from Edward and Bettiann Gardner of Soft Sheen to DJ Casper of the “Cha Cha Slide.”

If it weren’t for our contributors, we would not have been able to bring you such rich and varied content that genuinely reflects the Black Chicago we know and adore. 

Before we present to you our favorite stories of 2023, I want to thank our contributors who delivered rich and meaningful stories for our website and social media pages: Isi Frank Ativie, Kharyn Beard, Cabryl Breotti, Christa Carter-Williams, Lee Edwards, Amber Marie Green, Jonathan B. James, Twyler Jenkins, Ciera Johnson, Nicole Jeanine Johnson, Nicole Joseph, Portia King, Arika Linton, Brittanye Linton, Kouri C. Marshall, Portia Mittons, David Pierce, Samantha Thomas, Toussaint Werner and Inez Woody.  

Of course, our work is only possible thanks to our intrepid and dedicated publisher, Dyanna Lewis. 

In Part 1 of this 2023 retrospective, we focus on the most significant news stories that appeared in our pages:

The News That Grabbed Us

Where were you when Chicago voters made history by electing Johnson, a relative unknown, in a hotly contested runoff election? Kouri Marshall’s report, Why Brandon Johnson is Chicago’s Next Mayor, examined how he pulled off this upset.

His inauguration speech was also a historical moment for Blacks. See Brandon Johnson’s Inaugural Speech: Memorable Moments.

In saying hello to our new mayor, we said goodbye to our outgoing one: Lori Lightfoot Delivers Emotional Farewell Speech.

When Mayor Johnson crossed the six-month mark of his tenure, we talked to political experts about his wins and challenges. We covered the migrant crisis, the 2024 budget and the ambitiousness of his political platform. Here are Parts 1 and 2 of our interview with Ameshia Cross and Ted Williams III. 

This report by Kouri Marshall takes a closer look at Mayor Johnson’s 2024 budget and how it impacts Black Chicagoans.

The migrant crisis was the biggest issue facing our city. Writer Nicole Jeanine Johnson spoke with an expert from the University of Illinois at Chicago about the origins of the Venezuelans seeking asylum in our city and others. Here are Parts 1 and 2 of that interview. 

For the first time in about 56 years, Chicago will host the 2024 Democratic National Convention ahead of the upcoming Presidential election in November. Marshall wrote Save the Date: The 2024 Democratic National Convention is Coming to Chicago!, which explained why we were chosen over New York and Atlanta. 

The White House contacted The Chicago Defender to break a national story about the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument in Illinois and Mississippi: President Biden to Establish National Monument Honoring Emmett Till

We also covered the Emmett Till National Monument Sign unveiling at Bronzeville’s Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. In April, we wrote about Mamie Till’s high school erecting a statue in her honor. 

A passing of the torch occurred involving one of our most beloved leaders. Rev. Jesse Jackson passed the baton to Rev. Frederick Haynes III as Rainbow PUSH’s new president. In Meet Rev. Frederick Haynes III: Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Successor, we introduced you to the man filling some mighty shoes. 

One of the year’s worst moments was the tragic murder of Chicago police officer Aréanah Preston. She already accomplished so much at 24. Yet, she was on her way to even greater things when her life was cut short in front of her South Side home. We covered her homegoing service in Aréanah Preston Remembered as ‘A Ray of Light.’

A new leader was appointed to lead the Chicago Police Department: City Council Unanimously Confirms Larry Snelling as CPD Superintendent.

This Summer, the climate crisis manifested in our area when storms unleashed flooding and tornadoes. Our region also had to contend with smoke from the Canadian wildfires that worsened our air quality for several days. 

We were there when NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace threw one big party on the South Side ahead of the inaugural Chicago Street Race. Check out NASCAR: Thousands Attend Bubba’s Block Party at the DuSable Museum.

When Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis indicted Donald Trump and 18 of his allies on racketeering, conspiracy and other charges, there was a Chicago connection. Her name is Trevian Kutti. We wrote this piece, which reintroduced Kutti to our readers. 

Speaking of Willis, she gained national attention for her press conference announcing those indictments. When the world seemingly wanted to know who she was, we published Fani Willis: 5 Things to Know About the Black DA Prosecuting Trump.

Earlier this year, Northwestern Medicine surgeons performed the first-ever double-lung transplant on Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer and another patient. See, Double-Lung Transplant Gives Commissioner Deer a Second Chance at Life.

Our childcare workers are one of the most critical yet under-appreciated assets in our community. Contributing writer Nicole Jeanine Johnson uncovered a crucial issue that impacted the workers from our community in Black Women Childcare Providers Face Peril as COVID-Era Funding Expires.

On January 1, 2024, Illinois will become the first state in the nation to outlaw book bans. David Pierce interviewed an expert in November about what the new law means: Illinois Book Ban Reform: UIUC Prof. Emily Knox Explains Key Changes.

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