Fresh off a year that saw a number of notable firsts for African-Americans, 2019 has already been capitalizing on that momentum and seems set to be a legitimate challenger for one of the most significant set of 12 months in the annals of Black history, especially politically.
As this year’s Black History Month gets underway, you could be forgiven for thinking that statement is hyperbole; what with the rich legacy that Black people have established on earth for centuries. But given the current context in which Black and brown folks across the globe and especially in the United States have been living, it’s a safe bet that there is no safe bet for what to expect. It would seem that in this unprecedented time of existence for Black folks, all we have are indicators to go by. And if recent history was any indication of what’s to come, Black people better be prepared for continued rising prominence in a society that has routinely made the mistake of misjudging us.
Those under estimations have already manifested themselves in a record number of Black people being sworn into the elected offices they won during last year’s contentious midterm elections. The most diverse class of lawmakers—several of them African-American women who made history as the first to represent their state in the House—have made their collective and individual presence felt on Capitol Hill and beyond during this young year.
And while that was in the recent past, it has lasting political implications heading into the future, starting Tuesday when Stacey Abrams was set to deliver the Democrats’ response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. Abrams, as you might recall, was the very strong Georgia gubernatorial candidate who was disenfranchised by a corrupt opponent’s voter suppression efforts against his opponent’s supporters. Well, her political performance wasn’t missed by top Democrats, who, aside from tapping her to be the first Black woman to offer a major political party’s State of the Union rebuttal, appeared to be grooming her to launch a Senate run this year. If Abrams does run, she would be the first Black woman from Georgia ever elected to the Senate.
But that only accounts for the start of this year, which could lead to a whole lot more political theater, with much of it [reluctantly] starring the president himself. That was because there has been a growing sense of urgency from the newly minted majority House of Representatives that there was no better time to impeach the president. That point was hammered home on Black History Month eve by California Sen. Maxine Waters, who said in no uncertain terms that it was “Past time for impeachment!”
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member has made no secret of her disrespect for Trump, who has belittled her every chance he’s gotten. And while the CBC Chair Karen Bass recently told NewsOne that impeachment was not a priority for the Caucus, Waters seemed to indicate otherwise. As Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into possible Russian collusion with Trump heats up, so could impeachment talk spurred on by Black lawmakers.
Chicago could also get its first Black woman mayor if Amara Enyia wins. While Enyia was polling behind candidates with more name recognition, if last year taught America anything, it was to never discount Black women. The election is Feb. 26.
Continuing in the political realm, there was still much work to do in the arena of social justice, especially as it pertains to Black people. That topic will be on Front Street this weekend when the Super Bowl is played in Atlanta, where police just last week killed an unarmed Black man under suspicious circumstances. That police shooting is colliding with an event celebrating a professional sports league being scrutinized for how it treats its Black players. This could be the perfect opportunity for players who have been silenced to speak out about blacklisted quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose silent protest of social justice issues have effectively gotten him banned from the NFL.
In that same vein, 2019 could finally see some justice for the New York Police Department (NYPD) killing of Eric Garner, which has gone all but unanswered since the deadly episode was captured on a viral video in 2014 showing NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo employing an illegal chokehold on a man who was only guilty of selling untaxed loose cigarettes—a misdemeanor punishable by a fine. Pantaleo’s disciplinary trial has been scheduled for May and he could finally be fired from his six-figure job.
On a more positive note, it appeared that the Oscars So White campaign from a couple of years ago has finally paid off, as two movies helmed by Black directors have been nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony next month—the first time that’s ever happened. So even if “Black Panther” as well as Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” don’t win the top Oscar, history has already been made and will likely lead to a victory in the near future. In fact, this year’s Oscars is probably the most diverse on record.
Oh, and did we mention Cory Booker has joined Kamala Harris as candidates running for president who just so happen to be Black? Harris announced her bid last month on Martin Luther King’s national holiday. Booker announced his on Friday, the start of Black History Month. Coincidence?