By: Roy Douglas Malonson
“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” I saw this quote by Brad Paisley and I thought it was a good concept to have as we embark upon a new year. In the process of drafting the pages for a new year, we decided to reflect back on the previous one. The year 2017 brought about a historic and tremendous change in the City of Houston, in the lives of African-Americans and the entire country. Within this year, we have experienced a wealth of highs and lows. In this edition we have chosen to highlight a few items that we have identified as being unprecedented at this time in history.
Man of the Year, “Colin Kaepernick”
African-American News & Issues, recognizes quarterback Colin Kaepernick as our “2017 Man of the Year”. Kaepernick stands at the forefront of professional sports players who chose to utilize their platform to draw attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. Though many have only become aware of the kneeling of players in 2017, Kaepernick first began taking the knee in 2016. At an attempt to protest racial inequality and social injustice constantly committed throughout the nation, he has been under scrutiny ever since he initiated his protest. Something as simple as kneeling during the national anthem has been enough to spark nationwide controversy by many who refuse to accept the truth behind the issues that African-American professional players are raising; the concerns are valid ones which directly impact members from our community of all ages. The continual slaughter of innocent African-Americans at the hands of police officials, with no action being taken has become a horrendous norm in our society.
Since taking a stand to combat social injustice, Kaepernick has been noted as the, “most polarizing figure in American sports.” At the present, the talented player is out of the league which comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with courageous leaders from our community being exiled for speaking the truth. Though Kaepernick has not been signed by any team in recent months, the fire which he ignited continues to burn. Other players have carried the torch on in protesting the anthem on their perspective teams extending to other professional athletic associations. Though the league has remained united in ousting the original messenger, Kaepernick’s message is still alive through the actions and demonstrations of other players and has gained even more attention in his absence.
Kaepernick is just as influential in the community, as he has been on the field. Since October 2016 he has consistently donated $100,000 to at least four non-profit organizations a month. He selects random grassroot organizations throughout the country. He contributes $25,000 to various groups who are actually making a difference in the community, which is part of a million-dollar pledge he has made. He has also built a strong reputation for a broad range of other humanitarian and activism efforts for African-Americans. Kaepernick is biracial and was adopted and raised by a White couple, who reared him as their own, along with their children.
In an interview with NFL media reporter, Steve Wyche, Kaepernick explained his reasoning for kneeling during the anthem. Several of his responses are recorded in the following statements. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
As expected Kaepernick’s stand for raising awareness in regards to the perils that African-Americans face did not resonate well with many around the country, including Donald TrumpAAsAs. Accordingly, he went on a nationally-televised rampage of which he attacked the protests’ players in the NFL. The despicable rant occurred while Trump was in Huntsville, Alabama, delivering a speech in support of Senator Luther Strange. At the time, Strange was a candidate in the primary election for the seat of U.S. Attorney General. During what should have been a speech endorsing and campaigning for Strange, Trump took it upon himself to promote his own agenda. He shouted, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!’” He continued in his rhetoric to say, “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner – they don’t know it, they’re friends of mine – they’ll be most popular person for a week.”
Not long afterwards, Houston Texans owner, Robert “Bob” McNair uttered a controversial comment in regards to players of NFL. The comment was spoken at a meeting conducted by the NFL’s owners’, to address protests that players demonstrated during the anthem. He said to other owners, “we can’t have the inmates running the prison.” Prior to the comment being made public, Texans Coach O’Brien took a stance of, getting in front of the story with his team. After which, some of the players weighed heavily on performing a walkout. Reportedly O’Brien then held a 90-minute meeting, allowing players the opportunity to speak out their emotions. The coaching staff was able to prevent the intended walkout by talking with players, though some players agree that the issue is far from being resolved. Following his accidental truth hiccups, McNair offered a public apology stating, “I regret that I used that expression.” He said, “I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players. I used a figure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally. I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”
As far as we are concerned McNair can keep his apology. The mentality that he possesses is nothing new to our people. For years, Black men and women have been used to making our White counterparts money and then being totally disregarded, overlooked and unappreciated. As it is, this very nation was built off of the backs of our ancestors and many of us, picked up where they left off. So perhaps, he meant that he, “regret he used that expression” – OUT-LOUD! Either way, WE know he meant what he said, and said what he meant.
Political: Obama is Out, Trump is In
At the beginning of the year, Americans concluded an eight-year term with the first “acknowledged” African-American president, Barack Obama. The presidential torch was taken up by Donald Trump who assumed office with an agenda to destroy the legacy of the former president. Donald Trump subscribes to the premise, “Make America Great Again.” But, it is hard to decipher whether POTUS is referring to the great America that once existed when a certain portion of its population was enslaved or some other dark moment in American history. So far, Donald Trump’s administration appears to be filled with hostility, divisiveness, corruptness, controversy and a gravely indifferent racial and economic standing for American citizens.
According to the Pew Research Center, the primary coverage of POTUS was 62 percent negative in comparison to the former President Obama which was 20 percent. The center found that, “About six-in-ten stories on Trump’s early days in office had a negative assessment, about three times more than in early coverage for Obama and roughly twice that of Bush and Clinton. Coverage of Trump’s early time in office moved further away from a focus on the policy agenda and more toward character and leadership.” If the first year of Donald Trump’s administration is any indication as to how the next three years will go, then, the American people really have very little to look forward to. It is more likely to hear POTUS boast about how much of a better job his administration has done for the nation in comparison to his predecessor, than it is for the American people to be made aware of issues and concerns that affect us the most. Ultimately, in terms of national leadership the country has truly underwent a dramatic change this year.
National: Sexual Harassment
The year of 2017, brought in a wave of women breaking the silence in regards to sexual harassment. In a recent two-part series entitled, “Women Power 101”, we presented various struggles that women in America have faced throughout the years. The purpose for expounding on the issue was to, empower and encourage women to remain united in the struggle for equal rights. In times past, women were treated as second-class citizens with no voice, right or control over their own bodies or lives. Certain customs inclusive with, treating and talking to women in a disrespectful tone and inappropriately touching them in obscene places have become an American norm in the workplace, church, community and other places. However, this behavior is not acceptable and should have never been viewed as a way of life.
According to Lisa Belkin, “47 men have been forced out of prominent positions this calendar year, with another 26 suspended, on leave or under investigation.” As more women find confidence in the testimonies of other abused victims, more accusations and allegations against sexual misconduct and harassment continues to emerge. The sword is one that has cut from the highest office in the nation to the entertainment and business industries to media and a large number of other platforms. Many victims maintain that they have been fired or discriminated against due to their unwillingness to meet certain sexual demands of their abusers. Others have been inappropriately touched or fondled and some have avoided rendering sexual favors in return for promotions or advancements.
The cases are endless that are being exposed in regards to the mistreatment of women. A few of the more publicized cases that have been at the forefront of the issue are: Gretchen Carlson, who filed suit against then-Fox News chief Roger Ailes, accusing him of retaliating against her when she refused his sexual demands; Harvey Weinstein was forced into resignation from his company after being accused of rape, assault and harassment; Alex Kozinski, a California federal judge was accused by at least 15 women; famous actor and chef, Mario Batali has been in the hot seat of allegations from multiple women; NFL Hall of Famer, Warren Moon is involved in a potential civil lawsuit with Wendy Haskell for “unwanted and unsolicited” sexual advances; Russell Simmons, one of the founders of Def Jam Recordings is accused of rape by three women; NBC News terminated Matt Lauer in regards to sexual misconduct; Alabama judge and recent U.S. Senate candidate, Roy Moore; Charlie Rose was fired from CBS and PBS as a host after several accusations surfaced against him; Congressmen Ruben Kihuen and Blake Farenthold; Senators John Conyers and Al Franken and the number continues to rise amongst women who are going public with sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump. Though this is only a snapshot of instances of sexual abuse, the list is consumed with the likes of actors, business owners, filmmakers, comedians, editors, reporters, presidents, publishers, directors, producers, executives and many more who have taken part of this disturbing trend.
Local: Hurricane Harvey
On August 25, Texas was struck with a Category 4 storm that left catastrophic damage to those in its path. Harvey had a fatality rate of more than 80, affected at least 41 counties in Texas, several parishes in Louisiana and touched parts of Belize, Honduras, Cayman Islands and Nicaragua. Certain areas of Houston were infiltrated with over 50 inches of flooding. The massive flooding forced thousands out of their homes. As a result, shelters were set up in other cities and low-affected areas of the city to accommodate evacuees. Rescue efforts were still being performed even after the Harvey’s flooding ceased days later. Hotels were filled to the capacity, thousands of homes went without power and water systems for weeks, over a million vehicles were demolished and many schools were closed due to the flood damage. The oil and gas industry also saw the effects of Harvey as production was shut down in the region. The storm was no respecter of persons as, affluent and marginalized communities were equally affected.
Today, the torrential storm has gone on record as being the most costly Atlantic hurricane. It caused nearly $200 billion in damage. Since the storm struck, Mayor Sylvester Turner has dedicated tireless hours to helping Houstonians recover from the natural disaster. While many are choosing to define his mayoral legacy according to Harvey’s impact, African-American News & Issues acknowledges and commends the mayor on a job well done. Furthermore, the Mayor and Judge Ed Emmett informed residents of Harris County that an additional $27.6 million from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund will be distributed to over 20 nonprofit organizations to assist in recovery efforts. The Mayor continues to work daily on keeping Houston Strong. At the present, many of our residents are still displaced and there are some businesses that have yet to reopen. Though Houston has secured a great outpouring of help from around the world, there are many still in the process of recovering from the devastation.
Sports: World Series & Boxing Champ, Floyd Mayweather
After Hurricane Harvey’s wrath swept through Houston leaving massive damage and restorative consequences for years to come; Houstonians were elated to celebrate a historic win by the Houston Astros. In the 113th edition of the Major League Baseball World Series, the Houston Astros came out victorious against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros defeated the Dodgers, four games to three in the World Series. This entitlement was the first win for the Astros in the MLB franchise history. George Springer was named as the Most Valuable Player of 2017, with his impressive five home run record in the series. Justin Verlander, one of the team’s new editions’ was named the ALCS Most Valuable Player. The series was played during October 24 – November 1.
To recognize the struggles that Houstonians have been confronted with due to Harvey, the Astros wore a patch during the series in support of victims. The symbolism of Houston Strong was displayed by the team as the patch featured the team’s logo and “Strong” at the bottom. Managers and players of the team understood the need to, “boost moral support for the city,” according to Manager A.J. Hinch. Congratulations once again, to the Houston Astros for bringing the Cup home in 2017!
In the world of boxing, the legendary Floyd Mayweather topped off his career of wins with his 50th defeat. Mayweather competed in a suspenseful 10th-round technical knockout against mixed-martial arts champion Conor McGregor in Las Vegas, Nevada in the summer of 2017. At the age of 40, Mayweather says that the fight was his last bout. At the conclusion of the fight he said to fans, “Tonight I chose the right dance p