By Darwin Campbell
1. Police Shootings
2016 was a year of high profile police-involved shootings where both the police and the community lost loved ones, suffered deeply and grieved.
According to statistics from The Guardian, 2016 was a bloody year for African-American who has run-ins with police. Of the 1,045 persons killed by police in 2016, 245 were African-American and 18 of those were Texas residents.
– Ivory Pantallion III
The last incident reported in Texas occurred on Nov. 22, when Ivory Pantallion III, allegedly led police on a vehicle pursuit after refusing to pull over for a traffic violation, authorities said.
He ended the chase after he crashed his car and was killed in an exchange of gunfire with officers, according to reports from the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department.
Some other more high profile incidents include:
– Shooting of Alton Sterling
Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police outside a convenience store where he was selling CDs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 5, 2016. His death led to Black Lives Matter demonstrations and protests across the country.
– Shooting of Philando Castile
A day after Alton Sterling’s death, on July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis. The killing further inflamed debate over policing practices and the Black Lives Matter movement. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, broadcast the moments after the killing on Facebook Live.
Police were not immune from the bullet exchanges as the boys in blue suffered several high-profile losses while serving the community.
– 5 police officers killed in Dallas
On July 7, 2016, five police officers were shot and killed while working to keep the peace at a protest in Dallas over the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Nine other people were injured. The gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, was killed following an hours-long standoff with police.
– 3 officers killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
On July 17, 2016, in response to the killing of Alton Sterling, Gavin Eugene Long ambushed six officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three of them. Long, who associated himself with organizations linked to black separatism and the “sovereign citizens” movement, was shot and killed by a SWAT officer during a shootout with police at the scene.
- Mayor Turner – Acres Homes Proud – Visionary
It was a year for an Acres Homes visiona ry to take the helm of the city.
In his first year in office Sylvester Turner, has proven that being elected office is about work and results more than prestige and power.
Turner is managing the 4th largest city in the nation and the former state representative has taken the bull by the horns and did more than just make political pie in the sky promises.
So far, he has fostered a new level of cooperation first surfaced in January when City departments long used to operating independently of one another came together to solve our pothole problem
A year later, we are maintaining this performance standard 95 percent of the time. Overall, more than 40,000 potholes have been filled.
He appointed the City’s first ever flood czar and we are gearing up to move forward with flood relief projects early in 2017.
Turner brought the Houston City Council came together to eliminate a $160 million budget shortfall, the worst since the Great Recession.
Now with personal sacrifice by our municipal employees, police officers and firefighters, we have a pension reform plan ready for the state legislature to approve that provides certainty and reliability now and for the future.
The crime rate was also a priority this year. When it appeared as if Houston was headed toward a dramatic year-over-year increase in homicides, an extra $2 million was allocated for police overtime.
He added that under his watch, the Houston that existed before the November election still exists today.
“We are a city where residents and law enforcement work hand in hand, where neighbor looks out for neighbor and where hate and intolerance are not accepted,” he said.
There is also new leadership at the Houston Police and Fire Departments: Police Chief Art Acevedo and Fire Chief Sam Pena understand Houston’s diversity and share my strong commitment to keeping our residents safe.
“The new chiefs, my office and all of the groups serving our immigrant and refugee communities are working together to ensure all residents continue to feel safe and protected,” he said. “My promise was that tomorrow will be better than today. It’s the same promise my mother made to me when I was growing up in Acres Homes. If you think about it the promise of a better tomorrow is what has driven Houston from the start.”
- Black Women in Texas Sports
Three Gold performances at the Olympics in Rio by African-American women athletes from Texas present outstanding examples for Black youth and teens and should inspire many to dream, set and achieve even greater personal goals in life.
Olympic athletes Simone Biles, Simone Manuel and Michelle Carter historic performances in Rio put the “I Can” in African- American.
Each has given youth hope that dreams still matter and that even in the face of challenges, maintaining a positive attitude and not giving up still brings winning results and inspired by teaching valuable lessons about beating odds, positive thinking, dedication to details and also stirred discussions about racial and gender equality.
From Spring, Texas, she is the first African American to win an all-around World title ,winning four Olympic Gold Medals and a Bronze medal, she is the individual all-around, vault and floor champion. Biles also was part of the gold medal-winning team dubbed the “final five” at the 2106 Summer Olympic in Rio.
The Sugarland native graduated from Fort Bend Austin High School, and is a competition swimmer specializing in sprint freestyle. She won two gold and two silver medals: gold in the 100-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter medley, and silver in the 50-meter freestyle, according to Team USA website.
Manuel has benefited from that rich history and allowed it to motivate her to achieve her goal and raise her to the level of a modern trailblazer and social pioneer seeking to break down barriers for African-Americans and women.
Carter is the strong Black woman who preaches to youth and adults alike to never give up on yourself – a message that travels far and is as powerful as the shot put throw that put her in the 2016 Rio Olympics record books.
Carter won the 2016 gold medal at the Rio Olympics on the last of her six throws, edging two-time defending champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand. She became the first United States women’s athlete to win the event since the women’s competition began at the 1948 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, and only the second American to win any medal.
One of Carter main goals appears to be to continue using her own website to communicate positive messages and motivate young Black children and women to live health, happy, love their bodies and take care of the one body they have.
Carter seeks to redefine the notion of beauty and what black girls can do and hopes to inspire more girls to try the sport that opened to women in the late 1940s.
- The Return of Hate
The polarizing rhetoric of the 2016 political campaigns emboldened those weak minded and prone to fall prey to hate and propaganda to rise up in 2016 to help usher in a new era of hate.
Hate crimes and hate speech are sweeping across the United States like a brush fire.
Hundreds of people are being victimized — men, women and children of various ethnicities, faiths and sexual identities.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 867 acts of racial or sexual harassment in the 10 days after the election. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, which tracks activities on both the far right and far left, conducted a study of social media and found there had been more than 2.6 million anti-Semitic tweets over a 12-month period around the election.
The bureau’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program data showed 5,850 hate crime incidents reported to police in 2015, a 6.8% increase from the 5,479 incidents reported in 2014.
The report recorded 5,818 “single-bias” incidents, incidents in which one or more offense types are motivated by the same bias. Of those, 59.2% were motivated by a racial, ethnic and/or ancestry bias; 19.7% by a religious bias; 17.7% by a sexual orientation bias; and 3.3% by a gender identity, disability or gender bias.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks hate crime statistics and releases an annual report, but the one covering this year won’t come out until late 2017.
The latest FBI annual hate crime report shows a sharp spike in the number of hate crimes nationwide, with attacks against Muslims increasing the most sharply.
In one year, anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States rose 67%, from 154 incidents in 2014 to 257 in 2015, according to the latest numbers released in the bureau’s Hate Crime Statistics report on Monday.
In sheer numbers, anti-Jewish incidents (664) were higher in 2015, but the percentage increase was much higher for incidents involving Muslim victims.
Hate crimes against minorities other than Muslims also increased, according to the report.
Anti-Jewish hate crimes rose 9%, anti-black hate crimes went up by almost 8%, and anti-LGBT hate crimes increased by nearly 5%, while anti-Latino hate crimes remained steady.
Leaders at all levels — national, state and local — need to address the rash of hatred before it gets out of control.
- Harris County Turns Blue
Everything may be BIG in TEXAS, but nothing bigger than the largest political spoils for Election 2016 – that belongs to the Harris County Democratic Party.
The shake up in turning the county from “Red” to “Blues” not only has caused a political earthquake, but also has put Harris County in the state and national spotlight shining as bright as a “Super Moon.”
“We are truly excited about the outcome in Harris County,” said Lane Lewis, Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. “Democrats are unstoppable when we all work together in a team effort.”
Democrats literally swept Harris County winning key offices including the offices of District Attorney, Sheriff, Tax Assessor and numerous other Judge positions.
Democrats rolled to the polls in numbers that stunned Republicans who saw the wands of power removed from their hands after years of political dominance in the county.
Big Changes Over the Horizon
One of the key things the Lewis envisions is changes in the way the county looks at justice.
With Harris County leading the state in convicting young felons, incarcerating Blacks and Hispanics and also has problems and failures with its bails and bonding systems, fees collection scales and other criminal justice issues that Republicans failed to address with the community. The Sheriffs Department also has the daunting and difficult task of rebuilding trust with a community that has endured scandal after scandal with its jail conditions, inmate treatment and the integrity and questionable “on-duty” actions of some of its deputies.
He is also optimistic that the new judges will bring about a more balanced bails and bonding system and improve the public defender system and offer more counseling and rehabilitation options over just jailing and imprisoning citizens.
Lewis said the focus on 2018 elections and will work to maintain the base of the party and seek to reach out to other groups of voters as well.