The Florida Courier staff chose the top 10 of the hundreds of stories our newspaper staff reviewed, covered or wrote during 2015. Factors considered include newsworthiness, relevance, uniqueness, familiarity of the issue, the intensity of statewide interest, emotional impact, and whether there
is a uniquely ‘Black’ perspective.
1 Black youth activism – After last year’s killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and this year’s in-custody deaths of Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray, the loosely organized group known as Black Lives Matter effectively used social media, particularly “Black Twitter,” to raise the consciousness of young people around the country and indeed around the world. The result was street demonstrations, economic direct action against local merchants, and other protests in cities large and small. Young activists are taking a much more aggressive approach toward achieving racial justice than has the traditional civil rights movement, and have been criticized in some quarters for political naïveté and disorganization. Still, the movement and the grassroots protests – some which target big-money interests, such as the University of Missouri football team’s threat not to play in televised college football games if the school’s president, perceived as being racially insensitive, did not resign – may mark a generational turning point in modern American civil rights activism.
2 Gun violence – In Charleston, S.C., a young White supremacist killed nine Black churchgoers in a historically Black church during Bible study. In Daytona Beach, two Bethune-Cookman University students were shot dead and one seriously injured as a consequence of a dispute about past-due rent. (The killer subsequently committed suicide in a Miami-Dade jail cell.) Black youth, particularly young Black males living in slum and blighted communities with bad schools, low employment and high gang activity, continue to kill innocent bystanders and each other around the nation – with no end in sight.
3 “Negroes With Guns” series – In response to police killings and the Charleston massacre, the Florida Courier published a multi-part series of front-page articles entitled, “Negroes With Guns.”
The series reviewed the complex and sometimes contradictory relationship that Black Americans have had with gun ownership, and included commentary from pastors and Black gun experts who are urging Black Americans to legally arm themselves to protect themselves and their families and institutions from gun violence.
4 Florida’s dysfunctional GOP-dominated legislature and Gov. Rick Scott’s vetoes – As 2015 wound down, four Florida legislative sessions had been held. Three of them ended in failure, and the fourth only succeeded with the threat of a government shutdown looming. Two of the three redistricting plans passed by the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature in 2012 – one of them tweaked in 2014 – were declared unconstitutional, either by the courts or by lawmakers themselves. The Department of Education wrestled with an embarrassing technology meltdown.
Scott incensed Republican lawmakers when he veto millions of dollars of state projects. The Florida Courier identified where Scott’s vetoes specifically impacted Black Floridians, including taking appropriations away from Bethune-Cookman University’s entrepreneurial program, as well as infrastructure projects for roads, sewers, and drainage projects in small cities with high-density Black populations.
5 Police killings and atrocities – To date, 1,192 people have been killed by police in America during the calendar year 2015, according to the website killedbypolice.net. The deaths of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and Walter Scott, among others, received national attention after they were all killed by police officers or while they were in police custody. In Florida, 31-year-old Corey Jones, a church musician whose car broke down on I-95, was killed by an undercover police officer who failed to identify himself. Jones, who was unarmed, was one of 79 people killed by police in Florida in 2015. In Oklahoma, police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was arrested and convicted of raping 13 Black women over a seven month-period while he was on duty.
6 HBCU drama in Florida – Bethune-Cookman University President Edison Jackson came under fire from a longtime trustee and numerous national alumni chapters for objecting to a forensic audit to determine if millions of dollars had been misspent due to alleged fraud in conjunction with a $75 million dormitory construction project. B-CU leadership was also criticized for giving Scott the school’s highest achievement award even, after Scott cut hundred of thousands of state dollars allocated to the university. At Florida A&M University, President Elmira Mangum barely survived a pitched battle with a cadre of trustees who wanted to oust her from her job.
7 Obama defies lame-duck status – The president racked up a number of victories from his perspective, including tax cuts and credits, restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba, an international global climate agreement, passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a multiyear transportation bill, negotiating major amendments to the George W. Bush-era educational law, No Child Left Behind – despite continued entrenched opposition from the Republican-controlled U.S. House and Senate. He got an assist from the U.S. Supreme Court, whose generally favorable interpretations of the Affordable Care Act will allow most of “Obamacare” to remain intact. Obama pardoned a number of nonviolent drug offenders – including a handful of Black Floridians – who no longer have to serve long federal prison sentences. However, he has been unwilling or unable to make any systemic change to benefit Black America with regard to entrepreneurship, disproportionate unemployment, and the dysfunctional criminal justice system, among other issues.
8 Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – The Congressional Black Caucus has already lined up to unconditionally support Hillary Clinton without making policy demands. Her campaign is having continuing meetings with Black Life Matters leadership in an effort to get out the crucial Black vote in the November 2016 general election. Trump recently met with a group of Black pastors, with little results. Neither the GOP, the Democratic Party, nor its candidates have “Black” issues, including (but not limited to) entrepreneurship, disproportionate unemployment, and the dysfunctional criminal justice systems the top of their policy agendas or campaign platforms.
9 The Supreme Court reviews affirmative action – This month, for the second time, justices are reviewing the University of Texas’ college admission program, which uses race as a consideration (among others) for admission into the university. A decision is expected in the spring of 2016.
10 Notable deaths – Edward W. Brooke, first Black elected U.S. senator, 95 (died Jan. 3); ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, 49 (Jan. 4); Andrae Crouch, legendary gospel performer, 75 (Jan. 8); baseball legend Ernie Banks, 83 (Jan. 23); blues legend B.B. King, 89 (May 14); Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, 22 (July 26); Julian Bond, civil rights pioneer and longtime board chairman of the NAACP, 75 (Aug. 15); Amelia Boynton Robinson, voting rights matriarch beaten at Selma’s “Bloody Sunday,’’104 (Aug. 26); basketball great Darryl Dawkins, 58 (Aug. 27); basketball legend Moses Malone, 60 (Sept. 13); “When A Man Loves A Woman” crooner Percy Sledge, 74 (April 14); “Stand By Me’’ singer Ben E. King, 76 (April 30); Evangeline Moore (85), surviving daughter of slain civil rights heroes Harry T. and Harriett Moore who were killed by the KKK in Mims, Fla. (Oct. 26); native Floridian and world-class sprinter Houston McTear, 58 (Nov. 1); Florida’s first Black Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw, 85, (Dec. 14); William Guest of Gladys Knight and the Pips, 74 (Dec. 24); Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, 83 (Dec. 27).