The camera footage of the killing of George Floyd on May 25 sparked a summer of protests that trickled down into fall and winter. The year 2020 was a year of protests, activism and social justice.
CBS News compiled a list of all of the Black people who were killed by police from January 1 to August 31. The list contained 164 known names.
“The pandemic successfully stopped everything except for grocery stores and gas stations, but it couldn’t stop police brutality. We were in the middle of a pandemic when George Floyd got killed,” said Kiara Yakita, founder of the Black Liberation Movement of Central Ohio. “Racism towards Black people is like cockroaches. Nothing can seem to take it out,” she said.
She has been protesting in Columbus, Ohio, over the death of Casey Goodson, a 23-year-old Black man who was shot and killed outside of his home by a sheriff’s deputy in early December.
One organization that emerged from the ashes of protests is Until Freedom, co-founded by activists Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Mysonne Linen and Angelo Pinto. They mobilized around justice for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by officers in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment on March 13.
Yonasda Lonewolf, a Black and Native activist and national community organizer, commended the organizers for bringing awareness, because she said it can be difficult to bring awareness to cases when there’s no video.
Barbara Arnwine, lawyer and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, said 2020 was a major year for the #SayHerName campaign and how the WNBA took on the issue of Black women slain by police.
Angelo Pinto said the main distinction about police brutality in 2020 is technology making it go viral, causing millions of people to see it.
“We’re dealing with a set of circumstances now where it’s irrefutable evidence. And regardless of what the police officer says, regardless of what the judges and the district attorney say, the people are seeing murder happen,” he said. “As a result of that, I think what happened, or what we witnessed is probably one of the largest global and certainly one of the largest national uprisings in this country’s history, particularly, specifically focused on Black lives. So it’s been a historic moment.”
He also said despite activism becoming professionalized, in 2020, people took to the streets without affiliating with nonprofit organizations, and they simply showed up and put their bodies on the line.
Athletes, celebrities and people in the public eye took part in the summer of protests.
In Louisville, 87 people were arrested at a protest led by Until Freedom. Among those were NFL player Kenny Stills, NBA coach Irv Roland, Yandy Smith-Harris of “Love and Hip Hop,” Porsha Williams of The “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and rapper Cordae.
“(They) engaged in civil disobedience, were arrested and spent a night in jail and when we were released, we had to fight charges,” Mr. Pinto said.
Rapper Lil Baby shot the music video for the song “The Bigger Picture” at a protest in the city of Atlanta. In December, Seth Towns, a basketball player for Ohio State University, kneeled for his friend, Casey Goodson, at a game.
White vigilantes, militia and organizations also played a role in the narrative of 2020. In August, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed three protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mr. Pinto pointed out the far-right group Proud Boys, whose leader said he burned down a Black Lives Matter banner that was stolen from a church. In Michigan, White supremacists and militias stormed the state’s capitol building.
“The alarming thing about this, they’ve all pretty much been able to do it with immunity, and there’s been no police present. There’s been no police in riot gear. There’s been no armed forces. The National Guard hasn’t been called in like when you see (at) peaceful protests,” the Until Freedom activist said. “So to me, in many ways, what you’re witnessing, and we know this, is the local, state and national government standing in solidarity with White supremacy.”
He said another important piece of 2020 is the role young people played in social justice. He saw young people at the forefront, and his nine-year-old daughter accompanied him to many protests.
“She knows who Breonna Taylor is. She knows who George Floyd is. She knows about Donald Trump. She talks to me about it. They’re being radicalized and have a level of political sophistication and exposure that generations before haven’t,” he said. “And in many ways, they are willing to engage in the political process and push back in ways that many generations have not.”
Atlanta saw its own cases of police brutality in 2020. Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was shot by White residents of a South Georgia neighborhood in February, and Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot by police outside of Wendy’s in June. Ms. Arnwine said when young Black people in Georgia were asked why they voted in the presidential election, many responded that their number one reason for voting was the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks. She said people can look forward to more Black youth activism in 2021.
Ms. Lonewolf said she was irate over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and she experienced another level of outrage over George Floyd. She reached out to activists and organizations in Atlanta to plan a protest on May 29 at the city’s CNN building.
“It ended up turning into a riot. We’re on CNN. We’re at the CNN building. It was on every single news network because the police were instigating,” she said.
Afterward, she was asked to be a part of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms’ advisory board. The mayor listened to the demands of activists and implemented the Obama 21st Century Police initiative. They also had her implement counseling and mandatory drug and alcohol testing for police officers.
“We thought that Ferguson was a boiling point. That was nowhere near the boiling point. But because of the fact that we were all in quarantine, it was the first time that the world saw what America has been doing to Black and Brown people for a century in their face, because they were all forced to sit down and to watch their phones and to watch the television,” Ms. Lonewolf said. “They saw it and they were outraged. We forced corporations to now scream Black Lives Matter. We forced. Did the cities have to burn? Yes, they did. Yes, they did. The cities had to burn. Everything had to burn in order for a new growth and a new movement to happen, in order for the government and these mayors that didn’t pay us any mind before, for them to now listen.”
Caroline Gombe, founder of Black Womxns March out of New York, said there needs to be specific goals presented to the new president in 2021. Mr. Pinto said Black people need to hold president-elect Joe Biden accountable for delivering the needs of Black people, including police and criminal justice reform.
Social media censorship
With almost 31,000 followers on Instagram and almost 9,000 on Twitter, Ms. Lonewolf is a frequent user of social media. With the rise of social media censorship and the silencing of Black voices, especially the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, she said it’s important to have tech revolutionaries. She also said going into 2021, Black and Brown people should start having digital land of their own.
After Minister Farrakhan delivered his July 4 message, “The Criterion,” YouTube removed the Nation of Islam’s official YouTube channel, has been removing the videos or clips of it and has been suspending those who share it. YouTube has also been suspending people who share things that go against the U.S. Covid-19 vaccines. One of those people was Abdul Qiyam Muhammad, social media strategist for Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan foresaw this time coming. I have been in various meetings, on various conference calls, along with many others over the past year, where he was warning us and advising us to strengthen our own platforms within the Nation of Islam, to prepare ourselves for what he called was going to be a protracted long-term war that was going to come against the Nation,” Abdul Qiyam Muhammad said. “He said this in 2019 to us. So this for me is a fulfillment of what he foresaw as being a man of God.”
He said he believes 2020 was just a test run and that the ultimate aim is not to freeze a Twitter account but to kill the Messenger of God. He also pointed out the hypocrisy of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms that say they want freedom of speech, freedom of religion and a safe space.
“Yet when it comes to the Nation of Islam and strong Black voices, they have the unwritten laws of anti-Black racism that applies to us that make them freeze our account, ban us for two weeks, take our videos down, ban the Minister,” he said.
He has been following the congressional hearings of the CEOs of YouTube, Google, Facebook and Twitter, as they are being brought before Congress about censorship, their monopolization of the technological industry and the type of content that they allow.
“Censorship is at an all-time high. And I believe that the congressional hearings against the big social media giants could play a part in slowing down the censorship process,” said Dr. Boyce Watkins, a businessman and entrepreneur. He said overall, what the social media giants are doing to Black people is racist and unfair. He also said Black people will have to find multiple ways to connect with each other.
“Even if you don’t own the platform, if you have multiple ways to connect to each other through email, text message, social media, etcetera that allows us to ensure that our voice is never muted, that we’re able to pass ideas and information to one another,” he said. “I think that long term, my hope is that someone can develop social media platforms that are run by Black folks that promote freedom of speech, that can build Black wealth and allow Black people to communicate and build media in an impactful way.”
History was made in the 2020 United States presidential election. Kamala Harris will be the first female, first Black, and first South Asian vice president of the United States. Another Black woman who made history was Santia Deck, the first female athlete to own a sneaker company, TRONUS. Furthermore, ETOnline reported that a record number of Black performers, 11, won in the performance categories of the Emmy Awards.
Dr. Watkins said the growth of new Black media is the major win of 2020. He also said the concept of Black economics hasn’t been this strong since before integration.
“At the beginning of the decade, it was a lot of work to convince Black folks to talk about economics. There wasn’t much of an interest in discussing that. Now, it’s very easy. Now, it’s a given. Now, it’s assumed that Black people love to talk about economics,” he said. “If you look at where that trend is headed, it really means that in a generation, our children and grandchildren are going to lead the nation in economic intelligence when it comes to starting businesses, making investments, acquiring assets.”
He said though a lot of Black businesses were hit hard because of Covid-19, the pandemic gave Black people a wakeup call.
“Sometimes you have to go through a traumatic experience to kind of get snapped out of the lullaby that you were in before, and that’s what Covid did for us,” he said. “Yes, it was a difficult time, but I think we’re going to be better and stronger and smarter because of what we went through.”
Cassiopeia Uhuru, founder of TheBlackMall.com, also looked at the positive effect covid had on Black businesses. She has seen a lot of business owners emerge because of covid, and she said some people lost their jobs because of the pandemic but realized they had products or services to offer.
“The wins are people who are making it through. The businesses that are figuring out how to pivot, getting that extra education, tapping into their resources, into their market and saying, okay, I got to do something different. I got to make a change,” she said.
She said the wins for Black people come from being creative and digging deeper to become even greater. She also said 2020 was an opportunity to reflect, refocus and recenter.
“2020 has been great for us in that way, and 2021 is going to be even greater because now we’ve seen we can make it through anything,” she said.