Looking back, 2018 had moments where it left us more confused than seeing Kanye in a MAGA hat. In hindsight, that actually makes more sense than I initially thought. From Agent Orange campaigning to build a wall to Bar B Que Becky's false snitching antics in Oakland, we all can recall moments from the year that was less than stellar. Instead of focusing on negative, we'd like to take a moment to call out the wins from 2018. Especially those made by black men.
Marvel's Black Panther had us all feeling like black excellence once it hit the big screen last year. The film dominated cinema selling over 1 billion dollars in ticket sales worldwide. This was equally significant for the black cinema community as it was the first time that Marvel entrusted a black director for one of its films. Ryan Coogler seized the opportunity and had black people across the globe throwing up the Wakanda Forever Sign.
More than an athlete
In his fifteenth year in the league, Lebron's biggest plays were off the court. In collaboration with childhood friend and business associate Maverick Carter, Lebron partnered with HBO Uninterrupted Sports to produce the TV series, The Shop.
On The Shop, Lebron and Maverick sit with most prominent names in sports and entertainment to have unfiltered conversations and debates about many social and racial topics. Even though the show has been a success, this wasn't King James's great accomplishment of the year. His most significant achievement of 2018, and maybe even his career was the opening of the Promise School in Akron, a charter school for at-risk students.
IPS is a certified STEM school where each student was provided with a bike and receives breakfast, lunch, and snacks daily. The school also provides GED and career services for the parents. The most significant promise that Lebron made through IPS is the guarantee that once students successfully graduate from IPS, James promised to cover their full tuition at the University of Akron. I loved seeing Lebron sow back in the soil from where he came from, and I hope to see this become more prominent from other athletes in 2019.
Chief of Diversity
The NBA has notably been more politically engaged with the social issues over the past few years. In 2018, the NBA made a progressive move with the hiring of Maurice Stinnett, the first African American appointed to lead diversity for the Brooklyn Nets. Hopefully, the NBA continues to be an example to the NBA in the fight for promoting diversity at the executive level and empowering athletes to use their platform for a higher purpose than just playing the game.
This is America
Childish Gambino's genius shined again. He mesmerized us with his socially charged song, This is America. Childish masterfully wrote consciously potent bars over trap productions and complimented this body of art with captivating visuals to address issues such as gun violence and mass shootings in the United States—as well as longstanding racism and discrimination against African Americans. The song debuted at number on the Billboard Hot 100 and had amassed over 400 million views on Youtube.
Order in the court
27-year-old, Hanif Johnson became the youngest elected District Judge in Pennsylvania. Hanif was quoted in saying that, "“When you sit back, and you see Donald Trump become president, and you hear about all of these things we are being affected by, it seems like everything happens through the court system. Everybody always says, well, we complain about stuff, but we never get up and do anything. This is me getting up and doing something."
The "Weave" Man
I think most black men can agree that aside from the police, their biggest fear in life is losing their hairline. In 2018, Wade Menedez was recognized for changing the lives of black men, one nap at a time. The 35-year-old barber reportedly made nearly half a million dollars in 2018 creating man weaves.
Meek Mill proved to us that his movement was more than a hashtag. After being in prison for nearly 5 months, he was granted bail. Meek was locked up for violating parole on a charge that happened almost a decade ago. His story is a real example of how messed up the system is. Meek used his circumstances to find a voice and advocated for criminal justice reform. Meek was quoted in saying, “Although I’m blessed to have the resources to fight this unjust situation, I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues.” Outside of Meek finding his purpose, he also blessed us with a fire album!
When it came to social media, no one else owned 2018 like Will Smith. He showed us what 50 looks like by jumping out of a helicopter over the Grand Canyon and he Killed the Drake "In My Feelings" Challenge on a bridge in Budapest. Complimenting all of his heroics, Will gave us game on life to face our fears and live it fully! I loved this quote by Will. “Anytime I’m scared of something in life, I’m compelled to attack it,” he says psyching himself up for the jump. “Life is hard, but you’ve got to commit! You can’t experience the joy that is intended for you in life if you don’t go!”
The Young Wordsmith
17 year old Malachi Jones was awarded the Gold Medal Portfolio. This prestigious award was previously won by Stephen King, Capote and others famous writers . Black Enterprise stated that “Jones’s award-winning work—a collection of lyric essays and free-verse poems—revolves around his experience as a black teenager struggling with and finally coming to terms with his identity." Malachi is currently a freshman at Columbia University.
Colin Kaepernick deserves his own statue for standing up against the system. His decision to exercise his constitutional right of peaceful protest by simply taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem had people tight on so many levels. His protest was in response to the lives of men and women who were victims of the very system that was supposed to protect them. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Colin became public enemy number one, above OJ Simpson and Mike Vick.
His stance became a spectacle because other NFL players, cheerleaders, high school and youth football players began kneeling. Kaepernick became the scapegoat and was blackballed by the NFL. Not one team in the league would sign him, not even as a backup player even though he's proven to have the skills. But in 2018, Kaepernick signed a multimillion-dollar contract to become the spokesperson for Nike. In his decision to kneel, Colin actually took a stance for something he believed in. Although the league tried to box him out financially, Colin showed it still pays to stay true to your values.