2018: the year in black activism

December 19, 2018
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From the many atrocities of the Trump administration to climate catastrophes impacting communities of color, 2018 has proved that our activism matters more than ever.

Here are the biggest and most memorable moments in Black activism.

2018 Midterm wins

Driven by the grassroots power of Black on-the-ground organizing, the 2018 midterms ushered in a wave of Black elected officials.  Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Tlaib, who came to the United States as a refugee, is also the first  Somali-American member of Congress. Following a shocking primary upset, Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first Black congresswoman. And New York’s Letitia James made history several times over, becoming the first Black woman to hold statewide office in New York and the first Black attorney general. She says she looks forward to an aggressive probe of Trump’s various scandals, “I will be shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings, and every dealing, demanding truthfulness at every turn.” We also saw a groundswell of Black voters making their voices heard at the polls. the 2018 midterms had the highest Black voter midterm turnout since 1914.

Therese Patricia Okoumou scales the Statue of Liberty to protest ICE

Amidst Trump’s immigration policy of separating families at America’s borders, which recently left one girl dead, many activists and organizers stepped up to fight back. Marches to #Keep Families Together unfolded all over the country and  575 women were arrested outside the Senate to protest the policy. But it was New York based activist Therese Patricia Okoumou whose message went to the top — literally. Okoumou was arrested trying to scale the 150-foot Statue of Liberty to protest immigration policies.  She says she got her inspiration from Forever FLOTUS Michelle Obama. “Michelle Obama, our beloved first lady that I care so much about said, ‘When they go low, we go high.’

“I went as high as I could,” she said in front of a crowd of cheering supporters.

Naomi Wadler and the fight to end gun violence

After 17 people were shot and killed at Stoneman Douglas High School  in Parkland, Florida, the students organized to speak up against gun violence. However, many were quick to point out that Black youth organizers had been speaking out about the gun violence from the state in their communities for years. At the March for Our Lives in Washington DC, 11-year-old Naomi Walder pleaded for empathy and action on behalf of gun violence victims who look like her. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead the evening news,” Naomi told the cheering crowd.

Raheem Sterling confronts the UK’s racist media

From Colin Kaepernick to Muhammad Ali, sports and activism have always gone hand in hand. And in the UK, that is no different. Racism in soccer is a growing problem all over the world and Manchester United player Raheem Sterling used his platform to speak out about it. After Chelsea fans taunted him with racist jeers, he took to Instagram to point out how unfair media representations of Black players fuel racist behavior by fans. He posted a story about both he and his teammate buying expensive homes. His teammate’s story is reported much more favorably, whereas his is described negatively.

“You have two young players starting out their careers — both play for the same team, both have done the right thing, which is buy a new house for their mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are,” said Sterling in the post.

“But look at how the newspapers get their message across for the young Black player and then for the young white player.

“I think this is unacceptable, both innocent, have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded.”


View this post on Instagram


Good morning I just want to say , I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to heard I will speak up. Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don’t expect no better. For example you have two young players starting out there careers both play for the same team, both have done the right thing. Which is buy a new house for there mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are, but look how the news papers get there message across for the young black player and then for the young white payer. I think this in unacceptable both innocent have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded. This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism an aggressive behaviour, so for all the news papers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age all i have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity an give all players an equal chance.

A post shared by Raheem Sterling x 😇 (@sterling7) on Dec 9, 2018 at 1:54am PST

Justice for Marielle Franco

Marielle Franco was an activist and city council woman in Brazil who spoke up against police violence against Black woman and the LGBTQ. After a fiery speech speaking out against state violence, she  was shot and killed. Her killer was never found, but many suspect there was police involvement.



According to Amnesty International, experts say the bullets used to kill her belong to the Brazilian Federal Police. Franco is not alone. Amnesty International also points out that many activists aren’t safe in Brazil,“Brazil is one of the world’s deadliest countries for human rights defenders like Marielle, with at least 70 killed in 2017. Too often, the killings are not investigated and those responsible go free. People who stand up for human rights live in constant fear.” After her death, Amnesty International called for activists to demand an investigation and to protect human rights activists.

Karen Attiah becomes a warrior for press freedom

The Washington Post‘s Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah recruited Jamal Khashoggi as a columnist to write about international affairs from the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. But when he went missing, she started to worry.  “My gut feeling, just knowing the things Jamal had told me about how the royal family had been putting pressure on him, putting pressure on his family, to get him to stop writing… I started to fear the worst,” she told Marie Claire. According to the BBC, “Turkish officials however say they have evidence, including gruesome audio recordings, that the journalist was killed by a team of Saudi agents on orders that came from the highest levels.”  When it was revealed that Khashoggi had been killed Attiah began speaking out about him and his work.

In the space where his  column should have ran, she instead left a blank space  with the title “A missing voice.” At a time when journalists are under attack in the United States and abroad, her work is a stern reminder of the importance of a free press.

#TeamFreeSanitaryPads and menstrual activism

Through her campaign Team Free Sanitary Pad, Johannesburg-based activist named Zola Ndwandwe is pressuring the government to provide free sanitary supplies for young people in South Africa. “One of our major objectives is to make sure sanitary pads are as accessible as condoms,” she told Global Citizen. Access to supplies like pads and tampons is a huge concern for global gender parity. More than 1 in 10 girls miss up to 20% of the school year in Sub Saharan Africa because they don’t have access to menstrual supplies.