It’s another end of the year list, because how could we not? They say you won’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you come from, so documenting monumental events that will one day likely be taught as history is important. For example, people who are old enough to remember Will Smith’s rise in the 80s and 90s know how careful he was to craft his image as a parent friendly rapper who doesn’t curse, and then went on to become a mega movie star. Obviously, it came as a surprise to a lot of people when he slapped Chris Rock live on air at the Oscars back in the spring. It’s one of those things that you had to see to believe, or that we will definitely be sharing with our children years later. It’s also indicative that you should have no expectations about life because literally anything can happen, especially these days.
That moment, and the past few years, should have made it clear that the second round of the roaring 20s has been a wild ride. The first round of the roaring 20s, which occurred in the 1900s, was an era that historians defined as an era of prosperity and that redefined arts and culture. Most of us likely weren’t alive then, but it’s probably safe to say that 2020, the Roaring 20s Part Deux, is toppling any other moment in modern history thus far. We are in an era of pandemics and endemics on the rise, political upheaval, social media and disinformation leading to even more societal chaos, and so much more. And that brings us to current events. It’s the end of the year and we’re all in reflection mode about what the heck we’ve been through these past 12 months on a personal level and in society. Here, let’s take a look back at 22 collective moments that have defined this rollercoaster year. This list isn’t exhaustive and it’s in no particular order, but these are some of the most talked about events among the AURN crew.
1. The Slap Seen Round The World
Will Smith slapping Chris Rock is not something any of us ever saw coming. It happened after Rock made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair. He referred to her as “GI Jane.” Will laughed at first, but when he saw Jada rolling her eyes, it triggered him and he interrupted the live broadcast to deliver the smack seen around the world. The fallout from that led to everyone and their mama having an opinion on the matter, with some people trying to paint Will as an unhinged criminal despite the fact that we’ve never seen him behaving this way. Even Chris Rock was stunned but in the end Smith has apologized, which is more in alignment with the version of him that the public knows. However, Rock has also exercised his right to not forgive as far as we know. Smith has also been banned from the Oscars gala and other Academy events for 10 years.
2. The People of the State of California vs. Tory Lanez Trial
Tory Lanez, real name Daystar Peterson, was found guilty on three felony charges stemming from a shooting incident with rapper Megan Thee Stallion, real name Megan Pete, in 2020. For two years, there has been a lot of disinformation spread about the facts of the case including people accusing Megan of lying about being shot all together. Prior to the verdict being read, blogs ran with an unfounded rumor that Lanez was found not guilty but court reporters on the scene swiftly fact checked that information. This case has highlighted the rampant misogynoir that exists online with regard to Black women, how far dishonest bloggers are willing to go for shock value via biased reporting, and the need for actual journalists and integrity while reporting stories.
3. Kanye’s Self-Sabotage
Kanye West going on rants and generally lacking self-control has been well documented throughout the years. But it didn’t lessen the surprise when he debuted “White Lives Matter” t-shirts at Paris Fashion Week in the fall, and then went on an anti-Semetic rant online that ended up causing him to lose several multi-million dollar deals and his billionaire status.
4. Music Having a Moment
The curmudgeons among us will generally lament that modern hip-hop and R&B isn’t good anymore. However, there were quite a few albums that got a lot of buzz like SZA’s SOS, Black Star’s sophomore album No Fear of Time, which was their first album together in 24 years, Nas’ King’s Disease III, Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry, and many more that proved that there’s still good music out there.
5. Beyonce’s Renaissance
Beyonce’s album Renaissance was and still is a moment. Queen Bey has expressed frustration that it seems like people don’t listen to albums much anymore. She said people put out singles, burn out, and are on to the next but they don’t appreciate full bodies of work anymore. Welp, she tapped into house music, queer ballroom and EDM to create a full body of work that you could listen to front to back, and each track blended into each other. Renaissance is act one of four, but we haven’t gotten anything other than the music just yet, so perhaps next year we’ll get the visuals.
6. Nicki Minaj and Latto Fallout
Rap beef or in these days, social media drama, is typical. But people were surprised when Latto and Nicki Minaj’s tension spilled over to the public. People had been speculating that they were subbing each other but speculation isn’t fact. However, both Latto and Nicki Minaj leaked screengrabs of private conversations proving that they are not each other’s favs. Things came to a head when Nicki Minaj was upset that “Super Freak Girl” was placed in the pop category and not rap. She tweeted that if her song wasn’t in the rap category then Latto’s “Big Energy,” which is sonically not much different in terms of the music and tone, shouldn’t have been placed in the rap category either. That led to a breaking point in the tension between the two with Latto referring to Minaj as a “#40YearOldBully” and Minaj accusing Latto of not writing any of her raps. Again, rap beef happens so this is par for the course but it seems as though subtweeting and social media posts have taken the place of putting it in a song.
7. Celebrity Babies
Rihanna gave birth to her first child, a son, with boyfriend A$AP Rocky. We still don’t know his name but we recently got a glimpse of the adorable baby. Big Sean and Jhene Aiko welcomed a son named Noah, Diddy announced the birth of another daughter, and Keke Palmer announced that she’s pregnant on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live.
8. Celebrity Deaths
There were a lot of notable deaths this year. Irene Cara, Thom Bell, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Lamont Dozier, Betty Davis, Irene Cara, Takeoff of the Migos, Betty White, PnB Rock, and DJ Kay Slay are just a few, some of whom were unfortunately lost to gun violence. They will be missed in the physical but we will remember their contributions forever.
9. Political Rollercoaster
Once again the year was another political rollercoaster. The midterms didn’t quite turn out to be the red wave that a lot of political pundits had been predicting. Republicans won a slim lead in the House, but Democrats gained a senate seat. The senate race between Raphael Warnock and Hershel Walker for Georgia ended up going into runoffs, and Warnock prevailed, sending him to the senate for a full term, giving Democrats 51 seats.
10. Black Mayor on Top
New York Mayor Eric Adams began his first term in January, and Karen Bass was elected the first woman mayor of Los Angeles. All four of the US’s top major cities are led by Black mayors.
11. Roe V. Wade Overturned
Overturning Roe v. Wade was something that a lot of people didn’t think would happen, but also something that people warned could happen and it finally did. Many believe the political ramifications of that action manifested in how the midterms turned out.
12. Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmed
Liberal-leaning Ketanji Brown Jackson made history when she was confirmed as the first Black Woman Supreme Court Justice. This is a promise that Joe Biden made and delivered. The process became a circus with obstructionist republicans trying to find ways to block the move, but thankfully, there were enough senators who recognized how qualified she was for the job.
13. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The highly anticipated sequel to Black Panther was released, and it was bittersweet to watch without Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer in 2020. The sequel introduced Namor as the villain along with Mesoamerican influences, and Shuri as the new Black Panther.
14. Fisk Makes HBCU History in Sports
Fisk University became the first HBCU to have a women’s gymnastics team. This is major because often HBCUs don’t have the funding to have sports teams outside of football or basketball. However, Fisk sensed that this was a great opportunity to expand its reach and presence in the world. Hopefully other HBCUs follow suit.
15. From Africa to the World Cup
Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana and Tunisia were all led respectively by local coaches in the 2022 World Cup for the first time.
16. Lyrics in Court
Several key members of Young Thug’s YSL records were indicted on RICO charges and the Fulton County DA cites lyrics as the primary reason the arrests were made. This continues the debate about whether rap lyrics should be allowed in court as evidence. As far as the charges, there are a lot and some of the defendants have been making plea deals. The trial begins in January, so we will have to see how this plays out.
17. Respect for Marriage Act
Joe Biden codified the Respect for Marriage Act with bipartisan support from the House. This guarantees the LGBTQI community and interracial couples the right to be married and to extend certain rights and protections that come from wedlock to their children.
18. Viruses Having a Moment
Covid is still a thing, there are still variants and sub-variants of concern floating around, so it’s important to keep tabs on covid news, and from credible sources. There’s also monkeypox, which seems to be under control, and there has also been an uptick in RSV, particularly in children, and the flu is also raging. The underscoring point to note is that we all need to pay more attention to viruses on the rise, especially respiratory viruses that are putting a strain on our healthcare workers.
19. WNBA Star Brittney Griner is Free
For the past ten months, the Phoenix Mercury center was in a Russian prison for carrying a vape pen that is illegal in Russia. Allegedly, pro-players were slightly hushed in the beginning for fear of messing up any U.S. negotiations for Griner’s freedom. However, once the Russian courts gave Brittney a nine-year sentence, total online outrage took effect from celebrities to everyday people until President Joe Biden announced her release on December 10th. The process was not without its controversies as the eight-time All-star prisoner exchange for a convicted Russian arms dealer named Viktor Bout, aka the Merchant of Death, caused many right-wingers to cry foul. Yet, Black Twitter couldn’t find enough Fs to give.
20. Brooklyn Pastor Robbed
Pastor Lamar Whitehead of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministry was spreading his gospel on the digital airwaves when suddenly gunmen entered, robbing him during the live stream. The robbers stole jewelry that Whitehead stated was worth more than one million dollars. The incident became viral and immediately brought nationwide attention to the pastor’s flashy lifestyle of luxury cars and high-priced wardrobes that caused many to question if those Sunday tithes were going to the church’s building fund or to Whitehead, just for fun.
21. Deion Sanders Leaves Jackson State University
Since his professional years as an NFL pro, Deion “Primetime” Sanders has had an impact wherever he goes, and in this case, leaves. Back in 2020, during the time of protest from the murder of George Floyd, there began to be an awareness towards anything Black culture, specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). So, when Primetime stepped up to become the head football coach of Jackson State University (JSU) because “God called me,” many Black folks viewed it as a win. For three years, Coach Prime not only brought attention to JSU and other Black colleges with viral motivational speeches and high-rank recruitment, but he also led the Tigers football team to a 26-5 record with an undefeated season and a conference championship. Many positive praises were high until Sanders announced that he would take a head coach position at the University of Colorado. This move sparked emotional criticism from the HBCU community and beyond, with some crying “sellout,’ which is far from true because Deion Sanders has always unapologetically been Deion.
22. J. Cole’s Verse of the Year on Johnny P’s Caddy
From the opening, “On the night I was born, the rain was pourin’, God was cryin,” Mr. Cole went into a rampage of no-mercy lyrical lines that challenged the top MC in the game spot. Now respectfully, the Jay- Z God’s Did verse rocked the internet for a couple of months, as it should, but in comparison to Cole’s, it is the difference between good and great. Appearance-wise, J.Cole has always been a misjudged book cover because he often dresses like a mountain climber, but with verse lines like “N***a want me on a song, he’s gon see the wrath of the reaper,” he makes you forget that Johnny P’s Caddy is a Benny the Butcher song.