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2016’s silver linings: Despite struggles, Americans gave generously

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It was an intense year for all of America, but high levels of racial and political tension did not prevent Black America from embracing a rising sense of unity and self-love in 2016. Throughout the year, Americans have come together to donate time, money and voices to causes and people in need. Overall, empathy and solidarity have been the driving forces behind the good we’ve seen this year. Many hope to bring this bold compassion into the new year.

Here’s a look at the good of 2016:


Americans donate time and money to help those in need

Americans were extremely generous with their time and money whenever tragedy hit in 2016. When the news broke of the drinking water in Flint being contaminated, more than 300 plumbers went into the city to install free water filters, and million of dollars were donated to the cause nationwide. When Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, was burned and vandalized, donors gave over $200,000 to restore the church. As thousands gathered in Orlando to mourn a life lost in the Pulse nightclub massacre, people dressed as angels with giant wings to shield mourners from Westboro Baptist Church protesters. Hoosiers have gotten in on the hospitality, too. Throughout the year, people in Indianapolis have donated time, money and other resources to ease the damage caused by the Flint water crisis. Recently, 23-year-old Indianapolis woman Chelsea Johnson drove 300 cases of water to Flint, because she felt all people should have clean water on Christmas.  


Athletes kneel for justice 

During a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, knelt during the United States national anthem. Though his decision was met with both praise and criticism, Kaepernick told NFL.com he was not looking for approval; he simply felt the need to stand up for people who face racial oppression in America. His choice to peacefully protest at an event with so much visibility sparked a nationwide dialogue on police brutality and racism, and his activism has inspired a number of Americans to kneel for justice both nationally and locally. In September, the Indiana Fever knelt during the national anthem before a game against the Phoenix Mercury, and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School senior Lauren Turner knelt during a high school soccer game to protest the shooting of an unarmed African-American man in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

International Religious Freedom Act

Global religious persecution has been on the rise as extremist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram target Christians and other non-Muslims. In America, President-elect Donald Trump’s comments regarding the creation of a system to track Muslims alarmed many citizens because of similarities to Jewish registries that Nazis required in the past. The end of 2016 has afforded us a glimmer of hope. President Barack Obama recently signed the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, a bill that received bipartisan support for its measures to protect the freedom to practice religion without fear of persecution, by training diplomats to counter religious extremism. The bill also protects nontheistic beliefs and the right not to profess or practice any religion.

Black business on the rise

In 2016, the move for Blacks to support Black-owned business has gained traction, and African-Americans are finding new ways to keep money circulating inside the community. Activist organization Black Lives Matter created backingblackbusiness.com, a site that aims to list every Black-owned business in the country. In addition, a growing number of African-Americans are opening accounts at Black-owned banks. In Indianapolis, events such as Really Black Friday and the Black-Owned Business Block Party have helped African-American business owners promote their products and services to new audiences. 


Hogsett tackles criminal justice reform

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced plans for criminal justice reform that prioritize the treatment of mentally ill and drug-addicted suspects rather than placing them in jail. These new plans include building a new jail while repurposing old facilities and creating additional mental health facilities. He hopes to keep low-level offenders out of jail while allowing them to get needed treatment. Hogsett’s plan would also train the city’s police officers and 911 operators in crisis intervention and teach them how to evaluate a person’s mental state. Statewide, the Indiana Supreme Court went on record supporting reform of the current bail system.


Opening of National Museum of African-American History and Culture 

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture opened in September and is the only national museum devoted to the documentation of African-American life, history and culture. The opening of the museum is important for Blacks and all of America alike, because it helps paint a holistic picture of American history, values and culture while highlighting the progress our country had made, alongside the sacrifices people have made for that progress.

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