“LAST YEAR, WE WERE TESTED.”
Not only were we thrown into an international health and economic crisis that disproportionately affected Black people, but we saw one of the biggest racial and social justice movements in the last three decades. In 2020, our experiences, trauma, joys, and sadness happened in what felt like a vacuum, while many of us sat at home on our living room couches quarantined for months.
It felt like we were looking out of our windows watching a world that was on fire.
In a few short months, we saw unemployment and wealth inequality grow to unprecedented levels in the Black community. Together we watched the all-too-familiar murder of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, knowing he could have been our father, uncle, brother, or partner. We woke up daily to news about discrimination in workplaces across corporate America.
So what does a community that knows oppression, inequity, and injustice all too well do during an extremely difficult year? We dig in, we pivot, and we excel.
In 2020, we saw some of the most significant and long-term changes in Black achievement.
In direct response to the racial and social justice uprising, Black people and our allies intentionally spent our dollars with small Black businesses. Black-owned companies like the McBride Sisters Collection sold more than 35,000 cases of wine last year, increasing profits by 43 percent, a value of $5.52 million in sales.
Golde, a Black-owned health and wellness beauty brand, had more sales in June of 2020 than in ALL of 2019. It will now be sold in Target in 2021. Meanwhile, Southwest Soda Pop Shop, a local Black family-owned store at the District Wharf, raised $37,000 ($27,000 above their goal), which helped its doors reopen amid the pandemic.
Politically, Black men and women stepped up to the plate and ran for office, making the decision to enact change by writing it into law and legislation. Powerhouse Cori Bush became the first Black woman elected to represent the state of Missouri in Congress. Progressive Brandon Scott beat establishment Democrats to become Baltimore’s youngest mayor in more than a century. Here in D.C., Black millennial women like Janeese Lewis George and Christina Henderson won races against incumbents and took their seats on the D.C. Council with new energy, shaking up our “politics as usual” leadership.
Culturally in 2020, Black creatives demanded organizations address inclusion and diversity on every level. The top two art galleries, David Zwirner Gallery and Gagosian, now have Black curators. Ebony L. Haynes will lead a new Zwirner Gallery with an all-Black staff. Thirty-two-year-old Antwaun Sargent now directs and curates the Gagosian, one of the world’s largest galleries.