Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Yvette Smith were all unarmed when killed by police in 2014.
The Burton Wire's Top News Stories of 2014
The Burton Wire’s Top News Stories of 2014

The Burton Wire is committed to covering news of the African Diaspora. This year has been a doozy with political and social unrest, the deaths of iconic, game changing figures, and the rise and fall of major athletes. Check out The Burton Wire’s top 10 news stories of the diaspora below:

The Rise of Mo’ne Davis
Mo’ne Davis named the 2014 Associated Press Athlete of the Year. You may remember Davis, a 13-year-old pitcher and honor student who took out player after player during the 2014 Little League World Series.

Mo'ne Davis.
Mo’ne Davis.

Bob Maadi of AP writes:

“She was the first girl to win a Little League World Series game, and her performance dazzled fans young and old. Her steely gaze and demeanor on the mound were intimidating, while off-the-field, she shined in interviews. She told admirers that if they thought she was good at baseball, they should see her play hoops. Only in eighth grade, Davis already plays for her school’s high school varsity basketball team.”

Davis also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, has her jersey displayed in baseball’s Hall of Fame and was named Sports Kid of the Year by Sports Illustrated Kids. The three-sport athlete (basketball and soccer) says that basketball is actually her best game.

The Fall of Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius during his trial.Storied Olympic Paralympian runner Oscar Pistorius, was convicted of culpable homicide in the murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius killed Steenkamp in his home after firing four shots through a closed bathroom door. Pistorius claimed that he thought she was an intruder while prosecutors believed that Pistorius, who had prior domestic violence incidences with other lovers, killed Steenkamp in a fit of rage. Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison, but is only expected to serve 10 months. Prosecutors have appealed the sentencing.

Women gather to protest the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in Chibok.
Women gather to protest the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in Chibok.

#Bring Back Our Girls
In April 2014, more than 200 Nigerian school girls of Christian and Muslim faith were kidnapped from their school in Chibok by Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, which opposes the education of girls. Reports stated that the girls were sold into slavery as brides to militants in neighboring countries like Chad and Cameroon. The going price is alleged to have been $12 US. The government failed to intervene  because they said going after the girls was too dangerous, igniting an international movement to #bringbackourgirls. After having the bad manners to co-opt the phrase, #bringbackgoodluck2015, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan eventually banned the hashtag and has announced multiple times that officials now know where the girls are located and that they will be returned, which has yet to happen. The failure to act on behalf of the girls, coupled with false promises, has led many to believe that the schoolgirls have been abandoned.

The Death of Dr. Myles and Ruth Munroe
The religious world was shocked when Dr. Myles Munroe, president and founder of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI) and Myles Munroe International (MMI), died in a plane crash in November, along with eight other passengers, including his wife Ruth,who was co-pastor of BFMI. Dr. Munroe was a celebrated pastor, teacher, broadcaster, motivational speaker, author and humanitarian. In 2012, he was awarded Peru’s Congressional Medal of Honor for his contribution to leadership development in Peru and other emerging Latin American nations. Dr. Munroe was chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the International Third World Leaders Association and president of the International Leadership Training Institute. The private plane headed to Freeport crashed after striking a crane.

The Killing of Unarmed Blacks in the United States by Police Officers

Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Yvette Smith were all unarmed when killed by police in 2014.
Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Yvette Smith were all unarmed when killed by police in 2014.

On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, 18, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson. The college-bound, unarmed 18-year-old was shot and killed after an altercation with Wilson. Witnesses said the teen was running away from Wilson with his hands in the universal surrender sign when he was shot six times by Officer Wilson. Wilson maintains that he was afraid for his life and that Brown attacked him. Brown’s lifeless body was left on display in the street in scorching conditions for four hours before he was taken away. The autopsy showed that Brown was shot from a distance by Officer Wilson. Prosecutor Bob McCullough has been at the center of controversy after putting on a case that many said was in defense of the police officer, not a victim. He has since admitted to knowingly putting a witness on the stand that he knew was lying. The grand jury failed to indict Officer Wilson and the city has erupted in protest. The hashtag #handsupdontshoot has become a rallying cry for protesters.

The killing of New York’s Eric Garner, husband and father of five by police officers who placed him in an illegal choke hold, also ended with a grand jury’s failure to indict the police officer. Garner’s videotaped killing sparked protests worldwide. Unarmed Black women have also been killed at the hands of police. Tanesha Anderson, 27, of Cleveland was killed after her head hit the ground when officers were performing a “take down” of Anderson, who was bi-polar. Rekia Boyd was fatally shot in the back of the head by Chicago police and Yvette Smith, 48, who was shot and killed by a  member of the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office, when she opened the door to let police officers in after calling for help. The list goes on. Will the denial about the unjust killing of unarmed blacks by police officers continue?

A Star is Born: The Rise of Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong'o at the 2014 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. (Google Images)
Lupita Nyong’o at the 2014 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. (Google Images)

Yale trained actress Lupita Nyong’o literally took Hollywood and the fashion world by storm in 2014. The Mexican-born Kenyan thespian won the 2014 Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Patsey, a tortured slave in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. The celebrated actress slayed the red carpet, proving that she’s as much of a tour de force in fashion as she is on the runway. Nyong’o was named the new ambassadress of Lancôme and honored as Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year. The 31-year-old is redefining beauty and fashion in Hollywood. She’s also an activist, opposing the building of a minor league baseball stadium in what was once the center of Richmond, Virginia’s flourishing slave trade. Lupita is a woman after our hearts and minds.

Suicide of Dynamic Black Women in the Business of Empowering Black Women

For Brown Girls Blogger Karyn Washington and Miss Jessie's co-founder Titi Branch committed suicide this year. (Photos: Google Images)
For Brown Girls Blogger Karyn Washington and Miss Jessie’s co-founder Titi Branch committed suicide this year. (Photos: Google Images)

In April 2014, Karyn Washington, the 22-year-old founder of the For Brown Girls website, which sought to empower chocolate-complexioned black women, died after reportedly committing suicide. Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele of The Root writes:

“Her passing is a devastating loss for legions of black women who went online to seek refuge in any one of Washington’s many initiatives, including the #DarkSkinRedLip project, which knocked down beauty standards and encouraged black women to find and rock whatever shade of red lipstick that best suited them. 

Early reports suggest that Washington suffered from depression as she coped with the loss of her mother.”

Titi Branch, 45, co-founder of Miss Jessie’s natural hair care products died from an alleged suicide on December 4. Branch co-founded a curly hair salon in Brooklyn in 1997 with her sister Miko. They launched the natural hair care line named for their Grandmother in 2004. Titi is credited with creating Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding, one of the lines most popular products. Miss Jessie’s products was one of the first natural hair care lines to be carried nationwide by retailers Target and Wal-mart.

The stigma surrounding Black women and mental illness has to go. We need help and need to be supported when asking for help or exhibiting signs of distress. If you need help now or know someone who is need of help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

The Rise of Jackie Robinson West All-Stars
Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West All-Stars won the U.S. title in the Little League World Series with a 7-5 win over Las Vegas’ Mountain Ridge. NBC Chicago writes:

“The team has become an inspiration for other black kids to try baseball, a sport that’s become less popular in the black community.

Dennis Butler, the father of the team’s manager Darrold Butler, says the inquiries have already started.

‘I’ve already had three or four phone calls,’ Dennis Butler said. ‘It is going to inspire the community in regards to the parents wanting to get their children to get involved.’

The players are having an affect on the city much bigger than baseball. The all-black team reside in neighborhoods like Auburn Gresham, Englewood and Chatham, communities that are at times, known for violence — not youth baseball.”

Along with being the first Chicago-area team to make it to the Little League World Series in 31 years, Jackie Robinson West also made history as the first all-black team to win the U.S. title. Team members met with President Barack Obama in November of this year. Before the world championship game against South Korea, the President tweeted that “we’re all so proud” of the team. Even though South Korea won the final game 8-4, Jackie Robinson West had already secured a special place in the hearts of Americans across the country.

The Rise of Tim Howard and the Fall of the World Cup?

USA Soccer goalie Tim Howard.
USA Soccer goalie Tim Howard.

The world went crazy over World Cup USA Team goalie Tim Howard who kept team USA in the 2014 World Cup mix with 16 saves, the most in a World Cup game since 1996. The New Jersey born footballer who had dedicated his life to soccer, finally received the international recognition that he had earned over the years with his amazing performance during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and will ultimately help the U.S.A. embrace soccer as the dynamic international sport that it is. While Tim Howard’s star was rising, the World Cup’s star was falling. Brazil did not take heed of lessons learned from the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. FIFA’s 2014 World Cup was plagued with some of the same challenges that led to anti-World Cup protests throughout Brazil, mostly Sao Paolo and Rio. Parties and murals demonstrated the conflict that Brazilians have over the abject poverty that many in the country face, while pouring billions of dollars into venues and infrastructure to host the 2014 World Cup. Coupled with controversy surrounding contracts that mainly benefitted FIFA as opposed to locals, the lead-up to the World Cup that many had hoped would land Brazil a 6th win, was mired in conflict. Despite losing the cup and the protests, Brazil won in economic terms. Talia Marcopoto of CNN writes:

“According to government figures, 1 million foreign tourists visited Brazil during the month-long event, far exceeding its pre-Cup projection of 600,000 visitors coming to the country from abroad.

About 3 million Brazilians traveled around the country during the event, just short of the expected 3.1 million.

Additionally, according to the government, of the million foreign visitors, ‘95% of them said they intend to return.’

‘We were saying that we would host the World Cup of World Cups,’ said President Rousseff in a statement. ‘Indeed, we staged the World Cup of World Cups.'”

Despite the economic gains, the outcomes fell short of projections. Coupled with ongoing protests and the continued poverty faced by many in the country, can you really count the 2014 World Cup as a win for Brazil?

The Ebola Crisis
Ebola victims are buried in mass graves in Sierra Leone. (Photo: National Geographic)
Ebola victims are buried in mass graves in Sierra Leone. (Photo: National Geographic)
The Ebola outbreak took hold of the world, causing many to panic and mobilize over helping to end the infectious disease. More than 20,000 people have been diagnosed with  Ebola and more than 7,800 people have died from the disease. Treatment of the disease has caused the loss of many including Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, a doctor who was on the front lines fighting the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. While American and UK doctors have been slow to travel to affected areas, Cuban doctors have led the fight against Ebola, sending the largest medical force to West Africa in order to fight Ebola. The United Nations (UN) has issued a call for more countries to contribute to the humanitarian effort in the fight against the infectious disease. A brigade of 165 Cuban health workers arrived in Sierra Leone in October, the first batch of a total of 461. In sharp contrast, western governments have appeared more focused on stopping the epidemic at their borders than actually stemming it in West Africa.

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