BLACK VOICES
12/22/2015 04:30 pm ET

11 Big Accomplishments Black Activists Achieved In 2015

Because all black lives matter.

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2015 was a hugely significant year for black America.

The movement to make sure black lives matter gained momentum as activists took to streets, campuses and presidential forums everywhere to address racial inequality head-on. They spoke out against everything from police killings and everyday, casual forms of racism to the dangerous reality of America’s deep-rooted racial issues.

Black activists accomplished so much this year and reached new levels of success. They not only fought for what they believed in -- they inspired others, enacted change and ultimately, had their voices validated. Here are 11 big accomplishments black activists achieved this year that we would like to think helped to make our world a better place:

  • 1. Black Lives Matter leaders met with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
    Jessica McGowan via Getty Images
    Democratic presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders individually met with Black Lives Matter activists this year to discuss policing reform and racial injustice. The meetings marked significant moments which helped recognize the movement as a national political force. Both Clinton and Sanders spoke candidly about race and planned agendas to combat mass incarceration and criminal justice issues, which disproportionately affect black lives. In a separate meeting in November, mothers of slain black teens -- including Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown -- met with Hillary Clinton to discuss gun reform in America.
  • 2. The Say Her Name Campaign raised awareness about police violence against black women.
    AAPF/Mia Fermindoza
    Black women activists across the country led a national campaign this year to fight for the recognition and respect all black women deserve but don’t always receive. For so long, the concerns for their treatment and safety have been neglected -- as are the names of black women and girls who fell victim to many of the same issues that affect our black men and boys. The Say Her Name campaign, which was launched by several community organizations and gained major momentum earlier this year, changed that. Activists fought to include black women and girls as part of the national conversation around both racial and gender inequality.
  • 3. Mizzou student protests lead to university president's resignation.
    Michael B. Thomas via Getty Images
    In November, black student activists at the University of Missouri rallied together to protest the racial issues that they claimed had plagued their campus for years. More than 30 black football players refused to return the football field because they were fed up with the casual, everyday forms of racism they said they faced. Days later, faculty, students and state lawmakers called for the university's president, Tim Wolfe, to leave. One student, Jonathan Butler, courageously started a hunger strike to protest the actions of the school’s president. Wolfe promptly resigned, signaling a significant moment for student-led activism and the fight for racial equality.
  • 4. Campus racism protests forced schools to reckon with their racial history.
    Ken Yanagisawa
    The resignation of the former Mizzou president Tim Wolfe catalyzed a wave of campus racism protests at schools across the country. Black students everywhere spoke out about the casual racism they experience at school and forced faculty to take a deeper look at their concerns and the racial history on their respective campuses including those at Harvard, Brown, Yale and elsewhere. Protests were held, demands were made and some students were successful like at Georgetown where students successfully got administrators to rename buildings that once honored slaveowners.
  • 5. Activists protested the Confederate flag and fought for its removal from public spaces.
    Getty/HuffPost
    On July 10, the confederate battle flag -- which has always stood as a symbol of white supremacy and racism -- was removed from the South Carolina statehouse. One activist in particular, Bree Newsome, scaled the pole outside of the statehouse and temporarily removed the flag in a powerful display of protest that she said was done “in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people in the southern United States.” As a result, petitions and protests popped up everywhere as activists demanded the removal of the flag from other public spaces. In one big victory, in October, students at Ole Miss University voted to remove the flag from their campus -- their demand was later upheld.
  • 6. The issues of the black trans community became widely recognized.
    MSNBC
    The danger and disrespect transgender people face is part of an ongoing and difficult journey -- and one that certainly does not escape trans people of color. Thanks to activists like Cherno Biko, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, the voices of people of color in the trans community have been amplified. Mock brought national recognition to 17 tragic murders of trans women of color when she read aloud the names of these victims during a live broadcast on MSNBC in August. Black trans activists also joined forces with Black Lives Matter movement this year to ensure that all black lives matter.
  • 7. Black students at the University of California prompted the school to pull out $30 million from prison investments.
    Getty
    During this year's fall school semester, black students at the University of California rallied together to protest the university’s controversial $30 million investment into private prisons. On Friday, the school dropped the deal after meeting with students from the university’s Afrikan Black Coalition and listening to their demands. In a detailed letter written on Nov. 30, the student group wrote that the investments were “ethically embarrassing” and that private prisons turn “black, brown and immigrant bodies into profit under the guise of rehabilitation.”
  • 8. The road where Sandra was stopped by police was renamed in her honor.
    KENA BETANCUR via Getty Images
    Two months after Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell, local residents rallied together to demand her legacy live on. Bland died in police custody three days after she was arrested for a traffic violation in Waller County, Texas. Her death was ruled a suicide, but her family disputed the findings and have since filed a wrongful-death suit. In August, local protesters rallied together and marched to the city council building to demand the road where Bland was pulled over be renamed in her honor. The request was approved and the road, originally named University Boulevard, was changed to Sandra Bland Parkway.
  • 9. Activists launched Campaign Zero to help combat police violence.
    Campaign Zero
    In August, key leaders of the black lives matter movement came together to create Campaign Zero, a project that aims to combat cop violence by introducing a comprehensive list of proposals for police reform. The campaign digs deep into ways police -- both on the state and federal level -- can reduce their racial bias, undergo better training and wear body cameras at all times to help prevent police violence against black Americans.
  • 10. Black musicians banded together for a benefit concert around racial inequality.
    getty
    Many musicians have used their voices for much more than music. Some like John Legend and Pharrell have effectively used their talents and platforms to speak out -- and sing -- about the racial injustices that plague the black community. In November, some of music’s biggest and vocal stars teamed up for a one-night benefit concert on the A&E Network titled, “Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America.” Through the power of performance, the black voices that graced the stage that night aimed to highlight how “the uncomfortable truth racial inequality and bias still impact our society.”
  • 11. Activists launched the Police Union Contract Project to help ‘check the police.’
    Getty
    Activists have been keeping busy this year to provide independent platforms to “check the police,” which is exactly what the Police Union Contract project aims to do. The project, which launched in December and was founded by four key black lives matter leaders. It aims to take a detailed look at police contracts and how they fail to hold cops accountable. The platform is part of the movement’s Campaign Zero project and helps to tackle the broader, blistering issue of police violence against black Americans.

 

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