Tempers flair in Oakland, California, when Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police fatally shoot Oscar Grant during an attempted arrest. Grant, a Black man, was unarmed, causing protests in the Bay Area. The arresting officer is charged with murder. Violence erupts throughout Brownsville, Brooklyn, as 10 people are shot in a week. Community leaders, including Charles Barron, A.T. Mitchell and Lenora Fulani, take to the streets to wake up residents to the problem. Thousands of people fill Times Square to protest against decades of Israeli oppression and to support Palestine resistance. Protesters condemn America’s role in the massacre of Gaza. The nation watches as a miracle unfolds when US Airways Flight 1549 lands in the Hudson River shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. Geese striking both engines are blamed for the plane malfunctioning. All 155 passengers survive, making airline Capt. Chesley Sullenberger a hero. After trying to maintain order for two years, Ethiopian military forces begin to pull out of Somalia. Governor David Paterson delivers his State of the State Address, calling New York’s economic standing “terrible.” The governor also announces reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Law.
Dr. Suzan “Sujay” Johnson Cook begins holding “Harlem Hallelujah” at the Apollo Theater. The weekly church service draws thousands to the famed theater on Sundays throughout the spring. Roland Burris is appointed to fill Illinois’ vacant seat in the U.S. Senate left by Barack Obama. The decision comes with controversy because disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is later impeached, appoints him. The nation pauses for a moment to witness history as Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th–and first Black–president of the United States.
Spectators across the city gather at various venues, including some outdoors, to witness the event on television. During the same month, Obama signs an order to close Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. The New York Amsterdam News heeds to the call of the people once again by selling record numbers of its inauguration edition newspaper. The highly sought-after edition contains a poster of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Obama.
The Center for Constitutional Rights releases a report indicating that the NYPD disproportionately stops and frisks Blacks and Latinos for crimes they did not commit and were not charged for. The U.S. Court of Appeals hears oral argument in the case of Viola Plummer v. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Plummer, who served as City Council member Barron’s chief of staff, claims Quinn illegally fired her from her job. Motown Records celebrates 50 years. Lafayette French Pastry shop in Greenwich Village comes under fire when the owner, Ted Kafalinos, adds “Drunken Negro Heads” cookies to his menu. The culinary creation that features embellished African features and red eyes sparks rallies in front of the business. Basketball pioneer John Isaacs passes at age 93. Governor Paterson appoints Kristen Gillibrand to U.S. Senate for New York, replacing Hillary Clinton, who assumed the office of Secretary of State for the Obama administration.
Black History Month is celebrated with the national theme “The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas.” Rikers Island inmate Christopher Robinson, 18, is beaten to death by fellow inmates for refusing to join a fight club. Three correctional officers are indicted on assault and conspiracy charges. As city elections get underway, an appeal is filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals challenging Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s action to give himself and City Council members a chance to seek a third term. City Comptroller and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson leads the appeal. The Apollo Theater celebrates its 75th anniversary. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals, 27 to 23, in Super Bowl XLIII. Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crashes in Clarence Center, N.Y., killing all 49 passengers on board and one person on the ground. In his first month in office, Obama makes his first international trip as president, visiting Canada; announces the deployment of 17,000 troops to Afghanistan; and outlines to Congress his plan to reform education, energy and health care. Eric Holder, Jr. is sworn in as the first Black U.S. attorney general. The Republican Party elects Michael Steel to head the GOP. He is the first Black person to assume the job. The MTA announces budget cuts that would eliminate over 20 bus routes, two subway lines and raises fares. Mayor Bloomberg announces cuts to the Department of Education when he presents the city’s 2010 preliminary budget and four-year financial plan.
The NAACP Image Awards takes place in Los Angeles. Among the nominees is AmNews writer Herb Boyd for his book “Baldwin’s Harlem–A Biography of James Baldwin.” The New York NAACP Branch celebrates its 90th anniversary. An event at Bronx Community College commemorates 10 years since the death of Amadou Diallo, who was gunned down by police in 1999 after they thought he had a gun that turned out to be a wallet. Colin Powell addresses immigration during a visit to the New York at City College. Carver Federal Savings Bank celebrates 65 years. President Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate the economy. The largest portion of the bill, $288 billion, goes toward tax relief. Outrage spreads throughout the city when the New York Post publishes a political cartoon in which two white police officers who have killed monkey say, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” referring to President Obama. Harlem dentist and elder Dr. Alton L. “Doc” Wareham dies at age 88. He is the father of human rights attorney Roger Wareham, Esq.
The widow of Jamel Sears, Sharita, files a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against the FDNY alleging racial targeting. Jamel collapsed in November 2008 during training exercises at the fire academy. Architect J. Max Bond dies at age 73. News breaks that R&B singer Chris Brown became the subject of domestic violence charges against his girlfriend, singer Rihanna. He is later found guilty and sentenced to five years probation and six months community service. Bronx Borough President Aldolfo Carrion, Jr. is tapped by President Obama to direct the White House Office of Urban Affairs. The “Father of Latin Boogaloo,” Joe Cuba, dies at age 78. The landmark Slave 1 Theater in Brooklyn is in danger of shutting down. Mike Hollywood of the Universal Hip-Hop Parade begins a campaign to save the theater and make it a city landmark. Writer and activist Clifton Rolet “Chuck” Sutton dies at age 58. The city mourns the loss of New York Amsterdam News publisher emeritus, chairman and CEO Wilbert Tatum, who died at age 76. Tatum succumbs to multiple organ failure while vacationing in Croatia.
Funeral services are held for Tatum at Riverside Church. Thousands of mourners pay their respects to the Black press pioneer. The Rev. Al Sharpton delivers the eulogy. Among the attendees are Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, former Mayor David Dinkins and Rep. Charlie Rangel. President Obama sends a letter of condolence. The Dow drops 299 points after insurance company AIG reports $61 billion in losses during the fourth quarter of 2008. Community leaders in East New York, Brooklyn, look for solutions to end senseless violence after four female victims, ranging from ages 11 to 22, are shot in one week. The family of Iman Morales seeks $10 million in damages from the NYPD for the wrongful death of the emotionally disturbed man. Officers tasered Morales before he fell head first from a 10-foot high ledge. The trial of NYPD officer Rafael Lora gets underway. Lora is charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting Fermin Arzu after he struck Lora’s car in front of his home in the Bronx in 2007. Over 50,000 people protest at City Hall against Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed cuts in areas like health care and education. Musical performer Louvinia Pointer dies at age 92.
Straphangers breathe a sigh of relief when the state legislature announces it will bail out the MTA from having to make massive cuts to bus routes and subway lines and raise fares. Black New Yorkers lend a helping hand for 6-year-old Jasmina Anema, who suffers from a rare form of leukemia. With Jasmina in need of a bone marrow transplant from an African-American donor, hundreds of people line up at bone marrow drives across the city. Annie Brown who created the role of Bess in the George Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess” dies at age 97. Historian John Hope Franklin dies at age 94. He’s best known for his book “From Slavery to Freedom,” which sold three million copies. President Obama announces a financial rescue plan that would remove bad assets from the nation’s banks. Activist and health leader Dr. Lorna Scott McBarnette dies at age 69. Albany lawmakers agree to reform the Rockefeller Drug Law. Mandatory sentences for drug possession are repealed, and programs are created that focus on treatment and rehab.
Former AmNews engraver Langley P. Waller celebrates his 100th birthday. Waller is credited with unionizing the newspaper and choosing the paper’s current building. The National Action Network holds its 11th annual national convention in New York at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. Thousands of members of the organization, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, come from across the nation to attend. Vice President Joe Biden is a keynote speaker. Arva Rice is appointed president and CEO of the New York Urban League. The New York State Assembly passes legislation to rename the King State Office building in Brooklyn after Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. The U.S. Supreme Court denies a new sentencing hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Controversy stirs in Harlem and Brooklyn when two chicken restaurants name their establishments “Obama Friend Chicken.” Reaction is mixed among neighborhood residents. Somali pirates hijack an American freighter, the Maersk Alabama, kidnapping the captain. A sniper operation kills three of the pirates after a three-day stand-off with the U.S. Navy and the pirates.
In an attempt to get a third term, Mayor Bloomberg runs on the Republican and Independent party lines as the election gets underway. City Councilman Charles Barron introduces a resolution to compensate the five young men who were falsely convicted and sentenced for the rape of the Central Park jogger 20 years after the incident. The NYPD officer accused of killing Fermin Arzu, Rafael Lora, is found guilty by a Bronx judge of second-degree manslaughter and negligent homicide. Playwright, director and activist Titus Walker dies at age 54. New York City historian and producer William “Bil” Haley-Freeman dies at age 62. The H1N1 virus (better known as the “swine flu”) begins to spread in Mexico and the United States. One of the first outbreaks of swine flu in the nation occurs at a St. Francis Preparatory High School in Queens. Soon after, schools across the city close because of suspected outbreaks. Ruben Diaz, Jr. is elected Bronx borough president after getting 87 percent of the votes from his Republican opponent.
Artist and athlete Ernie Barnes dies at the age of 70. Barnes’ most famous painting, “Sugar Shack,” was featured on the cover of the 1976 Marvin Gaye album “I Want You” and during the closing credits of the sitcom “Good Times.’ Barack Obama completes the first 100 days of his presidency. Grammy-nominated gospel singer and pastor the Rev. Timothy Wright dies at the age of 61 from injuries he suffered from a car accident in 2008 in which he lost his wife and grandson. Wright was pastor of Brooklyn’s Grace Tabernacle Christian Center Church of God in Christ. Famed dancer Frankie Manning dies at the age of 94. Hundreds of people attend the funeral in Harlem for Manning, who is best known for creating Lindy Hop.
The New York State Senate strikes a deal to bail out the MTA. Instead of cutting service, the MTA raises fares by 25 cents, driver’s license fees go up and yellow taxis get a 50-cent surcharge. The NYPD implements a new procedure to the stop-and-frisk policy. Officers are required to give a palm card explaining the reason for the stop. News breaks that Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band director Tyrone Brown, 31, is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old student. The allegations result in Brown’s resignation from the band that marched in the inaugural parade for President Obama. Violence rocks the community, as several youth become victims of senseless gun violence. Among the victims are 13-year-old Chris Owens and 17-year-old Corey Squire. In response to the violence, the Rev. Al Sharpton holds a rally at the National Action Network that brings out hip-hop stars T.I. and Ja Rule and record executive Kevin Liles.
Mass transit fares got up after an 11-2 vote by the MTA board. Single subway rides go up to $2.25 from $2. Bridge and tunnel tolls go up to $5.50. The northwest corner of 125th Street and Amsterdam Avenue is renamed “Rev. Dr. Alfloyd Alston Way” after the Antioch Baptist Church pastor. The Rev. Al Sharpton leads a rally in Washington, calling for education equality on the 55th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. As the mayoral race heats up, candidate Bill Thompson picks up endorsements from Cong. Charlie Rangel and former Mayor David Dinkins. New York City sees its first swine flu-related death. Queen’s assistant principal Mitchell Weiner, 55, dies of the illness because of underlying health problems. Protests spark across the country regarding Black inmate Troy Davis, who is on death row and claims his innocence in the murder of a Savannah, Georgia, police officer.
First Lady Michelle Obama makes a stop in the city for the re-opening of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Councilman Charles Barron stands trial for his participation in the 2008 act of civil disobedience after the Sean Bell verdict. Barron refuses to take an adjournment in contemplation, which would drop his charges after 30 days. President Obama nominates Latina and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Mid-scale Fifth Avenue retailer BCBG Max Azeria is accused of racial discrimination after several Black employees claim they were retaliated against for complaining to human resources. New York’s 22nd annual Fleet Week is celebrated. Scholar and educator Dr. Thomas Minter dies at age 84. Outrage sparks throughout the city when 25-year-old Black NYPD officer Omar Edwards is fatally shot in a “friendly fire” incident. Edwards was in plain clothes while he was chasing a suspect when Officer Andrew Dunton mistook Edwards for a suspect. Police are caught on surveillance video beating an unarmed mentally disabled man in Passaic, N.J. The victim, 49-year-old Ronnie Hollaway, who suffers from schizophrenia, is severely injured.
The family of Esmin Green gets a $2 million settlement for the 2008 death of the 49-year-old Brooklyn woman. Green collapsed in a Kings County Hospital waiting room, where she laid for nearly an hour unattended. The incident was caught on surveillance video. Swine flu is deemed a global pandemic. A three-week revival of the musical “The Wiz” debuts at New York City Center starring R&B singer Ashanti. Democratic State Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate ignite a coup by crossing over to the Republican Party, throwing the state legislature into dysfunction that lasts for months. In Brooklyn, 11-year-old Devonte Kelly becomes the victim of gun violence when he his shot in the back of the head. Luckily, the bullet that struck him while he was on a baseball field did not penetrate into his skull, and he makes a full recovery. After months of searching for a donor, 6-year-old leukemia patient Jasmina Anema gets her bone marrow transplant. Alysa Stanton is ordained the first Black female rabbi. Officer Raphael Lora, who was convicted of fatally shooting unarmed Fermin Arzu in front of his home, is sentenced to one to three years in prison. Figures from the NYPD reveal that complaints against the NYPD went up 50 percent since 2007. Tyrone Corbett, 15, is fatally shot in the shoulder while playing basketball in St. Nicholas Park.
It’s the end of an era when analog television ceases operation and all full-power stations are required to send their signals digitally. Millions of Americans are left without television. South Carolina Republican activist Rusty DePass is criticized after he makes a comment on Facebook about a gorilla escaping from a zoo, posting, “I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle Obama’s ancestors–probably harmless.” 100 Black Men of America, Inc. holds its 23rd annual conference in New York City. The five-day event brings out over 3,000 members from around the world. Tragedy strikes the nation’s capital when 88-year-old white supremacist James von Brunn opens fire at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, killing Black security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns. Brunn is charged with first-degree murder. Harlem’s M.S. 195 school renames a portion of its building after DOE giant Terence Tolbert, who passed away in 2008 and worked on the campaign for Barack Obama. The Los Angeles Lakers win the NBA Championship. Kobe Bryant is named MVP.
An unarmed Black woman is tasered in Harlem in her underwear outside in the rain while she is handcuffed by the NYPD. Blocks away, new NYPD officers are attending police sensitivity training at the Apollo Theater. Sandy Cane, a Black woman, is elected mayor of Viggiu, Italy. The small town has a population of 5,000. Juneteenth is celebrated across the city. The world mourns the death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, who dies at age 50. Jackson collapsed in his home in California before being pronounced dead. Fans in New York gather at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to celebrate the life of the star.