Year in Review 2015 (180536)
Credit: FILE


Andrew Cuomo is inaugurated for is second term as Governor of New York State. On the same day of his inauguration, his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, dies at age 82. Attorney Sanford Rubenstein is not charged in a case that accuses him of raping a board member of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Sharpton severs all ties with the well-known attorney. Former U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke III of Massachusetts dies at age 95. He is the first African-American popularly elected to the United States Senate. More than 2,000 people are killed in a series of massacres in Baga, Nigeria by Boko Haram. Legendary gospel singer and pastor Andraé Crouch dies at age 72. Brooklyn D.A. Kenneth Thompson agrees to exonerate Derrick Hamilton, who was a wrongfully convicted and spent 21 years in prison. He is one of several inmates whose cases are linked to disgraced NYPD detective Louis Scarcella. The Rev. Jesse Jackson comes to New York City for his 18th annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project, with the theme “Where Wall Street, Main Street & Silicon Valley Converge.” Haiti marks five years since the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 150,000 people on the Caribbean island. Mayor Bill de Blasio vetoes a bill that would criminalize the use of chokeholds by NYPD officers. The bill is proposed after the 2014 death of Eric Garner, who was killed by a police officer in an apparent chokehold. An explosive device is detonated at an NAACP office in Colorado Springs, Colo. The device causes minor damage but no injuries. The incident is seen as one of many anti-Black hate crimes around the country. Fox’s primetime musical drama “Empire” premieres, starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. The show, which features a predominantly Black cast, is a ratings success, becoming the highest rated scripted program in the 2014-2015 television season. At the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards, rapper Common and singer John Legend win in the Best Original Song category for their song “Glory” from the historical film “Selma,” which recounts the Selma to Montgomery marches. The film is nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards but loses to “Birdman.” President Barack Obama proposes a plan to make community college free. New York City launches the new municipal ID program, which allows anyone to get a government-issued ID regardless of immigration status. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is arrested and resigns from his position amid federal corruption charges for large payments he received from a law firm that specializes in seeking reductions of New York City real-estate taxes. Domestic violence victim Marissa Alexander is released from prison in Jacksonville, Fla., after negotiating a plea deal. She was initially sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband in 2012, but her conviction was overturned. A blizzard hits the Northeast, dumping three feet of snow in some areas of the city.


Black History Month is celebrated with the theme “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture” commemorating 100 years since Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX at the University of Phoenix Stadium. NBC announces that “NBC Nightly News” host Brian Williams is suspended for six months after revelations that he lied about several stories. Black newsman Lester Holt is named as his replacement. Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie is elected Speaker if the New York State Assembly. He is the first African-American elected to the post. Community leader, Democratic Party Committeewoman and District Leader Theresa Freeman dies at age 62. NYPD officer Peter Liang is indicted for the 2014 fatal shooting of unarmed Black man Akai Gurley. Former State Senator and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith is convicted in federal court of all the corruption charges he faced, including bribery and extortion. Jazz trumpeter Clark Terry dies at age 94. The 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X is commemorated. Several events take place across the city including a gathering at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Education Center (formerly the Audubon Ballroom where Malcolm X was shot). The Department of Justice announces it will not file charges against George Zimmerman for killing unarmed Black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. in 2012. The NYPD reports no murders in New York City over a 12-day period for the first time in the city’s history. Civil rights legend Anne Moody dies at age 74.


The Department of Justice announces it will not prosecute Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo. police officer who gunned down unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014. Writer, historian and activists Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, also known as “Dr. Ben,” passes away at age 96. His death draws international attention, as he is one of the foremost authorities on Egyptology and Afrocentrism. Amnesty International marks 50 years by holding its General Meeting and Human Rights conference in Brooklyn. The New York State Assembly passes the Paid Family Leave Act, which enables workers to maintain employment while on leave to care for an elderly relative or bond with a newborn or adopted child. Fears of lynchings resurface when Black 54-year-old Otis Byrd is found hanging from a tree in rural Mississippi. The FBI rules his death a homicide and found no evidence of foul play. New MTA fares take effect, going up for the fifth time in eight years. Single rides on buses and subways are $2.75, up a quarter from the previous fare. While in a medically induced coma, Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of late singer Whitney Houston, is moved to a rehabilitation facility.


Funeral services are held for Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Harlem School of the Arts President and CEO Yvette L. Campbell announces her resignation. She takes a position in United Arab Emirates in international arts management. Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man, is shot and killed by a police officer in North Charleston, S.C. The officer, Michael Slager, is charged with Scott’s murder. The shooting is caught on cellphone video by a bystander. Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the first major Democrat to announce her run for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election. Black, 25-year-old Freddie Gray dies in police custody in Baltimore, Md. Gray dies after sustaining injuries to his spinal cord. Six police officers are accused of ignoring his pleas or medical attention. Gray’s death sparks an uprising in Baltimore over several days, resulting in looting, property damage, arrests and injuries. A State of Emergency is declared and the National Guard is called in. R&B singer Johnny Kemp dies at age 55. His body is found floating near a beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Kemp’s funeral is held at the St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Harlem. The Justice League NYC holds its March2Justice, with demonstrators marching from New York to Washington D.C. to protest against police brutality. R&B singer Percy Sledge dies at age 74. Unarmed Black man Eric Harris, 44, is shot by Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates. Loretta Lynch is sworn in as the nation’s 83rd Attorney General of the United States, succeeding Eric Holder. She is the first African-American woman to be confirmed for the position. Pentecostal leader William L. Bonner dies at age 93. R&B singer Ben E. King dies at age 76.


President Barack Obama comes to the city to deliver remarks in the Bronx at Lehman College to launch the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, aimed at mentoring young Black and Latino men. The spotlight turns to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby. The young, Black female state’s attorney charges the officers involved in the killing of Freddie Gray. The charges range from assault to second-degree homicide. Floyd Mayweather Jr. of the United States defeats Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines for the united welterweight championship in Las Vegas, Nev. NYPD Officer Brian Moore is shot by Demetrius Blackwell while Moore is in a police car. Blackwell is charged with first-degree murder. The State Department begins publishing the emails of Hillary Clinton, mostly concerning the 2012 attack on the U. S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. She had been using a private email server for work-related communications during her time as secretary of state. The first Harlem Eat Up food festival is held. Activists and leaders gather for what would have been Malcolm X’s 90th birthday. Malcolm X’s physical day is declared an international holiday. Mumia Abu-Jamal is readmitted to the hospital. Tragedy strikes in Newark when 15-year-old Al-Shakeen Woodson is shot at the “Blessing of the Bikes” Mother’s Day event. An Amtrak Northeast Regional train from Washington, D.C., bound for New York City, derails and crashes in Philadelphia. More than 200 people are injured and eight are killed. Among the dead is Black Medgar Evers College dean Dr. Derrick Griffith. Michelle Obama serves as the commencement speaker at the historically Black Tuskegee University. Blues singer/songwriting legend B.B. King dies at age 89. The city sees a violent Memorial Day weekend when 16 shootings occur, leaving 22 people injured. Former New York Gov. George Pataki announces his run for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election. Educator Ollie McClean dies at age 74. Jazz saxophonist and arranger Bob Belden dies at age 58.


Comedian Tracy Morgan makes his first public appearance on the “Today Show,” after the 2014 car crash that left him severely injured. Harlem-based youth organization Brotherhood/Sister Sol marks 20 years. Minister Louis Farrakhan holds a private meeting at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building ahead of his “Justice or Else” rally in Washington, D.C. Richard Matt and David Sweat, two convicted criminals, escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., prompting an extensive manhunt. Matt is later fatally shot by police, and Sweat is shot and apprehended by police. Black newsman Lester Holt replaces a suspended Brian Williams as weeknight anchor of “NBC Nightly News.” Assemblyman Keith Wright announces he will run for the 13th Congressional District seat to replace Charlie Rangel. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton makes disparaging comments about diversity in the NYPD in a news article. He claims that hiring more Black male officers is a challenge because criminal records are preventing them from qualifying. A grand jury indicts former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager for the killing of Walter Scott. Kalief Browder, 22, commits suicide after spending three years in jail awaiting trial. He was arrested at age 16 on robbery charges and was unable to make bail. His case was dismissed. The death prompt calls for changes to the city’s criminal justice system. Former Spokane, Wash. NAACP President Rachel Dolezal, who is white, makes headlines after it is discovered that she has been lying about being Black. Critics say she committed cultural appropriation and fraud as she continues to identify as Black. The city is rocked by 20 shootings in one weekend, resulting in three deaths. More than 2 million people living in rent-regulated apartments in the city are left with questions after rent regulation laws expire. History is made at the 69th Tony Awards when Black theater arts teacher Corey Mitchell receives the first Tony Award of Excellence in Theatre Education. Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman dies at age 85. The world is in shock after a mass shooting takes place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, S.C. Nine people were killed, including the senior pastor and state senator, Clementa C. Pinckney, during Bible study by white gunman Dylann Roof. The shooting was racially motivated. Brooklyn D.A. Kenneth Thompson hosts the Begin Again program held at Emmanuel Baptist Church. The program resolves bench warrants from unanswered summonses. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage constitutional in American, making gay marriage legal in all 50 states. Ballerina Misty Copeland becomes the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre.


Video surfaces of NYPD officers wrestling down unarmed Black man Saykou George in Harlem. The incident sparks outrage, as the video is similar to the police chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island. Mayor Bill de Blasio allocates more than $17 million to reduce unnecessary jail time for people awaiting trial. Seven people are killed at 48 are injured over the Fourth of July holiday in Chicago because of gun violence. The Million People’s March takes place in New Jersey, bringing out thousands of people protesting against police brutality. Author John A. Williams dies at age 89. One year after the police chokehold death of Eric Garner, the city awards his family a nearly $6 million settlement. The anniversary is also marked with protests. The death of Sandra Bland makes headlines after the 28-year-old Black woman dies in a jail cell in Texas. Her death is ruled a homicide; however, local police are accused of killing Bland after video is released of a police confrontation in which an officer detains her during a traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal. The death is later investigated as a murder. Revolution Books opens in Harlem. President Barack Obama visits Africa. His visit includes seeing his family in Kenya. Eric Pryor is named president of the Harlem School of the Arts. State Sen. John Sampson is found guilty on charges of obstructing justice and making false statements. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Harlem Week marks 41 years. President Barack Obama announces the re-establishment of full diplomatic ties with Cuba, with the countries planning to reopen embassies in each other’s capital cities. The South Carolina State House formally removes the Confederate battle flag from its grounds after weeks of protest and places it in a museum. The push to remove the flag was made after Dylann Roof, who is white, commits a massacre at a Black church in South Carolina. Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of singer Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, dies approximately six months after having been put in a medically induced coma at age 22.


President Barack Obama announces the Clean Power Plan, which includes the first-ever Environmental Protection Agency standards on carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. Elected officials and community, leaders including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Member Jumaane Williams and Man Up Inc. Executive Director Andre T. Mitchell, hold a rally in Brooklyn after a deadly weekend of gun violence claims 22 victims, leaving three dead. Civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson dies at age 104. The city experiences a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak, with 110 confirmed cases and 12 deaths in the Bronx. The bacterium is found in cooling systems that are later decontaminated by the city. “Occupy the City” takes place in Newark with hip-hop artist Common in an effort to unite the city against violence. Former Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes dies at age 90. Minisink Townhouse and the NYC Mission Society celebrate 50 years. Demonstrators mark one year since the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Hundreds of people rally in the city. The use of synthetic marijuana becomes a concern as hospitals report a rise in overdoses. The city later outlaws the use and sale of the toxic drug. New York-based journalist Sarah Glover is elected President of the National Association of Black Journalists. Black former news reporter, Vester Lee Flanagan, fatally shoots his former colleagues Alison Parker and camera operator Adam Ward on live television during an interview in Moneta, Va. He commits suicide several hours later. It is later revealed that he claimed to be a victim of racial and sexual harassment while working at station WDBJ in Roanoke, Va. Rapper Sean Price dies at age 43. “Straight Outta Compton,” a biographical film about rap group N.W.A. opens in theaters, taking the No. 1 spot at the box office in during its opening weekend. Famed civil rights leader and former NAACP chairman Julian Bond dies at age 75. Emerging author Brook Stephenson dies at age 41. The nation marks 10 years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Many who still have not received aid have been able to rebuild in New Orleans, and more people are in poverty than when the hurricane first hit. Documentarian Gary Keys dies at age 81.


Aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and first deputy legal counsel Carey Gabay is killed by gunfire in Brooklyn the night before the West Indian American Day Carnival. His killers have not yet been found. He was struck in the head by a stray bullet during a gun battle between rival gangs. NYPD Officer Kim Royster is promoted to assistant chief, making her the highest ranking Black woman in the department. Joe’s Crab Shack closes it’s Harlem location after two years, giving its 350 employees little notice. The restaurant chain cites slow business as the reason for the closure. The family of Freddie Gray is awarded a $6.4 million settlement for his death in police custody in Baltimore, Md. The Source Magazine hosts its second annual SOURCE360 Festival in Brooklyn. The Nigerian Entertainment Awards marks its 10th year. Helen Burns Jackson, mother of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, dies at age 92. A stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, kills at least 2,200 people and injures more than 900 others, with more than 650 missing. Black tennis star James Blake is violently tackled by an NYPD officer in front of the Hyatt Grand Hotel in Midtown Manhattan in a case of mistaken identity. Blake was handcuffed for 15 minutes before being released. The incident raises questions about the NYPD’s overuse of force. Pope Francis visits New York City as part of his American tour, where he meets with students at an East Harlem Catholic school, holds mass at Madison Square Garden and drives through Central Park, greeting thousands. The pope also visited Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. The 46th Annual African-American Day Parade takes place in Harlem. Former State Assemblyman William Boyland is sentenced to 14 years in prison after being convicted of bribery. His ex-wife, Kamaira Alfattah, is charged with grand larceny for stealing $250,000 from her communications firm. Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is arrested at his school in Irving, Texas after he makes a clock that is mistaken for a bomb. The Muslim student’s charges are dropped and he receives an outpouring of support from people, including President Obama, who invites him to the White House, and New York City elected officials, who invite him to the city. History is made at the 67th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, when actress Viola Davis becomes the first Black woman in history to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder.” Other Black winners include Regina King for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role in “American Crime” and Uzo Aduba for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama for her role in “Orange Is the New Black.” Michelle Obama visits Harlem to speak to young girls at the Apollo Theater. Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the city will award $1.6 billion in MWBE contracts across agencies over the next 10 years. NBA legend Moses Malone dies at age 60.


The 20th anniversary of the Million Man March is held in Washington, D.C. bringing out tens of thousands. The event is called the “Justice or Else” rally by Minister Louis Farrakhan, who urges Blacks to participate in an economic boycott amid racial mistreatment in the nation. The family of police shooting victim Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. is awarded a $6.5 million settlement. Scott, who was unarmed, was shot in April by white police officer Michael Slager, while Scott was running away from him. The incident was caught on cellphone video. Slager is charged with murder. The Obama administration decides to cease American training of Syrian rebels in the war against the Islamic State. Hillary Clinton testifies for a second time before the Benghazi Committee and answered members’ questions for more than eight hours in a public hearing. Video surfaces online of a Black female student being violently pulled from her chair in a classroom by a police officer at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. Representative Paul Ryan takes over for John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives after Boehner resigns. The Harlem School for the Arts celebrates its 50th anniversary. Legendary actors James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson star in “The Gin Game” on Broadway. Twelve-year-old Dejah Joyner is shot by a stray bullet while sitting in her home in Hempstead, Long Island. Black NYPD Officer Randolph Holder Jr., 33, is fatally shot while trying to apprehend a suspect in East Harlem. State Sen. Bill Perkins launches his campaign to run for Congress, seeking to replace Rep. Charlie Rangel. The Manhattan Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan is renamed the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building, after New York City’s first Black mayor. Black, 31-year-old Corey Jones is fatally shot by a plainclothes police officer while waiting by his disabled car in West Palm Beach, Fla.


Darcel Clark makes history in the Bronx when she is elected to district attorney in the borough. She is the first woman to be elected Bronx D.A. and the first African-American woman to be elected D.A. in New York State. Elections take place across the city. Staten Island elects Democrat Michael McMahon as its new district attorney. It is believed his election was the result of the dissatisfaction over the handling of the Eric Garner case in the mostly Republican borough. The New York Mets lose the 2015 World Series to the Kansas City Royals. The nation is shocked over the shooting of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee in Chicago. The young boy was targeted and lured into an alley where he was murdered. President Barack Obama comes to Newark, N.J. to discuss criminal justice reforms. Kenyans Stanley Biwott and Mary Keitany win the New York City Marathon, in which Spike Lee serves as grand marshal. Fast food workers in 270 cities, including New York City, walk off their jobs in protest in an effort to get $15 an hour. University of Missouri president Timothy Wolfe resigns after student protests, including the football team’s refusal to play, over his failure to address racial issues on the campus. The protest sparks a movement among Black students at several other colleges and universities across the nation, who say they have also experience racism on their campuses. Rapper/actor Will Smith announces he and partner DJ Jazzy Jeff will tour in 2016. Legendary pianist-composer Allen Toussaint dies at age 77. A series of coordinated terrorist attacks occur in Paris, France. Three suicide bombers strike near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, along with suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants and a music venue. ISIL claims responsibility for the attacks. In the end, 130 people are killed, along with the seven perpetrators, and nearly 370 are left injured. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposes a smoking ban in all public housing. Video is released of the 2014 police shooting of unarmed Black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago. The release of the video sparks outrage and protests. Activists advise Blacks to participate in a nationwide economic boycott by not shopping through the holiday season. Protest organizers claim that Black Friday sales drop $1 billion as a result. Black East Orange, N.J. firefighter Tasha Hayes-Smith becomes the first female promoted to captain in the department’s history.


More demonstrations ignite on the streets of Chicago as protesters call for the resignation of the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel. New information surfaces about the deadly police shooting of Ronald Johnson in Chicago in 2014. The New York Amsterdam News celebrates its 106th anniversary with an event honoring Blacks on Broadway. A mistrial is declared in the Freddie Gray case. Former Oklahoma police officer Daniel Holtzclaw is convicted by a jury of raping 13 Black women. He faces 236 years in prison. Schomburg Center director Khalil G. Muhammad announces he is leaving to take a position at Harvard University. Former Amsterdam News and New York Times journalist C. Gerald Fraser dies at 90. Several homeless advocates announce plans to sue the city after a group of homeless men’s personal belongings are thrown into the trash by the police and sanitation workers. The issue puts a spotlight on alleged abuse to the homeless by law enforcement. The New York Civil Liberties Union announces a settlement agreement that would overhaul solitary confinement in New York prisons. More than 1,100 people are placed in either alternative units or more rehabilitative conditions with less isolation. Black workers sue Local 14 for racial discrimination, alleging the union purposefully limiting the numbers of non-white members. A grand jury decides not to indict the officers involved the death of Sandra Bland. High school football star Zaevion Dobson is hailed a hero after giving his own life to save three teenage girls during a gang shooting in Tennessee. Outrage ensues after news surfaces that one of the officers involved in the killing of Amadou Diallo, Kenneth Boss, is promoted to sergeant. Islamic minister, author and activist Humza al-Hafeez dies at age 84. An Ohio grand jury decides not to indict officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback in the 2014 shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.