Before we can fully give our attention to 2024, we have to acknowledge all of our collective wins in 2023. Inflation and problematic policy makers tried it but we fought, we voted, we spoke up, and we celebrated each other and the culture. Together.
We elected a slew of new Black leaders
We showed up and showed out for elections. As a result, legislative bodies across the country got a bit more diverse. In 2023, Maryland swore in its first Black governor, Wes Moore, while Philadelphia will welcome Cherelle Parker in January, the first Black woman to serve as mayor. In New York, voters elected Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated members of the "Central Park Five," won a seat on the New York City Council. Gabe Amo, Former Biden White House aide, became the first Black member of Congress from Rhode Island. Roxie "J.R." Henson has become the first openly gay Black man to win the Virginia State Legislature.
Pro-tip: Get ready to do this again in November 2024. Volunteer with us to increase Black voter turnout.
Beyoncé put the culture on the map…and in the theaters
Theatrics, masterful storytelling, a Blue Ivy feature, and a reason to get dressed in our finest, silver sparkles. Beyoncé gave it all on stages around the world — and then in movie theaters — when she took the Renaissance album on the road. The show — and its impact on the economy and our collective mood and joys — was a demonstration of how Black creativity connects us all across continents and cultures.
We showed Florida their anti-Blackness wouldn't be tolerated
In 2023, we made the rare move to issue a travel advisory for Florida because of state leadership's "attack on Black Americans, accurate Black history, voting rights, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, women's reproductive rights, and free speech, while simultaneously embracing a culture of fear, bullying, and intimidation by public officials." Several organizations, including Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the National Black Nurses Association, have moved future conferences from the state because of the harmful policies.
Tennessee voters chose the Justins…again
Speaking of policymakers who tried it, the Tennessee House of Representatives expelled two Black elected officials, Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, over their protest for gun reform in the aftermath of a shooting at a Christian school in Nashville. The two were immediately appointed to the seats and then re-elected by voters in special elections later in the year. A reminder that voters decide who represents them, not ruling parties of state legislators.
We took Trump to court…and won
We sued former president Donald Trump in February 2021 for his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The lawsuit alleges violation of a law enacted as part of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which prohibits conspiracies, through use of violence, threats or intimidation, that seek to prevent members of Congress from discharging their official duties. In the most recent stage of the case in December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Trump cannot claim immunity from this lawsuit just because he was president at the time. This case — along with others Trump is facing — will continue into 2024.
The Little Mermaid was Black…and had locs
The first win of The Little Mermaid was the visuals. A brown-skinned mermaid with locs (played by Halle Bailey) caused heartburn for some and excitement for others. The viral videos of the awe on the faces of little Black girls as they watched a Disney character who looked like them tugged on heart strings and strengthened the arguments for diversity and representation. The final win? The live action version of the Disney classic clocked in as the 7th highest grossing movie of the year worldwide with $568.8 million in ticket sales.
Billions in student debt canceled for millions of Americans
Even though the U.S. Supreme Court ended the Biden Administration's overarching plan to cancel $10,000 to $20,000 worth of student loan debt for every borrower making less than $125,000, some borrowers still found relief in 2023. Fixes to income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) programs were the most recent contributions to $4.8 billion in student loan debt relief for 80,300 borrowers. Throughout the year, the Biden Administration also canceled $11.7 billion for borrowers with a total and permanent disability, as well as $22.5 billion for more than 1.3 million borrowers who were cheated by their schools, saw their institutions precipitously close, or are covered by related court settlements.
We fought unconstitutional voting maps
The effort to suppress Black votes continued in 2023 and so did our efforts to fight it. Several states configured voting districts that harmed Black voters. (We're looking at you Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina.) In September, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of drawing a new Alabama congressional map which will allow for greater representation of Black voters in the state. The newly allowed proposal includes a second congressional district where Black voters comprise the majority of the population. We're keeping tabs on outstanding cases as the country prepares for the 2024 elections.
We defended our history and fought book bans
In a year that saw increasing requests to ban books and erase the history and contributions of the Black community, we rallied. In Pickens County, South Carolina, we challenged the school board's decision to ban Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You. Outside of the courtroom, organizations made sure Black students had access to the books their local school and library systems worked to ban. During the NAACP National Convention in Boston, we hosted a Freedom Library where 4,500 books, primarily featuring banned titles, were given to attendees and the local community. The donation of books followed an initial distribution of 10,000 books to 25 predominantly Black communities in Florida following Governor Ron Desantis' attempt to restrict the teaching of Black history in high schools across the state in March 2023.
We worked to make sure Black communities are taken care of when disaster strikes
Disaster relief must go beyond emergency response and look towards building sustainability and resilience. Communities of color are often forced to shoulder the burden of a crisis that they did not create. This summer we signed an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency outlining ways we will work together to center equity in disaster preparedness and response efforts. And thanks to a new partnership with the American Red Cross we will work to increase disaster resilience with a focus on centering communities of color who stand to be most impacted by the worsening effects of the climate crisis.