Hey, 2020, can we be real for a second? We’re not sad to see you go. With the pandemic and a worldwide economic collapse and widespread police violence and wildfires raging across Australia and more wildfires raging across the West Coast and neverending presidential temper tantrums and murder hornets, it’s been a rough year.
But despite all that, good stuff really did happen. Take a look at our list of some of the best news to emerge from 2020 (some of these things made the headlines, and some definitely should have), then join us for a dive into what we hope to see happen in 2021.
The Best of 2020
Item number 1
A record number of voters turned out
Turnout for this election, especially among young people, was huge, resulting in the most diverse Congress ever and the first woman (as well as the first Black woman and Indian-American woman) ever elected vice president. We’ve got a long way to go before Congress truly reflects our country’s remarkable diversity, but this is definitely progress—and young voters are leading the way.
Item number 2
America really started reckoning with racism
With Black activists leading the way, people of all races marched to protest police violence, white supremacy, and racial injustice—and more white people than ever before began to recognize that racism harms all of us. Now we have to make sure that this long overdue shift in mindset leads to lasting and effective anti-racist action.
Item number 3
Miami schools invested in students
In a big win for students and activists, the Miami-Dade school board agreed in 2019 to hire more mental health professionals, and this year they put the policy into effect. For the sake of students and their communities, we hope many more school boards follow Miami’s lead. Power U, our partner in Miami, helped make this happen, and now they’re working with the school system on further much-needed reforms.
Item number 4
Renewable energy hit a new high
According to the International Energy Agency, almost 90% of new global energy generation in 2020 was renewable, setting a new record. On top of that, COVID-19 led to an unprecedented drop in carbon emissions. While that drop proved temporary, it did demonstrate something hopeful: We do have the power to dramatically reduce the CO2 we’re pumping into the atmosphere. With renewable energy use continuing to grow, this shows us we have a real chance to make progress in the fight against the climate crisis.
Item number 5
LGBTQ candidates won big
This is truly amazing. It makes us so happy to see how, all over the country, at the local, state, and national level, a record number of LGTBQ candidates ran for and were elected to office this year. Not only that, but trans candidates won landmark races in states both blue AND red. Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Vermont elected trans or non-binary people to the legislature for the first time in their history.
Item number 6
St. Louis voted unanimously to close the Workhouse!
Thanks to a massive and sustained grassroots movement, the St. Louis Board of Alderman voted unanimously back in July on a bill to close the infamous Workhouse jail by the end of the year. Unfortunately, as 2020 winds down, it’s not a done deal yet. Even though Mayor Krewson signed the bill, she and her administration appear to be backtracking on the plan it laid out. We need to keep the pressure on St. Louis elected officials and make sure they follow through!
2021, Here We Come!
For us, and probably for a lot of you, the new year always represents possibility—a fresh start. And after the year we’ve all had, a fresh start can’t come soon enough.
Bringing the Pandemic to an End
It’s clear that the most important thing we need to do is get the pandemic under control. As of this writing, COVID-19 has killed almost 280,000 people in the US and more than 1.5 million around the world. Millions of people have lost their jobs. Daily life has changed for just about everyone. But hopeful signs are out there. Vaccines have been developed in record time and they appear to be effective. The incoming Biden administration is assembling a team that will listen to and be led by science.
Making Government Function Again
Bringing the pandemic to an end requires a functioning government, something we haven’t seen much of in a long time. We can’t wait for political leadership that strengthens, not undermines, our democratic institutions. For government agencies where people are appointed not because they’re related to the president but because they’re actually qualified.
We’re hoping to see a Congress that can work effectively to pass legislation that benefits all Americans, not just corporations and the ultra-wealthy. Here’s a big one on our wishlist: make the John Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 law! We saw record voter turnout this election, but the fact is that there are still way too many barriers to voting in this country. Nothing would do more to honor the great John Lewis’s legacy AND strengthen our democracy than passing this bill.
Celebrating Our Diversity
John Lewis saw something of himself in the young leaders at the forefront of this summer’s marches and protests. Our job in 2021 is to make sure we keep this essential conversation about race and racism going—and that it leads to action. We must continue to grapple with racial injustice and the legacy of slavery. We must continue to work together to transform the criminal justice system and reimagine our approach to public safety.
The makeup of the incoming administration's team has us feeling optimistic. In addition to having the nation’s first woman (and Black and Indian-American) vice president, the administration is assembling a remarkably diverse staff, with men and women of color set to take leadership positions across an array of departments and agencies. With Black and Brown people in charge, we’re hoping to see an increased emphasis on racial justice throughout government.
Reasons to Hope
2020 is a year that many of us may want to forget, but we saw signs of true progress despite all the challenges. Change is on the way, and it’s thanks to all of you, to all those who turned out to vote, who marched in the streets, who started important conversations about racism and equity with friends and family, who helped each other and stood by each other through the pandemic’s most trying days. So let’s celebrate the new year together. We made it! And we can’t wait to see what 2021 brings.