BK Readers, we’ve made it. 2020 finally is coming to an end.
We want to thank you all for sticking with us through this last rotation around the sun, through all the challenges and the uncertainty it has brought.
After shutting down our city in March, the coronavirus pandemic has caused devastation and loss worldwide, accounting for more than 1.7 million deaths and it continues to kill more than 3,000 Americans a day; the pandemic has also devastated thousands of small businesses and industries, leaving millions of Americans out of work and at risk of losing their homes; there have been numerous cases of horrifically unjust police killings of Black Americans, which led to mass national and global protests against systemic racism and police brutality; there was one of the most consequential U.S. elections in decades, where an openly racist and bigoted President Donald Trump was defeated by President-elect Joe Biden; and we’re still awaiting a run-off election in Georgia to see how our Congress will stack up next year. *Queue deep breath*
Throughout it all, there has been a birth and mobilization of young, bright voters who are speaking up in the fight for social justice and racial and economic equality sparked by the year’s protests and economic devastation caused by COVID-19.
Every single one of these issues has played out right here on the streets of Brooklyn. There have many lows, but there have also been countless examples of our community coming together to support each other and showing what it really means to be Brooklyn Strong. A lot of our most popular stories this year have understandably centered around the pandemic, but there are few odd sparks in there too.
If you didn’t catch some of these headlines when they were first published, here is a look back at BK Reader’s top-10 popular stories of 2020 including a few of our editor’s picks.
In July, BK Reader writer Jessy Edwards went to cover a group of people who had started dancing outside Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center to boost prisoner morale, only to find the group was part of ‘sex cult’ NXIVM and was dancing for cult founder Keith Raniere, who was imprisoned inside. Talk about a plot twist.
In July, Brooklyn mom-to-be Sha-Asia Semple went into Woodhull Medical Center and did not make it out alive. Semple tragically died during childbirth, highlighting the maternal death rate for Black women in America. In August, her family gathered at the hospital to demand justice for death. A mural was painted in Bed-Stuy dedicated to Sha-Asia’s memory.
By April, masks were already commonplace on faces across the borough and as shortages of surgical masks were happening in pharmacies and markets, our local makers stepped up to the challenge. BK Reader made a list of ten creatives in the borough who started sewing face masks for the community, making it easy (and fashionable) to buy local and stay safe.
In June, we had the heavily contested primaries for state and assembly districts across New York — and although we saw the power incumbency reign supreme in most cases, there were definitely a couple of upsets. Most notably, incumbent Walter Mosley was beaten by Democratic Socialist-backed Phara Souffrant Forrest and Jabari Brisport beat out current Assemblymember Tremaine Wright in the race for term-limited Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s 25th Senate Seat. It was also the first time the city got a taste of mail-in voting on a large scale, and officials definitely had to do a bit learning from their mistakes.
In early April, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio scrambled to increase testing in neighborhoods that were being disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus. Drive-through and walk-in sites were being opened, and subsequently closed down over lack of PPE and other issues. Meanwhile cases were surging across the city and it was becoming increasingly clear that communities of color in Brooklyn were being disproportionately affected by the virus.
In September, East New York resident Gerard Davis turned 100, and shared his secrets to making to the century mark with BK Reader. On top of his fitness routine, he watches the foods he eats and has some fine tuned practices that have kept him safe for a century. “I put on hymns and then I dance,” he told our reporter, leaping from the couch in his East New York living room. “I like to get up and I say, ‘Thank you Lord, thank you Lord, for your grace, your love and your strength, God,’ up and down and praising God.”
Bushwick staple Archie’s Bar & Pizza abruptly in July amidst a wave of sexual misconduct allegations made on social media about one of its owners, with many saying its founders knew about cases of misconduct for years. Part-owner Diego Macias was terminated from the pizzeria. Nine days later, Archie’s shut down for good. The popular pizza joint at 128 Central Avenue and its Williamsburg location both closed abruptly and have remained close since.
At the start of March, an 80-yr-old woman with age-related health issues was confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Brooklyn. At the time, the confirmed number of people infected citywide was 13; statewide was 22, and there were a total of 2,773 New York State residents under quarantine. The Brooklyn woman was one of two New York City residents in critical condition at hospitals, along with a Manhattan man in his 40s.
In early October, just a month before the presidential election, a color-coded wall of ‘false or misleading claims’ made by President Trump during his term in office popped up in Bushwick, compiled and fact-checked during Trump’s presidency by the Washington Post. It may not have been the wall he was hoping to build, but Trump could take much of the credit for the ‘Wall of Lies.’ The wall was a hit in Brooklyn and beyond, and became a selfie hotspot, including for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer. It didn’t take long before the wall was vandalized by pro-Trumpers, but never fear — it was rebuild in Manhattan after only a week.
As coronavirus rapidly spread in early-March and we began to learn more about its deadliness and high rates of transmissions, getting hold of masks became a matter of priority. It’s no surprise then that this story, on how to make your own facemask, was our top read this year. It came at a time many stores were sold out of the PPE and we panic buying was a force we were all reckoning with. The simple do-it-yourself mask single-use face mask method was developed by the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital and required paper towels, Kleenex, elastic string, masking tape, plastic-coated wires, a hole puncher and scissors.
During the height of the pandemic, Brooklyn did what Brooklyn does. Neighbors came together and created their own joy in what came to be known as St. James Joy, a daily block party at 7:00 p.m. that attracted not just immediate Clinton Hill neighbors, but folks from all over Brooklyn who wanted to dance off the stresses of daily life. Little did they know, on June 26, they were in for a surprise: At one point, the music paused so the masked summertime revelers could gather in front of a house that became an opera stage – yes, opera.
It was just the start of a summer dominated by peaceful protests across Brooklyn when BK Reader ran this story in June. Thousands of people from all walks of life took the streets and marched, faces covered in masks and respecting each other’s distance, for racial equality in America — and continued to do so for months.
In late July, as we were all holed up in our apartments trying to endure the quarantine as the sun beamed outside the temperature did what it does in summer and hit the mid-90s. So Brooklyn hit back by opening hydrants and cooling centers.
#4: VOCAL NY is Helping Brooklyn’s Most Vulnerable … With No Questions Asked And No Judgements Added
Throughout the pandemic VOCAL-NY, an organizing and service nonprofit for low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, mass incarceration and homelessness, did what many of the vital and integral community organizations did — kept working for our most vulnerable community members. BK Reader spent the day with the team at VOCAL-NY and saw firsthand how they were giving so much without a huge amount of resources and uplifting their community despite all the challenges posed by the pandemic.
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