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New year: a time to look back and look forward

PAYING HOMAGE: The Voice paid special tribute to Muhammad Ali at the time of his death

January

The year started on a controversial note, following revelations that a 1985 memo written by Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, blamed the Broadwater Farm riots on the “bad moral attitudes” of the black community. He also poured scorn on efforts to help black businesses, stating they would be wasted on the “disco and drug trade.” Despite Letwin apologising “unreservedly”, more than 60 per cent of a sample of The Voice’s 230,000 online readership backed calls for the then-Prime Minister David Cameron to sack the MP over his comments. Actors David Oyelowo and Idris Elba (pictured below) led a list of outstanding black individuals who were honoured by the Queen. The two stars received an Order of the British Empire (OBE), for their contribution to British drama as part of her New Year's Honours List 2016.

February

The lack of diversity in the arts was a prominent feature of news in February. An all-white list of Oscar nominees prompted Jada Pinkett Smith to call for a boycott of the awards. Several black actors and celebrities supported her initiative, including David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Will Smith and Snoop Dogg. Simultaneously, actor Elba, highlighted a lack of diversity on British TV and a “disconnect between the real world and TV world”, while addressing the House of Commons in the UK.

March

March became renowned for numerous inaugural events and achievements. Malawi's former president, Joyce Banda, (pictured below), called on women of African heritage to enter the political arena. Speaking at the inaugural New African Women’s Forum in London, Banda, the second African woman to achieve the office of president, said she wanted to see more women in the diaspora playing a key role in shaping the continent’s politics.

Also in March a Ghanaian mother defied the odds of 500,000 to one by giving birth to three consecutive set of twins. Abigail Adama, 30, from Bradford, welcomed two baby girls, who join a pair of four-year-olds and a pair of 18-month-old twins in the family. The proud mother and her husband Shaibu Abu Adama, also 30, told Bradford’s Telegraph a n d Argus they were astounded when they found out they were expecting another set of twins. She said:

“We thought we were done with two sets, and then suddenly I realised I was pregnant again – it was a big shock and I cried, because I was not expecting it.”

A special exhibition called I Am The Greatest was launched at London’s O2, showcasing the extraordinary life and achievements of Muhammad Ali, both inside and outside the ring.

April

Chanel Chin (pictured below), the daughter of Jamaican reggae star Bobo Zaro, ascended Nigeria’s social ranks to be crowned queen of the Iwo Kingdom, following her marriage to King Adbul Rasheed Adewale Akanbi. The royal couple met in Canada where the king resided before ascending to the throne. Chin’s father, real name Ludlow Chin, is known for his hit single Pain, a collaboration with Contractor and Capleton.

Also in April, Anthony Joshua, the boxer, was crowned heavyweight IBF world champion following a two-round demolition of ‘Prince’ Charles Martin. On a sad note, the iconic singer Prince died at his recording studio in Minnesota, aged 57. The singer, who sold more than 100 million records, died on April 22, after taking a toxic amount of the painkiller Fentanyl.

May

May was marked by some key milestones. Marvin Rees was voted in as the Mayor of Bristol, becoming the first person of African Caribbean descent to hold a directly elected mayoral office in Britain.

During the same month, Labour politician Sadiq Khan was elected as the new Mayor of London, ending the Conservative party’s eight-year grip on City Hall.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), entitled Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016- 2030, predicted that six countries in Africa are expected to be free of malaria by 2020. The use of insecticide-treated bed-nets, regular bug spraying inside dwellings and rapid diagnostic testing have led to rapid decline in infection rates in Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Comoros, South Africa and Swaziland.

June

A special tribute issue of the newspaper was published in June to commemorate the death of boxer and human rights activist Muhammad Ali. The three-time world heavyweight champion died at the age of 74 from "septic shock due to unspecified natural causes", his family said. Hollywood actor Will Smith and Britain's former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis were pallbearers at Ali's funeral on June 10.

July

Following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in June, The Voice examined the impact Brexit could have on black workers’ rights and racial discrimination. A spokesperson for the TUC said:

“Many Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers have benefited from EU-guaranteed rights that could make them vulnerable if the UK leaves the EU. These include protections for outsourced workers or those on temporary contracts, which is often overrepresented in these groups.”

Black Lives Matter campaigns continued to generate press coverage, following the shootings of five police officers in Dallas by lone sniper Micah Johnson. According to some supporters of the movement, the murders in Dallas, at what had been a peaceful protest, made it harder for Black Lives Matter campaigners to focus on the need for police officers to be held accountable for the shooting of unarmed black men.

August

In the wake of widespread protests in the US and UK over the police killings of black men, The Voice reported on the rebirth of economic protests. Thousands of black people in America moved their money into black-owned banks, such as Citizen’s Trust, amid promises to spend more of their money with black-owned institutions. In the UK similar calls were made.

Optimistically, an emerging generation of young people in Africa were tipped to set the international agenda in science and technology (Martial De-Paul Ikounga, Commissioner of the African Union for Science and Research, is pictured below). Leszek Borysiewicz, the vice chancellor of Cambridge University and the former chief executive of the UK’s Medical Research Council, said he believed that the continent’s youth was its greatest asset and was set to make important contributions to scientific research and development.

September

The Voice hailed Senegal’s Fatma Samoura’s appointment as the first female and African Secretary General of FIFA. As the second most powerful person in football, Samoura challenges the notion that senior positions in the organisation, which generates billions of dollars in annual revenues, are dominated by middle aged white men.

The Federal Government of Nigeria signed a landmark agreement with the British Government for the return of stolen assets hidden in the UK. The UK reaffirmed its commitment to recovering and returning stolen assets to Nigeria and to shed London’s reputation as a haven for ‘dirty’ money. The agreement means that bank accounts, properties, cars and other goods seized in Britain from Nigerian offenders will be returned on the condition that the Federal Government ensures that stolen assets recovered from both within and outside the country will be put to sensible uses, and that such assets will not be re-looted.

October

Black History Month was marked by 20,000 people descending upon Trafalgar Square in London for the celebration, Africa On the Square (pictured below). The free festival was organised by the Mayor of London’s office and Open The Gate – the body behind The African Market at Spitalfields, east London.

During the same month, Sadiq Khan visited and praised the work of the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) for highlighting and celebrating the lives of people from African and Caribbean descent.

November

Hilary Clinton's defeat in the US presidential election prompted an online campaign to urge Michelle Obama to run for presidency in 2020. #Michelle2020 quickly started trending online as the public called on the First Lady to run for the office in four years' time.

During the same month, it was disclosed that the son of revered civil rights leader Marcus Garvey is leading a campaign to get US President Barack Obama to clear his father of a 1923 criminal conviction that experts agree was an injustice. The conviction saw Jamaica’s national hero jailed for three years. But Dr Julius Garvey, 83, fears that with President Obama’s time in office due to end in January, time is running out to grant the pardon.

The front page of The Voice paid tribute to the many African soldiers who were left in unmarked graves during the two World Wars, because they were not Christian. The tribute coincided with Remembrance Sunday.

December

Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former president and one of the world's longest-serving leaders, died aged 90. Castro's younger brother and successor as president, Raul Castro, made the announcement on state television. Castro toppled the government in 1959, introducing a Communist revolution. He defied the US for decades and survived many assassination plots.

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