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Obama, Bass, ‘Taste of Soul’Top Class of ‘08
The year of 2008 will forever be remembered as one that began with the hope that an African American can be elected to the highest office of the land and ended with a dream fulfilled when Barack Obama won in a historical election. However, Obama was just the most significant political milestone of a turbulent year.
At the cornerstone of his monumental victory over Republican candidate John McCain, was a local African American Assemblywoman Karen Bass who became the first Black woman to be elected Speaker of the California Assembly.
Bass was later instrumental in curing a budget stalemate that forced the closure of government business and the lay of thousands of its employees.
Then in one of the most heated Supervisor campaigns for the Los Angeles County Second District, Councilman Bernard Parks forced a run-off in the June primary, but could not gather of sustain enough momentum to defeat Senator Mark Ridley Thomas who became the first Black male to be elected to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.
Ridley-Thomas replaced a political pioneer in Yvonne B. Burke who had previously announced that she would retire after the race.
Young rising political star Isadore Hall followed a Compton political icon in Mervyn Dymally for the Assembly, and yet another stalwart Roderick Wright defeated Dymally for the Senate in perhaps his final election- a political career that span more than five decades.
Assemblyman Mike Davis in just his first term was selected Assemblyman of the Year.
As the Southern California region was engulfed in Obama mania, locals survived a brutal gasoline price hike, a housing crunch and a national economical meltdown that was later confirmed as a recession.
Nonetheless, as resilient as Blacks have demonstrated they are, the party went on as the annual Taste of Soul street scene festival drew a record crowd of 105,000 to Crenshaw Blvd. for a day of music, food and fun.
Hailed as the largest block party in the history of the state, Taste of Soul became a beacon of hope in its own right, gathering citizens and Black business together in an atmosphere of celebrating and profit.
To the south in Inglewood, the harsh ghost of police brutality lifted its ugly head as police murders of African American citizens drove a wedge between the city and law enforcement.
Inglewood Police Department chief Jacqueline Seabrooks reeled in its aftermath and then set in motion policies and procedures that would closely regulate police conduct.
Union leader Tyrone Freeman began the year as one of the rising stars of the SEIU, but ultimately became marred in a financial scandal that saw him dethroned from the most powerful post.
His unraveling began at the computers of the Los Angeles Times, where a series of investigative articles chronicled a vastly different man than previously revealed.
As Freeman fell, David Paterson rose in New York becoming the first Black governor of that state and the first legally blind governor in the history of the nation.
When times grew tougher and the faith of hope was tested during year's end, organizations such as The Brotherhood Crusade, Mothers In Action and the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference begin to increase their efforts and spread their resources.
David Brewer, the second Black Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified Schools District, resigned under pressure from the Board, but his plight brought together an array of community leaders such as the Rev. Eric Lee, President of the SCLC, who piloted an effort to demand equality for Black children in schools.
2008 came and went like the powerful winds that forced the citizens of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to evacuate as Hurricanes Gustav and Ike barreled down the Gulf Coast. Those left standing held on to the hope that only Barack Obama could have brought us.