It’s almost time for lights out on 2011. And since the end of year is nigh, we — the folks here at Qcitymetro — thought it was only fitting to take a look at this year’s most memorable people and organizations. These are the people, for good or ill, who grabbed headlines and made the city take notice.
So, feast your eyes below and check out our list of Charlotte’s top 10 African American newsmakers — and be sure to weigh in with your own picks.
NAACP President Kojo Nantambu: Kojo Nantambu: NAACP President Kojo Nantambu kicked off 2011 with a bang when he called for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students to boycott their classes this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day — and when he urged African Americans visitors to boycott the city altogether. Calling Charlotte a “racist bastion” due to several school closings that disproportionately affected black students, Nantambu’s words were met with anger by folks (of various ethnic backgrounds) across the city and state. Still, you’ve got to give it up to any activist who can find a way to cut through the Q.C.’s sometimes-apathetic haze and make people pay attention.
Tonya Rivens: The inspirational radio personality did it big this year by branching out with the creation of “Gospel Insights with Tonya Rivens” and taking her radio show into syndication. In the coming year, we will continue seeing more of Rivens, who is now the afternoon traffic reporter on WBTV. All the while, she continues being a devoted mom to her son Jalen and giving back to her community by way of her nonprofit organization, The Ausie Rivens Scholarship Foundation.
Mayor Anthony Foxx: 2011 was a big year for the city of Charlotte, and as the face of the city, it was also a big year for Mayor Anthony Foxx. The second African American to hold the city’s top post, Foxx won re-election in November with 67 percent of the vote — the largest margin in a mayoral race since 1999. During his campaign, the city’s youngest mayor took credit for helping Charlotte land the coveted spot as host of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He also counts among his list of accomplishments playing a pivotal role in luring more than 10,000 jobs to the region. In the coming year, look for Foxx to continue pushing his agenda to merge city and county governments.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Charlotte Alumnae Chapter: Much has been said and written about ongoing efforts to revitalize the Beatties Ford Road corridor. Earlier this year, the women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Charlotte Alumnae Chapter did their part. The ladies of crimson and cream, through their Deltas of Charlotte Foundation, broke ground and later christened the Delta Life Center on Beatties Ford Road. Sorority officials said the building would be used primarily for meetings and community projects. What we liked best, perhaps, was the fact that the Deltas saw the importance of economic empowerment as well. They hired Darrel Williams of Neighboring Concepts to design the building and Ron Leeper of R.J. Leeper Construction to build it. At a recent Deltas open house, Williams and Leeper joked that it was good to get work that didn’t involve building another liquor store.
Harold Cogdell: County Commissioner Harold Cogdell’s name emblazoned headlines across the city this year when he, in his second attempt, successfully shoved fellow Democrat Jennifer Roberts out of her spot as commission chair. And, since this move was done with the help of Republicans like the infamous Bill James, Cogdell subsequently pissed off Democrats on the commission and many of the people who voted him into office. The big question is: Where does that leave him in 2012? Sure, he’s in charge now — but will he be able to lead when he has effectively lost the trust of his own party?
Harriet Jinwright: Ferdinand had his Imelda, and Anthony has his Harriet. Nearly a year after her conviction for tax evasion, Harriet Jinwright reported to a federal prison in Alderson, W. Va., on April 20 to begin serving an 80-month sentence. Her husband and cohort, Bishop Anthony Jinwright, had already begun serving his eight-year, nine-month sentence. Together, the husband-wife preacher team bankrupted — and nearly destroyed — Greater Salem Church in west Charlotte. As much as we resist the impulse to “blame the woman,” we were struck by the number of Jinwright acquaintances who approached us over the last 18 months with tales of Mrs. Jinwright’s reported profligacy — allegations we never sought to confirm or publish. In documents filed this year appealing her conviction, Mrs. Jinwright painted herself as a financially naïve wife who never bothered to check those pesky tax returns.
Ce Scott: One of the major players in Charlotte’s artistic community, Ce Scott made news for ending a chapter in her acclaimed career. One of the founders of McColl Center for Visual Art and creative director at both McColl and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture, Scott (and her unconventional, yet nurturing, approach to art) was the driving force behind the thriving artist-in-residence program at both institutions. But, for as yet unrevealed reasons, she chose to exit her posts at McColl and Gantt this year — leaving a gaping hole in the city’s creative scene.
Cam Newton: This season, the Carolina Panthers have racked up more losses than victories, but the teams No. 1 draft pick, quarterback Cam Newton, is definitely winning. Since the opening game of the regular 2011 NFL season, the Heisman Trophy winner has been shattering records and silencing critics who doubted his abilities. And ladies, the 6-foot-5-inch, tattoo-less, dimple-faced, 22-year-old bachelor is quite easy on the eyes as well.
LaWana Mayfield: Democrat LaWana Mayfield made history this year when she became the first openly gay person to be elected to Charlotte City Council. In November, Mayfield ousted longtime incumbent Warren Turner from his District 3 seat after 4 terms in office. Mayfield — who has 15 years of community activism and organizing under her belt, putting in work on immigration and human rights issues — says her sexual orientation is only a small fraction of what she has to offer.
Spurgeon Webber Jr.: Some folks make news; others make history while making the planet a better place. Spurgeon Webber Jr., who died Dec. 6 at age 77, did both. Perhaps best known as the patriarch of Charlotte’s Webber dentistry practice (son Spurgeon Webber III followed his dad into the family business) the elder Mr. Webber used his business success to improve the lives of others. He gave generously to the Urban League of Central Carolinas; Central Piedmont Community College, where he and his wife established scholarships to help minority students and a dental laboratory is named in his honor; Hampton University; Johnson C. Smith University; Winston-Salem State University; and Meharry Medical College. He was inducted into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest award given by the state of North Carolina. “He actually saw his own self interest beyond his own toes. He realized that the interest of other people and them actually growing was also his own interest,” Urban League President Patrick Graham was quoted as saying of Webber. Well done, Mr. Webber. Rest in peace.