Big Easy Magazine’s Unapologetically Progressive 2020 Year in Review

Members of the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall. Photo by Jenn Bentley

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a Bourbon Street puddle of nasty – just when you thought it was safe to clean off your shoes, you fall in a pothole to top it all off. The pandemic, protests, and a virtually non-functioning government all conspired to make 2020 a bad year that everyone would like to forget. But in each instance, I’d like to think some good came out of it as well.

Still, there’s no denying that it was a year of big news. Here is a look back at some of the most unapologetically progressive news stories of 2020:

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Canal Street was empty Thursday morning (3/19/2020) as the city’s bars and restaurants remain shut down to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 epidemic. (Photo by Jenn Bentley)

As of this writing, 19.8 million U.S. citizens have been infected with COVID-19, and 343,000 have died. Those are staggering numbers. But the COVID-19 pandemic has also shined a light on issues across the country that have largely gone ignored, including appalling conditions in many US hospitals, daily issues faced by many of the disabled and mentally ill across the country, the fragility of the US food chain, and the plight of the American worker.

These are things that have long needed to be addressed, and it is our hope that the country-wide mobilization around these issues will continue even as vaccines are rolled out and things get back to whatever will pass for our new “normal.”

Black Lives Matter

Big Easy Magazine Staff photo by Jenn Bentley

Here at Big Easy Magazine, we have always known that Black Lives Matter. But 2020 has brought the issues of racism in policing, politics, and daily life more to the forefront of the media’s conversation than ever before. Protests across New Orleans were major news, defunding the police became a major conversation, racial bias in the NOPD’s policing tactics was exposed and then those tactics were banned by the City Council. At the state level, years of racism and racial bias was exposed in the state police as well, leading to widespread investigations.

While it’s no secret that there is still a lot of work to be done, it is always nice to see progress – no matter how small – being made.

Criminal Justice Reform Wins

New Orleans District Attorney-elect Jason Williams

There were many big wins locally in terms of criminal justice reform. In addition to the previously-mentioned ban on the use of racially biased facial recognition software, the New Orleans City Council also voted to ban the use of tear gas against protesters and stood with the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition in voting to halt construction of a Phase III jail facility.

But perhaps the biggest win for local criminal justice reform was the election of Jason Williams as New Olreans new district attorney. His final opponent, Keva Landrum had a history of unethical misconduct, and many saw Williams’ election as a victory for victims as well as for criminal justice reform.

The Saints

Photo Credit: Barry Hirstius, Big Easy Magazine

In a year filled with one terrible news story after the other, New Olreanians needed our Saints more than ever – and thus far, they have not disappointed us. It’s no surprise that no one wants to face our incredible team in the playoffs this year – they’re just that good.

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the New Orleans Saints without mentioning the loss of one of our own: we here at Big Easy Magazine are still mourning the loss of Saints’ columnist Barry Hirstius. He will be sorely missed.

LGBTQ+ Representation in Louisiana

Louisiana’s LGBTQ+ residents saw stride made in regards to their political representation across the state this year. In July, Louisiana elected an openly transgender woman to political office for the first time. Here in New Orleans, anti-LGBT Orleans Parish School Board incumbent Leslie Ellison was defeated by the openly LGBTQ+ and Latinx J.C. Romero.

One of the biggest wins for Louisiana’s LGBTQ community came at the hands of the Supreme Court, when they ruled that civils rights law bars discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace.

Exposing Terrible Landlords

Washington Place, by Metrowide Apartments. Photo courtesy of the author.

One of Big Easy Magazine’s most-read series’ this year was a three-part expose on New Olreans Slumlords. Slumlord City: How New Orleans Rentals are Failing Working Families exposed some of the city’s worst landlords – including some linked to some major influencers in local politics – and the conditions they expected their tenants to live in.

Conservatives Infiltrate the Louisiana Democratic Party

This year the Louisiana Democratic State Committee chose Katie Bernhardt to replace Karen Carter Peterson as head of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, Bernhardt is a Democrat in name only who has a known history of supporting conservative policies and pro-life Republican candidates.

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

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