In sports and elections, there are clear winners and losers, some people are happy with the results, and some are not.
For most people, 2018 has been a complete blur dominated by politics that attacked us from all sides, TV, radio, U.S. Mail, social media, and an army of campaign door knockers. It is hard to believe that anything else happened this year that didn’t involve Carson City, Washington D.C., or Russia.
However, you will be happy to know that through it all, life did exist outside of politics and many good things did happen; gender and racial barrier-breaking accomplishments, physical feats, philanthropic generosity, and edge of your seat suspense. The following are a few stories that show courage, determination, and belief in one’s self that give us hope for the future and a reason to look forward to 2019.
Unless you are an avid film buff and read the screen credits, you’ve probably never heard the name Ava DuVernay. Worth noting about DuVarnay is both her gender and race. She is the first black female to direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office. Her film “A Wrinkle In Time,” is a science fantasy, produced by Walt Disney Pictures. She joins twelve other African American directors (all men) to cross the $100M mark. “Lovely room to be in. But can’t wait for more sisters to be here too,” tweeted DuVernay.
Jordan Peele took home the best original screenplay Oscar for “Get Out” — making him the first black screenwriter to win the award.
S.J. Clarkson became the first female “Star Trek” director in franchise history.
Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Music Pulitzer Prize for his virtuosic song collection “DAMN.” Lamar, a platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated rapper, is one of the rare artists who has achieved critical and commercial success while earning respect and support of those who inspired him. Storytelling has been Lamar’s greatest skill and most primary mission, to put into (lots of) words what it’s like to grow up as he did—to articulate, in human terms, the intimate specifics of daily self-defense from your surroundings.
Gina Rodrigues, of “Jane the Virgin” fame, coordinated with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles to find a young woman accepted by Princeton University who’ll now be able to complete her education without a financial burden. The estimated cost to attend Princeton for a single year is $70,010 ($280,040 for four years), but because Rodrigues is the star of a hit series and has a net worth of over $5 million, people may not be impressed by her generosity. However, the money that she donated was an allowance provided by CBS TV Studios toward a publicity campaign called “For Your Consideration” aimed at garnering an Emmy Award nomination for Rodrigues. (You probably didn’t know that the stars and TV shows campaigned for those nominations.) Rodrigues’s contribution does not come as much of a surprise; she is on the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the storyline of Jane the Virgin features both citizenship and the cost of education topics.
U.S. Olympian Chloe Kim, who was born and raised in California, became the youngest woman to win a medal for halfpipe snowboarding at the 2018 Winter Games, where she took home the gold. At 17 years of age, Kim successfully executed the incredibly difficult 1080 maneuver (three full circles in the air) to qualify for the Olympics. When not on the snowboard, Kim, a self-proclaimed ‘goodie two shoes,’ likes to study and read, and her ultimate goal is to attend Harvard—to study business or law to become a sports agent.
Aaron Philip made history as the first black, trans, disabled model to sign with Elite Model Management. Born with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects motor function and requires the use of a wheelchair, life has been a grind for 17-year-old Philip. Despite the challenges, Philip tells VICE magazine that she always had an optimistic outlook on life. At 14, she wrote a memoir “This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability NOT Disability,” going into depth about the hurdles she faced growing up. She also came out as genderfluid and began using they/them pronouns that year. Last November, Philip literally tweeted her modeling career into existence with two photos and the caption: “honestly when i get scouted/discovered by a modeling agency it’s OVER for y’all! by y’all i mean the WORLD! it’s real inclusivity/diversity hours folks, get into it!” The post racked up thousands of likes and retweets, and Philip credits it as the moment her career took off.
Mamoudou Gassama, a Mali immigrant in Paris, scaled the façade of a building in under 40 seconds to save a young child who was dangling from a fifth-floor balcony. The mayor of Paris called him the “Spiderman of the 18th,” a reference to the district within the city where the incident took place. French President Emmanuel Macron met with Gassama, thanked him, gave him a medal and said he would become a naturalized citizen.
And finally, a story that had mixed reactions involved a raccoon and took place at the 25-story UBS Plaza office tower in St. Paul. It was covered live by Minnesota Public Radio and dubbed, #MPRRaccoon. The raccoon was discovered sleeping on the building ledge 20 feet above the street. Around noon, workers brought a ladder to encourage the normally nocturnal mammal to climb down, but the raccoon had other ideas and started a mesmerizing escape that lasted about 14 hours and 45 minutes. Within ten minutes, the raccoon had scaled the side of the building and was 12 floors high. By 3 p.m. it had reached a ledge on the 23rd floor and decided to nap. U.S. Fish and game placed cat food and water in a cage on the roof, hoping the raccoon would smell it and finish the climb. But around 10:30 p.m. it had a change of heart and started a descent down to the 17th floor, stopping on another ledge. Maybe it saw the cheering crowd below. Perhaps it thought the descent was too far. Either way, around 2 a.m., it began another climb and hopped onto the roof around 2:45 a.m. to enjoy its victory meal. While most people cheered, one person posted on Twitter, “Raccoons are nasty, horrible, garbage eating varmints. Do not be fooled by their attempts to be cute. This building climbing scheme was just part of their nefarious plot to take over the world. Stay vigilant!”
While there are hundreds of feel-good stories that can be found if you make an effort to see them, we hope that you will take heart at the wonderful things people do and make 2019 your year to be a hero by doing something nice.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or Happy Holiday. Whatever you celebrate, may this season be festive, full of joy, and love.
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