The Washington Post

Occupy Wall Street, MLK Memorial and the top stories of 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. (Nikki Kahn/THE WASHINGTON POST)

King’s message today is often so watered down that we forget that, far more than conciliator, he was a revolutionary who forced this nation to see hard truths about itself — many of which remain relevant today.

“In too many troubled neighborhoods across the county, the conditions of our poorest citizens appear little changed from what existed 50 year ago,” President Obama said at the dedication. “There are neighborhoods with underfunded schools and broken-down slums, inadequate health care...violence. Our work is not done.”

This is, in part, the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement and their many offspring that sprang up over the past four months: that it is unjust that one percent of the people in the nation hold such an inordinate amount of wealth. It’s not clear how they plan to rectify those inequities by sleeping on the ground and snarling traffic every now and then with a protest.

People who should generally be supportive are unsure how to help their cause. Among them is D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), 69, who sees himself as a champion of the underdog. Gray recently told The Post’s Tim Craig that the movement is known as much for tents in parks as its demands: “What is frustrating for me, and I think of my own causes, is, what is the desired outcome here? Where are we trying to get to?”

Many of us want to know the same thing.

August 8, 1974 photo of rapper and poet Gil-Scott Heron in a recording studio in Silver Spring. (Photo by Craig Herndon/TWP) (Craig Herndon/TWP)

One of my favorites was “Winter in America,” a eulogy of sorts for an America that had gone the way of the buffalo. Here’s a quick eulogy to him: Thank you for telling brothers to ease up on the sisters. Thank you for reminding young rappers that they, too, have to take some responsibility for their words. Thank you for begging America’s pardon after the Richard Nixon pardon. And most of all, thank you for allowing us into your mind, and reminding us to not wait until we have it all together to make that phone call.

As usual, we had our share of scandal this year. The D.C. Council has been good for its share of nonsense. But hands down, for me, is the continuing sad saga surrounding former Prince George’s County executive Jack Johnson.

The county’s former top prosecutor, Johnson had made police corruption one of his top priorities. So he understood all the risks he was taking with his own freedom and image of the county many residents once dubbed Gorgeous Prince George’s.

At his sentencing this month, Johnson apologized and begged for mercy for taking as much as $1 million in bribes. He walked into court with a cane and said he suffers from depression and Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. “I’m sorry,” said Johnson, 62. “I ask the people of Prince George’s County to forgive me.”

That attempt at being contrite was in stark contrast to the Johnson captured in a surveillance video laughing and smiling as he pocketed $1,500 in cash from a developer. “If one of the prosecutors are able to bring somebody like me down, they brag their whole career, ‘I prosecuted Jack Johnson,’ ” he said in the video. “You got to be so careful.”

Yes, that would have been the thing to do, for sure.

And while most of the talk this year has been about people who don’t have — and are looking for work — Darren Carroll got his first steady job in three years making $24 an hour on the 11th Street Bridge Project. His wages could double in three years. And it made him feel good to be working and able to provide for his family again.

“Fact is, I couldn’t help anybody before — my family, nobody,” he said. “At least now I can say, ‘Here’s this little bit of money. Take care of yourself.”

Here’s hoping for more Darren Carrolls in 2012.

Read more on The Root DC

Review: ‘Pariah’ examines sexuality, growing up

Union temple celebrates Kwanzaa

Occupy D.C. protesters go to Baltimore

Weighing in on ‘30 Americans’



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans