Last week, the Guardian wrote a piece on all the fantastic things that happened in 2016. Amidst everyone’s collective lamentations that 2016 was officially the worst year ever, you’d be forgiven for having missed some of its victories. So in a decidedly Pollyanna-esque manner, I felt compelled to play my own glad game and highlight some of 2016’s triumphs:
1. Sadiq Khan becomes London’s first Muslim mayor
2016 has been labelled the year of xenophobia, grinding divisions, actual fights in the workplace and within families over Britain making an unexpected exit. With about 1.3 million votes, Khan commanded the largest mandate of any politician ever. Whatever your political view, Khan’s humble background and celebration of differences and diversity, showed that British politics can be accessible to all and that the political landscape is perhaps becoming more reflective of the actual population.
2. Misogyny gets officially recognised as a hate crime
Martha Jephcott who campaigned for this, has now trained Nottinghamshire police forces in how to understand the continuum of violence against women. The training is now available to all forces, and with 85% of women aged 18-24 surveyed saying they have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public, it is well overdue. British Transport Police also upped their game, with a new campaign focusing on the importance of taking sexual harassment seriously, showing their commitment to high quality police care.
3. Team GB captured our hearts
August was the month of realising in amazement at how our tiny little island has churned out so many superstars. Beating China to finish second, we saw returning athletes like Max Whitlock who didn’t quite peak in 2012, but so gloriously scooped up two gold medals in 90 minutes. Coverage of women’s sports became more balanced, and after early issues of underfunding, the Paralympics became the second bestselling Paralympics behind London 2012.
4. Tolerance and forgiveness
Before we toss out any unfulfilled expectations with the detritus of 2016, there have been everyday champions who have embodied what it is to hope. In a display of true resolve and unbound strength, Brendan Cox, husband of the murdered MP Jo Cox, delivered Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message this year calling for unity, and reaching out to those who resist it. Also, redressing the homophobia and racism that has affected Brazil, Rafaela Silva was the first gay black athlete to win gold at the Olympics. Blossoming in the adversity of the favelas, this was a delirious victory not just for her, but for the city.
5. Hillary Clinton
At points throughout this year hope has felt like it has been in short supply, never more so on the morning of November the 9th. Yet Hillary Clinton’s concession speech was painfully open and honest, revealing her very human vulnerabilities, and showing “little girls everywhere” it’s okay to expose your weaknesses and reach for the very top, shattering the glass ceiling on your way. November the 9th also brought the election of the first Indian-American and Thai-American senator.
6. The Royal family speaks out
2016 revealed that Meghan Markle, humanitarian, gender equality campaigner, actress, had a private life. Yet this time with our beloved Prince. The Daily Mail, uncharacteristically of course, decided to chime in, racially profiling Markle and “her dreadlocked mother”. In an unprecedented move, The Royal Family condemned the “racial undertones” present in the papers, shunning the attempts of media trolls to stereotype and smear Markle.
7. Skepta won the Mercury Prize
After surfing the first wave of grime in the early 2000s, Skepta has arguably led the way in showing that grime is much more than just a genre, bringing attention to issues such as police brutality and the state of today’s politics. Beating David Bowie and receiving critical acclaim for his self-released album Konnichiwa, even the judges claimed Bowie himself would have been proud that it was between him and two Black artists. He also partnered with Levi’s community project to support young artists in working towards music and revolution.
8. A progressive Pope
Believe it or not, that wasn’t meant to be an oxymoron. Whilst Pope Francis has been at the Vatican, he has appointed more liberal minds, and been more open toward issues such as homosexuality, war, the gender pay gap. After visiting Lesbos in April, he returned with 12 Syrian refugees, and showed his efforts to promote sustainable charity by declaring that hopefully they can return to Syria once it is safe.
9. People paid attention to the environment
With the Ozone layer healing, and more teenagers watching Planet Earth than the X factor (which might have something to do with the dulcet tones of its presenter), world leaders are taking responsibility for their part in environmental damage, and the environment is probably breathing a sigh of relief.
10. The Obama family
What better way to round off 2016 by remembering the outstanding role models that graced the White House. Whatever your political identity, the warmth, optimism and dignified approach of the Obama family has been inspiring, and infectious. From Michelle’s carpool Karaoke and perfect rendition of Missy Elliot as well as her tireless campaigning for universal female education, to Barack and Joe Biden’s touching bro-mance, they have enchanted us. Their unfailingly gracious response to challenges, have left us in awe. We will miss them.
The struggle to condense 2016’s best bits down to just ten points, is telling in itself. In reflecting on what a momentous year it has been, I refer back to our aforementioned friend who said, “There is something about everything you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it.” Here’s to 2017.