Glimpsing back at 2023 – Americans increasingly divided as we bid farewell to 2023, Fat Leonard and much more


By Christopher Young,
Contributing Writer,

When we look back, it surely means that we have moved forward. We create our past each new day as we forge our future. And in a country so divided, our progress seems at war with progress itself. Each week of each year The Mississippi Link newspaper informs us of news from around the world and around our community. Glimpsing back at just some of the things that 2023 brought us is a blurring assignment, but here goes.
Remember the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio? How about that Chinese spy balloon that the US finally shot down? For the first time in our history, a former president was indicted for crimes – four separate times. Then there were the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ strikes. Artificial Intelligence – not brand new –but we sure heard about it in 2023. And after killing 20 million people, the World Health Organization told us that COVID19 is no longer considered a global health emergency.
In 2023 nationwide births began to outpace deaths once again, according to The circle of life claimed so many lives in 2023. Some of those instantly recognizable include Willis Reed, Barbara Walters, Tina Turner, Tony Bennett, Richard Roundtree, Norman Lear, Charles Ogletree, Rosalynn Carter, Andre Baugher, Harry Belafonte, Sandra Day O’Connor, Jean Knight, Henry Kissinger, Rudolph Isley, Jimmy Buffet and Jim Brown.
Again in 2023, highlighted discrimination in lending practices in the rural South, where “70% of the United States’ rural black population calls their home.”
Now CNN reports that “Navy Federal Credit Union had the widest disparity in conventional mortgage approval rates between white and black borrowers of any major lender last year.” NFCU is the largest credit union with 12.7 million members, 357 branches worldwide, and $166.1 billion in assets. Within days following the bombshell report a federal class action lawsuit was filed in Virginia. NFCU denies discrimination, but announced that it had hired Debo P. Adegbile, a leading civil rights attorney and former commissioner of the US Commission on Civil Rights, to “assess our mortgage lending policies and practices and make recommendations to drive further access to home ownership.”
Fat Leonard, the mastermind who bilked the U.S. Navy out of $35 million in its worst corruption scandal has been returned to the United States from Venezuela in a prisoner exchange last week to face charges. “In 2015, he pleaded guilty to offering lavish parties that included prostitutes, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in cash bribes to Navy officers so they could steer business to his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd,” per ABC News.
While here is Mississippi, over twice that amount – at least $74 million – was stolen from federal funds intended for the poorest in the state by officials and their appointees and with little to no accountability.
Gerrymandering – the process by which legislators draw and redraw electoral districts in such a way as to deliberately contain a certain demographic of voters – continues in full force. In 2022, Mississippi shoved as many black voters into the 2nd Congressional District as possible – attempting to maintain their Republican dominance in the other three districts of the state. In 2023, Alabama and Wisconsin were at the top of the list of offenders of The Voting Rights Act, even to the extent of pushing back against Supreme Court rulings. Have you ever heard of black people trying to redraw electoral maps? This is all about desperately ensuring white power in a country with a rapidly shrinking white population.
President Biden’s dog – Commander – was booted out of The White House after a series of biting incidents. The Earth’s ozone layer is showing signs of healing. George Santos, the Republican from New York’s 3rd District, was expelled from Congress on his 328th day of “service,” and faces 23 criminal charges. The movie Barbie, which had a reported production budget of $145 million, was the biggest seller in 2023 worldwide, grossing $1.4 billion so far.
Beyonce became the most Grammy winning artist of all-time this year – 32 wins total. Time magazine named Taylor Swift Person of The Year making her the first woman to appear twice (2017) on a Person of the Year cover since the franchise began in 1927. Deion Sanders is Sports Illustrated 2023 Sportsperson of the Year. Gymnastics star Simone Biles was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year a third time (2016 & 2019) after a dazzling return.
ABC News reported in early December that there have been 627 mass (four or more shot or killed) shootings this year – causing 34,455 deaths and 66,978 injuries.
Just last week The Huffington Post reported that the Francis Howell School Board in Missouri voted 5-3 to stop offering Black History and Black Literature course at their high schools
On March 24th, an EF-4 tornado decimated the towns of Rolling Fork, Midnight, and Silver City, Mississippi – at least 26 dead, dozens injured – the needs will persist well into 2024. On October 7th the militant group Hamas conducted multi-pronged attacks in Israel killing 1,200 and taking about 230 hostages, per NBC News.
The war declared against Hamas by Israel has now killed nearly 21,000 Palestinians and displaced over two million people. War raged in Ukraine throughout 2023, as they battle back against Russian invasion.
The Governor of Mississippi, and other elected officials like Attorney General Lynn Fitch, shared Christmas messages on social media evoking Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6, respectively. Elected officials cloaking themselves in Bible verses as they take actions that are the exact opposite of what Jesus would do and what the Bible teaches; the TANF scandal, felony voter disenfranchisement, a host of takeover laws in 2023 quickly come to mind. It’s tough to muster hope for a brighter, more equitable 2024.
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, “The time is always right to do the right thing.”

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