This story originally appeared on LX.com
2020 did its very best to crush our collective spirits. But along the way NBCLX encountered people challenging conventions, persevering against overwhelming odds and making their little corner of the universe a bit brighter. They challenged our way of thinking, lifted our hopes and filled our hearts.
These are the people we fell in love with in 2020... and these are their stories.
Her name is Fateeha. She’s a 17-year-old rapper who hails from the Philippines and she’s already making heads turn. The young artist sat down with NBCLX host Jobeth Devera to share her road into the entertainment industry and offered advice to aspiring artists looking to find their own authentic voice.
"I think what people my age get wrong is that you think you have to look like this is or sound like that and sometimes the rappers my age don't sound authentic," Fateeha said. "They're always trying to copy someone like Nikki Minaj or Cardi B and they always want to sound that way and don't realize they can make their own style and be themselves."
Singer India Arie joined Nik Z to discuss her short form film “Welcome Home,” which focuses on prayer, meditation and maintaining mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Arie also offered her own unique insight on the challenge many faced being alone for the first time.
"What I see is transition. We all have transition in our personal life and now humanity is going through a worldwide transition. I feel the main challenge a lot of people are having is how to be alone with themselves and I have a lot of practice with that," Arie said. "Being alone with yourself is a wonderful practice because the more you know yourself the more you know how to navigate life. There are some things about life no book can tell you and no teacher can teach you."
Wynter Floyd was raised in Compton, California, a city known for gang activity and violence. But this hasn’t stopped Floyd from competing in barrel racing, a sport with few black women. Floyd's mother Tiffany Wade said she didn't necessarily set out for her daughter to be a trailblazer in the sport, but she isn't shying away from that responsibility either.
"The sport itself is a predominantly white sport," said Wade. "They don't expect for Blacks to be in it. So I think I wanted her to do it to prove them wrong."
You want to see the real impact of climate change? Well one of the first places to look are the U.S. national parks. LX News host Tabitha Lipkin traveled to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas to see firsthand how its fragile ecosystem is at risk — and how politics will determine the future of some of our country’s most precious resources.
"The changes here at the park may have occurred over millions of years, but climate experts say there's something different at play now," said Lipkin. "It isn't gradual and it isn't caused by nature. We humans are to blame."
Sports analyst and former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho’s video series “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” has helped to bridge the divide between the way white and Black people communicate about race and racism. Acho joined Ashley Holt to discuss taking those “uncomfortable conversations” to a new audience.
"The problem is there's a disconnect between Black people and white people and the way we communicate," said Acho. "The solution is having conversations so we can mend the rifts that currently exist."
Why are foreign nations like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China allowed to buy influence in Washington D.C., potentially putting other countries’ priorities ahead of America’s? And why are former members of Congress doing their bidding for them? NBCLX storyteller Noah Pransky found more than 50 former members of the House and Senate who have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in just the last 5 years, affecting everything from where your tax dollars to our troops are going.
People participating in social movements across generations have used music to share their feelings, protest the status quo and artistically call for reform. NBCLX storytellers Clark Fouraker and Eric Rodriguez looked back at the history of protest music to see how certain songs influenced social justice movements over the years, up until and including today’s Black Lives Matter movement.
"That's what needs to be understood is that music is all Black Americans ever had to express themselves," said artist/producer Suzi Analogue. "We couldn't go where we wanted or eat what we wanted or spend our time how we wanted. But when we were sent to the fields we were allowed to sing because the slave masters believed that was good for the morale and helped slaves work harder. And because it was tied to capitalism it was literally all that we had to express any human condition."
Even as discussions about equal pay become more common in society, many women still hesitate to talk to each other about their bottom lines. NBCLX storyteller Ngozi Ekeledo explored what happens when women talk openly and honestly about money.
There are more than 130 billion pennies in circulation right now, amounting to more than a billion dollars worth of coins. Check your drawers and you'll likely find a ton of them sitting there just taking up space. The value of the penny has declined to the degree that it now costs more than one cent to produce the one cent coin. So, is it time for the penny to be put out of its misery? NBCLX storyteller Peter Hull took a deep dive into the future of our currency.
Some of the most striking demonstrations in the Black Lives Matter movement have been public art projects. In Miami, two different Black Lives Matter murals were created not far from each other, each with its own unique perspective on the struggle of Black Americans.
"It's not enough to say I hate this and it shouldn't be this way. But now what can I do to help it change," said Miami artist Nate Dee.
The red party cup is a staple of frat parties and disposable culture. But as consumers become more environmentally aware, they're becoming conscious of the fact that the cups are not as recyclable as you may assume.
Americans discard about 33.6 million tons of plastic a year and much of it ends up in landfills, where it can take up to 450 years to decompose. NBCLX’s Fernando Hurtado took a closer look at the environmental impact of the ubiquitous red party cups and offered suggestions for making your next party greener.
Emojis were created in the 1990s to help people express emotion and tone in writing. But misunderstandings about the use of emojis can also create unexpected and unintended conflicts that can even wind up in court. NBCLX's Fernando Hurtado and Janine Doyon explored how in the wrong situation you could even wind up getting arrested because of an emoji.
"Because emojis are part of the way people are talking to each other they show up in virtually every type of legal case," explained Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman. "We often see the use of the gun emoji with reference to the police, leading [law enforcement] to treat that as a threat which leads to an arrest. Whatever people are saying or doing, emojis are following."
In 2020 Confederate monuments across the nation came under increased scrutiny amid a racial reckoning that gripped much of the country. NBCLX storyteller Chase Cain visited the world's largest confederate monument, Stone Mountain in Georgia, for a closer look at the controversy now circling around the controversial edifice.
In the wealthy city of Santa Monica, California, the historically Black Pico district retains its memories of the generations of families who called it home — and the legacy of racial segregation that created it. But today, soaring real estate prices are making the price of leaving hard to pass up, and longtime residents are being forced to say good-bye.
That smart phone you're holding... or laptop you're typing away on... chances are it uses Lithium-ion batteries which often leave a rather costly carbon footprint in its wake. Currently, the U.S depends heavily on other countries for Lithium-ion batteries. But that could soon change with a discovery that’s just a couple hours north of Tesla’s Gigafactory.
You may not know Tré Seals’ name, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work on signs carried by Black Lives Matter protesters across the country in 2020. Seals runs Vocal Type Co. — the only Black-owned font foundry in the U.S. He specializes in making typefaces inspired by minority cultures — and particularly by social justice movements.
'The first font I ever made through Vocal was called 'Martin.' I called it a non-violent typeface. It was inspired by the protest signed carried during the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968," says Seals. "It was Dr. King's last cause before his death that year in April."
College student Lindsay Wrege started 321 Coffee after seeing the limited career options that existed for her friends with Down syndrome and other special needs.
"There's a statistic that says only 20% of adults with disabilities are employed. I realized while there were so many opportunities for someone like me there were really not a lot of opportunities for them, which is sad because they can do so much," said Wrege. "So, I wanted to start this coffee shop staffed by adults with special needs.
Even in the best of times the pressure to live up to a certain “ideal” physical standard can take a toll on our mental health. But you combine the age of social media with a pandemic and you have a recipe for disaster. NBCLX’s Isa Gutiérrez talked to people across the country who were struggling with body dysmorphia and self-image now more than ever. "Life in a pandemic is impacting our physical and mental well-being and the way we think about both," said Gutiérrez.
Five days after the death of George Floyd, two PhD students from Miami organized a protest to voice their concerns about police brutality. Oshea Johnson, the co-founder of Protests Miami, had never led a protest before. But he and his co-founder, Ahzin Bahraini, achieved a historic virtual meeting with every Miami-Dade police chief.
As the coronavirus pandemic dragged on, some artists found ways to continue — at least in some capacity — in our a socially-distanced reality. But live music, which relied heavily on closely packing venues with fans, remained silenced. That’s why live venues banded together to ask for help to “save our stages.”
Mark Holcomb, a guitarist with Periphery explained the plight of live musicians saying the industry was at a standstill and there was no telling when it could be back.