2021 in Review: Local, State, and National News Stories Month-by-Month                                                                      

The year 2021, much like 2020, was filled with thousands of daily news stories about the devastation attributed to COVID-19 and the worst pandemic in more than 100 years.  Across the United States and beyond, no sector of society has escaped the grip of the deadly virus.  Coronavirus stories dominated the news outlets in Detroit and across Michigan.  Yet there were other stories of interest that impacted Detroiters and Michiganians over the past 12 months.        


January was reported as the deadliest month for COVID-19 since the pandemic started in the early months of 2020.  According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, close to 80,000 coronavirus fatalities were recorded nationwide in the first month of 2021.

After perhaps the most contentious presidential election in American history, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th U.S. President of the United States.  At 78, Biden, a Democrat, became the oldest person to hold the country’s highest elected office.  Moments before Biden took his oath, Kamala Harris, a Democrat,  was sworn in, becoming the nation’s first Black and first woman to hold the office of Vice President.  On the new Administration’s first day in office, Biden signed 10 executive orders to fight COVID-19.      

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, and iconic actress Cicely Tyson, died six days apart.  Aaron, 86, broke Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714 in 1974.  After retiring, Aaron served as one of Baseball’s first Black executives with the Atlanta Braves.  Tyson, whose acting career spanned more than seven decades, was 96.  She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the 1972 film “Sounder.”  Tyson was known for playing the roles of strong Black women.


A National Black History Month Proclamation was signed and issued by President Joe Biden, calling on the American people to honor the history and achievements of Black Americans and reflect on the centuries of struggles that have brought all American people to this time of reckoning, redemption, and hope.  Biden vows the Biden-Harris Administration “is committed to fulfilling the promise of equity for  all Americans.”

In a CNN interview, Rep. Karen Bass, the African American Democrat Congresswoman from California, said that “systemic racism is playing a role in coronavirus vaccine distribution.”  She tells CNN that while there is a vaccine hesitancy in Black communities, access is the number one problem.  Bass points out that coronavirus vaccine registration is largely online, making it more difficult for African Americans to gain access.  She wants more accessibility for Black people to visit trusted community organizations, churches, and mobile sites to receive the vaccine.



President Biden signs into law a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.  The bill offers a $1,400 check to many Americans, extends a $300 per week unemployment insurance supplement, expands the child tax credit, and places more funds into vaccine distribution efforts.  Biden urges all 50 states to make all adults eligible for vaccinations by May 1.

Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (MDBBA) officially launched.  Backed by $1 million from TCF Bank, the organization’s mission is to develop programs and advocate for policies that grow, support, and sustain Black businesses in greater Detroit. 



Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges for the murder of George Floyd.   The case generated intense interest across America and beyond.  Chauvin, who is White,  knelt on the neck of Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes with Floyd pleading for his life.  The video of the tragedy went viral and sparked thousands of protests across America and dozens of other countries.  Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a native Detroiter, led the prosecution team.    

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones announced that she would not seek another term.  Jones has served on Council for the past 16 years, the last seven as Council President.  Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, the first Latina elected to Council, also announced she would not run for a third term.



Detroit City Councilmember Gabe Leland resigned after pleading guilty to felony misconduct in office linked to accepting a $7,500 campaign contribution in cash.  Under a plea agreement, Leland will not serve time behind bars.  



President Biden signs a historic bill designating “Juneteenth,” a federal holiday.  The law makes June 19 (Juneteenth) the 12th federal holiday.  The holiday commemorates the end of slavery when on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas.  Yet, the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves in this country was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, two-and-a-half years before the news reached Texas.


Interim Detroit Police Chief James White announced that Detroit Police would implement Crisis Intervention Training across police precincts citywide.  White said mental health professionals would work alongside officers during critical incidents such as domestic violence and armed barricaded confrontations. 


City Councilmembers Scott Benson and Janee Ayers’ homes were raided by FBI agents executing search warrants.  There have been no charges filed against Benson or Ayers as the year ends.  Both individuals were up for re-election in the November 2021 election.  Ayers was unsuccessful in her bid for re-election (Council at Large).  Benson was re-elected to District 3.

Ty Garbin was sentenced to six years and three months in prison, according to court records, for his role in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.



Detroit City Councilmember Andre Spivey (District 4) resigned after pleading guilty to bribery charges.  He admitted to accepting more than $35,000 in connection with a proposed towing ordinance going before City Council for a vote.  Spivey, who served on Council for close to 12 years, is scheduled for sentencing in January 2022.

Detroit-based Real Times Media (RTM) partners with Black Information Network (BIN) to expand news impacting Black people across the United States.  RTM publishes historic Black publications, including  the Michigan Chronicle, Chicago Defender, Atlanta Daily World, Atlanta Tribune, Pittsburgh Courier, and Who’s Who in Black.  RTM’s collaboration with BIN, a 24/7 national and local “all news” audio platform, will provide more digital platforms to reach African Americans with pertinent news and information.    

Stellantis N.V. (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and National Business League launched the nation’s first development program for Black-owned suppliers.  Thirteen Black-owned suppliers entered into the pilot phase of The Stellantis-National League Black Supplier Development Program, created to present opportunities for Black businesses to gain more access to procuring contracts as suppliers with automotive companies.

City Council approved Interim Detroit Police Chief James White’s position to become permanent,   following James Craig’s resignation as the city’s top police officer.  White was appointed interim chief by Mayor Duggan.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig officially launched his bid to become Michigan’s next governor in 2022.  Craig, an African American and Republican, joins a field of at least nine other GOP candidates headed to the August 2, 2022, primary election.  In next year’s general election, the primary winner will face incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.   






Colin L. Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State and first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died from COVID-19 complications and a battle with cancer.  He was 84.   


Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan won re-election by a landslide over opponent Anthony Adams.  Duggan amassed 69,328 votes to Adams’ 22,373.  The victory confirms that the people of Detroit have confidence in the direction Duggan is taking the city since becoming mayor in January 2014.

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey won re-election to serve a fifth term.  She garnered 71.4% of the votes to her opponent, Denzel McCampbell’s, 28.6.        

Detroit City Council undergoes a major facelift based on general election results.  The new councilmembers include Coleman A. Young, Jr. (Council At Large), Mary Waters (Council At Large), Angela Whitfield Calloway (District 2), Latisha Johnson (District 4), Gabriela Santiago-Romero (District 6), and Fred Durhal III (District 7).  Returning councilmembers are James Tate, Jr. (District 1), Scott Benson (District 3), and Mary Sheffield (District 5 Pro Tem).

Three White men were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man jogging on a Georgia street in February 2020.  The men charged with nine counts are Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr.    

Four students were killed by gunfire and seven injured at Oxford High School, 42 miles north of Detroit.   Since the shooting, dozens of gun threats have been reported in school districts throughout the state, including Detroit Public School Community District.  Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has charged at least 30 juveniles since Nov. 30 for alleged threats to schools across the county.   

Eight people were killed and hundreds more injured following a crowd surge and stampede at the Astroworld Music Festival in Houston.  Rapper Travis Scott was performing at the time of the stampede.   


National news reports the state of Michigan is setting hospitalization records and leading the nation in new coronavirus cases per capita.  The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) expanded neighborhood testing sites to offer COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5 through 11.  MDHHS reports more than 5.4 million Michiganders 16 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.  Yet, as of December 20, Michigan has confirmed 1,434,837 cases of COVID-19, resulting in 25,984 deaths.  Worldwide, Johns Hopkins University reports 273 million people have been infected, and more than 5.3 million have died.

President Biden announced new actions to protect Americans against the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19 this winter.  Biden’s plan includes booster shots for all adults, protecting kids and keeping schools open, expanding free at-home testing for Americans, protecting workplaces to keep businesses open, and dispatching rapid response teams to battle rising coronavirus cases.

As the year closes we look ahead in next week’s edition on what Detroiters can anticipate in the upcoming 2022 year.

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