National Newsmaker
Without a doubt, the 27-year campaign to build a national monument to honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. that came to fruition this year is more than worthy of all the words of praise, acknowledgment and congratulations that have been previously spoken.

But in the eyes of Our Weekly, this feat to enshrine the first non-president and African American on the National Mall deserves much more recognition. That is why we have selected Alpha Phi Alpha as our national newsmaker of the year.

The idea for the monument came in 1984 from George Sealey, who was the catalyst for convening Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity brothers Alfred Bailey, Oscar Little, Eddie Madison, and John Harvey, to propose building a national memorial to Dr. King. Their proposal was presented at the fraternity’s board of director’s meeting, under the administration of General President Ozell Sutton.

That action kicked off years of battles with commissions and politicians and others to justify why the monument should exist and why it should placed in a place traditionally reserved for presidents.

Twelve years after the idea was born, then-President Bill Clinton signed Congressional legislation proposing the establishment of a memorial in the District of Columbia to honor Dr. King.

This 105-year-old organization then set about the task of raising the funding for the momument–they initially thought $1 million would do, but ultimately raised $120 million.

The brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha persevered through years and decades of struggle, and in the end created what Harry S. Johnson Sr., president and CEO of the MILK Project Foundation, called a gift to the nation and the world.

State Newsmaker
Since she won historic election as the first woman and person of color to serve as California attorney general, Kamala Harris has aggressively pursued those whom her office allege are doing wrong.

One of her key targets was the foreclosure crisis that has burdened the state, and in late December, the A.G. even sued the nation’s top mortgage lenders–Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Harris filed a lawsuit against two of the nation’s largest mortgage enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The suit alleges that neither institution has answered questions brought forth to them on Nov. 15 in regards to the way mortgages are being foreclosed, and how the companies are handling vacant homes.

According to court documents, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is the regulator for the enterprises, blocked all inquiries from Harris in regards to the foreclosures. It is reported that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own 60 percent of all California mortgages.
A quick look at the A.G.’s website finds five major press announcements dealing with some aspect of foreclosure and mortgage actions.

Harris was even included in the list of those people were asked to vote for as a Times top 100.
These actions and many more make the San Francisco politican the Our Weekly statewide newsmaker of the year for the second consecutive year.

Local Newsmaker
Herb Wesson is no stranger to making history. He’s done it before, when he became the second African American to serve as Speaker of the California Assembly, 2002-2004.

So, as he prepares to take over the post of president of the Los Angeles City Council–the first African American to hold this seat of power in the 161-year history of the city’s legislative body–Wesson is both philosophical and practical about his new job.

“It’s way up there,” he said when asked to rank it in relation to other important events in his life.
“It’s a very historic honor. I would say that after the birth of my children and grandchildren, it ranks up there with being Speaker of the California State Assembly. It matters to us as a people.

“It’s one more American barrier that we’ve broken through, one more barrier that’s been removed. “

“The importance is equal,” he said. “They are two critical posts. I’m still kinda shocked that in my lifetime I would be Speaker and president of Council. These are challenging times we’re facing, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

And there will be challenges a-plenty as the city struggles to right its economic ship, but Wesson has tackled such challenges before. During his first year as Speaker, the state found itself facing a significant budget shortfall.

That combined with the historic importance of his new position is why we have named Councilman Wesson our local newsmaker of the year.