17 Good Things That Actually Happened In ‘17

By Nancy Allen and Melissa Sher
Photo by David Moriya/Rogue Photo

In a year when hate thrived, we thought it was important to remember some of the good things that happened in 2017. 

1. All of St. Paul public school lunch debt was erased in memory of Philando Castile. An online fundraiser created in memory of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in July 2016, greatly exceeded its goal and has raised close to $100,000.

2. At least eight colleges provided free tuition to students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. New York University, Tulane, Cornell, Brown, The Independent Colleges of Florida, Smith College, Amherst College and Mount Holyoke have provided displaced students with free tuition and room and board.

3. Women are running for office in record numbers. More than 25,000 potential candidates have contacted EMILY’s List as part of its Run To Win recruitment and training program, which provides resources and seminars for women considering possible electoral bids.

4. Malala Yousafzai became a student at the University of Oxford. Five years ago, she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban for being an education activist.

5. A Texas mosque destroyed by an arsonist’s fire raised the funds it needed to rebuild within one week. The Victoria Islamic Center received more than $1.2 million in donations from 23,000 people around the world in a week.

6. Police departments in Houston, Austin, Cincinnati and elsewhere said they welcomed recruits who were transgender. This was in reaction to President Trump tweeting that transgender Americans wouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military.

7. Three members of the Central Park Five received honorary high school diplomas in June. Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana Jr. were wrongly imprisoned as teenagers for a crime they did not commit and were exonerated two decades later.

8. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Jim McIngvale (better known as “Mattress Mack”) opened his stores to shelter displaced Houston residents. More recently, he hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for close to 20,000 Texans. “The only requirement to come” was having a “good appetite,” said McIngvale.

9. A seventh grader in Colorado designed an inexpensive tool to detect lead in drinking water. She had been inspired by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

10. Anheuser-Busch brewery halted production to send water to those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Louisiana and Texas. They produced and distributed 155,000 cans of emergency water to residents.

11. The candidate who campaigned about “traffic, jobs, schools and equality” won. Danica Roem, who ran on the platform that she wanted to “build up our infrastructure, not tear down each other,” beat the self-proclaimed “homophobe” incumbent to represent Virginia’s 13th legislative district.

12. Emma’s Torch opened. The cooking school trains refugees, people seeking asylum, and human trafficking survivors who are interested in culinary careers.

13. Six family members were saved from drowning by strangers. Eighty people who saw them from the beach formed a human chain in order to rescue them.

14. The Outrage raised close to $1 million for charity. The new apparel company donated all of its net profits to charity and raised the money for partners like the Heather Heyer Foundation and the nonprofit behind the Women’s March.

15. The Refugee Orchestra Project played free concerts. Made up of refugees and friends and relatives of refugees, the orchestra performed all over the United States to help audience members recognize “just how many immigrants and refugees… make this country what it is.”

16. New Yorkers scrubbed anti-Semitic graffiti off subway cars. Strangers saw swastikas and other hateful scribbles drawn in marker and took collective action by using wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues and anything else they could find to remove them.

17. 500 writers and photographers signed up to contribute to an anti-hate news project. This is that project. 500 Pens is an anti-hate news project featuring stories produced entirely by volunteers. We do not accept donations but if you want to support us, please follow us on social media and share our stories.

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Nancy Allen is a librarian living in Conway, Arkansas. She retired from teaching special education in Washington state in 1999 and moved to Arkansas with her family. Nancy is married, and she and her husband are the parents of two adult children.

Melissa Sher is the founder of 500 Pens.