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January 24th, 2012
07:24 PM ET

Congressional caucus wants investigation of Tucson Mexican-American studies ban

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) - As students and faculty of several Tucson high schools protested the end of Mexican-American studies and removal of text books, some members of Congress are seeking an investigation into the ethnic studies ban.

On Monday, hundreds of students from Tucson Magnet High School and from Pueblo, Cholla and Wakefield high schools walked out of morning classes and marched to the Tucson Unified School District’s headquarters to protest the removal of dozens of Mexican-American studies textbooks, as well as the state-ordered suspension of the Mexican-American studies program. A petition aimed at getting the books back in the schools had gained more than 11,000 signatures as of  Wednesday morning.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office asking it to investigate the language of the law banning ethnic studies and its specific application against Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program.

On Tuesday, the American Library Association passed a resolution condemning the suspension of Tucson’s ethnic studies programs and the removal of materials associated with them. It also urges Arizona's legislature to repeal the law that bans ethnic studies in school curriculum.

Tucson schools Governing Board President Mark Stegeman said last week that part of the reason seven titles were being taken from classrooms was because none of them had gone through a required district approval process. But Three Sonorans, a local Tucson blog, uncovered a 2007 document that it says proves that three of the removed books had already gained district approval: “Critical Race Theory,” by Richard Delgado, “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos,” by Rodolfo Acuna, and “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” by Paulo Freire.

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Filed under: Education • Ethnicity • History • How we live • Latino in America
FBI arrests Connecticut cops accused of racial profiling
The U.S. Department of Justice accused the East Haven police in Connecticut discrimination against Latinos.
January 24th, 2012
06:09 PM ET

FBI arrests Connecticut cops accused of racial profiling

(CNN) - The FBI has arrested three East Haven, Connecticut, police patrol officers and one sergeant for their alleged role in the mistreatment of Latinos - the first arrests to stem from a federal investigation into racial profiling in that town.

The men allegedly threatened and assaulted detainees, made false arrests - including one against a local clergy member - and later conspired to cover up evidence of their conduct by falsifying reports and blocking an investigation, prosecutors said Tuesday during a news conference in Bridgeport.

Sgt. John Miller and officers David Cari, Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo were arrested early Tuesday for allegedly conspiring to "injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate various members of the East Haven community," profiling residents during traffic stops, performing illegal searches and harassing Latino business owners and their advocates, according to the indictment.

"They behaved like bullies with badges," said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant FBI director in New York.

Read the full story

Q&A: 'Heart and Soul' author Kadir Nelson on illustrating African-American history
Kadir Nelson wrote and illustrated the Coretta Scott King Award-winning book "Heart and Soul."
January 24th, 2012
05:06 PM ET

Q&A: 'Heart and Soul' author Kadir Nelson on illustrating African-American history

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) - "Most folks my age and complexion don’t speak much about the past," says the grandmotherly African-American woman who narrates "Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans," a book illustrated and written by Kadir Nelson.

The American Library Association announced Monday that "Heart and Soul" won the Coretta Scott King Book Award in the author category, and as an honor winner in the illustrator category. Last week, it was announced the book is a nominee for an NAACP Image Award for children's literature.

"Many of us are getting up in age and feel it’s time to make some things known before they are gone for good. So it’s important that you pay attention, honey, because I’m only going to tell you this story but once," the unnamed narrator says.

The narrator’s words are accompanied by Nelson's sculptural, intensely colorful illustrations, which interweave images of American history with those of her family’s struggles and triumphs in a country that only recently acknowledged their full potential as human beings.

Nelson’s book was selected among more than 100 entries for the award, which aims to promote children’s books, authors and illustrators that portray some aspect of the African-American experience. Jonda McNair, who chaired the award selection committee, said they were impressed by Nelson's marriage of the text to the illustrations.

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Filed under: Black in America • Education • History • Race • Who we are
January 24th, 2012
04:48 PM ET

Same-sex marriage a step closer in Washington state

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Washington moved closer to being the seventh U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage Monday when a key state senator announced her support.

Mary Margaret Haugen said she would be the 25th vote in the 49-member Senate for the bill. Supporters say the legislation already has a majority behind it in the state House of Representatives, and Gov. Christine Gregoire has said she would sign it if passed.

"For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman," Haugen, a Democrat from the Puget Sound community of Camano Island, said in a statement on her decision. "That is what I believe, to this day.

"But this issue isn't about just what I believe," she continued. "It's about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It's about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed."

Read the full story

January 24th, 2012
02:38 PM ET

Lesbian couple fights to change adoption laws

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Michigan on Monday could change the way the state laws consider same-sex couples with adopted children, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported. Current law allows only one parent to adopt kids, but if something happens to that parent, the other partner has no parental rights - they can't sign for the kids' medical care, and the kids don't have the same inheritance rights or rights to social security disability or health insurance.

April Deboer and Jayne Rowse have raised three children since birth, but state laws allows only one of them to be each child's legal parent.

 “Michigan has some of the worst laws in the country for gay and lesbian parents,” says attorney Carole Stanyar, who represents the couple. “And these laws in particular are hurting families, and as we can see in this case, they’re hurting children."
January 24th, 2012
11:57 AM ET

Candidate ads target Spanish-speaking voters

Editor's note: Watch In America's documentary about the race to capture the Latino vote on CNN in October 2012.

Current Republican presidential candidates are trying to reach Latino voters with Spanish-language ads, just like candidates Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did. Even a TV ad for John F. Kennedy featured Jackie Kennedy saying "Que viva Kennedy." But voting rights activists say the ads will fall flat if the candidate positions don't appeal to Latino voters.

Engage: 'The Help' nominated for Oscars
Octavia Spencer and Viola David were nominated for Oscars for 'The Help'
January 24th, 2012
11:46 AM ET

Engage: 'The Help' nominated for Oscars

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

'The Help,' Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer nominated for Oscars - Essence.com

Softened tone on immigration at first Florida presidential debate - The New York Times

First Asian-American and openly gay New Jersey state Supreme Court justices nominated - New Jersey Star-Ledger

Black women see themselves in First Lady - The Washington Post 

39 years after Roe v. Wade, current generation discusses abortion - National Public Radio

Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez, America's first Latino archbishop, dies – The New York Times

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Opinion: Jesse Jackson: Occupy in memory of Martin Luther King
Rev. Jesse Jackson addresses the crowd at the Occupy camp at St. Paul's Cathedral in London last year.
January 24th, 2012
11:34 AM ET

Opinion: Jesse Jackson: Occupy in memory of Martin Luther King

Editor's note: Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is a leading civil rights activist and president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

By Rev. Jesse Jackson, Special to CNN

(CNN) - People are turning. The misery is too widespread. The privileged are too brazen. The injustice too apparent.

On Wall Street, young students have created a free democratic space in a place they call Liberty Square. They protest that Wall Street has been rescued, but there is no help for most Americans. In a moving statement, they presented their view: "We are the 99%. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we are working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99%."

Read Jackson's full column