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Opinion: The Whitney Houston I knew
Rev. DeForest Soaries says teen Whitney Houston, shown with her mom Cissy, turned choir rehearsal into a "praisefest."
February 13th, 2012
07:13 PM ET

Opinion: The Whitney Houston I knew

Editor’s Note: Rev. DeForest "Buster" Soaries is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. He is a former Secretary of State of New Jersey, and was featured in "Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special.” Soaries was a friend of Whitney Houston’s and has been close with her family for more than 40 years.

By Rev. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., Special to CNN

(CNN) – The year was 1977. All of northern New Jersey was thrilled because the world famous gospel singers, the Hawkins Family, had accepted my invitation to appear at a free, area-wide event. And they had agreed to sing with a mass gospel choir that would consist of 300 singers from churches in Newark and the vicinity.

When the choir first met to rehearse for the event, we realized someone would have to sing the lead part of the Hawkins’ hit song “Changed.” I turned to the choir director, who was a musician for Cissy Houston and the New Hope Baptist Church of Newark, and asked “Where’s Nippy?” He immediately summoned the teenager who had accompanied him to the rehearsal - 14-year-old Whitney “Nippy” Houston.

By the time Whitney finished singing the song, the rehearsal had been completely changed – dismantled and turned into a kind of “praisefest” and revival service. This child had invoked a level of divine inspiration that involved the kind of joyous tears and emotional shouts that were characteristic of the black religious experience. Not only did Whitney’s singing completely transform the atmosphere, but it was clear to everyone in that rehearsal that they were in the presence of an unusual talent and that they were eyewitnesses to a superstar taxiing on the runway of success and fame.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Black in America • History • Pop culture • Religion • What we think
Washington, New Jersey move toward same-sex marriage
Washington and New Jersey are now each a step closer to allowing same-sex marriages.
February 13th, 2012
04:40 PM ET

Washington, New Jersey move toward same-sex marriage

By Tom Watkins, CNN

(CNN) - Same-sex marriage got a boost on two fronts Monday, when the governor of Washington signed a bill legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples and the New Jersey state Senate voted 24-16 in favor of a similar bill.

The New Jersey bill now goes to the Assembly, which is slated to vote Thursday. "We're cautiously optimistic" about its chances for passage, said Steven Goldstein, a spokesman for Garden State Equality, which has lobbied for the bill.

But the legislation is threatened in both states.

FULL POST

Opinion: Cornel West's 'petty potshots' are beneath him
February 13th, 2012
01:28 PM ET

Opinion: Cornel West's 'petty potshots' are beneath him

Editor's Note: Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst and staff writer for Loop21.com, where she writes about national politics, candidates, and cultural issues. She writes frequently about domestic violence, sexual assault, victim blaming and gender inequality. Her writing has appeared in JET Magazine, The Huffington Post, TheRoot.com, Salon.com, and TheGrio.com.

By Zerlina Maxwell, Special to CNN

As if it were primed right on time for Black History Month, Professor Cornel West has yet again candidly expressed his true feelings on the first black president and his supporters. His target of ire this time: MSNBC host Professor Melissa Harris-Perry who Dr. West calls a “fraud.”

Dr. West’s dislike for President Obama and by extension those who support the administration is nothing new.  This time Dr. West shared his displeasure with Obama in an interview with Diverse magazine where he slammed the president yet again for what West sees as a failure to address the issue of poverty in America.

Over the past 3 years, Dr. West, once a vocal Obama supporter, has turned into one of the most vocal naysayers of not only the President’s policies but also who the president is.  Apparently unwilling to restrict his criticisms to the Obama administration, Dr. West recently singled out and implied that MSNBC hosts Reverend Al Sharpton and Dr. Harris-Perry were actually pawns of the liberal media establishment.

Last May, Professor Cornel West went “ballistic” in an interview with Truthdig.com and offered a scathing critique of President Obama calling him, a “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” This description by Dr. West was intended to be a critique on the president’s economic policies and team, namely Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and former economic advisor Lawrence Summers.

At the time, the interview inspired a response in The Nation from Dr. Harris-Perry  which then resulted in a joint interview where the two academics appeared back to back, but not head to head, to share their distinct viewpoints and political analysis on President Obama’s tenure.  Unfortunately, Dr. West’s critiques neglected to include any process analysis, where the Republican filibuster, and not President Obama’s lack of backbone or disregard for the concerns for the poor are to blame for the slow pace of change.

Dr. West appears to have held onto some angst from that dust up and in this recent interview with Diverse, called Dr. Harris-Perry a “liar” saying that, “[s]he’s become the momentary darling of liberals, but I pray for her because she's in over her head.  She's a fake and a fraud.  I was so surprised how treacherous the sister was.”  Dr. Harris-Perry is a newly minted host on MSNBC.

In defense of Dr. Harris-Perry, her MSNBC colleague Rev. Al Sharpton told TheGrio.com, West’s comments were “arrogant” and “disingenuous,” saying that “[w]e are not arguing about issues here, we’re arguing about personality.”

With this personal attack on Dr. Harris-Perry, Dr. West has officially exited the arena of intellectual jousting that normally is focused on the merits of an argument and has entered into the realm of petty pot shots. A public intellectual of his stature should be above infantile insults. FULL POST

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I Am America: University of Texas student Ashley Willies
February 13th, 2012
11:36 AM ET

I Am America: University of Texas student Ashley Willies

Ashley Willies lives in Austin, Texas, and she's a proud black, Panamanian-American, "a product of two hardworking, loving parents."

What makes you American? Check out Ashley's story and submit your own "I Am America" story on iReport.

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Engage: The significance of Whitney Houston
February 13th, 2012
11:02 AM ET

Engage: The significance of Whitney Houston

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

Opinion: Whitney Houston "set a new standard for Gen X, she was our Diana Ross, our Billie Holiday" –The Huffington Post

Federal court to hear legal challenge to California's affirmative action ban in public college admissions - MercuryNews.com

A portrait of where and why Americans are more conservative –The Atlantic

Obama administration plans policy "summits" aimed at boosting support from Latinos - Houston Chronicle

Occupy movement comes to university classrooms –USA Today

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