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Documentary explores Jesse Owens' life beyond victory
The documentary "Jesse Owens" tells the athlete's story, from his youth in Ohio beyond his Olympic victories in Germany.
May 1st, 2012
05:42 PM ET

Documentary explores Jesse Owens' life beyond victory

The headline of Jesse Owens’ life always mentions the four gold medals he won in track and field events at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, which crushed Nazi German notions of Aryan superiority. But the real story of his life neither begins nor ends with that victory, and a documentary airing tonight on PBS explores Owens’ life before and after.

“Jesse Owens," an hourlong episode of American Experience that airs at 8 p.m. on most PBS stations, starts with Owens’ record-breaking high school and college years in Cleveland, Ohio, and at Ohio State University.

His Olympic victories had a deep impact on Americans, but also on German spectators whose lives would be changed by the Holocaust.

“When I saw him run, he became something of a hero to me,” said then-11-year-old Theodor Michael, a German of African descent who is quoted in the film. “It was truly inspiring for me to see a person of my skin color, my kind, winning.”

After beating the German favorite in the broad jump, the two competitors walked arm-in-arm around the stadium for a victory lap, to Nazi leaders’ disgust.

But the lucrative endorsements and contracts that were dangled in front of Owens after his victories didn’t materialize once he returned to the United States. He faced discrimination while touring with other members of the U.S. Olympic team and was forced to stay and eat in segregated establishments.

"All of those experiences helped him become an incredibly strong man who survived through so many challenging times," said "Jesse Owens" director Laurens Grant. "He fought back with grace and his talent. Those things are maybe forgotten by the wayside, and I think all those things made him the man he was."

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Filed under: Black in America • Discrimination • History • Race • Sports • Who we are
May 1st, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Compton kids learn to fly after school

By Sonya Hamasaki, CNN

Compton, California (CNN) – On a sunny afternoon at Compton Airport, 9-year-old Jose Pineda runs across the tarmac and makes a bee-line for a single-engine Cessna.

He's completely at ease –- clearly in his element –- laughing and joking about a special celebration coming up. A birthday. He runs his hand along the side of the plane, and walks underneath the wing, clearing it with one foot of headroom to spare. He swings open the door and climbs into his seat on the left side of the plane - the pilot’s seat.

Pineda carefully checks the instruments on the console. He picks up a two-way radio to talk to some "grown-ups" who run air traffic control. His seat belt clicks and he's ready for take-off. That's right, Pineda is a pilot; a "veteran," he tells us. He’s been studying aviation since he was six.

Inside the hangar, Pineda's friend, Tasneem Khatib, is also preparing to hit the skies. At 11 years old, she got a bit of a "late" start.

And then there’s 16-year-old Keilyn Hubbard, dressed to the nines in a navy blue pilot's suit. Sure, he’s at least old enough to drive. But he's also training for his first SOLO flight.

Just who are these kids?

They're not child actors filming a movie about kids who fly. Nor are they privileged child prodigies who set aviation records.

Jose, Tasneem and Keilyn are part of a unique afterschool program for inner city youth offered by Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton, California.

Here, hundreds of children - as young as 5 - are learning how to fly.

Read the full post on CNN's Schools of Thought blog

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Filed under: Age • Black in America • Education • Who we are
Engage: How can political parties engage the Asian-American vote?
A new poll finds a large proportion of Asian-American voters are undecided in the 2012 presidential election.
May 1st, 2012
12:14 PM ET

Engage: How can political parties engage the Asian-American vote?

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

New poll finds Asian-American voters could be a key swing vote - The Atlantic

U.S.-Mexico border sees increase in unaccompanied child immigrants - Texas Observer

Opponent raises questions whether Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is of American Indian descent - The New York Times

'Porgy and Bess' nominated for 10 Tony Awards - The Boston Globe

Preserving blues music by supporting its oldest practitioners - The New York Times Lens blog

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Filed under: Engage
The cook who picks cotton: reclaiming my roots
Michael W. Twitty is a culinary historian, living history interpreter and Jewish educator from the Washington D.C. area.
May 1st, 2012
06:00 AM ET

The cook who picks cotton: reclaiming my roots

Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs, writers and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Michael W. Twitty is a culinary historian, living history interpreter and Jewish educator from the Washington D.C. area. He blogs at Afroculinaria.com and thecookinggene.com. As the originator of the Cooking Gene Project, he seeks to trace his ancestry through food.

(CNN) – Edward Booker, Hattie Bellamy and Washington Twitty didn’t know what an organic farm was, but nearly everything they ate was organic. They enjoyed wild caught, sustainable fish; they were no strangers to free range chickens, and they ate with the seasons with almost nothing originating more than a mile or two away from their cabin door. They had gardens, composted, and ate no processed foods. Their food was fairly simple, often meatless; and it was a fusion cuisine, with ingredients drawn from five continents.

They were not culinary revolutionaries living out of the foodie playbook – they were three enslaved individuals living among the over 4 million held in bondage before the Civil War, and they were my ancestors.

In the upcoming months I will return to the fields, forests and waterways of the Old South in search of my culinary version of Roots, tracing my family tree through food from Africa to America and from slavery to freedom. The project is called The Cooking Gene: Southern Discomfort Tour.

Slavery is not just a practice or moment in American history; it is a metaphor for our relationships to lifestyles and food systems that many of us view as beyond our control. Most of us are enslaved to food systems that aren’t sustainable, but eat we must. And because we must eat, food is a natural vehicle for telling the kinds of stories about historical slavery and the impact of “race” on how we eat, even as we critique and question our contemporary food politics. Food is our vehicle to move beyond race and into relationships and use those relationships to promote the kind of racial reconciliation and healing, our nation desperately needs.

Read the full post on CNN's Eatocracy blog