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December 17th, 2012
06:10 PM ET

Opinion: Now is the time to talk guns, mental illness

Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - Enough!

Enough with putting off tomorrow what we should be talking about today. Enough with being afraid to step on someone's delicate sensibilities when it comes to the Second Amendment. Enough with elected leaders who are too cowardly to confront the National Rifle Association and their ardent supporters. Enough with moms and dads and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and pastors and deacons who are afraid to make public the private anguish of mental illness.

Enough! Enough! Enough!

Enough with just asking for thoughts and prayers. Enough with just hugging our children. Enough with leaving flowers and teddy bears at a makeshift memorial.

It's time for action. It's time for people of conscience to, in the words of the late civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, be "sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Read Roland Martin's full column
Groups: Autism not to blame for violence
A makeshift memorial pays tribute to the victims of Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
December 17th, 2012
01:38 PM ET

Groups: Autism not to blame for violence

By Miriam Falco, CNN

(CNN) - Since news first broke about the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, people began wondering how something so horrible could happen.

Within a few hours, before the magnitude of the tragedy was fully known, reports began to surface that the shooter, Adam Lanza, was autistic or had Asperger's syndrome in addition to a possible personality or anxiety disorder such as obessive-compulsive disorder.

A relative told investigators that Lanza had a form of autism, according to a law enforcement official, who spoke under condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the investigation. CNN has not been able to confirm independently whether Lanza was diagnosed with autism or Asperger's syndrome, a higher-functioning form of autism.

However, national autism organizations cautioned against speculation about a link between violence and autism or Asperger's.

While the motive for this crime is still unknown and may never be fully understood, what is clear, according to experts, is that autism cannot be blamed.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Health • How we live • Who we are
December 17th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Parents' promise: I will keep you safe

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) - December 13, 1996.

My son, barely a few moments old, is crying. I walk toward the medical room bassinette where he is lying, smile, and then tell him not to worry... daddy's here. And then ever so gently I place his tiny hand inside mine and again tell him daddy's here... I will keep you safe.

He stops crying.

I start.

And thus began a parent and child relationship that is probably no different than the billions that came before that night and the billions in the 16 years after. Of all the natural instincts that enslave my body, the desire to love and protect my son is a master I have never rebelled against. And I am sure many of you can agree: Being a parent can be both a person's greatest joy and greatest sense of anxiety.

"I will keep you safe," is what we tell them.

And then something like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary happens, or the shooting at the mall in Oregon, or the movie theater in Aurora, and you are reminded of how increasingly difficult it is to do just that.

There have been 31 school shootings since Columbine in 1999, and sadly there is not a damn thing to suggest there won't be 31 more.

In my 20 years of journalism, I have had quite a few conversations with mourning mothers and fathers who have had to bury their children. Last year I interviewed a father who dropped his son off at football practice and never saw him alive again - taken by an undiagnosed heart ailment. I cried for hours afterward. I'm sure that father still cries on occasion today.

But something different grips your soul when you know the cause of a child's premature death was not brought on by ill health or an accident, but rather an outbreak of senseless violence that took place somewhere we once viewed as safe - like an elementary school. Or as we saw late this summer in Wisconsin, a place of worship.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: How we live • Relationships • What we think
December 15th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Opinion: Black Americans must embrace true colors

Editor's note: Historian and author Tiya Miles is a professor at the University of Michigan's Afroamerican and African Studies department and a 2011 MacArthur genius award recipient.

By Tiya Miles, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In the documentary film "Black Indians," a man who appears to be African-American recounts his delight at eliciting shocked looks from strangers when he launches into a conversation with his wife in the Cherokee language.

The man who tells this story is Cherokee as well as black and a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. His is just one among thousands of examples that show diversity has always been a core aspect of African-American identity.

That diversity has been rich - from the moment when Africans from different tribes, cultures and language groups were captured as slaves and transported to North America to the present day, when African-Americans live in various regions and intermarry with members of other ethnic groups.

The evidence of this diversity is so obvious that it may seem at times invisible.

It exists not only in linguistic diversity - in African-American fluency in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Cantonese, American indigenous languages and so on - but also in the regionalisms of African-American cuisine from coastal rice and seafood dishes to Southern barbecue sauces.

The salad bowl analogy that is often used to describe multifaceted American society applies just as well within African-American life. There is no such thing as a singular black culture or coherent African-American community. Instead there are many black cultures, many black communities. FULL POST

December 15th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

When no one else looks like you

Editor's note: What defines being black in America? Is it the color of your skin, your family, what society says or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN Saturday at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

(CNN) - "Who is Black in America?" explores how color affects identity. In this video, Danielle Ayers, a biracial woman, discusses her search for identity and the challenges of being color blind after growing up in a primarily white Mennonite community where race was not discussed.

December 14th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Opinion: Why I call myself black

Editor's Note: Carleen Brice is author of the novels "Children of the Waters," a story about race, identity and what really makes a family, and "Orange Mint and Honey," which was made into the television movie “Sins of the Mother." She’s working on her next novel, "Every Good Wish." Her book for writers, "The Not So Fearless Writer," is forthcoming from Agate Publishing in 2013.

By Carleen Brice, Special to CNN

(CNN) -  I have copper skin and freckles.

When I was a girl, my hair was red (which I was told came from an Irish ancestor), but as I’ve aged it has darkened to brown. I no longer straighten my hair, but when I did I was sometimes confused for a white person. I have always self-identified as black. I knew and know no other way to think of myself.

We have a mix of races on both sides of my family.

I am the daughter of a beige, straight-haired woman who in 1971 when I was 8 followed me around for weeks begging me to let her cut my hair and style it in an Afro. I am the daughter of a brown man who as a boy yelled at the movie screen for Tarzan to “get those jungle niggers,” and as a young man kept his children home from school on Malcolm X’s birthday. To my mother, black was beautiful. To my father, black was a chance to be proud. FULL POST

December 13th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

Opinion: Colorism is the new "ism"

Editor’s Note: Ronald E. Hall, Ph.D. is a professor at Michigan State University and the author of "The Melanin Millennium." He has lectured on skin color both domestically and internationally, and testified as an expert witness in skin color discrimination cases. His forthcoming book is a revised edition of "The Color Complex."

By Ronald E. Hall, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In the early part of this century, there were separate facilities for blacks and whites, the Ku Klux Klan was a popular white supremacist organization and racism was easy to see.

In 1964, civil rights legislation outlawed racial discrimination, and there has been an advance of racial equality, including the election, and re-election of the first black president.

But while overt acts of racism have declined, discrimination continues in another form: colorism.

Colorism is a manifestation of how Western imperialism has exported European ideals, most notably the universal idealization of light skin, to American shores.

Not only have whites discriminated against blacks because of skin color, but people of color have also discriminated against one another. While colorism has existed for some time, it has only been recently acknowledged, as seen in the increase of legal cases and studies examining this “ism.” FULL POST

After offensive photo, Penn State students plan silent march
December 13th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

After offensive photo, Penn State students plan silent march

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Just two weeks after Chi Omega’s controversial party photo surfaced on Facebook, students at Penn State are planning a silent march today, hoping to increase Latino recruitment and retention.

The sorority members celebrated Halloween with a Mexican-themed party wearing sombreros and ponchos and pasted fake mustaches on their faces. They held signs that said: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign said: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."

The university president, the president of the board of trustees and other officials expressed deep disappointment and Chi Omega put its Penn State chapter on probation.

Members of the Latino community were outraged  by the photo with comments like this one from Liz Martinez on Twitter: “So many frats and sororities think it's ok to perpetuate stereotypes. It isn't.”

March organizer Manuel Figueroa said the march is not being organized in response to the Chi Omega photo. The march will be led by the Penn State University For All Student Equality, a student organization whose goal it is denounce all forms of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia and seeks to draw attention to social inequality.

“The incident definitely served as a catalyst for all this but it’s not the reason we are doing it,” said Figueroa. “There are grievances to a larger issue that we believe the university should take up.”

The Mexican American Student Association (MASA) will not be participating in the march and instead plans to work with Penn State President Rodney Erickson and university officials to bring awareness and change to the campus environment.

The organization would rather "not make this issue a larger one,” said Roberto Hernandez, president of the Mexican student group. “We are hoping to expand the Latino Studies program into a department. We are working with faculty on that.”

In a statement, MASA said:  “We ...  urge the university to reassert its commitment to ethnic and racial diversity. We hope that the university exercises its stated commitment to diversity. We look forward to working with the campus community in reaching these goals."

Students who are marching plan to peacefully walk through the campus in a silent, single-line manner.

Hispanic students make up 5% of the 45,351 undergraduate and graduate population on campus, according to the fall 2012 enrollment data.

Figueroa said they expect at least 50 students to participate.

Erickson commended the student movement to combat the issue, reported the The Daily Collegian.

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Filed under: Community • Diversity • Ethnicity • How we look • Immigration • Latino in America
December 12th, 2012
03:21 PM ET

Memphis, America's most obese city, moving from fat to fit

By Katti Gray, Special to CNN

Memphis, Tennessee (CNN) - Diagnosed last year with diabetes, the Rev. Dan Henley point-blank refused the medicine his physician initially suggested to regulate his out-of-whack blood sugar.

"When I got the diagnosis, I said 'I don't receive that.' My doctor said, 'I don't care if you receive or not, you've got diabetes. ... I'll give you 90 days to control it on your own," recounts Henley, 50, pastor of Journey Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

The city is home to more obese people than any other American city, according to the Gallup Well-Being Index.

At the start of that 90-day countdown, Henley, his two daughters and, marginally, his wife devised their own "biggest loser" contest. They nixed a whole slew of comparatively high-calorie, low-nutrient favorite foods from their grocery list, ramped up their exercise - and started talking, more candidly than ever, about how overconsumption of certain fare causes illness, injury and premature death.

"I used to have this slogan: 'I'm 280 pounds of cornbread-, collard green-eating man,'" says the 6-foot-2 Henley. "And the bigger I got, the more I laughed it off. Then, I got this wake-up call."

Now 27 pounds lighter than he was a year ago - and with his blood sugar levels now normal - Henley also is founder and lead facilitator of Church Developers Network, one in an arsenal of organizations immersed in a community-wide campaign to move Memphis out of that notorious No. 1 slot.

FULL STORY
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Women make gains in the workplace
Katharine Hope examines a baby cheetah at the National Zoo. About 50% of veterinarians are women, according to census data.
December 12th, 2012
10:45 AM ET

Women make gains in the workplace

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Dorothy Segal went to veterinary medicine school at a time when she was very much a minority. She remembers being one of two women who graduated in her class in 1943.

Now 96, Segal recalled what the dean of the Michigan State University veterinary school said to her at the time: "Go back to the kitchen."

Segal went on to have a successful practice, treating everything from birds to big cats in the circus.

They used to say treating animals was no job for a lady. So Segal never wore pants.

"I made myself feminine," she said.

Segal was a trailblazer for women in her profession. When she began practicing in 1944, there were about 55 women vets in America. She was part of the first real growth spurt in female vets, who multiplied after the 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act. FULL POST

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