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Same-sex marriage debated at the Supreme Court – what did you think?
March 26th, 2013
04:38 PM ET

Same-sex marriage debated at the Supreme Court – what did you think?

The first rounds of arguments are over. The nine justices on the Supreme Court today heard about an hour and 20 minutes of debate around Proposition 8 – the measure that banned same-sex marriage in California.

And on Wednesday, the issue of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between one man and one woman will be up before the highest court.

You can read and listen to Tuesday's arguments in full here and then see how court-watchers believe the justices appeared hesitant to issue any sweeping rulings.

So what do you think? Who has the right to say I do? And what do our laws say about who we are? Add your thoughts at CNN's iReport.


Filed under: Culture • Family • How we live • Relationships • Sexual orientation
The new black pioneers
February 27th, 2013
12:30 PM ET

The new black pioneers

(CNN) - As Black History Month draws to a close, we highlight African Americans in the arts, science and business who have carried on the legacy of past innovators in their fields. Click through the photo gallery for more examples.

Zora Neale Hurston, right, is lauded as one of the most important writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Her work as an author was strongly influenced by her anthropological studies of the Caribbean and the American South. Today, director Ava DuVernay carries on the tradition of mixing art with cultural documentation. Her award-winning film, "Middle of Nowhere," follows the struggles of an African-American woman whose husband is incarcerated.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Black in America • Culture • History • Who we are
African-Americans in Paris: 'It's always been about freedom for us'
Julia Browne leads an African-American history tour in Paris. Browne launched Walking the Spirit Tours in 1994
February 25th, 2013
11:49 AM ET

African-Americans in Paris: 'It's always been about freedom for us'

By Maureen Jenkins, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Think Paris, and the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées and haute couture come to mind. But the City of Light also is rich in African-American history. Keeping this history alive are tour companies that share it, up close and personal, with visitors to France.

From legendary entertainer Josephine Baker to internationally acclaimed artist Henry Ossawa Tanner to World War I's ragtime-and-jazz-playing "Harlem Hellfighters," Paris has embraced African-American culture like few other places. Because of that legendary embrace - one that black folks in the States had heard about since the 1800s - Paris loomed large in their imaginations. To many who didn't always feel welcome in their native country, the city sounded like a place where they could emotionally exhale.

"It's always been about freedom for us," says Marcus Bruce, the Benjamin E. Mays Professor of Religious Studies at Bates College and author of "Henry Ossawa Tanner: A Spiritual Biography."

Legendary Harlem-born author James Baldwin, who left for Paris in 1948, said "African-Americans discover in Paris the terms by which they can define themselves. It's the freedom to work beyond the assumptions of what we can and can't do as African-Americans. It's a different rhythm and pace. We can imagine ourselves in new ways in that space."

FULL STORY
Bengali Harlem: Author documents a lost history of immigration in America
Bengalis and their Puerto Rican and African-American wives at a 1952 banquet at New York's Pakistan League of America.
February 15th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Bengali Harlem: Author documents a lost history of immigration in America

Editor's note: CNN's Moni Basu, a Bengali immigrant, was born in Kolkata, India.

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – In the next few weeks, Fatima Shaik, an African-American, Christian woman, will travel “home” from New York to Kolkata, India.

It will be a journey steeped in a history that has remained unknown until the publication last month of a revelatory book by Vivek Bald. And it will be a journey of contemplation as Shaik, 60, meets for the first time ancestors with whom she has little in common.

“I want to go back because I want to find some sort of closure for my family, said Shaik, an author and scholar of the Afro-Creole experience.

Fatima Shaik's grandfather settled in New Orleans. She is going to India to see his home.

That Americans like Shaik, who identify as black, are linked by blood to a people on the Indian subcontinent seems, at first, improbable.

South Asian immigration boomed in this country after the passage of landmark immigration legislation in 1965. But long before that, there were smaller waves of new Americans who hailed from India under the British Empire.

The first group, to which Shaik’s grandfather, Shaik Mohamed Musa, belonged, consisted of peddlers who came to these shores in the 1890s, according to Bald. They sold embroidered silks and cottons and other “exotic” wares from the East on the boardwalks of Asbury Park and Atlantic City, New Jersey. They eventually made their way south to cities like New Orleans and Atlanta and even farther to Central America.

The second wave came in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were seamen, some merchant marines.

Most were Muslim men from what was then the Indian province of Bengal and in many ways, they were the opposite of the stereotype of today’s well-heeled, highly educated South Asians.

South Asian immigration was illegal then – the 1917 Immigration Act barred all idiots, imbeciles, criminals and people from the “Asiatic Barred Zone.”

The Bengalis got off ships with little to their name.

They were mostly illiterate and worked as cooks, dishwashers, merchants, subway laborers. In New York, they gradually formed a small community of sorts in Spanish Harlem. They occupied apartments and tenement housing on streets in the 100s. They worked hard.

And they did all they could do to become American in a nation of segregation and prejudice. FULL POST

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Filed under: Asian in America • Black in America • Culture • Ethnicity • History • Immigration • Latino in America • Race • Who we are
Richard Blanco becomes America's first Latino, openly gay inaugural poet
Richard Blanco will become the first Latino and openly gay poet to read an inaugural poem this month.
January 9th, 2013
12:44 PM ET

Richard Blanco becomes America's first Latino, openly gay inaugural poet

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – Richard Blanco, the poet who likes to describe himself as being made in Cuba, assembled in Spain and imported to the United States, will serve as the inaugural poet when President Barack Obama takes the oath of office for a second term this month.

Blanco will be the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest poet chosen for the coveted role.

A statement from the inaugural committee said Blanco was chosen because the power of his poetry is rooted in American identity.

"Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity," Obama said in a statement Wednesday that announced his selection.

With that announcement, Blanco will surely be catapulted to fame in the vein of Natasha Trethewey, 46, who this year was chosen to become the nation's poet laureate.

"I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco, 44, said in a statement. FULL POST

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Filed under: Culture • Diversity • Ethnicity • Latino in America • Who we are