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.
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
By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
(CNN) – For nearly 15 years, Dolores Prida was the Latina answer to "Dear Abby."
The Cuban-born writer penned columns – as she once put it – with "Latin-style tongue-in-cheek advice for the lovelorn, the forlorn and the just torn."
Prida died in New York on Sunday, leaving behind a loyal following of readers. She was 69.
Many knew her popular "Dolores Dice" column in Latina magazine. But Prida was also an opinion columnist who tackled tougher topics such as gun control and teen pregnancy in New York newspapers and a playwright who won international recognition for her work.
The night before she died, she was at a party in New York with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and others celebrating the 20th anniversary of a close-knit network of Latina journalists, lawyers and other professionals.FULL STORY
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
By Moni Basu and Greg Botelho, CNN
Atlanta (CNN) – The Atlanta Braves are reportedly bringing back a controversial screaming Indian logo in their new design for batting practice caps, unveiled in a blog post on ESPN.
Writer Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, who broke the news of the new cap design, said he got a first look at the hat designs from an "industry source."
He gave a failing grade to the Braves logo featuring a Native American wearing a mohawk and a feather in his hair and belting out a tribal yell.
"Last year the Braves conspicuously avoided using their 'screaming Indian' logo as a sleeve patch on their retro alternate jersey - a welcome move for those of us who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports," Lukas wrote. "Unfortunately, it turns out that the logo hasn't been permanently mothballed. Disappointing. Grade: F."
Braves officials deferred comment to Major League Baseball, which told CNN that the new batting practice cap designs for several MLB clubs, including the Braves, were still in development and may never end up on the diamond.
"We will unveil the program when it is finalized," the MLB statement said. "We do not know where (ESPN) obtained the designs. We can not make them available to CNN because they are not finalized or approved." FULL POST
By Sarah Edwards, CNN
(CNN) – The maker of a Google app thinks it's fun to make yourself look Asian by changing the shape of your eyes and wearing a Fu Manchu mustache and rice paddy hat.
Another app - "Make Me Indian" - makes you a Native American with brown skin, war paint and a feather headband.
“This is just a fun app (that) lets you indulge you and your friends," says the description of the "Make Me Asian" app created by user KimberyDeiss and available on Google Play.
"You can for a few seconds to make (yourself) a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asians," the description says.
Not amusing or cute, say Asian-American organizations that launched a petition to get Google to remove both apps. FULL POST
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
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.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Officials at Penn State published an open letter this week about an incident that has brought the university under scrutiny once more.
Members of the university's Chi Omega sorority chapter celebrated Halloween at a Mexican-themed party. They wore 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."
Then they took a photo and posted it online. Outrage spread over the insensitive nature of the photo. Some said it perpetrated stereotypes and were culturally insensitive. Latino students on the Penn State campus demanded a direct apology from Chi Omega, which issued a statement of regret to the college newspaper.
The university president, the president of the board of trustees and other officials expressed their own feelings of deep disappointment.
"How any constituent groups or individuals in the university could behave with such insensitivity or unawareness is a question we must both ask and answer," they said in a letter Thursday.
"Our university is a place of learning and discovery, and there certainly are lessons to be relearned, or even discovered for the first time, from these incidents," the letter said. "The simplest of those lessons is that costumes that include blackface, or that parody or imitate a person or groups of people, are always offensive to someone. They convey either a lack of awareness about the human condition and human sensitivities or, worse yet, disdain for the thoughts, feelings, histories and experiences of others. They suggest a failure to empathize or even a failure to think. They make all of us small."
The incident comes in the wake of this year's conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. He was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. The scandal led to the dismissal of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who died only weeks later, and severe NCAA penalties against the school's storied football program.
Reaction to the Chi Omega story, however, has not all been of dismay or outrage. FULL POST
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Penn State has had its share of controversy for a while, but this week it is getting some more unwanted attention.
The university's Chi Omega sorority chapter is under investigation after a photo with Mexican stereotypes surfaced on a social media site.
It shows a group of sorority members dressed in ponchos and sombreros and wearing fake mustaches. One woman holds a sign that says: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign says: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."
The photograph was taken at a Mexican-themed party around Halloween, according to the independent college blog, Onward State. It was posted last week on Tumblr.
The university's Panhellenic Council said it had received concerns about the photo and that the council does not condone derogatory behavior from members.
"The Penn State Panhellenic Council recognizes the offensive nature of the photo and is therefore taking the matter very seriously," the executive board said in a statement.
"We are addressing the situation immediately with the members of the chapter in conjunction with their national headquarters," it said. "Our council and all its members strive to hold ourselves to a high standard and are disappointed by any failure to meet these expectations."
Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more and we invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America. Catch up on past coverage.
In Spanish, it’s known as “Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias” or el “Dia de Las Gracias.” Although it’s not a holiday celebrated in Latin America, Thanksgiving has resonated with Hispanics in the United States because of two vital components in Latino culture: family and food.
Latino households across the country will serve Hispanic dishes alongside Thanksgiving classics like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, blending their own culture into the “traditional” American holiday.
“Last year, I spent it at my sister’s house and we had ham, pasteles, yam, stuffing and Mexican rice alongside the turkey,” says Baltimore, Maryland resident Elianne Ramos. She works as the Vice-Chair of Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media.FULL STORY