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March 22nd, 2013
12:50 PM ET

'Things Fall Apart' author Chinua Achebe dies at 82

Send us your thoughts and memories of author Chinua Achebe on iReport.

By Laura Smith-Spark and Faith Karimi, CNN

(CNN) - Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, acclaimed in part for his groundbreaking 1958 novel "Things Fall Apart," has died, his British publisher, Penguin Books, said Friday.

He was 82.

An author of more than 20 books, his honors included the 2007 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction.

He was also accorded his country's highest award for intellectual achievement, the Nigerian National Merit Award.

Achebe is a major part of African literature, and is popular all over the continent for his novels, especially "Anthills of the Savannah," which was itself shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1987, and "Things Fall Apart."

The latter was required reading in countless high schools and colleges in the continent, and has been translated into dozens of languages.

Set in precolonial Nigeria, "Things Fall Apart" portrays the story of a farmer, Okonkwo, who struggles to preserve his customs despite pressure from British colonizers. The story resonated in post-independent Africa, and the character became a household name in the continent.

Achebe's stories included proverbs and tackled complex issues of African identity, nationalism and decolonization, adding to his books' popularity.

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Filed under: Black in America • How we live • Race • Where we live • Who we are
March 22nd, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett remember civil rights march

(CNN) –Today marks the anniversary of the third and decisive civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte recruited fellow singer Tony Bennett to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. They shared their moments with CNN's Chris Cuomo  on "Starting Point".

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Filed under: Discrimination • History • How we live • Race • Where we live
March 19th, 2013
12:30 PM ET

Backlash against 'Being White in Philly'

(CNN) - Philadelphia Magazine is under fire after publishing a controversial article titled 'Being White in Philly' that discusses bridging the racial gap. Mayor Michael Nutter is considering asking a city panel to formally rebuke the magazine. CNN Anchor Brooke Baldwin talks with a panel about the magazine’s choice to publish the article.

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Filed under: History • How we live • Race • Where we live
March 19th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Tough racial issues face GOP in minority outreach

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Republican K. Carl Smith is African-American and he knows that the GOP's racial reckoning won't come from 100-page reports from party headquarters with carefully worded prescriptions about "outreach" to "demographic partners."

Instead, the type of sea change needed to shake the GOP's image as a party of old, white and culturally-insulated men will require the type of profound grassroots shakeup that might make some in the GOP uneasy.

"You got your establishment Republicans who want to keep things the same," said Smith, an Army veteran who grew up in Alabama during the Civil Rights era. "The status quo needs to go through some, I won't say diversity classes, but I'll say liberty classes and learn about helping people on the bottom of the ladder."

He said the party also has to deal with small but noisy elements that co-opt any message of inclusiveness if it wants to win the "propaganda battle."

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Filed under: 2012 Election • History • How we live • Politics • Race • Who we are
March 18th, 2013
07:30 AM ET

Are victims falling through America's hate crime data gap?

By Nicole Krasavage and Scott Bronstein, CNN Special Investigations Unit

Washington (CNN) - Two hit-and-run deaths in rural Mississippi just a few miles apart highlight a disturbing problem about data collection on possible hate crimes.

Last summer, 61-year-old African-American Sunday school teacher Johnny Lee Butts was hit and killed by an 18-year-old white driver. The teen told Panola County Sheriff deputies he thought he hit a deer but the driver's two passengers said he steered straight for Butts. One passenger said he could see that Butts was black. The killing has sparked outrage in the local African-American community. Civil rights groups have demanded that police prosecute Butts' killing as a hate crime.

Nonetheless, prosecutors chose not to.

There was no evidence, authorities said, to suggest a racial motive. The driver was charged with murder. He has not yet pleaded in the case.

Related: Three plead guilty in Mississippi hate crime

In another hit and run, 41-year-old African-American Garrick Burdette was found dead along a Panola County road in November 2009.

His mother, Ruby Burdette, says for three years she had heard nothing about any police investigation into her son's death until CNN began asking about the case.

CNN received no response after calling the Panola County Sheriff's department, but just hours after CNN's call, a sheriff's investigator drove to Ruby Burdette's house.

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Filed under: History • How we live • Race • Where we live
Report spurred by New Black Panther charges find polarized Justice Dept.
A report issued Tuesday found voting rights staffers in the U.S. Justice Department displayed a lack of professionalism.
March 12th, 2013
08:20 PM ET

Report spurred by New Black Panther charges find polarized Justice Dept.

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer

Washington (CNN) - Staffers in the voting rights section of the U.S. Justice Department - during both the Bush and Obama administrations - took political potshots at each other and often displayed a lack of professionalism, according to a report issued Tuesday.

The department's inspector general found camps within that office battled over priorities and cases for most of the past decade.

But the report found that there was "insufficient support for a conclusion that Civil Rights Division leadership in either the prior or current administration improperly refused to enforce the voting rights laws on behalf of any particular group of voters or that either administration used the enforcement of laws to seek improper partisan advantage."

The report covers a series of controversies during the years 2001 to 2011, when first George W. Bush, and then Barack Obama controlled the Justice Department.

The voting rights pot boiled over on November 4, 2008, when two members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a polling station in Philadelphia dressed in boots and berets and carrying a nightstick. Civil charges for attempted intimidation were filed, but then dropped against three of four defendants.

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'Don't feed the trolls': Racism on YouTube
On YouTube's "Black Nerd Comedy," Andre Meadows often focuses on '80s and '90s pop culture such as the Power Rangers.
March 11th, 2013
05:22 PM ET

'Don't feed the trolls': Racism on YouTube

By Doug Gross, CNN

Austin, Texas (CNN) - In five years on YouTube, Francesca Ramsey says, only one of the nearly 200 videos she's posted has been explicitly about race.

Yet when the actress, comedian and video blogger hosted a meet-up with fans here at the South by Southwest Interactive festival, only three out of about 300 of them were white.

Of course that one video, "S**t White Girls Say ... to Black Girls," has accounted for nearly 10 million of the roughly 18 million views her videos have gotten, combined.

"It's a double-edged sword," said Ramsey. "It's opened a lot of doors for me, but I know that because of that video, there are some people who are never going to watch my videos and are never going to give me a chance and see that I'm so much more than that video."

Ramsey spoke Sunday on a panel addressing racism and race issues on YouTube, the Web's No. 1 video site. Viewing of online video has surged, with YouTube attracting 800 million unique visitors a year. In 2011, the site saw a mind-boggling 1 trillion-plus views.

But among the content creators posting to YouTube who are ethnic minorities, race remains a troubling issue. Drawing a large fan base is a challenge, and commenters on YouTube videos can be vicious.

Of the top 100 most popular YouTube channels that aren't industry-sponsored, there is one black creator, four Asians and one of Middle Eastern descent, according to Web researcher Jenny Unghba Korn. Expanding that to the top 200 adds two more African-Americans, two Asians and one user from India.

"Everyone gets hate comments on YouTube," said Andre Meadows, the creator of the Black Nerd Comedy channel. "You can make the most wonderful video in the world and you will get 'Fake!' and 'Gay!'"

But for minority creators, "when you get comments, it seems to be targeted toward race almost immediately. A lot of people get 'dumb video, stupid video' - but with mine it immediately goes to racial slurs."

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Filed under: How we live • Race • Technology
March 7th, 2013
04:16 PM ET

Opinion: Oberlin wrong to cancel classes after hate incidents

Editor's note: John S. Wilson is a contributing writer for Forbes, Huffington Post and Black Enterprise. He frequently writes about health and education policies and politics. He's on Twitter at @johnwilson.

By John S. Wilson, Special to CNN

(CNN) – When I was around 12 or 13, one of just a few black students in my entire grade, a substitute teacher made inappropriate remarks about slavery. When I got home, I just knew my mother would do something about it; this was a woman who visited my school as though she had to punch a clock.

She listened, said the teacher was wrong, and that was it. No angry phone calls, no marching to the school, no request for anyone to be reprimanded or fired. I was shocked. But she told me that my school didn’t share the same values as that teacher, and she was confident the unfortunate incident was temporary but the values the school instilled were permanent.

That’s what a school’s mission is all about: permanency. Instilling character that cannot be tarnished by temporary incidents – even when very offensive – over which it has little control.

But Oberlin College in Ohio made a very poor decision this week. Classes were canceled in response to a rash of racist and anti-gay incidents aimed at students and a student’s report she had seen someone on campus dressed in a white hooded robe. (Police said they received a report of a student wearing a blanket, but couldn’t say whether the incidents were related.)

On Monday, the campus held a “Day of Solidarity,” which consisted of diversity programming, an Africana teach-in, and what Meredith Gadsby, chairwoman of the Africana Studies Department, called “positive propaganda.” If you're at a loss for exactly what that is, think a collegiate version of a “Sesame Street” marathon, minus Oscar the Grouch.

Oberlin passed up an opportunity. Instead of canceling classes, they should have continued normal business while finding ways to draw upon their incredibly strong history of diversity and inclusion.

By canceling classes and generally overreacting – let's face it, racism and baseless discriminatory scrawls on posters and walls will never go away – Oberlin is only sheltering students, instead of assisting them to overcome adversity, an action that would truly fortify their character. What example does this set for students, many of whom will soon be in the workforce? If a supervisor or co-worker offends them, who will be there then to host their day of solidarity?

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Filed under: Education • Race • What we think
March 6th, 2013
12:00 PM ET

As classes resume, Oberlin grapples with hate messages

By CNN Staff

Oberlin, Ohio (CNN) - A day after students at Oberlin College put down their books to focus on how to respond to a spate of hate messages targeting blacks, Jews and gays on campus, classes resumed Tuesday amid tension.

The messages included graffiti with swastikas, posters containing racial slurs and other derogatory statements targeting various student communities and fliers bearing racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic language.

A student's report on Monday that she had seen someone on campus dressed like a member of the Ku Klux Klan led the school to suspend classes for the day.

"I saw someone in what seemed to be KKK paraphernalia walking on a pathway, like, a pathway that leads to South Campus," the student, Sunceray Tavler, told CNN affiliate WJW. "Just seeing that and having that sink in, this is something that's real, that actually happens."

Police said they received a report of a student wearing a blanket on his or her shoulders but could not say whether the incidents were related.

Two students have been identified as being involved in the postings from February and will be subject to college disciplinary procedures, Oberlin police said.

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Filed under: Education • History • How we live • Race • Where we live
March 5th, 2013
12:05 PM ET

Anti-government extremist groups increasing, say experts

By Callie Carmichael, CNN

(CNN) - The number of American "patriot" extremist groups has reached a record level, according to a new study, and experts are warning of a wave of anti-government violence.

A report released Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center counted 1,360 "patriot" extremist groups in 2012 - up by 7% from 2011. The study defines patriot groups as anti-government militias driven by their fear that authorities will strip them of their guns and liberties.

"They believe the Constitution is being raped. With hate groups, things are going to get worse because they feel like they're in battle," said David Gletty a former FBI informant who spent time undercover with various militia and extremist groups. "It's not surprising with their hatred of President (Barack) Obama that there are even more hate groups out there."

The study said California has the most patriot extremist groups, with 81.

The SPLC report also offers a bit of good news: The number of "immigrant-bashing" extremist groups - so-called nativism organizations - is way down from 2011, falling by 88%.

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Filed under: History • Immigration • Race
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