.
January 20th, 2012
01:50 PM ET

Can Romney’s Mexico ties, Spanish ads woo Latino voters?

Editor's note: Watch In America's documentary about the race to capture the Latino vote on CNN in October 2012.

By Rafael Romo, CNN Senior Latin American Affairs Editor

Chihuahua, Mexico (CNN) - In the town of Colonia Juarez, where houses look much like homes in the American Southwest, there lives a family named Romney.

Mitt Romney’s great-grandfather led the first group of Mormons to the state of Chihuahua to flee religious persecution. Mitt Romney’s father George - an auto executive, and Michigan governor who also ran for president in the United States - was born nearby, in a town called Colonia Dublan. He left with his parents when he was only five years old, but Romney relatives still live nearby.

Romney mentioned his family's connections to Mexico on the campaign trail earlier this month, then released a slew of new political ads, including Spanish ads in Florida, a state with a high concentration of Latinos. In one of the ads, Romney’s son Craig, who speaks Spanish, talks about liberty, opportunity and how the United States is a country where “anything is possible.”

“My father, Mitt Romney, believes in those American values because he has lived them himself and he will fight to restore the greatness of our nation,” Craig Romney says in the ad.

For the ad, the Romney campaign also enlisted three influential Latino Republican leaders from Florida, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, his brother, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“Romney believes in us,” Mario Diaz-Balart says in the ad. As it’s customary, at the end of the ad Romney himself says - in Spanish - that he approves the message. “Soy Mitt Romney y apruebo este mensaje.”

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Fortune's 'Best Companies To Work For' list hits gay rights milestone
Eighty-nine companies on Fortune's "Best Companies to Work For" list have same-sex partner benefits.
January 20th, 2012
12:22 PM ET

Fortune's 'Best Companies To Work For' list hits gay rights milestone

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - For the first time ever, all 100 firms on Fortune's Best Companies To Work For list this year have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation.

In 2008, 95 of the top 100 Best Companies to Work For had such policies in place, and by 2011 that number was up to 99.

"It's been gathering strength over the 15 years that we've done the survey," said Milton Moskowitz, a co-author of the list. Similar progress has been made in benefits for same-sex domestic partners, which are now offered by 89 of the 100 companies listed, up from 70 five years ago.

Read the full story on CNNMoney

January 19th, 2012
01:19 PM ET

Rareview: Touré: Don't forget blackness, but don't limit it, either

Rareviews go inside the lives of those in America whose stories we don't always hear.

By Claudia Morales, CNN

(CNN) – Writer Touré likes to practice yoga and skydive, and married a woman outside of his race - all things he's been told "black people don't do." In his latest book "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to be Black Now," Touré argues that times have changed and there are no limits to the black identity. There is no right or wrong way to "perform blackness" in today's society, he says.

"No one can tell you this is authentic behavior, and this is inauthentic behavior, this is legitimate normative blackness and this is illegitimate non-normative black behavior," he says. " That’s ridiculous."

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Filed under: Black in America • Race • Rareviews • Who we are
January 18th, 2012
05:24 PM ET

Cuba Gooding Jr. and David Oyelowo rediscover 'Red Tails' history

Editor's note: David Oyelowo plays Joe "Lightning" Little in the film "Red Tails." He was raised in England and Nigeria and trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He was the first black actor to play a Shakespearean monarch at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and appeared in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "The Help."

By David Oyelowo, Special to CNN

(CNN) - My journey toward the hallowed ground of Moton Field, where the brave Tuskegee Airmen learned to fly, began with me receiving a script called "Red Tails" in the winter of 2008. I had never heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, nor was I aware of their adopted nickname "Red Tails," but the story as told in the script blew me away.

As I always do before auditioning for a role, I went about my research and was amazed and ashamed that I knew nothing of their immense contribution to the war effort in the 1940s. Thankfully I got the role and was then able to exercise my newfound obsession to do these men right by participating in telling their story.

We shot the film in Prague and Croatia in 2009 and did reshoots in 2010 and 2011 to really nail the complex dogfights depicted in the movie. The process of bringing the film to fruition was a mammoth collaborative process that involved a deep commitment from the actors, our director, Anthony Hemingway, the genius of the folks at Industrial Light and Magic, and the comforting overseeing eyes of both Rick McCallum, our producer, and George Lucas, who had been pregnant with the project for more than 20 years.

Cut to this past Monday, just a few days before this nerve-wracking Friday, the day on which the film will be released. I and my fellow actors Nate Parker, Terrence Howard and Elijah Kelley find ourselves at Tuskegee University as we draw to the close of an extensive press tour that has taken us from L.A. to New York and most places in between.

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January 18th, 2012
01:16 PM ET

Poll: Should felons be allowed to vote after serving their sentences?

By Alyse Shorland, CNN

(CNN) – At Monday’s Republican debate in South Carolina, candidates sparred over whether people with felony convictions should be allowed to vote.

Former Senator Rick Santorum said he supports felons regaining the right to vote after they’ve completed their sentences, and noted that felony disenfranchisement disproportionately affects black voters.

“This is a huge deal in the African-American community, because we have very high rates of incarceration, particularly with drug crimes,” he said.

Mitt Romney said as governor of Massachusetts, he disagreed: “I think people who committed violent crimes should not be allowed to vote again.”

Voting rights advocates say the argument could come up more often in the near future - with 2.3 million people currently incarcerated, states are rethinking whether the court’s punishment is enough, or if people who’ve committed felonies will continue to pay for their crimes through disenfranchisement.

Twenty-three states have eased felon voting restrictions since 1997, but in 2011, Florida and Iowa tightened them. Maine and Vermont are the only states with no disenfranchisement for people with criminal convictions.

“It’s really the first time in a while we have seen significant opposition against restoring rights,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based organization that works for criminal justice reform and advocates for voting rights.

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Filed under: Black in America • Politics • Polls • Race • Social justice • Who we are
January 17th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Lawsuit demands Christian black woman be exhumed from Jewish cemetery

By Rose Marie Arce and Susan Candiotti, CNN

Colchester, Connecticut (CNN) - Juliet Steer was dying of lymphoma when she told her brother Paul she wanted to be buried just like Jesus, following Jewish customs. Even though she’s a black Christian, she chose a plot in the secluded interfaith section of this quiet town's Jewish Ahvath Achim Cemetery.

“She felt like it was a nice and peaceful place,” Paul Steer said. Juliet liked the quiet. When she died, Paul had her buried in the plot, hopeful that she’d finally rest in peace.

But this Jewish cemetery in Colchester, Connecticut, has been anything but peaceful since one of its board members sued Paul Steer.  It’s now the center of a legal fight tinged with allegations of racial and religious prejudices.

Maria Balaban, a cemetery board member who has relatives buried there, is demanding Paul remove Juliet’s remains from the cemetery because she is not Jewish and has no ties to anyone in the Jewish section. Paul Steer believes part of the reason Balaban wants his sister's remains removed is because she was African-American.

“Her lawyer said ‘My client don’t believe your sister accepted the faith and she has to be exhumed.' I said, ‘What are you talking about?' 'Your sister don’t (sic) belong there, the cemetery is only for Jews,'” remembers Paul, whose family is of Jamaican descent. “I said, ‘Man, get out of here.’”

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King's final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle
Thousands gathered at the end of the Poor People March, on June 19, 1968, in Washington D.C.
January 16th, 2012
01:51 PM ET

King's final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle

Editor's note: See CNN's complete coverage of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) - On Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, some will volunteer, some will attend celebrations of his life and legacy, some will do nothing at all. "I have a dream," the title of King's best known speech, will be repeated countless times, along with well-known stories about his  commitment to nonviolence, his letters from a Birmingham jail, his marches against segregation and the bullet that ended his life on April 4, 1968.

But few will remember how King lived his last birthday, as he turned 39 on January 15, 1968.

According to accounts of the day retold by Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, King spent the day working on a campaign that he hoped would force Washington and the American public to acknowledge and resolve the problem of poverty for people of all races, religions and backgrounds in the United States. The Poor People's Campaign was the agenda for the day, with a short break for birthday cake.

While King's dream, the march on Washington and fight against segregation are well-known to children and adults now, fewer are aware that King spent the last months of his life fighting poverty.

When he died in Memphis, he was there to support fair wages and union representation for Memphis sanitation workers.

Rebecca Burns, who wrote about King's last days, death, and burial in "Burial for a King," said King's antiwar and anti-poverty legacy are overshadowed in part because their solutions are more elusive.

"It’s a much more complex issue – it's not, pardon my choice of words, as black and white as voting rights or where you sit on a bus," Burns said. "It’s harder to talk about that in sound bites."

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January 16th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Martin Luther King Jr. Day coverage: Can memorial capture King's complexity?

(CNN) - Of course a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. was going to be controversial.

The man himself was controversial, notes LaSalle University sociology professor Charles Gallagher. King - bound up with issues of racial and economic inequality that spotlight America's worst sins - is a "Rorschach test," Gallagher says, that people see in King what they want to see.

Still, few of the organizers of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington may have expected that every little detail would be so scrutinized, criticism that has continued right up to the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day since it opened last fall.

Late Friday, the Department of Interior - which has jurisdiction over the memorial - announced a quotation in the memorial's King sculpture would be changed. This action followed months of complaints about the language of the quotation, which had been paraphrased from a passage in a King sermon.

Read the full story and more Martin Luther King Jr. Day coverage from CNN.

King's final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle - CNN's In America blog

First family honors King with service project - CNN's 1600 Report blog

Day of service marks King's birthday - CNN

What did King think about gay people - CNN's Belief blog

Remembering MLK at his home church - CNN Photos

Boy Scout prepares to lay wreath at MLK statue in San Antonio - CNN iReport

Occupiers march for MLK - CNN iReport

Washington ceremony marks MLK's birthday - CNN

King in his own words - Time Photos

Memories of an icon: What six of Kings' friends will never forget - CNN Presents interactive

Students take on 'I have a dream' - CNN video

MLK memorial quote to be corrected - CNN

MLK, born at just the right time - CNN Opinion

Donna Brazile: For King, the right to vote was sacred - CNN Opinion

Remembering Dr. King - CNN's Schools of Thought blog

Interfaith cooperation on campus and the legacy of MLK - CNN's Schools of Thought blog

Atlantans use art to carry on legacy - CNN Video

'Drum major' quote on MLK memorial to be corrected
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial sits on the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
January 14th, 2012
09:11 PM ET

'Drum major' quote on MLK memorial to be corrected

Washington (CNN) - A controversial quote inscribed in the granite of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall will be corrected, an official at the Interior Department confirmed to CNN.

News of the change to the so-called "drum major" line was first reported Friday afternoon in the Washington Post.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has given the National Park Service 30 days to consult with the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, members of the King family and others to decide on a more accurate version of the quote, the official said.

The quote holds a prominent place among more than a dozen King's most notable lines at the site.

The memorial site features a commanding 30-foot statue of King, arms folded across his chest, emerging from a "Stone of Hope."

The quote in question is inscribed on one side of the stone. The abbreviated and paraphrased version of the line sparked controversy last summer when acclaimed poet and author Maya Angelou said it made the civil rights leader appear to be arrogant.

The line reads: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

In fact, King's original words, from a 1968 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, were: "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

Read the full story

As number of Latino evangelicals grows, it's not politics as usual
January 13th, 2012
05:56 PM ET

As number of Latino evangelicals grows, it's not politics as usual

Editor's Note: What really matters to Latino voters in the 2012 election? Watch the In America documentary about Latino voters in October 2012 on CNN.

By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor

(CNN) - It’s a greeting that always makes Mark Jobe smile: “I really loved today’s Mass, Father Mark.”

Jobe is the senior pastor of New Life Community Church, which has 14 campuses across Chicago and its suburbs. He said he hears those words at least once a month, usually from newcomers - Hispanics raised in the Catholic faith who’ve started attending his non-denominational Christian church.

When Jobe launched New Life Community Church 25 years ago, the Midway neighborhood where his main campus is located was primarily populated by descendants of Polish, Lithuanian and Italian immigrants. Now, the neighborhood is primarily Hispanic.

Jobe estimates that as much as 70% of New Life’s 6,000 members are Hispanic.

“They don’t typically undermine [the church] where they came from,” Jobe said.
“They value the tradition, but what they often tell me is that they were not learning as much about the Bible and how it relates to their life today.”

The shift at New Life Community Church in Chicago is a reflection of a national trend, according to Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“While three-quarters of first-generation Hispanics [in the United States] are Catholic, the percentage for second- and third-generation Latinos goes down to less than 60%,” Lugo said. “Generation makes a huge difference. Later generations are much more likely to be converts.”

Why does it matter? According to the Pew Forum, there are key political differences among Latinos based on their religious preference.

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