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April 5th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

From Philadelphia streets to polo champions

Editor's Note: This is the second of two pieces on Philadelphia's Work to Ride program.  Read the first piece, "Brothers from 'the bottom' find solace in polo."

By Sarah Hoye, CNN

Charlottesville, Virginia (CNN) – ­ Last March, a crew of unlikely polo players made history for being the first all-black high school team to win gold competing in the one of the most exclusive sports.

This year they did it again in a nail-biting double overtime shootout during the Interscholastic Polo Championship held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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April 4th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Polo players from 'the bottom'

Editor's Note: This is the first of two pieces about Philadelphia's Work to Ride program.  The second will post on CNN's In America blog tomorrow.

See an earlier story about polo players from Philadelphia's inner-city who are breathing new life into one of the oldest sports.

By Sarah Hoye, CNN

Charlottesville, Virginia (CNN) – Brothers Kareem and Daymar Rosser are riding high in world of polo.

Growing up, the brothers feared the streets in the West Philadelphia neighborhood known as “the bottom.”

It was almost a decade ago when they first stumbled upon a former mounted police stable in the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park being used by a group of kids now making headlines.

There they met Lezlie Hiner who offered the boys - then in middle school - a chance to ride horses in exchange for working in the barn through her non-profit, Work To Ride.

They haven’t looked back since.


Opinion: What is the Tucson school district afraid of?
Nine-year-old Nicolas being checked by security as he entered a Tucson Unified School District board meeting on March 13.
March 30th, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Opinion: What is the Tucson school district afraid of?

Editor’s Note: Roberto Rodriguez is an assistant professor in the Mexican-American studies department at the University of Arizona. He blogs at drcintli.blogspot.com.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reported on this story for In America.  Her report is here.

By Roberto Rodriguez, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Look at the image above. For people who live outside of Tucson, Arizona, it evokes shock and even horror. For most of us here, it was but another day in Arizona.

On March 13, the day I took this photo, students from Tucson High School showed  up to the Tucson Unified School District board meeting, to once again air their support for the now dismantled Mexican-American studies department.


Bleeding hands of a 17-year-old student injured at the protest on May 3, 2011.

On May 3, 2011, I witnessed dozens of riot-equipped law enforcement officers treat Mexican-American studies supporters inside and outside of Tucson Unified School District headquarters as though they were potential terrorists. To get into the meeting, everyone had to pass through metal detectors. That evening, seven women, including two senior citizens, were arrested for attempting to speak before the school board.

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Filed under: Education • Latino in America • What we think
March 30th, 2012
01:31 PM ET

Selena: The Latin superstar more American than Mexican

Editor's Note: Saturday marks the 17th anniversary of the murder of the Latino superstar remembered the world over by one name: Selena. When she was shot and killed by her fan club president, the headlines spoke of a 23-year-old Mexican singer who was about to "cross-over" to American pop super stardom.  The truth was, however, the woman considered the "Queen of  Tejano Music,"  and her husband, Chris Perez, were American kids raised in Texas, speaking English - not Spanish.

"To Selena, with Love," by Chris Perez, Selena's husband, is a new book, published by Celebra. Below is an excerpt that describes how the young couple struggled with mastering Spanish.

“Mexico was the logical place to begin our international publicity blitz. We already had a fan base there, and we could easily drive to the shows from Texas. Of course, none of us fully realized just how nerve- racking it would be to go from playing relatively small venues in the U.S. to playing large amphitheaters and doing interviews in Spanish in Mexico. We were scheduled to play in Monterrey during our first trip, and there was mad press all day. We went from one interview to the next: radio, television, magazine journalists, you name it. Before the trip, Rick had helped me practice saying my name and what instru­ment I played.

I kept repeating this phrase to myself like a mantra: “Mi nombre es Chris Perez y toco la guitarra. Mi nombre es Chris Perez y toco la guitarra.” I knew how absurd the Mexican journalists would think it was if we sang in Spanish but couldn’t even manage to speak in basic textbook phrases. I was determined not to embarrass the band— or myself.

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March 29th, 2012
02:50 PM ET

Stiff security at Tucson school board meetings angers Latinos

Editor's Note: Roberto Rodriguez, the Mexican-American Studies professor who took the photo of Nicolas, has written an opinion piece.  It can be viewed here.

By Thelma Gutierrez and Traci Tamura, CNN

Tucson, Arizona (CNN) - It was the evening of March 13, people lined up outside the Tucson Unified School District office in Tucson, Arizona, to attend a school board meeting. Nine-year-old Nicolas was in line with his teenage sister Juliana, waiting to enter the meeting. Juliana, who is in high school, was there to voice her support for the Mexican-American studies program, which was dismantled this year after it was banned by the state.

One by one, each person had to first go through security screening. It wasn’t until Nicolas, wearing a yellow Batman t-shirt, standing with his legs and arms spread apart while being wanded by an armed security guard, that Roberto Rodriguez, an associate professor of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona, took notice of the process. Rodriguez grabbed his phone and took two photographs of Nicolas going through security.

Rodriguez, who is also a syndicated columnist, says he sent one of the photographs to several colleagues. Before he knew it, the picture went viral. It seemed to strike a nerve with some people, particularly within the Latino community, who say the pictures symbolize what Rodriguez calls an anti-Latino, anti-immigrant atmosphere in Arizona.

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Filed under: Education • How we live • Latino in America
Opinion: What happened in France could happen anywhere
Gilles Bernheim, Great Rabbi of France (2nd from right), and others march on March 25 in Toulouse, France where three Jewish children and their teacher were killed.
March 28th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

Opinion: What happened in France could happen anywhere

Editor’s Note:  Philip Meissner is a New York based attorney. He also founded JewishSafeHavenFund.org, a group dedicated to protecting Jews from terrorist attack in America and abroad.

By Philip Meissner, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mumbai, India. Bangkok, Thailand. And now Toulouse, France.  While we have seen a recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks here in the United States - including the firebombing of a synagogue in Rutherford, New Jersey and cars set on fire in an Orthodox neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn - a series of organized terrorist attacks is also being carried out at an ever-accelerating pace against Jews overseas.  One cannot help but wonder if American Jews are safe from the growing threat, either at home, or abroad.

As a young boy of nine-years old, my father miraculously escaped Nazi Germany on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938. His parents had the foresight to know that they could no longer stay in Berlin.  They first went to Poland to say good-bye to their parents, my great-grandparents, who were tragically convinced that the Nazis in Germany would pass by as just another political party, and that they would be safe in Poland. That was the last time they saw one another. My grandparents left everything behind, and undertook the dangerous journey of traveling by train to Marseille, France.  They thereafter boarded the SS Normandie for its last voyage to New York before the war, which ultimately saved their lives.

Decades later, after establishing their life in the United States, our link to the Holocaust came full circle as my eldest sister married into the Bielski family, whose heroism was recounted recently in the film "Defiance."  The Bielskis did not have either the good fortune, or the inclination to leave Europe during the war.  Following the murder of their parents, the Bielski brothers- Tuvia, Zus and Asael- realized that they would have to save themselves.  They formed the Bielski brigade and provided safe haven to the Jews who joined them.  For almost three years, they fought against the Germans and provided food and shelter to 1,250 Jewish men, women and children in the forests of Western Belorussia.  This was the largest armed rescue of Jews by Jews during the war.

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Filed under: History • Religion • What we think • Where we live
March 27th, 2012
02:32 PM ET

Opinion: What the death of Trayvon Martin says about being a black man in 2012

Editor’s note: Rob Smith is a writer, lecturer and openly gay U.S. Army veteran. His work has appeared in USA Today, The Huffington Post, Metro Weekly and Slate.com. He is contributing to "For Colored Boys ...," an anthology to be released this spring. He is also launching the  IamTrayvonMartin project on You Tube.  He can be reached at www.robsmithonline.com and twitter.com/robsmithonline.

By Rob Smith, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In some ways, I suppose it could be considered a good thing that I wasn’t racially profiled until my sophomore year of college.  For some young black men, it happens even sooner. My personal style has always leaned more towards Carlton Banks than 50 Cent, and I’ve never really been a fan of baggy jeans or fitted caps. That night however, I’d taken it upon myself to throw on a hooded sweatshirt as it started to rain. It was early evening and I found myself leaving class and walking in a parking lot behind an older white woman who was heading to her car after what was presumably a long day at work.

Lost in college-kid thoughts of midterms and summer internships, she barely registered to me until she immediately stopped in her tracks, as if I’d shouted her name. She then began to shriek in a near-hysterical tone, admonishing me for having the audacity to walk 10 feet behind her after dark. “Don’t ever do that! Ask your mother! Ask your sister! Don’t do that because it’s scary!” Initially, the episode registered as little more than bizarre to me, but as I finished my walk home, it became more apparent to me that the triple threat of my dark skin, stocky build and dark grey (fraternity!) hoodie was just too much for this woman to bear. Until that point, I’d never really thought of myself as an imposing or physically threatening guy, but to this poor lady I may as well have been the Unabomber.

Being profiled is a black male rite of passage that I was somehow inoculated from until that evening. Although I was vaguely aware of it before, I somehow made the mistake of thinking that my style of dress, “upward mobility,” or college education made me somehow exempt from the social cost of being a black male. It is not a mistake I’ve made since, nor is it one that the New York Police Department or cab drivers in this city will ever allow me to make again. Every black male from the mailroom to the boardroom and everywhere in between seems to have a story about being profiled in this way, and my experiences have been fairly innocuous compared to the horror stories I’ve heard.

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Filed under: Black in America • Gender • How we look • Race • What we think
March 26th, 2012
04:27 PM ET

The Latino star dancing into living rooms across America

Editor’s Note: Juan Carlos Arciniegas is based in Hollywood, as a correspondent and Showbiz anchor for CNN Espanol.  You can follow him on Twitter @JuanCarlosCNN.

By Juan Carlos Arciniegas, CNN Espanol

Hollywood, CA (CNN) – He is an international star.  Tens of millions of  fans in the U.S. alone follow his telenovelas, collect his magazine covers and post his picture on high school lockers.  Odds are good, however, if you are not Latino, you may have never heard of him - until now.

Some people call William Levy the  “Latino Brad Pitt” (lazy comparison, I know) but until last week Levy was not a familiar name for most of the American television audience.

It all changed last Monday, when Levy was introduced as one of the new contestants on season 14 of the popular TV show, “Dancing with the Stars.” Levy and Cheryl Burke, his dance partner, left that day with a score of 24 out of 30, placing him in second place behind competitors Jaleel White and Katherine Jenkins.  Levy also received a standing ovation and, finally, recognition in America that extends beyond the Latino audience.

William Levy and his "Dancing with the Stars" partner, Cheryl Burke.

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Opinion: What the tragedy of Tyler Clementi teaches about teen sexting
Dharun Ravi was found guilty Friday of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation.
March 19th, 2012
02:23 PM ET

Opinion: What the tragedy of Tyler Clementi teaches about teen sexting

Editors Note: David M. Hall, Ph.D., is he author of the book “Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment.” He is also the author of “BullyShield,” an iPhone and Droid app. Hall teaches high school students as well as graduate courses on LGBT issues and bullying prevention. His website is www.davidmhall.com and he is on twitter @drdavidmhall.

By David M. Hall, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Dharun Ravi made videos of his college roommate, Tyler Clementi, sexually involved with another man. Tyler was unaware that he was being recorded and broadcast. Confronted with this violation of his privacy, Tyler committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington bridge.

In 2008, Jessica Logan, a high school senior in Ohio, sent naked pictures of herself to her boyfriend. When they broke up, he forwarded those photos to others. Logan was called a slut and a whore, according to numerous news reports. She eventually committed suicide – just weeks  after graduation- by hanging herself in her bedroom closet.

Clementi’s privacy was clearly violated. There is debate about whether Logan waived her privacy. However, both were victims of people inflicting harm by attempting to hold them up for ridicule. Each of their stories has the same tragic ending. Clementi and Logan found that their expectation of privacy was violated.

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Filed under: Age • Bullying • Discrimination • How we live • Sexual orientation • What we think
Opinion: Being arrested? Yes, there's an app for that.
The groups behind "eapp" hope to have the app available for users this summer.
March 17th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Opinion: Being arrested? Yes, there's an app for that.

Editor’s note: Paromita Shah has served as Associate Director of the National Immigration Project since 2005, specializing in immigration detention and enforcement. She is a contributing author and co-presenter of the “Deportation 101” curriculum, participates in regular advocacy efforts with ICE officials, and has created an abundance of resources for communities affected by heightened immigration enforcement efforts.

By Paromita Shah, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Earlier this month, two groups that support immigrants, Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform and Respect/Respeto, jointly announced the forthcoming “eApp,” (Emergency Alert & Protection Program) a smart phone app designed to protect people’s safety and help protect them against any civil rights abuses that could occur when people are stopped in their cars for suspected immigration violations.

The app is modeled after the one created for people participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  When activated it would notify a pre-set list of people that might include family, friends, lawyers and advocates. The app will also remind users of their rights, and have the ability to record audio and video of the incident.  The groups behind “eapp” are fundraising now and hope to have it available for users this summer.

It's no surprise that the creators of this app are from Arizona, the state where SB-1070 feeds into an anti-immigrant climate leading to well-documented civil rights violations. It’s also the state where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has openly waged a decade-long ‘war’ against people he thinks are non-citizens in the name of stopping unauthorized migration. The greatest tools in his arsenal, prior to Arizona's state law, were voluntary federal programs that allowed police to stop, arrest and detain suspected non-citizens for immigration violations. The result is that SB-1070 and Sheriff Joe's actions have been hurting everyone – not just immigrants.

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