Opinion: How youth are shaping our world
February 6th, 2012
06:51 PM ET

Opinion: How youth are shaping our world

Editor's note: Erica Williams is a senior strategist at Citizen Engagement Lab, an incubator for projects that use digital media, technology and culture to engage communities in people-powered campaigns. Previously, she was co-founder of Progress 2050, a project of the Center for American Progress, that develops new ideas for an increasingly diverse America.

By Erica Williams, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Each year, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, brings together leaders to discuss the most pressing global challenges with a commitment to "improving the state of the world ."

This year, I attended as part of the Forum’s first ever delegation of Global Shapers, a global group of youth under 30.

The group included a 24-year-old mayor from the Philippines, a fashion designer from Tanzania, the CEO of one of the biggest e-commerce sites in Turkey, a South African technologist, and a Swiss social entrepreneur. In all, seventy of us traveled from thirty-six countries and represented numerous sectors.

The work I do in the United States focuses on underrepresented communities, and often challenges the notion of traditional power: heads of state, elected official and CEOs.

Initially, I was very concerned about how my ideas around generational accountability, transparency and equity would be received by very elite decision-makers.

I was pleasantly surprised that they wanted to hear what we had to say: they recognized there are unprecedented challenges and demographic shifts happening, and were ready to listen.

During full days of conversations and meetings with CEOs, elected officials, and even monarchs, youth were visible and vocal.


February 6th, 2012
05:52 PM ET

Opinion: Eddie Long still has more apologizing to do

Editor’s note: Carolyn Edgar is a lawyer and writer in New York City. She writes about social issues, parenting and relationships on her blog, Carolyn Edgar.

By Carolyn Edgar, Special to CNN

Now that Bishop Eddie Long has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for a service at his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church that purported to crown him a “king,” one has to wonder what Long was thinking.

With all the scandal that has surrounded him recently, Long and the New Birth leadership should have anticipated that the video of the New Birth service would attract a great deal of attention, including from Jewish groups. Even if Long were unfamiliar with Jewish rituals and traditions, he might have guessed that having himself wrapped up in a Torah scroll might be considered controversial. Long rightly apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for misusing the holy Hebrew scriptures and Jewish rituals in his “coronation” ceremony.

However, Long still owes some apologies.

First, he owes his New Birth congregation an apology. Long should have apologized to his church a long time ago for the scandal that originally rocked New Birth. When four young men who were former members of New Birth accused Long of coercing them into sexual relationships as teens and young adults, Long vehemently denied the charges. Later, he quietly settled with the plaintiffs. He has not admitted guilt, but he also has not refuted the charges in a way that removes even the most basic doubt. Long should have stepped down from his position as head of New Birth. Instead, he returned after a brief hiatus, and sought to restore his congregation’s belief in his leadership by subjecting his church to a ritual without foundation in either the Christian or the Jewish faith – in which it was claimed that Long has a “king chromosome,” among many outrageous assertions. It is clear that those who remained faithful to New Birth wanted to see their disgraced leader returned to his former power and authority. Long could have orchestrated a service that uplifted him spiritually and gave his members reason to cheer without including made-up Jewish rituals. Instead, Long perpetrated a fraud on the people who stuck by him and his church long after many others, including Rev. Bernice King, a daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., left.

Second, Long owes an apology to Christians. As offended as members of the Jewish community may have been by the New Birth service, it was equally offensive to Christians. Many people noted that Jesus Christ refused kingship, yet Long had the hubris to participate in a ceremony that claimed to make him some kind of king. In his apology, Long retreated by saying he is “a mere servant of God,” but he needs to do more, and apologize to the Christian community for a service many Christians also found abhorrent. FULL POST

Opinion: Goodbye to Atlanta’s LGBT bookstore
Atlanta's Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse closed in January after 18 years in business.
February 6th, 2012
05:51 PM ET

Opinion: Goodbye to Atlanta’s LGBT bookstore

Editor's Note: Philip Rafshoon is the founder, former president and general manager of Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Atlanta.  The LGBT bookstore closed last month.

 By Philip Rafshoon, Special to CNN

On November 5, 1993, we were proud to open Outwrite, Atlanta’s gay and lesbian bookstore and coffeehouse. At the time, Atlanta was the largest city in the country that did not have a bookstore geared to the LGBT community. Fresh out of a 10-year stint in the computer industry, I was a Georgia Tech graduate and almost-native Atlantan who, with others, saw a need to have a space in this progressive southern city where our community could congregate, in the day as well as the night, in an environment that promoted literacy and the arts. Writings by, for, and about gay men and lesbians were exploding at the time and the opening of Outwrite was an instant success.

We started by guiding writers and hosting author events. Local, national and upcoming literary stars - such as Felice Picano, Nicola Griffith, Andrew Holleran, James Earl Hardy, Jim Grimsley,  and E. Lynn Harris – all spoke in the early days. And we hosted an unprecedented 1500 person book signing for Olympic superstar Greg Louganis.

Less than three years later, three months before the 1996 Olympic games, we found a new location that was a much larger space.  It was situated at a major intersection in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood that had traditionally been the center of our community, our own “gay ghetto.” The corner at Piedmont and Tenth was quiet, with a fenced-in used car rental store on one side and  a boarded up disco on another. We converted the abandoned club, uncovering the windows and creating  a wide open space for the neighborhood and our community. With a giant window featuring our rainbow logo and the big words ”gay and lesbian,” we became the most open LGBT landmark in the city and one of the most visible ones in the world.

The city’s and the neighborhood’s population exploded and the new location brought us wider recognition. We created weekly empowerment lunches where community leaders and activists could discuss and argue the important issues of the day over a cup of coffee, a sandwich, soup, and dessert. We partnered with and supported a broad spectrum of community organizations to raise awareness of their mission, events, and fundraisers. We became an essential stopping point for elected officials, and those seeking office, to connect with our community, learn about the issues that were important to us and gather our support.


Posted by
Filed under: Community • Economy • Sexual orientation • What we think
February 6th, 2012
04:48 PM ET

Crossing the plains and kicking up dirt, a new Mormon pioneer

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

San Diego (CNN) – At a 1950s-style house nestled in a peaceful neighborhood nicknamed “Hanukkah Hill,” a smiling Buddha on the porch greets visitors – his arms raised as if to say all are welcome.

Affixed to the doorpost is a mezuzah, a decorative case holding blessings for a Jewish home. Inside, on the family’s refrigerator, hangs a magnet from the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog that says, “Jesus loves us. Who cares what you think?”

In the kitchen stands Joanna Brooks, an accidental, unofficial and admittedly unauthorized source for all things Mormon. She’s making “funeral potatoes,” a classic Mormon casserole, and heaped on the counter are the ingredients: a not-so-healthy dose of cheese, butter, sour cream, hash browns and chicken soup. Her Jewish husband strolls by, takes a look at what’s cooking, and grimaces. Bespectacled and freckled 6-year-old Rosa, standing atop a chair, proudly announces, “I’m Jewish and Mormon!”

The home and life Brooks has created is the product of a complicated journey.

She cannot separate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from her identity any more than she can leave cheese out of funeral potatoes. But like her persecuted ancestors who braved the unforgiving plains to reach the promised land of what is now Utah, Brooks, 40, fights for her faith.

Read the full story on CNN's Belief blog

Posted by
Filed under: Family • Gender • Religion • Who we are
Opinion: Preventing a 'citizen-less' nation through higher education
A recent report suggests higher education could help boost civic engagement.
February 6th, 2012
12:29 PM ET

Opinion: Preventing a 'citizen-less' nation through higher education

Editor’s Note: Noliwe Rooks is the associate director of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University and the founding coordinator of the center’s urban education reform initiative. You can follow her on Twitter @nrookie .

By Noliwe Rooks, Special to CNN

Today, fewer Americans than ever believe one requirement of citizenship is to right the wrongs in our nation. So says a recent report by the American Association of American Colleges and Universities released recently at the White House. The report, called “A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future,”  warns that the United States is nearing the point of becoming a “citizen-less” nation where the majority sit on the sidelines pointing out, complaining about and urging others to act.

So what do we do in the face of this dire scenario? The report recommends that colleges and universities begin to make civic engagement central to the college experience. The preparation for democracy, they argue, is as important to our nation’s future as is learning to write, count and prepare for a career.

Read full post on CNN's Schools of Thought blog

Posted by
Filed under: Community • Education • What we think
Engage: Improved labor market for Latinos
As many hunt for jobs in the United States, Latinos are bouncing back toward pre-recession employment numbers.
February 6th, 2012
11:43 AM ET

Engage: Improved labor market for Latinos

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

American Latinos' employment numbers return to pre-recession levels - but still have higher-than-average jobless rate -The Los Angeles Times

Survey: Even with economic stress, black women continue to help elderly, family - The Washington Post

Racial undertones rise again in 2012 campaign - Politico

Profile: Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's advice to women in business and tech debated - The New York Times

Vivek Wadhwa: Discussing lack of blacks in Silicon Valley 'bigger taboo' than low number of women - Inc. Magazine

'Black in America 4: The New Promised Land - Silicon Valley,' re-airs at 8 p.m. ET February 11 and February 12.

Posted by
Filed under: Engage
February 6th, 2012
09:53 AM ET

Long-lost identities of slaves uncovered in old Virginia papers

By Michael Martinez and Athena Jones, CNN

Richmond, Virginia (CNN) - A historical society in Virginia, where slavery began in the American colonies in 1619, has discovered the identities of 3,200 slaves from unpublished private documents, providing new information for today's descendants in a first-of-its-kind online database, society officials say.

Many of the slaves had been forgotten to the world until the Virginia Historical Society received a $100,000 grant to pore over some of its 8 million unpublished manuscripts - letters, diaries, ledgers, books and farm documents from Virginians dating to the 1600s - and began discovering the long-lost identities of the slaves, said society president and CEO Paul Levengood.

The private, nonprofit historical society, the fourth-oldest in the nation, is assembling a growing roster of slaves' names and other information, such as the slaves' occupations, locations and plantation owners' names, said Levengood.

Read the full story