March 30th, 2012
07:16 PM ET

Live blog: 'Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America'

CNN's Soledad O'Brien leads a special town hall event about the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin – that has sparked a national dialogue on race, justice and America. Tune in tonight at 8pmET on CNN – and follow the live blog below. We'll include your comments from social media, as well quotes from the show:

Thank you for tuning in tonight – watch it again at 10 p.m. ET as well. And stay tuned to CNN and CNN.com for the latest information on the case.

[tweet https://twitter.com/DreaOnassis/status/185894040758272000%5D

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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.


Opinion: Hoodie, hijab killings rooted in U.S. 'fear industry'
Maytha Alhassen says the dehumanization of Arabs, Muslims and African-Americans goes beyond the hoodie and hijab.
March 30th, 2012
12:39 PM ET

Opinion: Hoodie, hijab killings rooted in U.S. 'fear industry'

Editor's note: Maytha Alhassen is a doctoral student in American studies and ethnicity at University of Southern California, a performer for "Hijabi Monologues," and a contributor to "I Speak For Myself," a book on American Muslim women's narratives.

By Maytha Alhassen, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Shaima Alawadi was killed in her home. The note next to her severely beaten body read “go back to your country, you terrorist," according to her daughter.  She was a 32-year-old Iraqi mother who wore a hijab. Was this why she was murdered?  Did this piece of clothing frighten someone so much that they were motivated to end another human being’s life?

The fatal beating of Alawadi in El Cajon, California - in the midst of nationwide Million Hoodie Marches, hoodie solidarity commemorations on Facebook and Twitter, "I Could Be Trayvon" Tumblr pages and viral petitions to prosecute 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's killer - must push us to change the national dialogue to that of transforming the conditions that created these murders: the institutionalized fear industry that is fueled by this country’s fixation on war and incarceration.


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Filed under: Black in America • Discrimination • Ethnicity • How we look • Race • Social justice • What we think
March 30th, 2012
11:45 AM ET

Julian Bond: Gay rights are civil rights

Julian Bond, former chairman for the NAACP, said gay and lesbian rights are an extension of the civil rights movement, and civil rights should belong to all Americans. He said he knows his point of view isn't popular among all African-Americans, some of whom are offended when gay rights are compared to the civil rights movement.

“They’ve adopted our songs, we ought to be happy," he said. "They’ve adopted our slogans, we ought to be happy and they’ve adopted the way in which we’ve gone about it in a non-violent way, we ought to be proud of that.”

Bond has received criticism in the past for being vocal about his support for gay and lesbian rights, but said he was eager to play whatever part he could.

"If these people are helping me, can I help them, should I help them?” he said.

Engage: Opinion: What the president won't say about Trayvon Martin
President Barack Obama recently spoke about the Trayvon Martin shooting outside of the White House.
March 30th, 2012
10:08 AM ET

Engage: Opinion: What the president won't say about Trayvon Martin

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

Touré:  Why the President will not discuss racism publicly - Time

Key Republicans encourage change in rhetoric to appeal to Latinos - Politico

Miranda Du first Asian Pacific-American to serve on federal bench in Nevada - Las Vegas Review Journal

Sitcom about African-American first family planned for fall - Times Leader

Opinion: How "Mad Men" era reflects state of black women in corporate America now - The Daily Beast

Black, Jewish youth dominates Irish dancing - The New York Times

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'Hunger Games' and Hollywood's racial casting issue
Lenny Kravitz plays Katniss' stylist Cinna in "The Hunger Games." In the novel, Cinna is described as having short brown hair.
March 30th, 2012
07:01 AM ET

'Hunger Games' and Hollywood's racial casting issue

By Stephanie Goldberg, CNN

(CNN) - In "The Hunger Games," wealthy Capitol citizens of all races and ethnicities come together to watch the 74th annual bloodbath of the same name. It seems some present-day moviegoers, however, are a bit less "post-racial."

Earlier this week, some "Hunger Games" fans tweeted their discontent because the characters of Cinna, Thresh and Rue are played by black actors in the big screen adaptation. This, despite the fact that both Thresh (Dayo Okeniyi) and Rue (Amandla Stenberg) are described as having "dark skin" in Suzanne Collins' novel, while Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) is simply described as having short brown hair.

Whether fans' remarks - such as, "Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little innocent blonde girl you picture" - stem from poor reading comprehension or intolerance, they're indicative of a larger issue in Hollywood, said Harry M. Benshoff, an associate professor of radio, TV and film at the University of North Texas who co-wrote "America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies."

"Hollywood has never been on the forefront of the civil rights movement," said Benshoff, who hasn't read or watched "The Hunger Games."

Read the full story

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Filed under: Black in America • Pop culture • Race • Who we are
March 29th, 2012
04:43 PM ET

'Vets Wanted?' documentary touches on veteran unemployment

Editor's note: Overseas, they fight for freedom. In America, they fight for jobs. “Voters In America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of a CNN In America documentary series on American voters. Narrated by J.R. Martinez. Re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

By David Matthews, CNN

(CNN) - The Georgia National Guard's 877th Engineering Company spent most of 2011 building bridges and clearing roads in Afghanistan. But when these soldiers returned home before Christmas, they came back to uncertainty: about half of the 877th Company was unemployed. Unlike active duty soldiers who come home to a base and a military paycheck, National Guard soldiers are expected to come back to their pre-deployment jobs. But for many National Guard soldiers, these jobs don't exist.

From Georgia and Florida, to Ohio and Alabama, National Guard units are coming back with many of their soldiers facing unemployment.  The former chief for Employment and Education Outreach for the Guard believes it is a problem the military is just now coming to grips with.  National Guard soldiers report difficulty in finding work in a tough economic climate and believe that their service puts them at a disadvantage.

Our CNN In America documentary follows the soldiers of the 877th on their journey back to their civilian lives.  After the soldiers' reunions with their families, we chronicle their search for jobs and their reconnection with loved ones.  We will be there with them as they attend job fairs and interviews, and examine the challenges facing our veterans coming home. FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Disabilities • Discrimination • Documentaries • Economy • Veterans
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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Trayvon Martin's death leaves town divided, struggling with stigma
Beyond Sanford's historic downtown is a town where nearly everyone has a different viewpoint on the Trayvon Martin case.
March 29th, 2012
02:16 PM ET

Trayvon Martin's death leaves town divided, struggling with stigma

Editor's note: The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has sparked a national dialogue on race; now CNN wants to hear from you. At 8 p.m. ET Thursday at CNN studios in New York, Soledad O'Brien is hosting a town hall meeting called "Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America." The special will air at 8 p.m. ET Friday on CNN.

Join the conversation in a live blog of the broadcast starting at 8 p.m. ET Friday on CNN's In America blog.

By Mallory Simon, CNN

Sanford, Florida (CNN) - Nearly everyone in Sanford agrees on one thing: The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is a tragedy.
But his death has taken on a whole new meaning here, where media outlets from around the world have descended, to figure out just what happened more than a month ago when neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

This once-quiet and quaint town is now the center of a controversy that has put residents in the position of examining just what the racial undertones of the case say about their hometown. And it makes them wonder whether they will forever be known as the a place where an unarmed black kid heading home from the store with Skittles and tea was killed by a Hispanic man claiming self-defense.

For some, the case has become a rallying cry, a chance to air what they believe are years of grievances and cases of injustice between the police, the courts and the black community. For others, it has forced them to defend their town as a place that is not an inherently racist, a place where a young black man cannot be killed without consequence.

Read the full story

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