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December 11th, 2012
01:41 PM ET

Youths explore colorism, black identity in poetry

Editor's note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or by something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday.

(CNN) - "Who is Black in America?" explores how color affects identity. In this video, slam poets Kai Davis, Hiwot Adilow and Telia Allmond from the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement perform a poem, "Team Lightskin," about their experiences growing up as light-skinned black women.

December 11th, 2012
11:49 AM ET

Can women drive the future of the car industry?

By Felicia Taylor and Catriona Davies, CNN

(CNN) - When Grace Lieblein started her career in a car assembly plant at the age of 18, she was a rare woman in a man's world.

Today, 34 years on, she is president and managing director of General Motors, Brazil, and trying to persuade more young women to reach the top in the car industry.

Lieblein says she has "gas in my veins." She studied engineering at what was then General Motors Institute, now Kettering University, in Flint, Michigan, and has worked for the company ever since.

Before moving to Brazil, she was chief engineer for vehicles such as the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse, and then president and managing director of General Motors in Mexico.

"My feeling was always, I'm going to get in and I'm going to do the best job that I can and I will build my credibility from there," she said.

"With that attitude I was able to win over some skeptics, and for those who maybe didn't change their mind, I figured that's their problem. That is not my problem."

Despite the progress, Lieblein is still working in a male-dominated environment.

Women made up just under 21% of employees in car manufacturing in the United States, and 16% of executives and senior management, according to a 2010 Equal Opportunity Employment Commission report.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Who we are • Women
December 11th, 2012
08:05 AM ET

Jenni Rivera is mourned, but still inspires

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
 
(CNN) - Jenni Rivera is being mourned as the Diva of Banda, after the musical superstar died Sunday in a plane crash in Mexico.

She built a recording and performing career, several businesses and a devoted following - and her life was as full of the ups and the downs as any of the characters she sang about.

She was born 43 years ago in Long Beach, California, to Mexican parents Rosa and Pedro Rivera who named her Jenny Dolores Rivera Saavedra.

In an interview with CNN en Español in 2010, Rivera spoke about how she once sold cans for scrap metal and hawked music records at her family's stand at a Los Angeles flea market.

When she was just 15 and a high school student she became a mother herself, giving birth to her first child, Janney "Chiquis" Marin Rivera in 1985. She then had two more children - Jacqueline Marín Rivera and Michael Marín Rivera - with her then-husband, José Trinidad Marín.

Rivera spoke about how Marín physically abused her because while she wanted to attend college, he wanted her to quit school and be at home "cooking and cleaning." She said she grew up with four brothers so she knew how to fight back.

They divorced in 1992 when Rivera found out Marín molested their daughter, Janney, and Rivera's younger sister, Rosie. Marín was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Divorced and on welfare with three children, Rivera worked in real estate and took a second job at her father's record label, Cintas Acuario, which led to her passion and career in Regional/Banda/Norteño music.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: History • Latino in America • Who we are
Women and men are now even in the jobs recovery
Both men and women have now gained back half the jobs they lost in the financial crisis.
December 10th, 2012
05:30 PM ET

Women and men are now even in the jobs recovery

By , CNNMoney

(CNN Money) - Forget the "mancession" or the "he-covery." Men suffered the biggest job losses in the financial crisis, and also gained the most post-recession jobs.

But now, men and women have equal footing in the recovery.

As of November, both genders have gained back half the jobs they lost in the financial crisis, according to Labor Department data.

The recession hit male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing, far harder than female-dominated industries like health care and education. As a result, men lost 6.2 million jobs between early 2007 and 2010, accounting for two thirds of all the jobs lost in the crisis.

Men have since gained back 3.1 million, or roughly 50%, of all the jobs they lost. Their biggest gains have been in professional jobs, factories making long-lasting goods like autos and machinery, and retail.

Both layoffs and the recovery seem to have caught up with women later than men. By November, women gained a slight edge over men, recovering 53% of the 2.8 million jobs they lost during the financial crisis.

Their biggest gains have been in education and health care, and professional services.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Economy • How we live • Women
December 10th, 2012
01:06 PM ET

Singer, reality television star Jenni Rivera dies in plane crash

By CNN Staff

Monterrey, Mexico (CNN) - Millions of fans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are mourning the death of Jenni Rivera, whose performances of soulful ballads sold out concert halls and made the singer a household name for many.

Crews were set to resume the search Monday for Rivera's remains amid the wreckage of a plane that crashed in the remote, mountainous area in northern Mexico on Sunday.

"The plane was totally destroyed. ... It is a great tragedy," her brother, Gustavo Rivera, told CNN en Español.

Six others were killed, including the singer's publicist, lawyer and makeup artists, he said. Family members were planning to travel to Mexico on Monday as investigators work to determine what caused the crash.

The small Learjet plane that Rivera was flying in was 43 years old, the state-run Notimex news agency reported, citing the director of civil aviation for Mexico's Transportation Ministry.

Collecting evidence at the scene could take up to 10 days, Alejandro Argudin said, according to Notimex. The wreckage, which includes personal items that belonged to the singer, was spread out over an area that spans up to 300 meters (more than 320 yards), officials said.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said Monday that it was dispatching a team to help with the investigation.

Meanwhile, fans, family members and entertainers said they were devastated to learn of Rivera's death.

Flashback: Jenni Rivera reflects on her success

"The world rarely sees someone who has had such a profound impact on so many," Universal Music Group said in a statement. "From her incredibly versatile talent to the way she embraced her fans around the world, Jenni was simply incomparable. "

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Latino in America • Pop culture • Who we are
Black in America: It's not just about the color of your skin
December 9th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Black in America: It's not just about the color of your skin

Editor's Note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT Sunday, December 15.

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - What is black? Race. Culture. Consciousness. History. Heritage.

A shade darker than brown? The opposite of white?

Who is black? In America, being black has meant having African ancestry.

But not everyone fits neatly into a prototypical model of "blackness."

Scholar Yaba Blay explores the nuances of racial identity and the influences of skin color in a project called (1)ne Drop, named after a rule in the United States that once mandated that any person with "one drop of Negro blood" was black. Based on assumptions of white purity, it reflects a history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

In its colloquial definition, the rule meant that a person with a black relative from five generations ago was also considered black.

Your take on black in America

One drop was codified in the 1920 Census and became pervasive as courts ruled on it as a principle of law. It was not deemed unconstitutional until 1967.

Blay, a dark-skinned daughter of Ghanian immigrants, had always been able to clearly communicate her racial identity. But she was intrigued by those whose identity was not always apparent. Her project focuses on a diverse group of people - many of whom are mixed race - who claim blackness as their identity.

That identity is expanding in America every day. Blay's intent was to spark dialogue and see the idea of being black through a whole new lens. FULL POST

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Filed under: Black in America • Documentaries • History • How we look
December 8th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

For young Americans, what's black is gray

Editor's Note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT Sunday, December 15.

By Michelle Rozsa and Soledad O'Brien, CNN

(CNN) - Seventeen-year-old Nayo Jones has chestnut colored skin and wears her curly hair in a small Afro, but she doesn't "feel black".

“I was raised up with white people, white music, white food, so it’s not something I know,” says Jones.

She sits in a circle talking about black culture and what makes someone black in 2012, surrounded by a group of diverse teens and twenty-somethings. They grew up with a biracial president who identifies as black.  They will not have to fill out a census that demands they check just one racial box. And they are part of a generation that has a growing number of mixed-race relationships and people.

In 2010, 15 % of new marriages were between people of different races or ethnicities, double the number from 1980. Also, the number of people who self-identify as mixed race is growing.

Census: More people identify as mixed race

For Jones, who has a black mom, but was raised by her white dad, black requires a certain type of experience. She rejects identifying as black because, “It's kind of my lack of the black experience, or what other people would say is my lack of a black experience.”

Many of the 50 or so young adults in the room view race differently from their parents, and from one another. For them, race is fluid, and they get to decide their identity. FULL POST

Penn State sorority photo: Insensitive or just fun?
Chi Omega apologized for this photo after some found it offensive.
December 7th, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Penn State sorority photo: Insensitive or just fun?

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Officials at Penn State published an open letter this week about an incident that has brought the university under scrutiny once more.

Members of the university's Chi Omega sorority chapter celebrated Halloween at a Mexican-themed party. They wore sombreros and ponchos and pasted fake mustaches on their faces. They held signs that said: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign said: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."

Then they took a photo and posted it online. Outrage spread over the insensitive nature of the photo. Some said it perpetrated stereotypes and were culturally insensitive. Latino students on the Penn State campus demanded a direct apology from Chi Omega, which issued a statement of regret to the college newspaper.

The university president, the president of the board of trustees and other officials expressed their own feelings of deep disappointment.

"How any constituent groups or individuals in the university could behave with such insensitivity or unawareness is a question we must both ask and answer," they said in a letter Thursday.

"Our university is a place of learning and discovery, and there certainly are lessons to be relearned, or even discovered for the first time, from these incidents," the letter said. "The simplest of those lessons is that costumes that include blackface, or that parody or imitate a person or groups of people, are always offensive to someone. They convey either a lack of awareness about the human condition and human sensitivities or, worse yet, disdain for the thoughts, feelings, histories and experiences of others. They suggest a failure to empathize or even a failure to think. They make all of us small."

The incident comes in the wake of this year's conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. He was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. The scandal led to the dismissal of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who died only weeks later, and severe NCAA penalties against the school's storied football program.

Reaction to the Chi Omega story, however, has not all been of dismay or outrage. FULL POST

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Filed under: Diversity • Ethnicity • Latino in America • What we think
December 7th, 2012
01:48 PM ET

African slave traditions live on in U.S.

By Adeline Chen and Teo Kermeliotis, CNN

(CNN) - Along the lush sea-islands and the Atlantic coastal plains of the southern East coast of America, a distinctive group of tidewater communities has stuck together throughout the centuries, preserving its African cultural heritage and carving out a lifestyle that is uniquely its own.

The Gullah/Geechee people are direct descendants of West African slaves brought into the United States around the 1700s. They were forced to work in rice paddies, cotton fields and indigo plantations along the South Carolina-Georgia seaboard where the moist climate and fertile land were very similar to their African homelands.

After the abolition of slavery, they settled in remote villages around the coastal swath, where, thanks to their relative isolation, they formed strong communal ties and a unique culture that has endured for centuries.

"The Gullah/Geechee Nation is an extremely tightly knit community," says Chieftess Queen Quet, who was chosen to represent the Gullah/Geechee people in 2000. "It is as tightly knit as a sweet grass basket that's sewn together and as tightly knit as a cast net is sewn together - there's strength in it and that means if you pull on it, you can't just get it to break apart."

FULL STORY
Catholic Notre Dame announces services for gay students
Mia Lillis says Notre Dame failed to provide a welcoming environment for gay students.
December 7th, 2012
10:37 AM ET

Catholic Notre Dame announces services for gay students

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Mia Lillis knew that she was gay when she was 12. She felt lucky to attend a public high school in Austin, Texas, that was highly supportive and had a gay student alliance. Then she arrived at the University of Notre Dame.

She enrolled there because Notre Dame's reputation as a premier Catholic school appealed to her family. But from the very first day, Lillis was scared.

She searched for a gay and lesbian student organization. There was none. She sought out literature for gay students. Again, nothing.

"It gave me the impression that Notre Dame didn't care about queer students," said Lillis, 20. "It was pretty intimidating."

She went back in the closet. She even considered transferring. "I would say a lot of gay students think that way," she said.

But this week, Lillis celebrated after Notre Dame announced that it will create services for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, as in those who are still figuring out their sexual identity.

After a five-month review process, Notre Dame made the recommendations in a comprehensive pastoral plan that the university said is grounded in its Catholic mission.

“As articulated in the university’s ‘Spirit of Inclusion’ statement, Notre Dame’s goal remains to create and sustain a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, and I am confident that this multi-faceted, pastoral approach represents the next step in advancing our efforts toward this aspiration for our GLBTQ students," said the Rev. John Jenkins, president of the university. FULL POST

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Filed under: Discrimination • Gender • Sexual orientation • Who we are
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