By Maureen Jenkins, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Think Paris, and the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées and haute couture come to mind. But the City of Light also is rich in African-American history. Keeping this history alive are tour companies that share it, up close and personal, with visitors to France.
From legendary entertainer Josephine Baker to internationally acclaimed artist Henry Ossawa Tanner to World War I's ragtime-and-jazz-playing "Harlem Hellfighters," Paris has embraced African-American culture like few other places. Because of that legendary embrace - one that black folks in the States had heard about since the 1800s - Paris loomed large in their imaginations. To many who didn't always feel welcome in their native country, the city sounded like a place where they could emotionally exhale.
"It's always been about freedom for us," says Marcus Bruce, the Benjamin E. Mays Professor of Religious Studies at Bates College and author of "Henry Ossawa Tanner: A Spiritual Biography."
Legendary Harlem-born author James Baldwin, who left for Paris in 1948, said "African-Americans discover in Paris the terms by which they can define themselves. It's the freedom to work beyond the assumptions of what we can and can't do as African-Americans. It's a different rhythm and pace. We can imagine ourselves in new ways in that space."FULL STORY
By Laura Ly, Special to CNN
(CNN) - A math homework assignment that asked fourth grade students to tally the number of slaves on a ship has sparked outrage among parents and administrators in Manhattan.
The assignment was devised by another group of students, after they apparently expressed interest in the transatlantic slave trade. It required fourth graders to calculate the remainder of those not killed by a mutiny aboard the vessel, and to determine the number of times slaves were beaten in one month.
“This is really inappropriate,” student teacher Aziza Harding told CNN affiliate NY1 on Friday. “It should not be a homework assignment, and I did not want to make copies of this.”
Harding was asked to photocopy the assignment by another teacher, but refused because the questions made her uncomfortable and she thought it desensitized students to the horrors of slavery.
The first question read: "In a slave ship, there are 3,799 slaves. One day, the slaves took over the ship. 1,897 slaves are dead. How many slaves are alive?"
The second question read: "One slave got whipped five times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month (31 days)? Another slave got whipped nine times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month? How many times did the two slaves get whipped together in one month?" FULL POST
By Sheena McKenzie, CNN
(CNN) - Think of the greatest American sports stars of all time and names like Jessie Owens, Muhammad Ali and Serena Williams will likely spring to mind.
But long before these champions smashed the record books - and blazed a trail in the public's imagination - the first generation of black U.S. athletes dominated an unlikely sport.
The godfathers of Owens, Ali and Williams weren't stereotypical towering, musclebound men found on basketball courts or in boxing rings.
Instead, they were the jockeys of the race track and their dizzying success - and dramatic fall - is one of the most remarkable buried chapters in U.S. sporting history.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.
By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - Politicians and historians love to use the word "crossroads."
It's become as American, and cliched, as "Mom's apple pie." The historian Shelby Foote, wrote, "The Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. ... It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads."
I have been thinking about the word, because this year's Black History Month theme is "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington." Two pivotal events that shaped modern American history.
A "crossroads" is literally the intersection of two or more roads - two or more paths to get to the same place. Metaphorically, it refers to the place - the moment - of a critical decision. Shall we go forward together? Shall we separate? Shall we fight?
We mark history's crossroads not by road signs but by the documents that identify them. The Declaration of Independence is certainly one. Who has not memorized the opening of the second paragraph? "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."FULL STORY
By John Sinnott, CNN
(CNN) - Hardcore Italian soccer "ultra" Federico is a Lazio supporter who happily admits directing monkey chants at black players.
It is "a means to distract opposition players" says Federico, a member of the Irriducibili ("The Unbeatables") group which follows the Rome-based team.
"I am against anyone who calls me a Nazi," Federico told academic Alberto Testa, who spent time "embedded" with Lazio and Roma ultras for the book "Football, Fascism and Fandom: The UltraS of Italian Football," co-authored by Gary Armstrong.
"What I do not like is people who come to my country and commit crimes; Albanians and Romanians are destroying Rome with their camps," Federico adds.
"But I'm not a racist. One day, I was waiting in my car at the traffic lights and, as usual, there was a young female gypsy who was trying to clean the car windscreen and was asking for money.
"Suddenly municipal police officers started to mistreat the girl. I jumped out of my car and almost kicked his arse. I hate injustice."
There is nothing black and white about Italian football.FULL STORY
By Vladimir Duthiers and Adeline Chen, CNN
Harlem, New York (CNN) - At the heart of West Harlem, West Africa is buzzing.
Nestled inside one of the world's most diverse cities, over the years the thriving neighborhood of Harlem has become the hub of New York's African American community.
At the start of the 20th century, throngs of African Americans migrated from the southern United States into the big city, lured by the jobs and opportunities of urban life.
But in the last 30 years or so, another group of people decided to call Harlem home. Scores of immigrants from several francophone West African countries moved to the borough to start a new life. At the center of it all, a vibrant Senegalese community has created a new home away from home, adding their culture, fashion and tastes to Harlem's diverse mix.
Known as Little Senegal, or Le Petit Senegal, the strip of blocks around West 116th Street is packed with inviting restaurants and colorful shops, powerful reminders of life back in the homeland.
"We're the ones who built Harlem," says El Hadji Fey, vice president of the Senegalese Association of America. "When we got here, all the stores you see over here, it was absolutely nothing. We bought a lot of stores here, a lot of Senegalese businesses right here.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Michael Hung is a chef and writer living in San Francisco.
By Michael Hung , Special to CNN
(CNN) - I've had three long-term relationships in my life, all with Asian-American women.
It was never a conscious decision to date solely within my race. In most ways, those relationships were serendipitous. I'd met intelligent, loving, beautiful girls who happened to look like me. But this idea of happy coincidence, in retrospect, was only partially true.
While I never sought to date within my race exclusively, it was, admittedly, easier.
Easier in that she automatically removed her shoes at the door. Easier in that I could slurp noodles and gnaw at chicken feet unabashed. And easier on my ego, because when I asked an Asian-American girl for her phone number, she would give it. I would not be dismissed, or snickered at, or overhear, "But he's Asian," from a friend on the wing.
I attributed the difficulties of dating outside my race to external factors, social forces I'd learned about in college classes. I was subject to the model minority myth: How sexy can a calculator toting conformist be? I was castrated by the Chinese Exclusion Acts, where my own government once declared it illegal for my ancestors to enter the country I call home.
Those laws, in existence until 1943, surely pervaded public consciousness, and as such affected my love life, didn't they?
Mainstream media portrayals of Asian males -Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," William Hung on "American Idol," Hiro Nakamura, the Japanese computer engineer turned supermutant on "Heroes" - consistently cast me as a socially deficient, sexless jester.
Even the Korean pop music phenom, PSY, is known for his clownish giddy-up dance rather than his ability to croon to the ladies like Frank Sinatra.
Under these influences, how can the American public see a young Asian-American man as an object of desire? How can a young Asian-American man see himself as a sexual creature? FULL POST
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.
By Ruben Navarette, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - All those who are hoping that comprehensive immigration reform is going to happen this year - Latinos, businesses, churches, agriculture industry, law enforcement and others - are in for a rude awakening.
The trick for politicians will be to look as if they're doing something, when really they're doing nothing. But, regardless of how it looks, it's a long shot that Congress will pass immigration reform this year.
That's bad news for those who want to give the undocumented a chance to get right with the law and develop a sensible, fair and efficient policy for future immigrants. But it's good news for those who resist legalizing the undocumented because they're afraid of foreigners - either because of competition with their work ethic, or that they're changing the culture and complexion of the country.
The problem isn't just Republicans, who can't get on the same page about whether they want to be reformers. It's also Democrats, who seem to be playing the immigration reform camp for chumps.
The signs are everywhere, if you know where to look. For instance, a few days ago, a draft of President Obama's immigration reform plan was leaked. It took four years to write, and yet its key points fit on a cocktail napkin with room to spare.FULL STORY