February 16th, 2012
02:39 PM ET

BIA update: Corey Mackie

Corey Mackie was featured in CNN's first Black in America documentary series, "Black in America: The Black Man," as an African-American man who was struggling to find work. Though Corey found a job at the end of the documentary, it was barely enough to help him get by and soon after he was layed off.

That was in 2008 and now, things are looking up for Corey. See what's next for him in this Black in America update.

Keep the conversation going on Twitter with #BlackinAmerica.

‘Harlem, USA’: Black culture in the 1970s
Dawoud Bey began photographing Harlem, New York, in 1975.
February 16th, 2012
11:33 AM ET

‘Harlem, USA’: Black culture in the 1970s

A five-year photo project done by Dawoud Bey shows everyday life in Harlem during the late 1970's.

“I still visit Harlem when I am in New York," he said. "It is certainly a very different place, both physically, with hotels and condominium buildings along with lavishly restored brownstones, and demographically, with the increasing presence of non-black residents. The economic demographics continue to change also, with homes now selling for millions of dollars.”

Images were first shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem, but now the Art Institute of Chicago have taken the vintage prints and will publish the book "Harlem, USA" with Yale University press and an exhibition of the work will also open at the Art Institute of Chicago in May 2012.

View Dawoud Bey's photos here

The sweet appeal of the Nation of Islam's bean pie
Most mosques predominantly attended by African Americans will likely sell bean pies, or can advise where to get them.
February 16th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

The sweet appeal of the Nation of Islam's bean pie

Editor's note: Anthony Umrani is a CNN Senior Photojournalist based in Washington, D.C. He previously wrote about the menu at the National Museum of the American Indian.

By Anthony Umrani, CNN

(CNN) - February is Black History Month. February is also National Pie Month. What could one possibly have to do with the other, you might ask? Meet the bean pie – a sweet, delectable dessert made from navy beans.

The bean pie is a creation born out of the strict dietary code of the Nation of Islam, a religious black nationalist and social reform movement formed in the 1930s, led by Elijah Muhammad. In his book, "How To Eat To Live," Muhammad outlined a rather detailed and sometimes peculiar set of guidelines for eating, presumably designed to improve health and prolong life.

In accordance with Islamic law, pork was prohibited, but there was a list of other banned foods that could not be explained by any Islamic jurisprudence. Foods such as spinach, sweet potatoes and lima beans, which many nutritionists would agree are good healthy foods, were not allowed.

Read the full post on CNN's Eatocracy blog 

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Opinion: Stop encouraging sexual assault of our young Black and Latina girls
Several "hip-hop feminists" voiced their outrage at rapper Too $hort's recent comments.
February 15th, 2012
02:22 PM ET

Opinion: Stop encouraging sexual assault of our young Black and Latina girls

Editor’s Note: Raquel Cepeda is an award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker and author of the forthcoming book, "i, latina?: My Year of Tripping Through my Ancestral DNA, Running The Fukú Down, and Making Peace with my Dad along the Way" (Atria, Simon & Schuster). She’s currently in production on "Before I Deconstruct", a documentary exploring Latino-American identity through the eyes of teenage girls from a Bronx, NY-based suicide prevention program. Follow her on Twitter @RaquelCepeda.

On February 15, Vanessa Satten, the editor-in chief of XXL Magazine responded again to the growing furor and calls for her resignation. Read her statement here.

By Raquel Cepeda, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Here, some “fatherly advice” for middle school aged boys from one Todd Anthony Shaw: "You push her up against the wall,” and then, “You take your finger and put a little spit on it and you stick your finger in her underwear and you rub it on there and watch what happens."

No, the man isn’t a convicted child sex offender or pornographer. He isn’t a New York City teacher’s aide accused of lewd acts with a minor, either.  Shaw is Too $hort, a 45 year-old hip-hop artist who became a household name when he stepped onto the scene in the early 1980s.

So, when my dear friend and colleague, author Joan Morgan—she coined the term “hip-hop feminism” in 1999—tweeted me a link to a story in which the rapper, on XXL magazine’s website, gave boys advice on how to “turn girls out,” I thought it must have been a mistake.

Surely, something like this wouldn’t happen today.  Our aging hip-hop artists have become adults now, businessmen, television executives, stockholders, and excellent, responsible fathers like Eminem, Run-D.M.C.’s Rev. Run, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Master P, and Jay-Z.  I mean, have you heard the man rap about the euphoric rites of passage that is fatherhood on his chart-busting track “Glory”? We know better, now, don’t we?

Apparently, Too $hort and, more predictably, XXL magazine proved that I was sorely wrong.

This week, a barrage of tweets have come in from hip-hop’s literary feminists. The writer and filmmaker Dream Hampton tweeted, “There's a war on Black girls @XXLStaff let us know where they stand by posting this near-criminal @TooShort video.”  Joan Morgan tweeted under her handle, @milfinainteasy, “Really wondering why when it comes to violating the bodies and spirits of black women and children are apologies expected to be enough?”  Veteran journalist Kierna Mayo, co-founder of the multicultural women's magazine, Honey (which went out of business after being bought out by Harris Publishing, also the publisher of XXL Magazine) and current editor-in-chief at Ebony.com tweeted, “So this is why hip hop is STILL conflicting for a sis…” FULL POST

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Filed under: Age • Black in America • Gender • Latino in America • Pop culture • Race • What we think • Women
February 15th, 2012
10:46 AM ET

Opinion: Terrie Williams: We need to stop masking our pain

Editor's Note: Terrie M. Williams is the author of "Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting" and the co-founder of The Stay Strong Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter @terriewilliams.

By Terrie M. Williams, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Another one of our greats has fallen. It was only a week ago that I was moved to put pen to paper about the suicide of Don Cornelius. Now it’s Whitney Houston. This was a slow suicide, but a suicide nonetheless. We won’t know for weeks whether it was accidental, on purpose or even related to drugs at all.  But it almost doesn't matter, because most of us saw this coming.

Sure, we hoped, prayed, and thought she was going to make it through – that the years of drug and alcohol abuse, the destructive marriage, the waning career, and an increasingly impaired voice weren’t going to break our beloved soul princess. We just knew that our unbelievably gifted church girl from Jersey with the noble music pedigree was going to be alright. She was our gift to the global stage. Our Barbra Streisand. We wanted so desperately to believe her when she said in the 2009 Oprah interview that God, her family, a couple of stints in rehab, and divorcing Bobby had helped her make it through the fire and on to the other side. But in May of last year, after a world tour that garnered poor performances and vicious reviews, she voluntarily entered an outpatient program for drug and alcohol treatment. We knew then that everything was not well.

Now we want someone to blame – the enabling entourage, the music industry, the tabloids, and, indeed, Whitney herself. Why would someone with so many riches – model good looks, a voice from the heavens that made her millions, a beautiful daughter, and a loving family throw it all away just to get high? Was her constitution that weak? Why couldn’t she just snap out it? We’d seen so many other talented entertainers, like Samuel L. Jackson and Mary J. Blige, battle their demons and, seemingly, win.

I asked psychotherapist friend, Mary Pender Greene, her thoughts on Whitney’s inability to overcome her struggles even though she clearly had a strong faith in God, a loving family, and, in fact, she did seek treatment. She said, “It is clear in the end that she could not, had not repaired her damaged self, reconciled her feelings toward her failed relationship, confronted her dependency issues, or accepted that her voice had suffered. It also appears that being involved in an unhealthy relationship helped to cause her to lose her sense of self, her personal power and her footing, all of which helped to further weaken her self-esteem.”

As one who has been there and is still there, I second that emotion. The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one we will ever have. If it is strong, it can help buffer you from the outside influences and the kind of pressure that caused Whitney to fall. Personal pain obviously caused Whitney to be her own worst enemy. I strongly believe that a consistent relationship with a therapist would have allowed her to have a different ending.


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Filed under: Black in America • Health • Race • What we think
February 14th, 2012
02:19 PM ET

Opinion: Death of a diva

Editor's Note:  Sheryl Lee Ralph is a Tony award nominee for her work in the original case of Dreamgirls on Broadway. She has appeared in TV and films alongside stars such as Denzel Washington, Robert DeNiro, Whoopi Goldberg and Eddie Murphy. She is founding director of The DIVA Foundation and author of an upcoming book "Redefining DIVA," which will be released next month.

By Sheryl Lee Ralph, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Like so many others, I was stunned into shocked silence when I was told of Whitney Houston’s death. I thought about Whitney and her battles with music and misery over the years. She was so very different from when I saw her for the first time back in 1981 and said to myself, ‘oh my, that’s a “Dream”!’

I was on Broadway at the time making my mark playing Deena Jones in the original cast of Dreamgirls. We were a hit, a bonafide smash. Night after night at the Imperial Theatre, we ended every show with the kind of applause that brought people to their feet. But just up the street in a club called Sweet Water, there was a teenager doing the same thing: her name was Whitney Houston. She was as fresh and as fabulous as we were, a real life Dreamgirl who was also giving audiences moments they would never forget. I know I will never forget how in that little club, sitting with my Dreamgirls co-star Loretta Devine, we both thought, ‘Wow, this girl is the real deal.’ But just as fame came calling on us, it came for Whitney too, and it wasn’t always nice.

Everybody wants Fame, but Fame is a very difficult friend to keep. It can be like a jealous lover who wants you all to himself and when threatened, will beat you up, ruin your good looks, tear down your self-esteem and even kill you. In order to call Fame your friend, you have to have it all together. You have to be ultra-strong, solid to the core and know that God is good. Fame will build you up just to crush you down. You have got to have faith along with fame. You have got to know who you are or Fame will take you out. We have seen it happen over and over: Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse. FULL POST

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Opinion: The Whitney Houston I knew
Rev. DeForest Soaries says teen Whitney Houston, shown with her mom Cissy, turned choir rehearsal into a "praisefest."
February 13th, 2012
07:13 PM ET

Opinion: The Whitney Houston I knew

Editor’s Note: Rev. DeForest "Buster" Soaries is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. He is a former Secretary of State of New Jersey, and was featured in "Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special.” Soaries was a friend of Whitney Houston’s and has been close with her family for more than 40 years.

By Rev. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., Special to CNN

(CNN) - The year was 1977. All of northern New Jersey was thrilled because the world famous gospel singers, the Hawkins Family, had accepted my invitation to appear at a free, area-wide event. And they had agreed to sing with a mass gospel choir that would consist of 300 singers from churches in Newark and the vicinity.

When the choir first met to rehearse for the event, we realized someone would have to sing the lead part of the Hawkins’ hit song “Changed.” I turned to the choir director, who was a musician for Cissy Houston and the New Hope Baptist Church of Newark, and asked “Where’s Nippy?” He immediately summoned the teenager who had accompanied him to the rehearsal - 14-year-old Whitney “Nippy” Houston.

By the time Whitney finished singing the song, the rehearsal had been completely changed – dismantled and turned into a kind of “praisefest” and revival service. This child had invoked a level of divine inspiration that involved the kind of joyous tears and emotional shouts that were characteristic of the black religious experience. Not only did Whitney’s singing completely transform the atmosphere, but it was clear to everyone in that rehearsal that they were in the presence of an unusual talent and that they were eyewitnesses to a superstar taxiing on the runway of success and fame.


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Filed under: Black in America • History • Pop culture • Religion • What we think
Opinion: Cornel West's 'petty potshots' are beneath him
February 13th, 2012
01:28 PM ET

Opinion: Cornel West's 'petty potshots' are beneath him

Editor's Note: Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst and staff writer for Loop21.com, where she writes about national politics, candidates, and cultural issues. She writes frequently about domestic violence, sexual assault, victim blaming and gender inequality. Her writing has appeared in JET Magazine, The Huffington Post, TheRoot.com, Salon.com, and TheGrio.com.

By Zerlina Maxwell, Special to CNN

As if it were primed right on time for Black History Month, Professor Cornel West has yet again candidly expressed his true feelings on the first black president and his supporters. His target of ire this time: MSNBC host Professor Melissa Harris-Perry who Dr. West calls a “fraud.”

Dr. West’s dislike for President Obama and by extension those who support the administration is nothing new.  This time Dr. West shared his displeasure with Obama in an interview with Diverse magazine where he slammed the president yet again for what West sees as a failure to address the issue of poverty in America.

Over the past 3 years, Dr. West, once a vocal Obama supporter, has turned into one of the most vocal naysayers of not only the President’s policies but also who the president is.  Apparently unwilling to restrict his criticisms to the Obama administration, Dr. West recently singled out and implied that MSNBC hosts Reverend Al Sharpton and Dr. Harris-Perry were actually pawns of the liberal media establishment.

Last May, Professor Cornel West went “ballistic” in an interview with Truthdig.com and offered a scathing critique of President Obama calling him, a “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” This description by Dr. West was intended to be a critique on the president’s economic policies and team, namely Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and former economic advisor Lawrence Summers.

At the time, the interview inspired a response in The Nation from Dr. Harris-Perry  which then resulted in a joint interview where the two academics appeared back to back, but not head to head, to share their distinct viewpoints and political analysis on President Obama’s tenure.  Unfortunately, Dr. West’s critiques neglected to include any process analysis, where the Republican filibuster, and not President Obama’s lack of backbone or disregard for the concerns for the poor are to blame for the slow pace of change.

Dr. West appears to have held onto some angst from that dust up and in this recent interview with Diverse, called Dr. Harris-Perry a “liar” saying that, “[s]he’s become the momentary darling of liberals, but I pray for her because she's in over her head.  She's a fake and a fraud.  I was so surprised how treacherous the sister was.”  Dr. Harris-Perry is a newly minted host on MSNBC.

In defense of Dr. Harris-Perry, her MSNBC colleague Rev. Al Sharpton told TheGrio.com, West’s comments were “arrogant” and “disingenuous,” saying that “[w]e are not arguing about issues here, we’re arguing about personality.”

With this personal attack on Dr. Harris-Perry, Dr. West has officially exited the arena of intellectual jousting that normally is focused on the merits of an argument and has entered into the realm of petty pot shots. A public intellectual of his stature should be above infantile insults. FULL POST

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Singer Whitney Houston dies at 48
Whitney Houston sold more than 170 million albums, singles and videos during her career, according to her official website.
February 11th, 2012
10:39 PM ET

Singer Whitney Houston dies at 48

How will you remember Whitney Houston? Did you ever see her perform or meet her in person? Share your photos, memories and tributes and together we'll stitch together a remembrance of the legendary pop singer on iReport.

By the CNN Wire Staff

Los Angeles (CNN) - Legendary pop singer Whitney Houston was found dead Saturday at a Beverly Hills, California, hotel, officials said. She was 48.

The entertainer, whose incredible talent was discovered at an early age, was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. (6:55 p.m. ET) at the Beverly Hilton hotel despite resuscitation efforts, a police spokesman said.

Beverly Hills Police Lt. Mark Rosen said there were "no obvious signs of criminal intent" and that the cause of her death is being investigated.

Houston's bodyguard found her body, said Courtney Barnes, publicist for hip-hop artist Ray J, who was dating the pop diva.

According to her official website, Houston sold more than 170 million albums, singles and videos. But she also struggled with addiction problems over the years.

Read the full story

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In their own words: BIA entrepreneur updates
Entrepreneurs featured in CNN's documentary "Black in America: The New Promised Land - Silicon Valley."
February 11th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

In their own words: BIA entrepreneur updates

Editor's note: All eight entrepreneurs featured in CNN's documentary "Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley," wrote updates about what's happening now and what's yet to come.

"Black in America: The New Promised Land, Silicon Valley" re-airs on CNN, February 11 and 12 at 8p.m., 11 p.m., and 2a.m. ET. Keep the conversation going on Twitter with #BlackinAmerica.

Angela Benton
“To say that it’s been a whirlwind since Wayne and I decided to put together NewMe in 2011 would be an understatement. It continues to amaze me when I think about where my life has gone, both personally and professionally, in under a year.  Especially considering my life wasn’t too shabby to begin with!  Since the NewMe Accelerator wrapped up in August I decided to move my family to Silicon Valley so that working on NewMe would be more manageable.

The number of opportunities that have been brought to the table have been nothing short of God’s work and plan.  I would have never thought that I’d get the chance to experience such a wide spectrum of my work, from visiting people and communities in the Hunter’s View neighborhood in San Francisco (probably the most Black people I’ve seen in the whole city at one time) to having engaging meetings with multi-billionaires on the future of NewMe.  You can check out a full update on what we’ve been doing on that front here.

So far the transition has been fairly smooth. There have been bumps in the road but that’s to be expected when you relocate 3,000 miles.  My kids enjoy it here so I don’t think I could have asked for anything more than that.   Right now I’m excited and focused on the new NewMe program that will begin on February 20th, as well as scaling and developing what we’ve built.... exciting times right now! :)”

Hajj Flemmings
“My start-up Gokit has pivoted and we are excited about launching in March during SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas.  Our product will allow users to create profiles and capture and share life experiences through personas. Gokit’s new direction will also feature mobile apps, for iPhone first, then Android, to enable users to curate their stories and experiences. I have also been speaking a lot in the Michigan market to audiences regarding startups and the startup economy.”

Anthony Frasier
“Since leaving the NewME house I have been on a constant grind. We released a mobile app for my start-up Playd on the iOS app store and on the Android Marketplace. I have been working on Playd day and night to deliver an experience gamers love. We are planning new iterations and I plan to reveal new partnerships soon. I also started BrickCityTech.org which is a tech meetup I co-founded based in Newark, NJ. The idea is to bring some of that same energy from Silicon Valley back to New Jersey, and we partnered with New Jersey Institute of Technology to help us make that a reality. People have been asking me if I will move to Silicon Valley since the airing of the show. My answer: eventually. When I came home I had to establish something here, and right now that is where my focus is. Of course I'll still be flying back and forth, and I hope to be fortunate enough someday to have a home in both locations. I told Soledad I wouldn't leave my city empty handed, and I meant it.”

Pius Uzamere
“In January, our start-up BeCouply launched a new subscription service called BeCouply Dates that sends couples on amazing dates every month. So far, the service has gotten rave reviews from our first San Francisco subscribers and we've got hundreds of couples on the waiting list across the country. In addition, several thousand couples are on the waiting list for the iPhone app that we'll be launching in the next few months. Finally, we closed additional venture capital funding in January.”

Hank Williams
“Since the documentary aired, my start-up Kloudco is still in private testing. We have been testing for both bugs and user satisfaction. In the process we have refined the Kloudco feature set and look and feel based on user feedback and are now pretty excited because we think we have nailed the product experience. The underlying technology is much more complex than a typical website because of the volume of data we are designed to manage, so our next steps involve simulations with more data, and testing with larger numbers of users before opening the doors to the public.”

Wayne Sutton
“After the first NewMe Accelerator cycle ended, I returned home to Raleigh, North Carolina. I spent time reflecting on what I could have done better to take advantage of the NewMe opportunity. After a brief hiatus and family time I decided to buckle down and work on my web design and coding skills, along with working with Angela to keep the vision of the NewMe Accelerator going. Soon after that, I realized to achieve my startup dreams, it was best for me to relocate to San Francisco, California. I'm now living in San Francisco, working on both NewMe Accelerator and NewMe Community projects and getting ready for a new set of entrepreneurs to join the NewMe Accelerator.”

Tiffani Bell
“My start-up Pencil You In is currently in the process of releasing its iPhone, iPad, and Android apps. With a new developer onboard, the company is now helping stylists and barbers in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia to accept appointments online.”

Crisson Jno-Charles
“Our start-up Fetchmob is being re-designed to cater to less well-defined communities. The next major release will occur next month.”

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