Editor’s Note: Eric Deggans serves as TV/media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, and is the author of "Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation," a look at how prejudice, racism and sexism fuels some elements of modern media.
By Eric Deggans, Special to CNN
(CNN) - One year after an explosion of press attention made it one of the most-covered news stories in the first half of 2012, the question seems obvious:
Has the news media learned anything about covering race issues in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting?
Considering how little attention the case garners today, it is tough to remember just 12 months ago how much journalists obsessed on this story, when unarmed, African-American teen Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in a Sanford, Florida, subdivision on Feb. 26, 2012.
For a time, it was second in coverage only to the presidential election, as Martin’s family pressed a reluctant Sanford police department and Florida prosecutors to arrest Zimmerman for fatally shooting a teenager armed only with a bag of candy and a bottle of iced tea. As condemnation of Zimmerman grew, a cadre of supporters, often in conservative media outlets, arose to decry a rush to judgment while challenging the family’s depiction of Martin as an innocent child.
Too often, news audiences seemed caught in the middle, ill-served by coverage which often seemed focused on serving the news outlet’s own priorities as much as informing the public.
Twelve months later, it may seem as if little has changed. But there are subtle lessons to be learned about the shape of modern media from the impact of the Trayvon Martin case, some that are shared in "Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation:" FULL POST
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 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: Jesse Williams is an actor/producer who plays Dr. Jackson Avery on the TV series "Grey's Anatomy." He is a Temple University graduate and former public high school teacher. Williams founded the production company, farWord Inc. and is an executive producer of "Question Bridge: Black Males." Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr. Note: This article contains offensive language.
By Jesse Williams, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Films such as "Django Unchained" carry with them an uncommonly high concentration of influence and opportunity. Due to the scarcity of diverse and inspiring representations on screen, Quentin Tarantino's latest movie casts a longer shadow than many are willing to acknowledge.
In a recent interview with UK Channel 4, Tarantino stated his goals and interpretation of the Oscar-nominated film's impact: "I've always wanted to explore slavery ... to give black American males a hero ... and revenge. ... I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they have not in 30 years."
He went on, "Violence on slaves hasn't been dealt with to the extent that I've dealt with it."
My personal biracial experience growing up on both sides of segregated hoods, suburbs and backcountry taught me a lot about the coded language and arithmetic of racism. I was often invisible when topics of race arose, the racial adoptee that you spoke honestly in front of.
I grew up hearing the candid dirt from both sides, and I studied it. The conversation was almost always influenced by something people read or saw on a screen. Media portrayals greatly affect, if not entirely construct, how we interpret "otherness." People see what they are shown, and little else.Read Jesse Williams' full column
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Published over the weekend, Emory University President James Wagner's winter message reflected on the importance of compromise in politically divided times.
The example he chose to illustrate his point, however, was rather unfortunate.
And before the weekend was over, he was apologizing for citing the so-called three-fifths compromise in which Northern and Southern states agreed to count three-fifths of the slave population for determining representation.
"A number of people have raised questions regarding part of my essay in the most recent issue of Emory Magazine," Wagner wrote in an apology posted above his original column.
"Certainly, I do not consider slavery anything but heinous, repulsive, repugnant, and inhuman," he said. "I should have stated that fact clearly in my essay. I am sorry for the hurt caused by not communicating more clearly my own beliefs. To those hurt or confused by my clumsiness and insensitivity, please forgive me." FULL POST