Evolving In America
June 27th, 2013
12:00 PM ET

Evolving In America

Dear readers,

The In America blog began in November 2011, focusing on the untold, the nuanced and diverse stories of identity. We are proud and grateful that the blog quickly became a trusted place for news and insights about race, ethnicity, gender and culture.

We did it by covering the demographic changes happening right before our eyes, the ‘gayest’ U.S. city, the social media firestorm over Olympian Gabby Douglas' hair and more.

Now, our award-winning blog is expanding its coverage and audience beyond the confines of this space.

While we are archiving the blog, we will continue to focus on identity as a beat. Look for topical stories that delve into the people, places and perspectives that define us in the Living section, and throughout CNN.com.

We welcome your comments on our website, Facebook and Twitter, so keep the conversation going. We’ll be listening to what you have to say.

All the very best,

Alicia W. Stewart
Editor, In America

Chelsea Clinton: We can make a difference
First lady Michelle Obama helps paint a bench at a service event. She and her family will be participating in National Service Day.
January 15th, 2013
02:00 PM ET

Chelsea Clinton: We can make a difference

Editor's note: Chelsea Clinton works with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative and serves on the boards of both organizations. She is a special correspondent for NBC News and also serves on the boards of the School of American Ballet, Common Sense Media and the Weill Cornell Medical College. She and her husband, Marc, live in New York City.

By Chelsea Clinton, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I'm proud to be the honorary chair of the National Day of Service happening this Saturday, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and legacy. It's the perfect way to kick off the inauguration weekend because anyone can participate, and we know that when we work together, we will achieve more than one person could on his or her own.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, members of Congress and their families will be rolling up their sleeves at service projects in our nation's capital. But you don't have to be in Washington to get involved. From repairing fire-damaged homes in Colorado and cleaning sidewalks in Detroit to spending time with children with disabilities in New Orleans, every state will offer opportunities to volunteer.

All these projects have one big thing in common: They're making a community, our country and our world better. That's part of what makes service special. Whether it's volunteering time, skills, ideas or resources, we all can make a difference.

When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents taught me that engaging in service, helping our neighbors and building strong communities are all part of being a good citizen and a good person.

My grandmothers, Virginia and Dorothy, embodied that conviction.

Read Clinton's full column

Filed under: Community • What we think
Opinion: The forgotten victims of gun violence
The writers say America's inner cities suffer an epidemic of gun killings. The young are particularly vulnerable.
December 26th, 2012
03:01 PM ET

Opinion: The forgotten victims of gun violence

Editor's note: Bassam Gergi is studying for a master's degree in comparative government at St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he is also a Dahrendorf Scholar. Ali Breland studies philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.

By Bassam Gergi and Ali Breland, Special to CNN

(CNN) - On the Sunday after the Newtown massacre, President Barack Obama traveled to Connecticut to comfort the grieving community. As the president offered what he could to the town, other American communities, in less visible ways, were grappling with their own menace of violence.

In Camden, New Jersey - a city that has already suffered 65 violent deaths in 2012 , surpassing the previous record of 58 violent deaths set in 1995 - 50 people turned out, some bearing white crosses, to mourn a homeless woman known affectionately as the "cat lady" who was stabbed to death (50 of the deaths so far this year resulted from gunshot wounds.)

In Philadelphia, on the same Sunday, city leaders came together at a roundtable to discuss their own epidemic of gun violence; the year-to-date total of homicides is 322. Last year, 324 were killed. Of those victims, 154 were 25 or younger. A councilman at the roundtable asked, "How come as a city we're not in an outrage? How come we're not approaching this from a crisis standpoint?"

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Filed under: Black in America • Community • How we live • Poverty • Where we live
After offensive photo, Penn State students plan silent march
December 13th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

After offensive photo, Penn State students plan silent march

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Just two weeks after Chi Omega’s controversial party photo surfaced on Facebook, students at Penn State are planning a silent march today, hoping to increase Latino recruitment and retention.

The sorority members celebrated Halloween with a Mexican-themed party wearing 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."

The university president, the president of the board of trustees and other officials expressed deep disappointment and Chi Omega put its Penn State chapter on probation.

Members of the Latino community were outraged  by the photo with comments like this one from Liz Martinez on Twitter: “So many frats and sororities think it's ok to perpetuate stereotypes. It isn't.”

March organizer Manuel Figueroa said the march is not being organized in response to the Chi Omega photo. The march will be led by the Penn State University For All Student Equality, a student organization whose goal it is denounce all forms of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia and seeks to draw attention to social inequality.

“The incident definitely served as a catalyst for all this but it’s not the reason we are doing it,” said Figueroa. “There are grievances to a larger issue that we believe the university should take up.”

The Mexican American Student Association (MASA) will not be participating in the march and instead plans to work with Penn State President Rodney Erickson and university officials to bring awareness and change to the campus environment.

The organization would rather "not make this issue a larger one,” said Roberto Hernandez, president of the Mexican student group. “We are hoping to expand the Latino Studies program into a department. We are working with faculty on that.”

In a statement, MASA said:  “We ...  urge the university to reassert its commitment to ethnic and racial diversity. We hope that the university exercises its stated commitment to diversity. We look forward to working with the campus community in reaching these goals."

Students who are marching plan to peacefully walk through the campus in a silent, single-line manner.

Hispanic students make up 5% of the 45,351 undergraduate and graduate population on campus, according to the fall 2012 enrollment data.

Figueroa said they expect at least 50 students to participate.

Erickson commended the student movement to combat the issue, reported the The Daily Collegian.

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Filed under: Community • Diversity • Ethnicity • How we look • Immigration • Latino in America
August 28th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Neighborhood still bearing Katrina's wounds awaits Isaac

By Vivian Kuo, CNN

(CNN) - The 30-mile stretch between Biloxi and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is still dotted with battle wounds from Hurricane Katrina seven years later.

Concrete slabs and steps that lead to nothing but trash and overgrown weeds are all that is left of historic brick homes.

But amid the slabs are majestic homes with grand, sweeping porches and perfectly manicured lawns.

The owners of these homes are as tough and resilient as only survivors of one of the deadliest storms in history could be.

State-by-state: Isaac evacuations, delays

Lifelong Bay St. Louis resident Corky Hadden lives on the spot of his childhood home, set off the water where the bay feeds into the Gulf of Mexico.

While he and his family evacuated to safety inland, Katrina's ravaging storm surge swept the house right off its stilts, leaving only the foundation intact.

"We had some old columns that the old house stood on, and those columns were picked clean, there was nothing left on them," he said.

Determined, Hadden rebuilt where his boyhood home once stood, both stronger and higher.

"I've got poured concrete pillars filled with steel, 10 times more steel than before," he said. "We're now 24 feet above sea level, 11 feet from the ground."

Isaac could bring in a 12-foot storm surge, which would mean Hadden's first floor could take on some water.

"We don't have anything important below that 24-foot elevation," he said.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Community • History • Where we live
June 23rd, 2012
06:00 AM ET

On 25th anniversary, a quilt displays an American tragedy

By Moni Basu, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - Gert McMullin scurries about a cluttered storage space, keeping track of the thousands of pieces of folded fabric plucked off metal shelves and packed into blue cardboard containers for their journey to the nation's capital.

The cloth panels are part of a quilt that has been her life these 25 years, since she began piecing together an American tragedy.

In the early days, McMullin, 57, sewed her mailing address into the panels she made in memory of friends who died. She thought they would be returned to her once America defeated AIDS.

She did not anticipate that a quarter century later, the AIDS Memorial Quilt, now 48,000 panels-strong, would still be growing.

The AIDS Quilt, and hoping for 'The Last One'

A new panel comes in almost every day to The Names Project Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that serves as the quilt's custodian.

On this bittersweet anniversary, the quilt will again be displayed in Washington, as it first was in 1987.

It's now believed to be the largest piece of folk art in the world. At a one-minute glance per panel, it would take a full 33 days to view the quilt in its entirety.


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Filed under: Audio • Community • Health • How we live • Sexual orientation
Who's a Native American? It's complicated
Claiming Native American ancestry is one thing, but claiming tribal citizenship is another.
May 14th, 2012
02:07 PM ET

Who's a Native American? It's complicated

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – The recent controversy over Massachusetts congressional candidate Elizabeth Warren's Native American ancestry, where the campaign of her opponent for a senate seat called for her to release documents claiming her Cherokee ancestry, has caused some to ask: What makes someone "legitimately" Native American? And who gets to make that determination?

"Fundamentally, it's the tribe’s right to determine who its citizens are and are not. If we don't know (whether someone is American Indian), we can ask the tribe," said Julia Good Fox, professor of American Indian Studies at Haskell Indian Nations University.

Good Fox furthermore points out that citizenship is distinct from ancestry. Tribes have the sovereign right to determine who is and isn't a citizen, just as France and the United States have their own rules about citizenship. Anyone can claim ancestry, but those who do so can't always claim citizenship, Good Fox said.

Determining who is and isn't a member of a tribe can be complicated, and the answers don’t always come in a binary form of "yes" or "no." Part of the reason such determinations can be controversial is because tribes' own rules for establishing membership can vary widely. FULL POST

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Filed under: Community • Language • Native Americans • Race • Who we are
Foreign-born population in U.S. higher than ever
Immigrants wave flags after being sworn in as U.S. citizens in naturalization ceremonies in Pomona, California.
May 10th, 2012
10:25 PM ET

Foreign-born population in U.S. higher than ever

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – The United States is becoming increasingly international, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau  in the 2010 American Community Survey Thursday.

The number of foreign-born people in the United States is at an all-time high, at 40 million - an increase of about 9 million since the 2000 census. The 2010 census put the total U.S. population at almost 309 million.

But the foreign born comprise a smaller proportion of the total population (13%) than they did during the peak immigration years of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The 2010 American Community Survey also reveals that more than half of the nation’s foreign-born population lives in just four states: California, New York, Texas and Florida. FULL POST

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Filed under: Census • Community • Ethnicity • Immigration • Latino in America • Who we are
Opinion: Recommitting to Dr. King’s nonviolent teaching
Jared Loggins refers to MLK's nonviolent approach to change saying it is more than marching, " Nonviolence is an attitude."
April 12th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Opinion: Recommitting to Dr. King’s nonviolent teaching

Editor’s Note: Jared Loggins is a Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Scholar and political science major at Morehouse College.

By Jared Loggins, Special to CNN

(CNN) - As an entire nation marked the anniversary of the slaying of civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last week, members of the Morehouse College community came together not just to celebrate the life of a man, but to mark the continuance of the nonviolent revolution Dr. King helped to promulgate .

As we all continue to further develop our understanding of what it means to live in a truly peaceful and nonviolent world, we must do so even amidst a culture of racism, militarism and materialism. As costly wars rage around us; as weaponless young black men are killed for appearing “suspicious,” and even as society continues to drown in material wealth, we must still find a way to move toward living in what Dr. King called “the beloved community.”

This community must be one that embodies multiculturalism; it must look beyond the hue of one’s skin; and it must cease accepting laws that directly conflict with the foundation of America.

Read the full post on CNN's Schools of Thought blog

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Filed under: Black in America • Community • History • Race • What we think
Same-sex couples in North Carolina prepare for marriage vote
Kelli Evans and Karen Wade were photographed with their triplets for Commitment NC.
April 11th, 2012
09:42 AM ET

Same-sex couples in North Carolina prepare for marriage vote

Editor's note: See more images from Justin Cook's Commitment NC project on CNN Photos.

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – Despite long-term relationships, shared children and steadfastness to each other in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, same-sex couples like Heather McIver and Suzanne Lowe, Kelli Evans and Karen Wade, and J. Wesley Thompson and Trey Owen know that their commitments could be invalidated with enough ballots. They live in North Carolina, which will be conducting a referendum on gay marriage next month.

On May 8, voters in North Carolina will head to the polls to vote on Amendment 1, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would define "marriage between one man and one woman" as "the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized." According to same-sex marriage advocacy group Marriage Equality, North Carolina is one of 20 states that are considering whether to allow or ban same-sex relationships. Twenty-one states recognize some form of same-sex relationships, either as marriage, civil union or domestic partnership. Thirty states ban same-sex marriage by law, constitutional amendment or both.

Each of the above couples participated in Commitment NC , a documentary photo project that aims to show the faces of the families that would be affected by passage of Amendment 1. It’s the brainchild of Justin Cook, an independent photographer based in Durham, North Carolina, who says he wanted to show the "real love and real lives" of gay and lesbian couples. Commitment NC has also grown to include images and stories from a similar project, Love for All, by another group of photographers capturing the lives of unmarried couples, gay and straight.


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Filed under: Community • Family • Politics • Relationships • Religion • Sexual orientation • What we think
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