Opinion: Online anonymity is the new robe and hood of hatred
"With a few keystrokes, people have allowed the hate in their heart to reveal itself," Tangela Ekhoff writes.
April 17th, 2012
03:04 PM ET

Opinion: Online anonymity is the new robe and hood of hatred

Editor's Note: Tangela Ekhoff is an inspirational speaker and ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. She blogs about marriage, motherhood and life in Oklahoma at Homegirl on the Range, and has written for CNN's Belief blog.

By Tangela Ekhoff, Special to CNN

(CNN) - On a hot, steamy summer day, when I was 10 or 11, my mama and I rode downtown to do a little shopping. As we got off the bus, I looked up the street toward the Alabama capitol. In the distance, I could see a gathering of people. Glimmers of white dotted the crowd like cotton on the side of a dusty road.

After we finished, we got a couple of cold Cokes to go. My mother was uneasy that day.

"We need to hurry up and get home before something bad happens,” she said.

As we got on the bus and headed up the street, I could see more clearly. It was a Ku Klux Klan rally. I looked out the window and right outside the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Rev. Martin Luther King's voice became the sound of movement, there was a grown man and a little boy of maybe 5 or 6. They both wore matching white robes and hoods on their heads so you couldn't make out their faces. The little boy looked me square in the eye, gave me the finger, and screamed "Dirty N-–." The man patted the boy on the back and laughed out loud. This wasn't 1955. It was 1979 or 1980.


Opinion: Why the huge interest in the 1940 U.S. Census?
Census Bureau employees process microfilm records, circa 1940 -- now, the records are online.
April 9th, 2012
04:08 PM ET

Opinion: Why the huge interest in the 1940 U.S. Census?

Editor's note: Michael S. Snow is a historian on the history staff of the U.S. Census Bureau.

(CNN) - A reporter last week asked me if many people cared about the release of individual records from the 1940 Census. "Are they just a historic relic?" was the followup from someone else unimpressed that the general public would finally have access to more than 100 million census records locked away for 72 years.

Americans answered those questions loud and clear. The National Archives and Records Administration website housing 1940 Census records registered over 60 million hits in just three hours on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, the second day they were open. The outpouring of demand for such information calls on us to examine what is driving it.

The individual records help Americans gain a greater sense of who our ancestors were and with it an understanding of the blood that runs through our own veins. Each image from the 1940 Census is a lined page called a population schedule, containing the records of up to 40 individuals.

They might not look like much - the penmanship of 123,000 census takers varied, the cursive may be hard to read, ink from fountain pens ran too light on some letters. One line on a 1940 Census record, however, has the power to confirm a family legend we have heard for years, or it can make us confront a troubling truth buried long ago.

Read Snow's full column

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Filed under: Census • History • Technology • Who we are
April 5th, 2012
03:14 PM ET

Google's Marissa Mayer: Passion is a gender-neutralizing force

By Felicia Taylor, CNN

Mountain View, United States (CNN) - Google "Marissa Mayer" and the first key words that come up are "net worth" and "salary" - terms that reflect her fame as one of the world's most powerful women.

Mayer joined internet giant Google as a 24-year-old in 1999; one of the company's first 20 hires and its first female engineer. In 2010, she moved from heading up Search Products and User Experience to become VP of Local, Maps and Localization Services, the company's next key growth area.

Mayer prides herself on being able to pick trends, both on and offline. "Back in about 2003, I correctly called cupcakes as a major trend. It was a business prediction, but it's been widely interpreted as [that] I just like them. (Truth is, there's other sweets I like far more, like vanilla fudge)."

Read the full story

After 72-year wait, 1940 U.S. Census records released online
A "Test Census" taker prepared for the 1940 door-to-door Census in South Bend, Indiana, in 1939.
April 2nd, 2012
02:35 PM ET

After 72-year wait, 1940 U.S. Census records released online

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) - Personal, historic details of more than 132 million people were released online through the 1940 Census Monday, providing the public with free access to a slice of American history.

The National Archives and Records Administration unlocked the records after a mandatory 72-year waiting period and released more than 3.8 million digital images in collaboration with Archives.com.

Earlier Census records were made available to the public, but not all of them are searchable online free of charge, said Megan Smolenyak, family history advisor at Archives.com. Monday's release marks the first time researchers, genealogists and history hunters can find detailed records online in one place for free.

The 1940 Census was conducted as the Great Depression was winding down and before the country’s entry into World War II, reflecting the economic tumult of the era and the New Deal recovery program of the 1930s.

See more LIFE magazine photos of 'test' Census takers preparing for 1940

"The 1940 set is really special because of the time it captures, which was so pivotal in American history," Smolenyak said. "It's not only for people seeking information about their families; for people 72 and older it provides a snapshot into their early lives."


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Filed under: Census • History • Technology • Who we are
'Fatshion' bloggers find beauty in all sizes
Designer Angela Zampell says her Mode Merr line is for "stylish women from xxs-xxxl."
April 2nd, 2012
10:30 AM ET

'Fatshion' bloggers find beauty in all sizes

Editor's note: This is the fifth part of a six-week series on the perceptions of beauty. Last week, we looked at body image issues among men. Next week, we'll look at beauty across cultures.

For more on beauty and self-acceptance, read Kat Kinsman's essay, "Learning to love my big nose."

By Kat Kinsman, CNN

(CNN) - Lesley Kinzel is not a size zero. She's not a size 6 or 16 either. She wears a U.S. size 26, has no plans to change that and she'd be more than happy to share her style advice with you.

Kinzel, a 35-year-old associate editor at xoJane.com and author of the upcoming "Two Whole Cakes," is part of an increasingly popular online movement that celebrates fashion for larger women - without a tent dress or body-camouflaging cardigan in sight. The authors of so-called "fatshion" blogs - with names like Fat Girls Like Nice Clothes Too, Manolo for the Big Girl, Curves to Kill and Thicker Than Your Average Girl - seek to send an empowering message to their plus-sized sisters: We're here, we're fat, we look just fabulous - and you can, too.

"Fat" is a loaded word, often wielded as a weapon, but Kinzel hopes to lessen its power to wound.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Community • Girls • How we look • Technology • Women
March 21st, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Demands for justice in Trayvon Martin case fueled by social media

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) - Social media is fueling a rush of publicity and activism around demands for justice in the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager shot last month by a white self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman in Florida. Local police have declined to arrest the watchman, George Zimmerman.

There are more than 50 petitions at Change.org related to Trayvon Martin, according to the activism website's  Communications Director, Brianna Cayo-Cotter. She said the cause is shaping up to be one of the most popular ever hosted on the site.

"By far the largest is the one started by Martin's mother, and it is one of the most viral campaigns ever," said Cayo-Cotter. "Our tech team is working round the clock to keep the site from crashing because of the numbers of people coming the site to sign the petition that Trayvon’s mom started."

Much of that traffic is driven by links to the petitions from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, Cayo-Cotter said. The #TrayvonMartin hashtag attracted tens of thousands of mentions on Twitter, peaking Tuesday. News organizations' postings about the contents of 9-1-1 calls from the time of the Feb. 26 shooting have caused interest to pick up further. On Facebook, a group called "Justice For Trayvon Martin" has more than 18,000 "likes."


Silicon Valley's new conversation on diversity
CNN's Soledad O'Brien (left) hosted an SXSW panel discussion on the aftermath of CNN's Black in America 4 documentary.
March 20th, 2012
04:39 PM ET

Silicon Valley's new conversation on diversity

By Laurie Segall, CNNMoneyTech

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Silicon Valley's startup field is dominated by young, mostly white men from a handful of elite universities. NewMe, an accelerator program for minority-led ventures, aims to shake up the scene.

Three months after CNN's Black in America 4 aired, chronicling the stories of NewMe's first class, several of the documentary's participants reconvened at last week's South by Southwest (SXSW) gathering in Austin. In panel discussions and informal chats, they tackled the question: Has anything changed?

"I think the most important thing [the documentary] did is that it started a conversation that did not exist. That's huge," said Hank Williams, who used his time at NewMe to work on Kloudco, a cloud-based data management service.

"I don't know how much we impacted Silicon Valley, but it's starting a larger discussion around the nation," said Gokit founder Hajj Flemings. "There are a lot of people looking to make career shifts."

Read the full story on CNNMoney

Opinion: Being arrested? Yes, there's an app for that.
The groups behind "eapp" hope to have the app available for users this summer.
March 17th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Opinion: Being arrested? Yes, there's an app for that.

Editor’s note: Paromita Shah has served as Associate Director of the National Immigration Project since 2005, specializing in immigration detention and enforcement. She is a contributing author and co-presenter of the “Deportation 101” curriculum, participates in regular advocacy efforts with ICE officials, and has created an abundance of resources for communities affected by heightened immigration enforcement efforts.

By Paromita Shah, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Earlier this month, two groups that support immigrants, Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform and Respect/Respeto, jointly announced the forthcoming “eApp,” (Emergency Alert & Protection Program) a smart phone app designed to protect people’s safety and help protect them against any civil rights abuses that could occur when people are stopped in their cars for suspected immigration violations.

The app is modeled after the one created for people participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  When activated it would notify a pre-set list of people that might include family, friends, lawyers and advocates. The app will also remind users of their rights, and have the ability to record audio and video of the incident.  The groups behind “eapp” are fundraising now and hope to have it available for users this summer.

It's no surprise that the creators of this app are from Arizona, the state where SB-1070 feeds into an anti-immigrant climate leading to well-documented civil rights violations. It’s also the state where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has openly waged a decade-long ‘war’ against people he thinks are non-citizens in the name of stopping unauthorized migration. The greatest tools in his arsenal, prior to Arizona's state law, were voluntary federal programs that allowed police to stop, arrest and detain suspected non-citizens for immigration violations. The result is that SB-1070 and Sheriff Joe's actions have been hurting everyone – not just immigrants.


March 1st, 2012
09:28 AM ET

Opinion: Americans, don’t ignore Syria

Editor's note: Ahed Al Hendi is a dissident who fled his native Syria after being  imprisoned and tortured by Syrian authorities for establishing a secular student organization that was against the regime. He is now the Arabic Programs Coordinator at CyberDissidents.org, a New York-based human rights organization that highlights the voices of pro-democracy bloggers in the Middle East.

By Ahed Al Hendi, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I am a 27-year-old Syrian-American who came to the United States as a refugee.

In January 2009, I stood at the John F. Kennedy international airport in New York staring at a giant American flag.

As I examined each stripe, I thought of the long path I had traveled over the past two years to escape the tyranny of in Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Bashar al-Assad: Syria's unintended president

I said to myself that everything has an end, and in my case, a happy ending.

I told myself that Syria would never change so I should forget about it.

I was jailed and persecuted for my political views and I was tempted to just be an American and leave it all behind.

But I could not.

And the current unrest reminds me why all Americans must not forget Syria.


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Filed under: Ethnicity • Politics • Social justice • Technology • Who we are
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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Filed under: Black in America • Documentaries • Technology
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