Undocumented Latina makes Time 100 list
Dulce Matuz is on Time magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People in the World.
April 19th, 2012
04:52 PM ET

Undocumented Latina makes Time 100 list

By Alyse Shorland, CNN

(CNN) - This week Time Magazine released its 100 Most Influential People in the World list. Among the presidents, CEOs and entertainers was a 27-year-old activist and undocumented Latina, Dulce Matuz.

Matuz has become a public face of undocumented students. She organizes protests and has been arrested.  CNN.com profiled Matuz last year as part of its coverage leading up to the documentary "Don’t Fail Me: Education In America."


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Filed under: Ethnicity • Immigration • Latino in America • Who we are
A tale of two chefs: Marcus Samuelsson and Roblé Ali
In recent years a growing number black chefs like Roblé Ali and Marcus Samuelsson have entered the culinary industry.
February 28th, 2012
01:16 PM ET

A tale of two chefs: Marcus Samuelsson and Roblé Ali

By Alex Kellogg and Alyse Shorland, CNN

(CNN) - Marcus Samuelsson and Roblé Ali are two different chefs.

Samuelsson, 41, is an established name amongst foodies and the proprietor of Red Rooster, a renown Harlem restaurant.

Ali, 27, is an up and coming chef and animated reality-show star who works full time as an established caterer.

Samuelsson has made a name for himself embracing his identity as both a black chef and a Swedish immigrant to the United States, but younger chefs like Ali find themselves pushing back against being known simply as a “black chef.” Ali, who’s still building his brand, was frustrated when a blog author unexpectedly labeled him a “hip-hop chef.”

“Who takes you serious when you’re the hip hop chef?” said Ali. “And why am I the hip hop chef, because I’m black? I’m not break dancing.”

For decades, many African Americans were reluctant to enter a profession they associated with servitude and slavery. Cooking was reminiscent of second-class citizenship, and antiquated images of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben dominated the nation’s associations of blacks and kitchens.

“George Washington had a slave chef, as did Thomas Jefferson. It ain’t nothing new,” said Jessica Harris, a culinary scholar and the author of books on the foods of the African Diaspora. “I think that has lifted in many families, but I don’t think that it has lifted in all African-American families.”

In recent years, African Americans have begun to trickle into the field in growing numbers. FULL POST

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Filed under: Black in America • Ethnicity • Race • Who we are
January 25th, 2012
04:15 PM ET

The growing alternative to English-only education

By Alyse Shorland, CNN

(CNN) - Republicans vying for the GOP presidential nomination are debating and disagreeing about the economy and foreign policy, but they backed each other on one issue this week: the English language.

At Monday's debate in Florida, Newt Gingrich said this week he supports English as an official language of the United States: “I think it is essential to have a central language that we expect people to learn and to be able to communicate with each other in,” he said.

Mitt Romney said everyone in school should be learning in English: “English is the language of this nation,” he said. “People need to learn English to be able to be successful, to get great jobs.”

Romney, in his 2010 book, “No Apologies: the Case for American Greatness,” highlighted his support for English-only immersion in Massachusetts public schools. As governor, he led the state to pass a law against bilingual education, mandating one year of English-only transitional language instruction for anyone learning the language before moving to mainstream classrooms. California and Arizona have similar laws.

But educators across the country are trying a different approach, one that English-only advocates aren't considering: Immersion training for non-English speakers - and English speakers. Immersion has several forms, but generally means students learn their core subjects in two languages – a primary language, usually English, and a secondary language.

“What we hear is no dual language, English only,” said Tara Fortune, immersion project coordinator at the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota. “But what’s really happening is beneath the surface these programs are really growing. It’s become sexy.

“Immersion is a program that is about bilingualism, bi -literacy and multi-literacy."


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Filed under: Education • Ethnicity • How we live • Politics
January 18th, 2012
01:16 PM ET

Poll: Should felons be allowed to vote after serving their sentences?

By Alyse Shorland, CNN

(CNN) – At Monday’s Republican debate in South Carolina, candidates sparred over whether people with felony convictions should be allowed to vote.

Former Senator Rick Santorum said he supports felons regaining the right to vote after they’ve completed their sentences, and noted that felony disenfranchisement disproportionately affects black voters.

“This is a huge deal in the African-American community, because we have very high rates of incarceration, particularly with drug crimes,” he said.

Mitt Romney said as governor of Massachusetts, he disagreed: “I think people who committed violent crimes should not be allowed to vote again.”

Voting rights advocates say the argument could come up more often in the near future - with 2.3 million people currently incarcerated, states are rethinking whether the court’s punishment is enough, or if people who’ve committed felonies will continue to pay for their crimes through disenfranchisement.

Twenty-three states have eased felon voting restrictions since 1997, but in 2011, Florida and Iowa tightened them. Maine and Vermont are the only states with no disenfranchisement for people with criminal convictions.

“It’s really the first time in a while we have seen significant opposition against restoring rights,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based organization that works for criminal justice reform and advocates for voting rights.


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Filed under: Black in America • Politics • Polls • Race • Social justice • Who we are
Memories of a home run scene stealer
Hank Aaron -- and two young men -- rounded the bases after Aaron's record-breaking home run in 1974. Courtenay (l), Britt (r)
January 2nd, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Memories of a home run scene stealer

By Alyse Shorland, CNN

(CNN) - The night of April 8, 1974, Braves outfielder Hank Aaron hit home-run number 715, broke the record held by the legendary Babe Ruth and became, at that time, the home-run leader in baseball.

But two other men were enshrined in history with him – Clifford Courtenay and Britt Gaston. They were students, just 17 at the time. They leaped from their seats and bounded onto the field and ran to third base with Aaron. Images from the game show them circling the field together.

Clifford Courtenay is now Dr. Courtenay. He’s 55, an optometrist in Valdosta, Georgia. Courtenay’s life wasn’t changed by that home run almost 38 years ago. At the time, he says, he and Gaston didn’t really understand that the moment was bigger than baseball - Aaron was an MVP, All-Star and long-time Braves player, but he'd come to the Major League from the American Negro League, and still received death threats from fans who didn't want to see a black man break the Babe's record. In the moment, many weren't sure how to interpret the actions of the young white men on the field.

The guys running the bases with him were “dumb 17 year olds," Courtenay said.

Over time, Courtenay came to resent the photo as it followed him to school in Memphis, to Tucson and back to Georgia. Reporters would call him at all hours of the night and ask him the same questions, over and over.

“It wasn’t like I felt what it was like being a celebrity, but it was what it would be like to be in the fishbowl and what it would be like to be in the spotlight,” he said.

When a CNN reporter called him this time, something was different. FULL POST

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Filed under: Black in America • History • Pop culture • Who we are
On Thanksgiving, millions at risk of hunger
Saprina Gressman helps her daughter Kiara, 4, chop tomatoes in a cooking class in New York.
November 24th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

On Thanksgiving, millions at risk of hunger

New York (CNN) - Students gathered as the chef sliced tomatoes with a plastic knife in a Brooklyn public school cafeteria. Their eyes followed as she held up a slender green cylinder before the crowd of parents and kids in plastic aprons and hairnets.

"What's that?" kids shouted.

"It's a scallion. But don't eat it now," warned Leigh Armstrong, a culinary student and volunteer chef. "It doesn't taste like celery."

Armstrong was helping at Cooking Matters, a free, six-week class that teaches parents and kids how to shop for and prepare healthy, inexpensive meals. The program launched 20 years ago through the nonprofit Share our Strength, and it now serves more than 11,000 families across the country.

Most participants use or have used food stamps, free or reduced-price school lunches or food pantries to cover their nutritional needs, and almost all are still looking for ways to stretch a few ingredients into meals. The number of families that struggle to get enough food has increased in recent years.