March 29th, 2012
04:43 PM ET

'Vets Wanted?' documentary touches on veteran unemployment

Editor's note: Overseas, they fight for freedom. In America, they fight for jobs. “Voters In America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of a CNN In America documentary series on American voters. Narrated by J.R. Martinez. Re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

By David Matthews, CNN

(CNN) - The Georgia National Guard's 877th Engineering Company spent most of 2011 building bridges and clearing roads in Afghanistan. But when these soldiers returned home before Christmas, they came back to uncertainty: about half of the 877th Company was unemployed. Unlike active duty soldiers who come home to a base and a military paycheck, National Guard soldiers are expected to come back to their pre-deployment jobs. But for many National Guard soldiers, these jobs don't exist.

From Georgia and Florida, to Ohio and Alabama, National Guard units are coming back with many of their soldiers facing unemployment.  The former chief for Employment and Education Outreach for the Guard believes it is a problem the military is just now coming to grips with.  National Guard soldiers report difficulty in finding work in a tough economic climate and believe that their service puts them at a disadvantage.

Our CNN In America documentary follows the soldiers of the 877th on their journey back to their civilian lives.  After the soldiers' reunions with their families, we chronicle their search for jobs and their reconnection with loved ones.  We will be there with them as they attend job fairs and interviews, and examine the challenges facing our veterans coming home. FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Disabilities • Discrimination • Documentaries • Economy • Veterans
Racial identity becomes a guessing game - literally
CNN's David Matthews scored six out of 10 on the Guess My Race app. "Really good," the creator said.
December 22nd, 2011
05:54 PM ET

Racial identity becomes a guessing game - literally

By David Matthews, CNN

(CNN) - Though I scoff when I hear the term “post-racial America,” there are occasional glimpses we’re advancing as a culture when thorny subjects such as race can be made into games.

No, not games like “Scrabble: The Spanglish Edition", “Trivial Police Pursuit: Driving While Black,” or “Sorry: White America’s Apology Boardgame.”

But how about a game for your smart phone that lets you guess the race of a real person whose photo appears on the screen before you? This app is “Guess My Race,” and it displays pictures of real-life people who were interviewed about how they racially identify. Its creators say it has been downloaded nearly 30,000 times and is used by teachers to get students involved in discussions about race. (They created  another app, "Who Am I? Race Awareness Game" for younger kids.)

And for those that are fans of the app already, here's some good news: A second edition will be out early next year. It will include new photo examples and expanded educational information culled from the 2010 Census.

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Filed under: Black in America • Ethnicity • How we look • Race • Technology
December 17th, 2011
02:10 PM ET

Update: Married woman in same-sex couple faces deportation to Japan

When CNN met Frances Herbert and Takako Ueda this summer, they were newlyweds - legally married in Vermont - but worried that Ueda would be required to return to her native Japan.

The Defense of Marriage Act prevents the federal government from giving them any benefits, so Herbert can't sponsor Ueda for a green card.

Just this month, the government denied Ueda's application to remain in the United States.

The government sent a letter denying their application and stating that Ueda is "required to depart the United States within 30 days from the date of this decision."


December 6th, 2011
05:01 AM ET

Writer Nelson George: Hip-hop fact and fiction

Nelson George's new book, "The Plot Against Hip Hop," is a novel, but it has one foot in the real world, the one in which hip-hop exists - including characters modeled on himself, and the real Russell Simmons. But modern hip-hop is meant more to make people dance or buy products, he said. Right now, he said, hip-hop doesn't reflect the realities of its listeners.

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Filed under: Black in America • Pop culture
November 13th, 2011
11:43 AM ET

NewMe Accelerator participants: Who they are and what they create

Editor's note:  The NewMe Accelerator brought together eight black entrepreneurs for a two-month immersion in tech startup culture - a culture dominated by young males, mostly white and Asian. These six entrepreneurs participated in the accelerator. Watch how it turns out when Soledad O'Brien reports the documentary, "Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley," at 8 p.m., 11 p.m., and 2 a.m. ET on February 11 and February 12. Learn more about the NewMe founders and their companies.

CEO Tiffani Bell created Pencil You In in 2009.

Pencil You In allows hairstylists, makeup artists, nail techs and barbers to accept client appointments online.

The company is working on getting approval for an iPhone application that carries the same functions as the website, and also allows clients to upload photos of desired hairstyles and search for hairstyle ideas.

The site is up and running and currently operating without any outside funding.


An entrepreneur's journey from Oklahoma City to Silicon Valley
The startup Zippoe attended the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Silicon Valley.
November 11th, 2011
04:29 PM ET

An entrepreneur's journey from Oklahoma City to Silicon Valley

(CNN) - Michael Onaolapo took his startup, Zippoe, to one of the nation’s premier tech conferences, TechCrunch Disrupt, in Silicon Valley this year.

By all accounts, it had a successful run: It earned an audience choice award, and secured valuable seed money from an investor.

As Onaolapo looked around the crowded convention floor, he realized his company stood out for more than its real-estate-made-social concept.

“I think we were the only company there that was comprised of African-Americans,” Onaolapo said.

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Filed under: Black in America • Documentaries • Technology
November 11th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

What to know before you pitch a tech company

Business is hard, tech entrepreneur Mitch Kapor said.  And startups? Really hard.

But he's been doing this for a while, and had plenty of advice for the  NewMe Accelerator participants, whose attempt to break into the tech business are documented in "Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley." The documentary airs at 8 p.m., 11 p.m., and 2 a.m. ET on February 11 and February 12 on CNN.

Ron Conway, one of the top angel investors in Silicon Valley, offered his perspective on what he looks for in a company, too.


Heavy D, larger than life
Heavy D was "Mr. Big Stuff" on the mic.
November 10th, 2011
05:37 PM ET

Heavy D, larger than life

With Heavy D's death this week, I couldn't help but think about one of his most famous songs, "The Overweight Lover's in the House."
It was a lovable nickname that made everyone smile; people love the big jolly entertainer, right? There was nothing like seeing the big man dance, even if it was in those corny Sprite commercials.

And hip-hop is rife with large-and-in-charge rappers whose size helped catapult them to fame. For some reason, hip-hop fans gravitate to an MC who carries even more weight in life than what they carry on the mic. But it now appears that the same thing that helped make them popular, is leading to their demise.

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Filed under: Pop culture