January 24th, 2012
02:38 PM ET

Lesbian couple fights to change adoption laws

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Michigan on Monday could change the way the state laws consider same-sex couples with adopted children, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported. Current law allows only one parent to adopt kids, but if something happens to that parent, the other partner has no parental rights - they can't sign for the kids' medical care, and the kids don't have the same inheritance rights or rights to social security disability or health insurance.

April Deboer and Jayne Rowse have raised three children since birth, but state laws allows only one of them to be each child's legal parent.

 “Michigan has some of the worst laws in the country for gay and lesbian parents,” says attorney Carole Stanyar, who represents the couple. “And these laws in particular are hurting families, and as we can see in this case, they’re hurting children."
Judge-drawn Texas redistricting map tossed out by Supreme Court
January 20th, 2012
01:12 PM ET

Judge-drawn Texas redistricting map tossed out by Supreme Court

By  Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court has tossed out the Texas redistricting map for congressional and legislative seats drawn up a federal court, giving a partial victory to GOP lawmakers.

In an unsigned opinion issued just 11 days after holding oral arguments, the justices said a revised map that differed greatly from the one created by the legislature used ambiguous standards.

"To the extent the [federal] District Court exceeded its mission to draw interim maps that do not violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act, and substituted its own concept of 'the collective public good' for the Texas Legislature's determination of which policies serve 'the interests of the citizens of Texas,' the [district] court erred," said the Supreme Court ruling Friday.

At issue are competing maps for the Texas state legislative and congressional districts – created first by Republican lawmakers that favored their political base, and later by a federal judicial panel to give minorities greater voting power.

The court-drawn map was imposed after Democrats and minority groups in Texas challenged the original plan approved by the GOP-led state legislature.

Read the full post on CNN's Political Ticker blog

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Singing legend Etta James dies at 73
The powerhouse singer known as "Miss Peaches" died on Friday.
January 20th, 2012
11:37 AM ET

Singing legend Etta James dies at 73

Was "At Last" your wedding song, your favorite song, "your song?" Share your memories of James' most famous song on iReport.

By Todd Leopold, CNN

(CNN) - Etta James, whose assertive, earthy voice lit up such hits as "The Wallflower" "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and the wedding favorite "At Last," has died, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon. She was 73 and had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2010.

James, who also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C, died at a hopsital in Riverside, California.

The powerhouse singer, known as "Miss Peaches," lived an eventful life. She first hit the charts as a teenager, taking "The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)" - an "answer record" to Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie" - to No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1955. She joined Chess Records in 1960 and had a string of R&B and pop hits, many with lush string arrangements. After a mid-decade fade, she re-emerged in 1967 with a more hard-edged, soulful sound.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Black in America • History • How we live • Pop culture
January 11th, 2012
04:28 PM ET

Hip-hop that helps kids stay out of trouble

By Gabe Ramirez, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - For a few hours a week in a community center in downtown's Rampart area, high school kids are learning to make music without any of the instruments in the typical school orchestra. Instead, they generate beats on computers and tunes they can use live shows at the center, or maybe on an album.

This is Sessions LA, an after-school activity guided by Patrick Huang, a 30-year-old Chinese-American man also known as DJ Phatrick.


Opinion: 'Chinglish' playwright: Overcome language barriers and laugh together
David Henry Hwang's parents grew up in China, but raised their kids "100% American."
December 27th, 2011
08:46 AM ET

Opinion: 'Chinglish' playwright: Overcome language barriers and laugh together

Editor's note:  David Henry Hwang’s plays include "M. Butterfly" (1988 Tony Award, 1989 Pulitzer Prize Finalist), "Golden Child" (1998 Tony Award nomination, 1997 OBIE Award), "Yellow Face" (2008 OBIE Award, 2008 Pulitzer Prize Finalist), FOB (1981 OBIE Award), "The Dance and the Railroad" (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), "Family Devotions" (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination) and "Bondage." "Chinglish" is a comedy about miscommunication.

By David Henry Hwang

As a kid,  China was almost as mysterious to me as to my non-Asian friends. I’m a first-generation Chinese-American baby boomer born and raised in Los Angeles. My immigrant parents chose to raise their children as 100% American. We didn’t practice Chinese customs; I never even knew the date of Chinese New Year. Because they spoke different Chinese dialects, it was easier for my parents to communicate in English, so my sisters and I grew up as typical monolingual Americans.

I thought of my ethnicity as nothing more than an interesting detail - like having red hair. Still, if I knew a particular movie or TV program was going to feature Asian characters, I would go out of my way not to watch it. I somehow knew the portrayal would be demeaning, embarrassing, and leave me feeling “icky.”

I started writing plays in college with no intention of telling Chinese or Asian-American stories. As I learned to create more from my unconscious, however, they started appearing on my page. Clearly, some part of me was extremely interested in my ethnicity, but my conscious mind hadn’t figured that out yet. Even when I turned to writing Asian-American plays, however, my emphasis remained on being American. We were tired of being perpetual foreigners; one’s forbears might have arrived in this country two or three generations ago, but people would still say to us, “Oh, you speak such good English!” FULL POST

December 23rd, 2011
02:48 PM ET

'Undocumented' play reveals immigrants' hidden lives

Kat Chua wrote the play "Undocumented," about the experiences of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It was inspired by a project she worked on as a student at New York University - and her own story. Chua was born in the Philippines, and brought to New York at age 8.

Although the play's characters think the DREAM Act could change their futures, the play isn't really about the legislation, Chua said.

"It's not about one solution fixing everything," she said. "It's about the fact that there is a population of the country, of this world, that isn't represented, that is trying to obtain rights."

December 22nd, 2011
11:30 AM ET

Lenny Kravitz: Growing up with racism

Musician Lenny Kravitz grew up in a house with a white father - TV producer Sy Kravitz - and a black mother, actress Roxie Roker, who played half an inter-racial couple on the 1970s show "The Jeffersons."

"Kids used to call me 'zebra' or 'panda' ... my mother was 'Mrs. Night' and my father was 'Mr. Day,'" Lenny Kravitz told Piers Morgan, "but it never bothered me."

But there's no question, Kravitz said, that race relations in the United States have improved.

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Justice Department: East Haven, Connecticut, police targeted Latinos
The U.S. Department of Justice accused the East Haven police in Connecticut discrimination against Latinos.
December 20th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

Justice Department: East Haven, Connecticut, police targeted Latinos

By Kiran Khalid, CNN

New York (CNN) - In a scathing report, the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday accused the East Haven Police Department  in Connecticut of engaging in a pattern of widespread discrimination against Latinos in violation of the Constitution and federal law.

"We find that EHPD engages in discriminatory policing against Latinos, including but not limited to targeting Latinos for discriminatory traffic enforcement, treating Latino drivers more harshly than non-Latino drivers after a traffic stop, and intentionally and woefully failing to design and implement internal systems of control that would identify, track, and prevent such misconduct," Assistant Attorney General Thomas J. Perez wrote in a 23-page letter to the East Haven mayor, detailing the results of a two-year investigation.


Little boxes? Not quite - see what makes these all-American suburbs stand out
There's something you don't see in every suburb: the birth home of President Richard Nixon.
December 19th, 2011
04:57 PM ET

Little boxes? Not quite - see what makes these all-American suburbs stand out

Editor's note: This is part of a series of stories about the changing American suburbs.

By Rachel Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Ah, the suburban stereotype: The houses that look the same, the big box stores that look the same, the cul-de-sacs that look, well ... the same.

But according to CNN iReporters, the cliché isn't entirely accurate. Almost every suburb has something that makes it a little different or special, from a beloved restaurant to a historical landmark.

Take Kathi Cordsen, who lives in Fullerton, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. She can drive about seven miles from her home and be at President Richard Nixon's birthplace. It's an unassuming little white bungalow that's technically in Yorba Linda, California - another L.A. 'burb. It's so unassuming, in fact, that Cordsen at first didn't believe it was actually Nixon's home.

"It doesn't look like it did when I moved into this neighborhood 22 years ago," she said. "It was actually falling apart and in shambles. I met the people that were living in it because they used to have garage sales there. They told me the story about the house but I didn't really believe them until someone decided to fix it up and put a library next to it."

The house and adjoining property are now home to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.


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December 19th, 2011
03:13 PM ET

Poll: Would you pay more to get a toy of a specific race?

Niaira Taylor's daughter wants a Baby Alive doll for Christmas, so she stopped at a Toys 'R' Us outside Atlanta to buy the doll. On the shelf, though, she saw that the white doll was $31.99. The black doll - the one her daughter wanted - was $44.99.

The dolls are identical except for their skin colors - Baby Alive dolls are available in skin tones listed as white, African-American and Hispanic.

"The manager, she said, 'Yeah, it's only the Caucasian doll that's 20% off,'" Taylor told CNN affiliate WXIA 11Alive. "So I said 'You mean to tell me I have to pay full price for the African-American doll, but they're all the same exact doll?'"

The answer: Yes.


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Filed under: Black in America • Economy • Ethnicity • How we live • Polls • Race
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