January 21st, 2013
05:00 AM ET

'I Have A Dream': An interview with artist Kadir Nelson

Editor's note: Leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, CNN spoke with Bernice King, the civil rights leader's youngest daughter, about the the new children's book, "I Have A Dream." The images in the book were painted by award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson, whom CNN.com's In America blog interviewed last year. "Very few people are able to capture him, and I think he's done just a wonderful job here," Bernice King said of Nelson's paintings of her father. Watch the video, and read the interview with Nelson from last January below.

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) - "Most folks my age and complexion don’t speak much about the past," says the grandmotherly African-American woman who narrates "Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans," a book illustrated and written by Kadir Nelson.

The American Library Association announced Monday that "Heart and Soul" won the Coretta Scott King Book Award in the author category, and as an honor winner in the illustrator category. Last week, it was announced the book is a nominee for an NAACP Image Award for children's literature.

"Many of us are getting up in age and feel it’s time to make some things known before they are gone for good. So it’s important that you pay attention, honey, because I’m only going to tell you this story but once," the unnamed narrator says.

The narrator’s words are accompanied by Nelson's sculptural, intensely colorful illustrations, which interweave images of American history with those of her family’s struggles and triumphs in a country that only recently acknowledged their full potential as human beings.

Nelson’s book was selected among more than 100 entries for the award, which aims to promote children’s books, authors and illustrators that portray some aspect of the African-American experience. Jonda McNair, who chaired the award selection committee, said they were impressed by Nelson's marriage of the text to the illustrations.


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Filed under: Black in America • History • Literature • Who we are
May 17th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Census: Fewer white babies being born

By Stephanie Siek and Joe Sterling, CNN

(CNN)– U.S. minorities now represent more than half of America's population under the age of 1, the Census Bureau said, a historic demographic milestone with profound political, economic and social implications.

The bureau - defining a minority as anyone who is not "single race white" and "not Hispanic" - released estimates on Thursday showing that 50.4% of children younger than 1 were minorities as of July 1, 2011, up from 49.5% from the 2010 Census taken in April 2010.

"2011 is the first time the population of infants under age 1 is majority minority," said Robert Bernstein, a Census Bureau spokesman.

The latest statistics - which also count the national population younger than 5 as 49.7% minority in 2011, an increase from 49% in 2010 - portend a future of a more racially diverse America, with new and growing populations playing more important roles politically and economically in years to come, analysts say.


Engage: State scholarships not always going to the most needy
A recent study reported that more state grant dollars are given based on merit, rather than financial need.
May 15th, 2012
12:56 PM ET

Engage: State scholarships not always going to the most needy

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Report: State college aid increasingly rewarded to wealthy– The Washington Post

Opinion: Navigating Mexican-American identity as an Angeleno non-immigrant - The Los Angeles Times

'Lost' actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje creates film culled from "cultural identity crisis" he faced as a black Nigerian child raised by white British foster parents - The Guardian

Workers over 55 face tough job search ahead - The Latino Times

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Filed under: Engage
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
May 11th, 2012
10:07 AM ET

Complexity in black church reactions to Obama’s gay marriage announcement

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) – After Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. first gained wide public recognition in the mid-1950s, he made a special request to evangelist Billy Graham.

King was poised to join Graham on one of his barnstorming crusades, but would do so only on one condition. He asked Graham to publicly speak out against segregation, a request Graham declined, says San Diego State University historian Edward Blum.

“What Graham feared was losing all of his influence,” Blum says. “For him, personal salvation was primary, justice secondary. For King, justice was primary.”

After President Obama this week became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage, black clergy and churchgoers could face a similar question to the one that fractured King and Graham: Should my ideas about personal holiness trump my notion of justice?

Read the full post on CNN's Belief blog

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
Uncertainty for North Carolina same-sex couples after gay marriage vote
Voters in North Carolina approved an amendment that bans same-sex unions.
May 9th, 2012
08:01 AM ET

Uncertainty for North Carolina same-sex couples after gay marriage vote

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – Heather McIver and her partner, Suzanne Lowe, have a new item at the top of their to-do list, now that North Carolina voters have approved an amendment making marriage between a man and a woman the only legally recognized relationship in the state. They need to meet with their lawyer to see what they can do to ensure their rights as a same-sex couple and mothers of two children.

"I'm really disappointed in North Carolina, because I had this idea that we were the progressive Southern state, that of all the Southern states we wouldn’t let this happen," said McIver. "As overwhelming as the loss was, it really was a reality check for me. I feel like we’ve lived up to the Southern reputation of being ignorant bigots."

With all 100 counties reporting, 61.05% of 2.1 million voters approved Amendment One, and 38.95% voted against it, according to the State Board of Elections. About 34% of registered voters went to the polls. North Carolina is now the 31st state to enact an amendment banning same-sex marriage.

McIver and her family were featured in a photo project that highlighted the commitments between same-sex partners living in North Carolina. When In America interviewed her in April, the situations she feared most, if the amendment passed, involved what rights Lowe would have if McIver were to pass away or become incapacitated.

Those are the matters they want to consult with their lawyer about on Wednesday. McIver said she's also concerned about the message the amendment sends to their children.

"I think that it sucks that both my kids have to grow up feeling like their family isn't legitimate," McIver said.


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Filed under: 2012 Election • How we live • Politics • Race • Relationships • Sexual orientation
May 4th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

New prosthetic limbs 'celebrate' bodies, personalities instead of hiding lost limbs

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – Most people have two legs. Aimee Mullins has 28.

Mullins' 14 pairs of prosthetic legs are more than medical devices. They are wearable sculpture, secret weapons and a passport to embrace and show off the thing that makes her superficially different – the fact that she has no flesh-and-blood legs below the knee.

As a Georgetown student, Mullins was the first amputee to compete in NCAA Division I track events. She broke world records in three track and field events during the 1996 Paralympics, walked the runway for Alexander McQueen and starred in avant-garde movie “Cremaster 3.”

But she’s also at the forefront of a movement that redefines what a replacement limb can be – not a replacement for something lost, but a supplement, an enhancement. The custom-designed legs with which she broke records are modeled on the hind legs of a cheetah, and look nothing like human legs. The ones she wore on the runway are intricately carved wood. In the film, one pair was made to look as if it was made of freshly tilled earth.

“Hopefully for so many more people now, they’re getting to the heart of the journey to celebrate their body, and choosing their own identity,” Mullins said. “They don’t have to stay in that place of doubt and uncertainty and feeling like they’re ‘less than.’”


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Filed under: Disabilities • How we look
Q&A: David Pilgrim, Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia curator
A redesigned museum at Ferris State University in Michigan collects old and new racist objects.
May 3rd, 2012
01:14 PM ET

Q&A: David Pilgrim, Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia curator

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – Generations of Americans have grown up intimately acquainted with stereotypes of African-Americans, from “mammies” serving Aunt Jemima pancakes, to “Little Black Sambo” at evening story time. In between, people could use washing powder, notepads, ashtrays, tea towels, sugar bowls, swizzle sticks and tobacco marketed with images of African-Americans portrayed as not only mammies and sambos, but dimwitted jungle savages, google-eyed golliwogs, lewdly sexual Jezebels, watermelon-eating pickaninnies and lazy Stepin’ Fetchits. Racist objects were used to open beer bottles, dust lint from coats, hold doors, catch ashes from cigarettes and lure fish, especially in the early 20th century.

The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia owns thousands of items that illustrate these and other stereotypes and attitudes about African-Americans. Housed for About 15 years in a small unused classroom at Big Rapids, Michigan’s Ferris State University, it moved into a $1.3 million, 3,500-square foot campus space in April.

“I used to claim if you named an object, I could find a racist version of it,” said David Pilgrim, Ferris State University vice president for diversity and inclusion, who created and now curates the museum.

Pilgrim, a sociology professor, said he hopes that the museum can one day serve as a place where visitors can witness and deconstruct all kinds of stereotypes. The collection includes objects that denigrate women, gays and lesbians, Mexican-Americans and Native Americans.

People often criticize or question the museum, and say it's best the materials are forgotten. Museum organizers say they're sometimes accused of promoting racism. Pilgrim agrees the museum's collection is offensive, and says the problems of the present can't be analyzed without remembering the past.


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Filed under: Black in America • Discrimination • Education • History • Pop culture • Race • Who we are
Engage: NFL star's death puts spotlight on mental health issues
San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau was found dead Wednesday of an apparent suicide.
May 3rd, 2012
10:53 AM ET

Engage: NFL star's death puts spotlight on mental health issues

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Opinion: Junior Seau’s suicide should inspire dialogue about mental health - Ebony

Poll: White Catholics for Romney, Latino Catholics for Obama - Politico

Police cite transgender woman for using women’s restroom - NBCDFW.com

Ethnic communities ripe targets for political fundraising - McClatchy Newspapers

Video, prints ads showed 'Two And A Half Men' star as 'Indian' character - MTV.com

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