African-American girl blazing a trail through chess
Rochelle Ballantyne moved closer to her goal of becoming the first African-American chess master in history this week.
October 26th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

African-American girl blazing a trail through chess

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

(CNN) – Rochelle Ballantyne plays chess the same way she walks through the streets of New York, determined to reach her goal without letting any obstacles slow her down.

The 17-year-old student from Brooklyn is just a few wins away from becoming the first female African-American to attain the ranking of chess master.

"I've never been the first anything so having that title next to my name is going to... it's going to feel amazing."

She crushes her opponents in a sport dominated by men.

Ballantyne grew up in a single-parent home in the working class neighborhood of East Flatbush. She first learned to play chess from her grandmother, who didn't want Rochelle's background to limit or prevent her from reaching her fullest potential. Ballantyne did not disappoint.

"When I push myself, then nothing can stop me."

Listen to the story on CNN Radio's Soundwaves blog

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Filed under: Black in America • Education • Girls • Who we are
The DNC and gay rights 40 years later
Attendees enjoy a LGBT welcoming party in Charlotte, NC on Sunday.
September 4th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

The DNC and gay rights 40 years later

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By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) – It began 40 years ago with one delegate from Buffalo. Now, at the Democratic National Convention this week, the call for a federal law recognizing same-sex marriages will become part of the party's official platform.

Madeline Davis was one of only two openly gay delegates at the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami Beach. In a ground breaking moment, she identified herself at the podium as a lesbian and asked her fellow delegates to adopt language calling for equal rights for homosexuals.

[2:29] “We’ve done so much since that. We’ve done so much picketing and so much convincing and had so many meetings and… it’s just a lifetime of work and for some reason my major feeling about this is I’m really tired. I’m really tired.”

Read the full story

The changing color of our neighborhoods
Dwayne Williams has lived in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn for 38 years. He feels gentrification is pushing him out.
July 25th, 2012
12:42 PM ET

The changing color of our neighborhoods

Listen: The changing color of our neighborhoods
By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

(CNN) – The complexion of some of America’s cities is changing. According to the last census, four of the 25 fastest gentrifying zip codes are in Brooklyn, New York. Upwardly mobile families are moving back into urban centers, reversing a trend of the 1970’s commonly called "white flight."

[:57] “To me, gentrification is when a certain group of people move into a neighborhood and they totally take it over. They bring in all their values and their lifestyle,” said Michele Payne, a long time resident of the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, NY.

Middle and upper middle class people are lured by affordable prices and an underutilized housing stock into communities within an easy commute of work centers. They are changing the dynamics of neighborhoods that were once considered unappealing because of high crime rates, low performing schools and a lack of services. According to the last census, four of the 25 fastest gentrifying zip codes are in Brooklyn, New York.

[6:39] “If you own, then you’re property has appreciated. If you rent, your rent has gone sky high. Some people who were here for 20 or 30 years have sour grapes because they rent and they resent the prosperity they see in other people coming in,” said Grant Taylor, a long time home owner in Clinton Hill.

That resentment comes from a belief that poor people are being forced out of neighborhoods by the newcomers. Rising rents and property values make it difficult for some families to stick around according to Valery Jean, Executive Director of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, or FUREE.

[4:31] “It puts families in like this weird space. So not only are families being displaced but it’s also saying in a sense that the city doesn’t value you as a human being based on your color. So in a way it has translated into what we feel is economic segregation,” said Jean.

Read the full post on CNN's Soundwaves blog 

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Filed under: Economy • History • How we live • Where we live
NYPD's ‘stop, question and frisk’ policy is racial profiling,critics say
Some say the New York Police Department's "stop, question and frisk" policy is racist.
April 3rd, 2012
04:00 AM ET

NYPD's ‘stop, question and frisk’ policy is racial profiling,critics say

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN Radio National Correspondent

New York (CNN) – Every time a cop car slows down near him, Djibril Toure worries that he’s about to be stopped and questioned. Not because he did anything wrong - the 39-year-old businessman and activist was born and raised in New York, attended Cornell University and said he’s never committed a crime.

But New York police are allowed to stop and question anyone on the street if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person was involved in illegal activity, is about to commit a crime or is carrying a gun. The policy is known as “stop, question and frisk.” Close to 700,000 of the searches took place in New York last year, a record number.

Proponents say it’s an effective tool that has contributed to a historically low murder rate in New York. Critics say it’s racial profiling. More often than not, the people stopped are black or Hispanic males, according to New York Police Department statistics.