Code Switch

On a night last week when the temperature dropped to 17 degrees, Edward Brown, who's 62 and homeless, slept at the bus stop in front of the Jennings, Mo., city hall in St. Louis County.

"It was cold, very cold," he says. "It's so cold I can't really move so I kept playing with my feet — rubbing 'em, twisting 'em, trying to keep warm."

Brown's troubles started when he tried to fight the city of Jennings, and his story shows how court fines and fees can grow, turning an impoverished person's life upside down.

An investigation into a possible hate crime is underway in Rapid City, S.D., after a group of men allegedly assaulted Native American kids at a minor league hockey game. The incident angered many in the community, and racial tensions in Rapid City are running high.

On Friday, I explained what's "cringeworthy" about Sixteen Candles' Long Duk Dong, whose broken English and social ineptitude left a painful stamp on many Asian-American children of the '80s.

In a new challenge to police practices in Ferguson, Mo., a group of civil rights lawyers is suing the city over the way people are jailed when they fail to pay fines for traffic tickets and other minor offenses.

The lawsuit, filed Sunday night on the eve of the six-month anniversary of the police shooting of Michael Brown, alleges that the city violates the Constitution by jailing people without adequately considering whether they were indigent and, as a result, unable to pay.

When Randall Park realized just how big a deal Fresh Off The Boat was going to be, he got cold feet. The stakes were high for the first network sitcom in 20 years to feature an Asian-American family.

But he'd already filmed the pilot, in which he starred as family patriarch Louis Huang, a Taiwanese immigrant and firm believer in the American Dream. (The sitcom, which centers on Louis' son Eddie, begins as Louis uproots his young family from Washington, D.C., to suburban Orlando to open a steakhouse.)

One hundred years ago Sunday, the nascent film industry premiered what would go on to be its first blockbuster: The Birth of a Nation.

As the house lights dimmed and the orchestra struck up the score, a message from director D.W. Griffith flickered on the screen: "This is an historical presentation of the Civil War and Reconstruction Period, and is not meant to reflect on any race or people of today."

But its effects on race relations were devastating, and reverberations are still felt to this day.

Epic Film, Embedded Bigotry

Archivists at the Library of Congress are hard at work cataloging the papers of Rosa Parks, received on loan recently after a legal battle kept them under lock and key for the past decade.

Among the collection are a receipt for a voting booth's poll tax, postcards from Martin Luther King Jr., a datebook with the names of volunteer carpool drivers who would help blacks get to work during the Montgomery Bus Boycott and thousands of other historic documents.

Technology is always blamed for the loss of this or that traditional activity or cultural artifact. In February we take time to bemoan the waning art of letter writing, a tradition eroded away by social networks, email, typewriters, or non-quill pens — depending on the era the lamenter hails from.

In Thursday's post about failed Asian-American TV shows, I called actor Gedde Watanabe's notorious performance as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles "cringeworthy." Some of you piped up to ask, Hey, what's wrong with Long Duk Dong?

Illinois girls lag behind other states in the number that enroll in science, technology, engineering and math classes, according to a recent University of Illinois report commissioned by the Illinois State Board of Education.

In STEM courses, Illinois females represent 15 percent of the enrollments as opposed to 31 percent nationwide.

On a recent winter evening in the Bronx, a group of men and women in red-checkered shirts and dresses encircled Dr. Julie Hoffman during a ceremony. They pounded wooden drums crisscrossed with thick rope and shook maracas as they danced and sang.

The event took on a somber tone when Hoffman talked about the crisis that had brought them all together.

"Too many members of this community continue dying," she said in Spanish. "That's why I'm here. I want to work with you."

AMC's The Walking Dead holds the record for the most-watched cable television drama. If you've never seen it, it's about the zombie apocalypse and follows a group survivors trying to stay alive in Atlanta, Ga. If you're a fan — and there are millions upon millions of us out there — you know that no character is safe, and you've got a favorite character that you don't want to die.

Updated on Feb. 4 at 12:30 p.m. ET: The board of directors for the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science issued a statement on the dismissal of three social studies teachers, indicating that the school is governed by an independent nonprofit organization and regulated by the D.C. Charter School Board. Its also confirms that three teachers resigned from the university effective Jan. 27. From the statement:

The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up last weekend. For more than two decades, the festival and the Sundance Institute have been a springboard for independent filmmakers. This year, two of its darlings — Boyhood and Whiplash — are nominated for an Academy Award in the best picture category.

My parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, weren't so sure when I told them I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. "How about being a car mechanic?" they suggested gently. That is, until I informed them I was interviewing for an internship at Univision in Miami, where Jorge Ramos worked.

The TV industry is scrambling to understand the runaway success of Fox's Empire, the story of a family-run hip-hop music company that has set ratings records in its four weeks on air.

The questions, as always, are simple: Why are people drawn to this show? And how can a TV network pull it off again?

Schlosser, a retired Rantoul police lieutenant with 20 years of experience, has been director of the University of Illinois’ Police Training Institute since 2012. Among other degrees, he holds a doctorate in education from the U of I, and his studies have focused on what he calls the intersection of policing and race. This an edited, condensed version of his conversation with Managing Editor Maureen Foertsch McKinney.

Q. As an academic, I believe your research focused on the intersection of race and policing.

A summer program that provided jobs for youth in Chicago successfully reduced violent crime, according to a recent analysis.

A researcher working with the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Pennsylvania set out to determine if the city’s One Summer Plus program had an impact on crime. The program offers summer jobs and on-the-job mentoring to middle and high school students living in neighborhoods with high rates of violent crime. 

Gloria Davis addresses a Senate committee
Senate Democratic Caucus

America’s middle class faced threats to its financial well-being even prior to the Great Recession.

When Jorge Chapa was a student at the University of Chicago, he had a lab job collecting brain samples from a meatpacking plant. That’s how, in 1974, he became familiar with the industry and its bloody and backbreaking disassembly line. He revisited meatpacking 30 years later, as a sociologist. This time he analyzed it for a study showing how the once high-paying job had slid from providing a middle-class living into one paying minimum wage.

Rape Laws - Illinois Makes Major Moves Forward

Feb 1, 2015
demonstrators with signs
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Legal system makes major moves forward in its handling of sexual assault, especially in Illinois

In December, a Chicago area man was convicted of raping a woman in a hotel room following their date in 2009.

This personal account is a sidebar to the feature story Rape laws by Kristy Kennedy

Three different men sexually assaulted me when I was a sophomore in college. That was 30 years ago or so. In that time, I’ve come to re-evaluate what it means to be to be raped. And I’ve kept in mind what I can do to help protect my daughter, who at 22 is a little older than I was in the early 1980s when I was assaulted while a student at Eastern Illinois University.

Chenjerai Kumanyika, a professor at Clemson University and aspiring public radio journalist, sparked a challenging conversation with his commentary about the "whiteness" of public radio voices. We hosted a Twitter chat about his essay and invited listeners and public radio professionals to share their thoughts using #PubRadioVoice.

 The poverty rate in Illinois has held steady in recent years despite the nation’s post-Great Recession status.

That’s according to a report issued this week by the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center. The group reported that the 14.7 percent poverty rate in Illinois for the 2013 (the most recent data available for the analysis) has been unchanged since 2012. The 2011 poverty rate was slightly higher than that at 15 percent.

By now, you've surely seen Jonathan Chait's sprawling takedown of what he describes as a dangerous resurgence of political correctness in the 21st century. In his telling, a "PC culture" that flourished on college campuses in the '90s is back, stronger than ever thanks to Twitter and social media, and it's been crippling political discourse — and maybe even democracy itself.

Challenging The Whiteness Of Public Radio

Jan 29, 2015

Editor's Note: This essay originally appeared on Transom.org, with a shorter version published on BuzzFeed. Author Chenjerai Kumanyika will join Code Switch — along with African-American public radio journalists — in a Twitter chat Thursday moderated by lead blogger Gene Demby. Join Code

Dinner is served in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Mantua.

"You look like you're ready to have a great Dornsife neighborhood partnership meal! Am I right about it?" Rose Samuel-Evans asks the crowd at a free community dinner of chicken marsala and stuffed flounder hosted by Drexel University.

Samuel-Evans works in this two-story, orange-brick schoolhouse; it's one of three refurbished buildings that opened last summer north of campus as part of Drexel's Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.

When Chenjerai Kumanyika sat down to record his first public radio piece last summer, he was thrown off by his own voice.

After Miss Colombia's Paulina Vega won the Miss Universe pageant on Sunday, she was greeted with a scepter, tiara and a kiss from the first runner-up, Miss U.S.A. But even as Vega took her first steps as Miss Universe, something that was happening elsewhere on stage caught a lot of attention.

At The William Grant Still Arts Center in the West Adams neighborhood in Los Angeles, jazz superstars and comic book superheroes are gathered together — in miniature, as part of the Black Doll Show.

For the past 34 years, the center has held a doll show to showcase diverse dolls for children. The exhibit features dolls submitted by artists and collectors from around the country. This year's theme is A League Supreme: Jazz Superheroes.

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