Code Switch

When author Jacqueline Woodson was growing up in Greenville, S.C., in the '60s and '70s, she was keenly aware of segregation.

"We knew our place," Woodson tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "We knew our place was with our family. We knew where it was safest to be. There wasn't a lot of talk about the white world and what was going on in it; it didn't really have a lot to do with us, except in situations where there was the talk of resistance."

When you think about the musical Annie, what associations come to mind? Probably the song "Tomorrow," right? And Annie's bright red, curly hair? Red hair comes with its own cultural mythology. In this case, it underscores Annie's plucky, independent spirit.

As it turns out, hair is almost a character in this trailer for the new version of Annie coming out Dec. 19, says Noliwe Rooks, a professor at Cornell University. In just 2:19 minutes, you'll see three or four jokes about or references to hair.

Language advisory: Quotes in this story contain language some find offensive.


Many people are familiar with the big stories of racial integration in sports — Jackie Robinson with the Dodgers, Althea Gibson at Wimbledon. But after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many lesser-known African American athletes became "firsts" — whether they liked that distinction or not.

SNL sketch cut for time this weekend satirized Ferguson.

Anger and frustration over two recent cases where unarmed black men were killed by police brought new protests to New York City, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Miami and Cleveland this week.

On a recent Wednesday night in Ferguson, black and white community members are trying a different tactic to create change — a potluck.

At 14 or 15 years old, I was with my father when he got pulled over by a police officer. The cop, much younger than him, spoke to my dad like he was trash — I swear the cop called him boy — but my father was cool. He said "Yes sir," and "No sir" and dealt with this young cop's horrible attitude.

Now more than ever, America needs productive conversations about race, stereotyping, police, crime and social justice. And too often, our national media continues to fall short.

After many years of dissecting how race works in media, I was both disappointed and but, sadly, not surprised by much of the coverage so far. It repeats many of the same mistakes we've seen for years in how we talk about race-fueled controversies in America.

We don't have the right conversations.

Quick: Can you name your top five favorite singers? What about authors? And comedians? Chris Rock plays this game in his new movie, Top Five. The film, which Rock wrote, directed and stars in, tells the story of Andre Allen, a marquee comedian who has abandoned his standup roots for blockbuster film glory.

"He's languishing," Rock tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "He's not as edgy as he once was. He's kind of watered down; he's kind of sold out."

As a civil rights attorney, Constance Rice became known in the 1990s for, as she puts it, going to war with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Rice filed lawsuits against the department, mainly over their treatment of minorities in underprivileged communities.

Following the recent decisions not to indict white cops in the deaths of two black men — President Obama has said one of his top priorities is building trust between minority communities and local police.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

The holidays can bring out the compassionate side of people. Some might be inspired to donate to charities or take on volunteer work. For one local man, helping the less fortunate is something he does on a daily basis. But it wasn't always that way.

What would our cities look like if wealth was represented by the height of buildings? Here's Chicago...

springfieldnaacp.org

It's been about a week since the decision was made not to indict police officer Darren Wilson after the shooting death of Michael Brown. Reactions to that decision are still resulting in protests, prayer vigils, and round-table discussions across the nation.

In Springfield, Teresa Haley who heads the local chapter of the NAACP has been at the center of much of the events concerning issues like racism and police brutality -- issues that Ferguson has brought to the forefront of many peoples' minds.

Listen to our interview with Haley, here: 

On Sunday, five St. Louis Rams players jogged onto the field with their arms raised by their heads, a stream of fog behind them: hands up, don't shoot.

The players — Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Stedman Bailey — were invoking the gesture that's been widely used in protesting the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. This followed the announcement that a grand jury would not indict Wilson in Brown's death, and the release of a hefty batch of evidence shown to the jury by St. Louis prosecutor Robert McCullough.

For an American, watching a Sinterklaas parade, like the one I recently went to in Amsterdam, can be a bit of a shock. Because dancing around the dear old Dutch Santa are his helpers, known as Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete.

And Black Pete is played by scores of white people dressed up in black face ... and wearing Afro wigs.

In the past few years, Black Pete has come under fire. A beloved tradition for some, others say he is a racist stereotype. And the increasingly rancorous debate over Black Pete has gripped the Netherlands.

Impoverished in Illinois

Dec 1, 2014
Vacant apartment building.
Robert Loerzel / WUIS/Illinois Issues

This story first appeared in the January 2014 issue. Statistics have been updated where new numbers were available.

In some pockets of Illinois, where one in every three people live in poverty or close to it, the need is visible in the landscape: empty lots where buildings once stood in Cairo; abandoned houses marked with X’s in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood; families living in ramshackle trailers in Kankakee County’s Pembroke Township.

Never Alone, a new video game by E-Line Media, has been generating a lot of buzz in recent months. Its developers teamed up with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a nonprofit that works with Native Alaskans, creating Never Alone as a way to help transmit traditional tribal stories to younger indigenous kids.

Some kids know they want to be doctors or pilots or professional sports players— Andrea Nguyen knew by the time she was 10 she wanted to be a sandwich maker. She says she's been making sandwiches and fooling around with the recipes and the ingredients since elementary school.

The sandwich she fell for first and that she still loves the most? Banh mi. (It's pronounced "bun-mee.") Her latest cookbook, The Banh Mi Handbook, is a guide for home cooks who want to make banh mi of their own.

Editor's note: This story contains racial slurs.

A new musical work pays tribute to an unlikely and little-known civil rights activist: Booker T. Wright. You won't find his name in history textbooks. But his story is a testament to the everyday experiences of blacks in the Jim Crow South.

A 'Dreamer' With Parents Still In The Shadows

Nov 28, 2014

Aashana Vishnani is a "dreamer" in the truest sense of the word.

She came to the United States when she was only 10 years old. Her accent is more Alabamian than Indian. She loves to sing and aspires to someday perform in musicals like Rent or Hairspray. She is also a huge college football fan. Her favorite team is Auburn University, her alma mater where she received a merit-based full-tuition scholarship.

This past week, we called for stories about your first Thanksgiving in the United States. Who'd you spend it with? Where were you coming from? What'd you eat? What'd you think of it? we wondered.

And many of the stories we heard from you were about food: You had issues roasting the turkey properly. Your mom found, um, a creative solution to making your bird golden-brown. You ate a lot of different alternative Thanksgiving meals. Your stories were goofy and weird, but most of them made us smile. Here are some of them:

Leticia Ortiz

The kickoff to the holiday season in St. Louis has been overshadowed by unrest following the grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson. And for some residents of Ferguson, the meaning of this year's Thanksgiving — amid the anger, hostility and unresolved issues — is hazy.

The Schnucks grocery store is pretty busy on this cold, gray Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Michael Howell, a local musician picking up a few staples, says he just wants to relax at home and have a little turkey. Howell's home is right near a string of looted and burned businesses.

After Michael Brown was shot dead in August, his mother, Leslie McSpadden, said, "My son was sweet. He didn't mean any harm to anybody." He was, she said, "a gentle giant."

On Monday night, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch delivered the news that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown. And in an unusual move, the announcement was accompanied by the release of an enormous batch of evidence presented to the grand jury — including much-talked-about photos of Wilson, taken after he shot and killed Brown.

Residents and business owners in Ferguson, Mo., awoke Tuesday morning to assess the damage done to their neighborhoods. In the aftermath of the grand jury's decision Monday night not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, many business were vandalized and some were destroyed.

Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann has been covering the situation in Ferguson, MO since it started back in August. She was at the announcement made by Prosecutor Bob McCulloch on Monday night that a grand jury chose not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

In this interview, Lippmann tells us about the reactions from Brown's family, protests and riots, and more:

I reunited with the Rev. Daryl Meese at his place of worship, a no-frills brick Methodist Church in Ferguson, Mo., on this stormy Sunday morning.

We first met at a coffee shop last August. I was looking for a cool place to file a story about the protests over the death of an unarmed black 18-year-old at the hands of a white police officer; he was taking a break from the chaos. We shared a table and ended up chatting.

Ferguson, Mo., continues to watch and wait as a grand jury decides whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Brown's death was the spark for mass protests in Ferguson, but many of the city's black population say the problems go deeper, and that blacks are unfairly singled out by police.

Ferguson police statistics show the department does arrest blacks at a higher rate than other racial groups. But that disparity is true for police departments across the country.

In our semi-regular Word Watch feature, we take a look at a word or phrase that has caught our attention, whether for its history, usage, etymology, or just because it has an interesting story.

Movie award season is upon us once again, which means that it's peak biopic season. You know what I mean — those big, sweeping epics about the life of a Very Important Person portrayed by a Very Serious Actor.

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