Karen Grigsby Bates

Karen Grigsby Bates is the Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News. Bates contributed commentaries to All Things Considered for about 10 years before she joined NPR in 2002 as the first correspondent and alternate host for The Tavis Smiley Show. In addition to general reporting and substitute hosting, she increased the show's coverage of international issues and its cultural coverage, especially in the field of literature and the arts.

In early 2003, Bates joined NPR's former midday news program Day to Day. She has reported on politics (California's precedent-making gubernatorial recall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign and the high-profile mayoral campaign of Los Angeles' Antonio Villaraigosa), media, and breaking news (the Abu Ghrarib scandal, the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams).

Bates' passion for food and things culinary has served her well: she's spent time with award-winning food critic Alan Richman and chef-entrepreneur Emeril Lagasse.

One of Bates' proudest contributions is making books and authors a high-profile part of NPR's coverage. "NPR listeners read a lot, and many of them share the same passion for books that I do, so this isn't work, it's a pleasure." She's had conversations with such writers as Walter Mosley, Joan Didion and Kazuo Ishiguru. Her bi-annual book lists (which are archived on the web) are listener favorites.

Before coming to NPR, Bates was a news reporter for People magazine. She was a contributing columnist to the Op Ed pages of the Los Angeles Times for ten years. Her work has appeared in Time, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Essence and Vogue. And she's been a guest on several news shows such as ABC's Nightline and the CBS Evening News.

In her non-NPR life, Bates is the author of Plain Brown Wrapper and Chosen People, mysteries featuring reporter-sleuth Alex Powell. She is co-author, with Karen E. Hudson, of Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, a best-selling etiquette book now in its second edition. Her work also appears in several writers' anthologies.

Bates holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College. Additionally she studied at the University of Ghana and completed the executive management program at Yale University's School of Organization and Management.

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Code Switch
3:18 pm
Sat December 13, 2014

Black Fraternities And Sororities Split On Protest Policy

The home page of the Dallas Morning News on Dec. 6, 2014 showed a protester wearing a Delta Sigma Theta shirt. Soon after, some black sororities banned members from wearing their logos at protests.
PastPages.org

Thousands of Americans gathered in Washington, D.C. Saturday for the 'Justice for All' rally. The demonstration was to protest the police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, as well as decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y.

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Code Switch
3:57 pm
Sat November 29, 2014

'The Banh Mi Handbook': A Guide To A Viet-French Sandwich

Paperboy Kitchen, Melbourne

Originally published on Sat November 29, 2014 5:29 pm

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.

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Race
5:48 am
Fri October 24, 2014

A Black Cosmetic Company Sells, Or Sells Out?

Real Housewives of Atlanta star Lisa Wu Hartwell gets a hair treatment at a "Curl Party" hosted by Carol's Daughter and theYBF.com in 2010.
Paras Griffin Landov

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 1:50 pm

Cosmetics giant L'Oréal purchased Carol's Daughter, a beauty company that sells natural hair and skin products for black women, earlier this week. It may seem like an unlikely chapter in the story of a business that began in a Brooklyn kitchen.

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The Changing Lives Of Women
3:23 am
Mon October 20, 2014

The Look Of Power: How Women Have Dressed For Success

A publicity still from the movie Working Girl, which prominently featured the beloved power suit.
20th Century Fox

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 6:22 am

Remember power suits? At the same time women were entering the corporate workplace in large numbers, the power suit began to pop up. It was usually a long jacket with the kind of big, padded shoulders Joan Crawford made famous, a straight skirt and, often, a floppy silk bow tie that Little Lord Fauntleroy would have been at home in. The 1980s power suit was designed to ignore a woman's shape so it didn't hinder her mobility as she worked her way up the corporate ladder.

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Code Switch
7:35 am
Sat October 11, 2014

Comer Cottrell, Creator Of The People's Jheri Curl, Dies At 82

Comer Cottrell, right, confers with adman Jerry Metcalf in 1977.
Los Angeles Times

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Code Switch
4:58 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

'A Chosen Exile': Black People Passing In White America

Dr. Albert Johnston passed in order to practice medicine. After living as leading citizens in Keene, N.H., the Johnstons revealed their true racial identity, and became national news.
Historical Society of Cheshire County

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 1:24 pm

Several years ago, Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs was talking with a favorite aunt, who was also the family storyteller. Hobbs learned that she had a distant cousin whom she'd never met nor heard of.

Which is exactly the way the cousin wanted it.

Hobbs' cousin had been living as white, far away in California, since she'd graduated from high school. This was at the insistence of her mother.

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Television
4:13 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Meet The Johnsons, TV's 'Black-ish' Family

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 12:20 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Race
4:25 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Obama's Reaction To Ferguson Raises Questions About President's Role

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Ferguson, Mo., residents Angela Whitman (left) and Jill Richards on Wednesday at Drake's Place Restaurant about issues surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown.
J.B. Forbes MCT/Landov

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 8:22 am

Ferguson, Mo., has seen nearly two weeks of protests after an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. This week, a black leader stepped in to help defuse tensions. But it wasn't a civil rights spokesman or the first African-American president. It was Attorney General Eric Holder.

Some political observers are asking why Obama can't seem to speak for himself on race. Many observers argue that Holder often talks frankly about race when the president can't or won't.

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Code Switch
5:40 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Pentagon Does About-Face On Hair Regulations — Black Women Approve

Georgia National Guard Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs uses many hair products to do her daily hair treatment at her home in Atlanta on April 2. Jacobs railed against a military policy that placed heavy restrictions on how women could wear their hair. The policy has been overturned by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Hyosub Shin MCT/Landov

Originally published on Thu August 14, 2014 8:36 am

When the Army issued updated grooming rules this spring, many black military women were offended and dismayed. The natural hairstyles many of them favored had been declared illegal: Cornrows were okay, but only if they were no larger in diameter than 1/4 inch (about the size of the diameter of a no. 2 pencil — thin). Dreadlocks were forbidden completely. And the twists and double ponytails many women had used to stay neat while out in the field no longer were allowed either.

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Remembrances
4:28 am
Tue August 12, 2014

Versatile Comedian Robin Williams Dies At 63

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 8:49 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Book News & Features
2:31 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Aye, Sassenach — Gabaldon's Appeal Is Timeless

Caitriona Balfe as time-traveling Claire Randall, and Sam Heughan as her Highlander lover Jamie Fraser in the new television adaptation of Outlander.
Sony PicturesTelevision

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 11:02 pm

Novelist Diana Gabaldon writes books that sell like crazy but are hard to categorize. Her Outlander series, featuring a determined heroine who falls backward through time to the 18th century Scottish Highlands, has made Gabaldon both wealthy and famous.

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Code Switch
3:56 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Crime Writer Creates A Hero For Her Beloved, Much-Maligned South LA

Hall sits in a sunny bay window to write. "My first drafts are always in long hand, on legal pads," she explains. "I love putting pen to paper."
Andre Ellis

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 6:35 am

Rachel Howzell Hall is easing her big, laurel green Mercedes sedan through the streets of Los Angeles. A slim woman with big eyes, Hall says this Benz is her dream car, the thing she'd planned to buy for herself once she'd become a successful writer, probably around age 50.

But something happened to speed up her schedule.

"When I was 33 years old," Hall says, "I was diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer. And I was pregnant. And it was terrifying."

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Code Switch
1:43 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Why Did Black Voters Flee The Republican Party In The 1960s?

Barry Goldwater greets an Indianapolis crowd during a campaign tour in Oct. 1964.
AP

If you'd walked into a gathering of older black folks 100 years ago, you'd have found that most of them would have been Republican.

Wait... what?

Yep. Republican. Party of Lincoln. Party of the Emancipation. Party that pushed not only black votes but black politicians during that post-bellum period known as Reconstruction.

Today, it's almost the exact opposite. That migration of black voters away from the GOP reached its last phase 50 years ago this week.

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Code Switch
12:03 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

The Late Walter Dean Myers Wrote In The Language Of Teens

Author Walter Dean Myers tours his old Harlem neighborhood in New York, Dec. 13, 2010.
Charles Sykes AP

Originally published on Thu July 3, 2014 2:01 pm

Writer Walter Dean Myers died on Wednesday after a brief illness at age 76, leaving mourners in the adult world and young readers who saw themselves in his books. He expanded the face of publishing so that many children of color saw themselves reflected in his work.

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Code Switch
7:44 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Former Model B. Smith Reveals Diagnosis Of Alzheimer's Disease

Former model B. Smith operated restaurants in New York City and Washington, D.C.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Sat June 7, 2014 11:02 am

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million Americans have the memory-robbing disease and African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to develop the late-onset version of the illness.

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Code Switch
7:22 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Honoring An Activist And Fashion Industry Role Model

Bethann Hardison speaks onstage at the 2014 CFDA fashion awards at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on Monday in New York City.
D Dipasupil Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 8:52 pm

The Council of Fashion Designers of America awards (the CFDA) are the fashion industry's equivalent of the Oscars: big, glittery, hugely prestigious. The red carpet before and after the ceremony is avidly watched. Unlike the Chambre Syndicale, which regulates France's couture and related industries, the CFDA is more of a reflector, an influencer — and, perhaps, a bellwether.

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Code Switch
5:08 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Condiment Detente: Sriracha Plant To Stay In California City

Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 5:47 pm

The Sriracha-slurping public no longer has to worry about hoarding bottles and bottles of the spicy stuff: There will be hot sauce tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Sriracha will continue to be made in the state-of-the-art plant David Tran built in Irwindale, Calif. And residents near the plant who complained about spicy odors when chilies for the famous hot sauce were ground (from roughly August to October, during harvest season) should now be able to breathe more easily.

You get the feeling that this whole thing was a schoolyard spat that got out of control.

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Remembrances
3:06 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

The Life Of Poet Maya Angelou, From Poverty To Presidential Prizes

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 5:18 pm

Poet, performer and political activist Maya Angelou has died after a long illness at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86.

Code Switch
12:01 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Remembering Sam Greenlee Through His Most Famous Book

Sam Greenlee during Los Angeles Film Festival - Blaxploitation Misnomer and Misunderstood at Director's Guild of America Atrium in Los Angeles in 2004.
John Heller WireImage/Getty Images

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Code Switch
4:46 am
Sat May 17, 2014

Nostalgia For What's Been Lost Since 'Brown V. Board'

This racially segregated Monroe Elementary School class from March 1953 shows Linda and Terry Lynn Brown, who, with their parents, initiated the Brown v. Board of Education case that helped propel school integration.
Carl Iwasaki Getty Image

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 12:41 pm

Brown v. Board of Education became the law of the land when it struck down de jure segregation in Topeka, Kan., on May 17, 1954, saying, "We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate facilities are inherently unequal."

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Code Switch
2:46 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Sriracha-Maker Says Factory Will Remain In California

Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif. CEO David Tran has been at odds with the local City Council over the smells emitted by the sauce factory.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 5:53 pm

Sriracha hot sauce-maker Huy Fong Foods has been tussling with the City Council of Irwindale, Calif., near Los Angeles for months now over whether the factory's spicy smells harm its neighbors. There have been legal action and suggested fixes, but also pleas from other cities for the company to consider moving there.

David Tran, the CEO of Huy Fong, says he escaped from Vietnam almost 35 years ago to be free of the communist government there and its many intrusions.

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Media
3:29 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

After 6 Decades As A Staple, 'Jet' Magazine Ends Print Run

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:59 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. An era in magazine history is closing. Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co., or JPC, says "Jet" magazine is going digital. Some 700,000 subscribers will no longer see a print edition. It's with the exception of one special print issue a year. "Jet" has been a weekly staple in many African American communities for more than six decades.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates, from our Code Switch team, has this report.

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Code Switch
8:52 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Critics Find Little Humor In 'SNL' Writer's Jokes About Slavery

Leslie Jones played an "image expert" on last weekend's SNL.
NBC

Almost 21 years ago, Whoopi Goldberg was honored at the New York Friars' Club. More than 3,000 people crowded into the New York Hilton to hear Goldberg roasted by her celebrity friends.

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Code Switch
7:23 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Jessica Cleaves: A Silky, Soulful — And Funky — Voice Goes Silent

Jessica Cleaves made a name for herself as a lead singer with the group Friends of Distinction. She later played with Earth, Wind & Fire as well as George Clinton
YouTube screengrab

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Code Switch
6:54 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

The Army Reconsiders Its Opposition To Cornrows And Dreadlocks

The U.S. Army's new grooming regulations for women will be reviewed by a panel convened by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
U.S. Army

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 8:47 am

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's office announced it will revisit the matter of AR 670-1. That's a recently revised Army grooming regulation that many black women feel unfairly targets them, as it forbids many natural hairstyles they commonly wear.

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Code Switch
3:24 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Why Would The NAACP Honor Donald Sterling Anyway?

Actress Meagan Good and actor Chris Brown present an award during the 37th Annual NAACP Image Awards on Feb. 25, 2006
Kevin Winter Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 9:45 pm

Update: The NAACP issued a press release on Thursday advising that Leon Jenkins has resigned his post as president of the Los Angeles chapter. The national organization said it is "developing guidelines for its branches to help them in their award selection process."

"The Los Angeles NAACP intention to honor Mr. Sterling for a lifetime body of work must be withdrawn, and the donation that he's given to the Los Angeles NAACP will be returned."

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Television
4:17 am
Tue April 29, 2014

PBS Documentary Examines Ruben Salazar's Life And Death

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 12:07 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A new documentary explores the life and death of Ruben Salazar. He was a journalist. He's considered one of the founders of the modern Chicano movement and by many a martyr. He was killed in 1970 while covering an anti-war demonstration in East Los Angeles. He was shot with a tear gas canister. His death added to the urgency for Mexican-American civil rights in Southern California.

A documentary on his life airs tonight on PBS and Karen Grigsby Bates of NPR's Code Switch Team has more.

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Code Switch
2:01 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Who Runs The World? 'Time' Magazine Says Beyoncé

This image released by Time shows entertainer Beyoncé on the cover of the magazine's "100 Most Influential People" issue.
Time Magazine AP

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 8:22 am

The euphoria over Lupita Nyong'o's appearance on People's "50 Most Beautiful" list was still swirling on the Interwebs when word came, a mere four days later, that Time's "100 Most Influential" issue was on newsstands. Staring out at us was Beyoncé Knowles Carter, dressed in what appears to be a white two-piece bathing suit with a see-through cover-up.

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Code Switch
6:22 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Why Lupita Nyong'o's 'People' Cover Is So Significant

People is calling actress Lupita Nyong'o the most beautiful woman in the world. She's the third black woman to get the magazine's title.
People AP

It has been a very good 12 months for Lupita Nyong'o: piles of awards (including an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Patsy in 12 Years a Slave), a contract to be the face of Lancôme Paris cosmetics, and now this: the cover of People's annual "50 Most Beautiful" issue.

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Around the Nation
3:16 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Some In Irwindale Still Not Happy About Smelly Neighbor, Sriracha

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 6:26 pm

The skirmish continues between Sriracha and Irwindale, Calif. Irwindale's city council declared that owner David Tran must curb his hot sauce factory's smelly fumes or they'll do it themselves. Tran is considering relocating, and he has already received several offers.

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