Cokie Roberts, Broadcast Journalism Legend, dies at 75


Cokie Roberts, broadcast journalism legend, dies at 75

— Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts, winner of three Emmys and a legend and trailblazer in broadcasting, has died at the age of 75, ABC News announced.

Roberts worked in television, public radio and publishing for over 40 years. She began her tenure at ABC as a contributor for “This Week with David Brinkley” and later became ABC’s chief congressional analyst.

Roberts is survived by her husband Steve V. Roberts and her children Lee Roberts and Rebecca Roberts, her grandchildren Regan, Hale and Cecilia Roberts and Claiborne, Jack and Roland Hartman, along with nieces, nephews, and cousins.

“We will miss Cokie beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness,” Roberts’ family said in a statement on Tuesday.

Roberts passed away on Tuesday “due to complications from breast cancer,” the family’s statement said.

“She will be dearly missed. Cokie’s kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists,” ABC News president James Goldston said in a statement.

Roberts began her career in the 1960s at WNEW and KNBC-TV. She joined CBS News in 1974 and then NPR in 1978, for which she covered Capitol Hill and reported on the Panama Canal Treaty. She also served as a correspondent for “The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour” and as a contributing senior news analyst for PBS.

“Cokie was one of NPR’s ‘founding mothers,’ since 1978 her signature voice and commentary have accompanied public radio listeners, provided context for news and been a familiar presence in their homes,” NPR president and CEO Jarl Mohn said in a statement.

Roberts also wrote a number of New York Times bestselling books, most recently “Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868” in 2015.

Roberts’ death was immediately felt throughout the journalism community, particularly by those who worked with her.

ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir tweeted, “You made us all better. Your brilliant mind, your sharp wit – and above all, your kind heart.”

NPR’s Steve Inskeep said “She was an insightful voice on the air, and a leader behind the scenes, at both @NPR and @abcnews.

Mother Jones’ editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery said Roberts “broke down barriers for women journalists and had a remarkable life.”

Read the full memo Goldston sent to ABC staffers:

Team, I’m writing with very sad news. Our dear friend and colleague Cokie Roberts passed away this morning in Washington, surrounded by her family and closest friends.

Cokie had a storied career over 40 years in television, public radio and publishing. She started at ABC as a contributor for This Week with David Brinkley, appearing frequently on the roundtable. She was ABC’s chief congressional analyst, anchored This Week with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2002 and was known as one of the smartest political commentators on television and radio for decades. A true pioneer for women in journalism, Cokie was well-regarded for her insightful analysis of politics and policy in Washington, DC., countless newsmaking interviews, and, notably, her unwavering support for the generations of young women — and men — who would follow her in her footsteps.

In the 1970s Cokie started in radio as a foreign correspondent for CBS, before moving to NPR to cover Capitol Hill in 1978. She would go on to become the congressional correspondent for NPR, where she would eventually split her time with ABC News. Cokie is perhaps the only reporter to have filed for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, World News Tonight and Nightline all in a single day.

A terrifically talented writer and historian, Cokie published six books, many of them best-sellers and most about women in American history, whose stories often had been overlooked. She won every major award in journalism and was recognized with over 30 honorary degrees. Cokie was named one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting by the American Women in Radio and Television, and the Library of Congress declared her a “Living Legend” in 2008, making her one of the very few Americans ever honored.

Her beloved husband Steve was at her side through all of it. They were married for over 50 years and wrote a widely popular syndicated newspaper column and two books together. Cokie and Steve were married in the garden of her parents’ Bethesda home, where Cokie grew up and they would later raise their family. They had two children, Lee and Rebecca, and six grandchildren, whom she cherished.

Please join me in sending your thoughts and prayers to Cokie’s family and loved ones. Her family passed along the message below. We will share details about the service when they’re available.

She will be dearly missed. Cokie’s kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists. Please take a moment today to remember an exceptional reporter and remarkable friend. – James

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Vernon Jarrett Medal To Be Presented To New York Times Reporter For Her Work In Coverage Of Hate Crime, Race, And Identity

— Morgan State University School of Global Journalism & Communication (SGJC) announced today that it is awarding the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence to Audra D.S. Burch, an award-winning National Enterprise Correspondent for The New York Times.

“The judges and I were so very impressed with the depth and scope of Burch’s work. Her reporting represents important aspects about the black condition in America that merits recognition,” said DeWayne Wickham SGJC Dean. “We are very excited to celebrate her accomplishments and award her The Jarrett Medal this year.”

Burch was cited for a body of work that included articles titled, “Who Killed Atlanta’s Children;” “Parkland Activists;” “Why a Town is Finally Honoring a Black Veteran,” and “Gardening While Black.”

Before joining the Times, Burch was a senior enterprise reporter on the Miami Herald’s Investigations team. As part of a two-person unit, Burch explored abuse in Florida’s juvenile justice system. The series, “Fight Club,” was a 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist. An earlier I-team project focused on how almost 500 children died of abuse or neglect over a six-year period after falling through Florida’s child welfare safety net. The series, “Innocents Lost,” won numerous honors including the Worth Bingham Prize, the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. While at the Herald, Burch also crafted a specialty race and culture beat based in the American South.

“I am deeply honored to be named the recipient of the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence. As an African American journalist, my stories are so often centered on the fault lines of race and what it means to be black in modern America,” Burch said. “One of the late Vernon Jarrett’s greatest gifts was his fearless commitment to covering black life with authority and humanity. Both this prestigious award and Mr. Jarrett’s enduring legacy are an inspiration. I hope to continue exploring stories of injustice and inequities, but also healing and resilience.”

Burch launched her career at the Post-Tribune in Gary, Indiana followed by a stint at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. She is a graduate of Florida A&M University. Burch is also a longtime member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Burch will receive the prize, which includes a $10,000 check, at a Sept. 19 ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington.

For just the second time in the last five years, a runner-up was announced. Judges named Soraya Nadia McDonald, the culture critic for ESPN’s The Undefeated to receive an award.

McDonald writes about film, television, the arts, fashion, and books. She is also a contributing editor for Film Comment magazine and a critic for Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She is a member of the New York Outer Critics. Previously, she was a pop culture writer for The Washington Post, where she focused on issues surrounding race, gender, and sexuality. She graduated from Howard University with a degree in journalism in 2006 and spent six years covering sports before turning her focus to culture writing.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be a finalist for the Jarrett medal. I’m humbled to stand on the shoulders of one of the people who founded the National Association of Black Journalists,” said McDonald. “Black artists contribute so many wonderful, unique, and underappreciated insights to the story of America. It brings me such joy to have a job where I am propelled by passion and curiosity, and where I have the pleasure and privilege to shine a light on those whose work helps us to better understand ourselves and the world at large.”

McDonald will be honored with a $5,000 prize.

The Vernon Jarrett Medal is awarded to a journalist who has published or broadcast stories that are of significant importance or had a significant impact on some aspect of black life in America.

The award is named for the late Vernon Jarrett, a pioneering African American columnist who wrote for the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times and who used his columns and long-running radio and television shows to educate Americans about the nation’s legacy of slavery and segregation. Jarrett is a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Previous Jarrett Medal winners are Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News columnist Helen Ubiñas (2018), Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reporter Mensah Dean (2017), Kirsten West Savali, a writer, cultural critic and associate editor of The Root, (2016) and Dr. Stacey Patton, then, a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education (2015).

The Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalist Excellence is funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.

About the School of Global Journalism & Communication

The School of Global Journalism & Communication, created in July 2013, is led by founding Dean DeWayne Wickham, a former columnist for USA TODAY and a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists. The school is dedicated to giving voice to people who struggle to contribute to the public discourse that shapes the nation and the world through innovative teaching, cutting-edge research and exemplary service to Maryland, the nation and the world. The school seeks to instill students with the skills, knowledge and training necessary to become effective communicators and to add to the diversity of thought in the media.

About Morgan State University

Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 100 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit

18 Years Later, Americans Stop To Remember The September 11 Attacks

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It’s been 18 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the day that never ends.

18 years later, Americans stop to remember the September 11 attacks

Originally Published: 11 SEP 19 10:12 ET

Updated: 11 SEP 19 11:34 ET

By Eric Levenson, CNN

    (CNN) — It’s been 18 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the day that never ends.

Events in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania — each of which saw destruction and disaster that day — will be held on Wednesday to remember the victims and first responders.

Nearly 3,000 people died when hijackers took control of four commercial airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. More have died since from illnesses related to the destruction.

A ceremony marking the anniversary of 9/11 started at 8:40 a.m. ET this morning at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.

A new state law passed in New York this year mandates that public schools allow a moment of silence to mark the anniversary. The law is intended to “encourage dialogue and education in the classroom” and to ensure that future generations understand the terrorist attacks, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

President Donald Trump and the first lady marked the moment the first World Trade Center tower was hit, at 8:46 a.m. ET, with a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House. The two solemnly bowed their heads as a bell rang.

Members of Congress similarly observed the anniversary at the Capitol.

During the ceremony in New York City, a young man used an iPad to read the name of his father, Richard Avery Aronow.

“And my father, Richard Aronow. I love you very much. I miss you,” the automated voice said.

He was accompanied by a woman holding the iPad for him. The young man did not speak.

™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Rihanna Is One Of The Stars Aiming To Help The Bahamas Recover From Dorian

— The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas has prompted several celebs to step up and offer their support.

At least 7 people were killed when Dorian battered the area and many people have been rescued from devastating flooding.

Barbados native Rihanna tweeted her support and said she is exploring how to help via her Clara Lionel Foundation.

“It truly breaks my heart to see the complete devastation that #HurricaneDorian is having on the Bahamas,” she wrote. “You are in our prayers and @ClaraLionelFdn is already figuring out how best we can help! #HurricaneDorian #Bahamas.”

Rapper/actor Ludacris has announced that the proceeds from his annual charity event, LudaDayWeekend, will go to help the Bahamas.

“Over 100k Raised over The Weekend!!,” he posted on his official Instagram account. “THANK YOU TO ALL WHO SHOWED UP AND SHOWED OUT!!”

“Real Housewives of New York” star Bethenny Frankel took to her Instagram stories on Labor Day to say she and members of her B Strong charity organization were flying out to offer disaster relief.

“I’m headed to Florida and the Bahamas now and I hope you’re having a good Labor Day and I will keep you posted on what’s going on but it’s pretty narly,” Frankel said in a video as she was en route to the airport.

“My team is already at our warehouse pulling together all of our relief, and thank you all so much for offering.”

Rapper/music executive Luther “Luke” Campbell tweeted that he is organizing a way for Floridians to help.

“Ladies and gentlemen we’re forming a powerful group of men and women of the Miami community to support our brothers and sisters in the Bahamas please stay tuned we look forward to your support,” he wrote.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Scooters Are A Huge Problem For Cities. No One Knows How To Solve It Yet.

— Stewart Goodwin tried to put a stop to the constant flow of scooters into the plaza he oversees. He spoke to the government and scooter companies, but to no avail.

“We still find scooters in our fountains,” Goodwin, executive director of the Indiana War Memorials in Indianapolis, told CNN Business. “We find them in the canal. We find them strewn all over the sidewalks.”

In the Wild West of transportation, no one knows what to do about scooters. They appeared suddenly in many cities, triggering complaints of clutter and blocked sidewalks. When ridden, scooters emerged as sidewalk bullies — fast enough to unsettle pedestrians and create safety issues. But force scooters into the streets and they are slow and vulnerable amid two-ton vehicles, not to mention potholes that can swallow small tires.

Now, governments, communities and businesses — even the scooter companies themselves — are playing catchup on finding the right rules for scooters, and how to enforce them. Debates have emerged over when and where scooters should be ridden, and if the form of scooters needs to evolve, with bigger wheels, brighter lights or even a seat.

“It’s definitely a learning experience,” said Noelle LeVeaux, executive director of Uptown Dallas, a business improvement organization that manages the neighborhood’s public spaces. “We don’t have a lot of good data. So much is anecdotal, that’s the biggest issue.”

None of this is what was supposed to happen.

The inconsistent rules of the road

As urban populations swell, cities and startups have been searching for fresh transportation solutions. Scooters are an obvious mode for experimentation: They offer an affordable and quick way to make short trips in congested cities, much like bicycles, but without anyone breaking a sweat.

LeVeaux’s group initially welcomed scooter riding on its sidewalks. They seemed like a safe place for new riders to use the scooters, LeVeaux said. But Uptown Dallas soon saw the pedestrian safety issues of sidewalk riding and flipped its position. Now it’s reconsidering if scooters, which can reach speeds as fast as 15 mph, should be ridden at night. Atlanta banned nighttime riding this summer following a string of scooter deaths.

Other cities have totally banned scooters, with lingering memories of how Uber stormed onto their streets and created long-lasting challenges for local governments.

Scooter rules vary widely by city, and even by company. You may be able to ride to the art museum or football stadium in one city but not another. In Denver, you can park a Lyft scooter at the pro hockey or baseball stadiums, but not pro football. To park at pro football, you’ll need to be on a Bird or Lime scooter.

The restrictions are made by the companies, with input from governments and communities. Companies are quick to restrict sensitive or crowded areas, such as federal government buildings and large event spaces. Cities vary in their requests. Bolt, a scooter company, said Portland, Oregon, gave it a list of 400 areas to restrict.

Some businesses nationwide that were contacted by CNN Business, including an art museum in Baltimore and a hospice in Raleigh, North Carolina, said they weren’t even aware scooters had been blocked near them.

Scooter companies enforce riding restrictions via GPS. If you go outside the bounds, your scooter may slow down and not allow you to end your ride. These restrictions impact businesses, sports stadiums, museums, even transit stops.

Scooter companies sell themselves as an equitable form of transportation that connects residents to traditional public transit by addressing the “last-mile problem.” Public transportation generally doesn’t take people to their final destination, so the last leg of a trip can be slow or expensive. The companies view scooters as ideal for this final stretch.

But that’s not always how things have played out.

Where the streets have no scooters

Earlier this year, Scoot, a San Francisco-based subsidiary of Bird, restricted parking in Chinatown and the Tenderloin, a neighborhood with a significant homeless population. It said the decision resulted from narrow sidewalks, and concerns raised by the local community groups.

Groups were divided over a ban. Fernando Pujals, spokesperson for the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, said he reached out to Scoot about crowded sidewalk concerns, but didn’t want a ban.

“People should be given just as much access as somebody in an affluent neighborhood,” he said. “Our recommendation was how to bring scooters into the neighborhood in a thoughtful way that would encourage ridership.”

Charlotte, North Carolina’s government has tried to juggle promoting scooters as a complement to transit, while making sure scooters don’t end up clogging stations full of pedestrians — or falling on tracks. It’s had scooter companies use GPS to block off the stations. Some have gone further, including blocking nearby streets. Bird has even restricted parking around the city’s downtown transportation center, which takes up an entire block and is adjacent to a light rail stop. Bird declined to explain the policy.

Just because there are restrictions, doesn’t mean they’re actually enforced. Bird’s app warns riders when they’re in a no parking zone, and urges them to move out of it. But a rider can override the suggestion and still end the trip.

Another limitation is GPS accuracy, which tall buildings can distort. Plus, if a scooter is moving at 15mph into a no-ride zone, the scooter may not realize and slow down until a rider is deep into a restricted area.

Some organizations who have requested restrictions described the GPS technique as ineffective.

Do scooters need to be regulated?

One question in managing scooters is whether to treat them like bicycles or regulate them more strictly. Increasingly, distinctions are being drawn in response to more complaints and concerns about scooters than bicycles.

Denver’s 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian zone, welcomes bicycles on weekends, but not scooters.

The Wharf, a waterfront development in Washington, DC, opened in 2017 with public spaces designed especially to welcome bicycles and pedestrians. Several roads are built without curbs, so that all forms of transportation mix on level ground, a European tactic proven to slow down cars.

But then the scooters came.

Monty Hoffman, CEO of Hoffman & Associates, which co-developed the Wharf, likes scooters enough to place two in his company’s office for employees to ride to meetings. Scooters add to the city’s “urban theater,” Hoffman said. But that theater has turned too dramatic, and he’s asked for speed restrictions of 6 mph, and no-parking zones a the Wharf’s piers.

“We embrace [scooters] and we want more, but we want it done the right way,” Hoffman said.

In classic scooter regulation form, company responses vary widely. Some have taken no action. Others have placed no-parking and no-riding bans over the entire Wharf, and nearby streets.

All of these scooter problems are playing out at the same time investor interest has cooled as companies burn through millions. On top of regulatory woes, scooters aren’t lasting long enough to make good business sense.

Either companies find fixes that win over investors and the public, or history may remember shared scooters as a fad.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Comcast Closing Digital Divide By Opening More Doors Of Eligibility

A Chicago mother whose children had to use her cell phone at McDonalds to access the Internet; a Miami mother who had to use the Internet at a library to complete her homework. These were among the real-life stories David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast NBCUniversal highlighted in announcing the company’s largest ever expansion of its Internet Essentials Program.

“I have met hundreds of families, mothers, and children whose stories broke my heart, but also gave hope,” said Cohen in announcing Internet Essentials is expanding its eligibility to include all qualified low-income households in its service area.

“This expansion is the culmination of an audacious goal we set eight years ago, which was to meaningfully and significantly close the digital divide for low-income Americans,” said Cohen. “The Internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history, and it is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource.

“Whether the Internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits or medical assistance, it is absolutely essential to be connected in our modern, digital age.”

Internet Essentials is the nation’s largest, most comprehensive, and most successful broadband adoption program in America. Comcast estimates a total of nearly seven million households now have access to low-cost Internet service, which literally doubles the total number of previously eligible households. The expansion is the most significant change in the program’s history.

Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include: a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to everyday life needs, and fear of the internet, the lack of a computer, and cost.

“This expansion is the culmination of an audacious goal we set eight years ago, which was to meaningfully and significantly close the digital divide for low-income Americans,” said Cohen.

The program includes multiple options to access free digital literacy training; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150; and low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax. The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners.

“The secret sauce is making the investment with our partners to provide literacy training and expose them to the important things they can do with the Internet,” said Cohen.

In making the announcement, Cohen also noted that since August 2011, Internet Essentials has connected millions to the Internet at home, most for the first time in their lives. Comcast’s announcement follows 11 prior eligibility expansions.

“This is not a press release program,” said Cohen. “You have to build partnership to reach and connect with these different populations. We want them to hear about the value and relevance of the Internet to them and subscribe to this program. We know significant hurdles remain. Too many people remain locked out.”

Pointing out the “equalizing potential of the internet” for low-income individuals, Cohen also highlighted U.S. Census data statistics.

“According to the data, households living in cities with the highest poverty rates, are up to 10 times more likely than those in higher earning communities not to have fixed broadband at home,” said Cohen. “For example, in Palo Alto, California or Bethesda, Maryland, where poverty rates are very low only about six percent of households do not have a broadband Internet subscription— 94 percent are connected.

“But in Trenton, New Jersey, and Flint, Michigan, where poverty rates are way above the national average, 60 percent or more of households do not have fixed broadband at home— that is, less than half are connected. That gap of more than 50 points defines the digital divide in this country.”

Individuals participating in Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other government assistance programs may now apply for Internet Essentials.

The Company already accepts applications from households that have a student eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program; live in public housing or receive HUD Housing Assistance, including Section 8 vouchers; or participate in the Veterans Pension Program; and low-income seniors and community college students in select pilot markets.

Alice Walker’s Hometown Celebrates Literary Legend’s 75th Birthday

— Alice Walker, one of the premiere writers of the 20th Century, was honored in July by her hometown of Eatonton, GA for her 75th Birthday (Alice Walker 75). Hundreds of people flocked from all over the country to Walker’s birthplace to celebrate the birthday of the Pulitzer Prize winning author.

The activist, who was born February 9, 1944 in Eatonton left in 1961 to attend Spelman College, eventually enrolling at Sarah Lawrence College due to controversy surrounding her political activism at Spelman.

Walker’s legacy of activism and storytelling was on full display at the event, which was held at the Georgia Writers Museum and included a day of activities and events to honor Walker’s life and achievements. The event was co-chaired by award-winning author Valerie Boyd, editor of Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, which will be released in 2020 and Lou Benjamin, founder of Eatonton’s Briar Patch Arts Council.

Walker, who lived just outside of town, acknowledged this was the first time she had been to Eatonton and was unaware the Plaza Arts Center existed— where many of the festivities were held.

The day kicked off with a screening and discussion of the American Masters Documentary, Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth followed by a discussion with the filmmaker Pratibha Parmar and scholar Salamisha Tillet at The Plaza Arts Center.

Celebrants were able to take bus tours of the area and see Walker’s birthplace while fellow authors and poets and friends paid tribute to the game changer, who was clearly touched by the praise, humbly thanking the audience throughout the day of events.

An American Marriage novelist Tayari Jones read from the novel Meridian, poet Daniel Black read Walker’s short story “Flowers,” and poet Kamilah Aisha Moon read Walker’s poem, “How Poems are Made.” Journalist and author Evelyn C. White offered remembrances of friendship and activism and classically trained Gospel violinist Melanie R. Hill performed a medley of songs honoring the legend.

Perhaps the most poignant part of the program was when Walker’s daughter Rebecca, read several pieces including “Now That Book Is Finished,” a poem Walker wrote about Rebecca when she was a child. Rebecca’s son Tenzin, 14, performed an original song that he composed entitled, “Sun and Steam,” which he played beautifully on the piano.

Rebecca Walker’s words, expressions of love and gratitude to her mother and Tenzin’s performance were symbolic of the reconciliation between Walker and her daughter who had been estranged during a difficult period. Walker’s former husband Melvyn R. Levanthal was also in attendance.

The special birthday celebration ended with Walker taking the stage of The Plaza Arts Center for a candid conversation with Boyd, author of the award-winning biography Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. Walker and Boyd’s tête-à-tête ended with an invitation for all attendees to take the stage and dance with the celebrated author to two of her favorite songs, “Rock Steady,” by Aretha Franklin and “As” by Stevie Wonder, concluding a lovely day of celebration of one of the 20th Century’s greatest writers.

Fashion Gaffes Are A Reflection Of The Industry’s Diversity Problem


Fashion houses are being called out, critcized and even boycotted for racially and culturally insensitive gaffes.

Fashion gaffes are a reflection of the industry’s diversity problem

Originally Published: 02 AUG 19 22:55 ET

Aileen Kwun, CNN | Oscar Holland, CNN and Stephy Chung, CNN

    (CNN) — Last month, fashion house Chanel appointed its first head of diversity and inclusion. Announcing the hire, the French brand said it hoped to provide “momentum” for its “existing diversity and inclusion approach.”

The move marked Chanel’s entry into a new race in the world of luxury fashion: the race to hire more diverse talents, and thus lessen the chance of becoming the latest brand to alienate potential customers with racially or culturally insensitive gaffes.

About two weeks later, Gucci then appointed a new global head of diversity, equity and inclusion in order to “create a more inclusive and equitable workplace and increase workforce diversity.” Prada and Burberry, too, have created a similar position in recent months.

These announcements all appear to be part of the fashion industry’s response to accusations that it’s out of touch with customers and society at large.

In the past year alone, Gucci has come under fire for retailing a $790 turban, a garment with religious significance for Sikhs; Dolce & Gabbana was accused of racism after it portrayed a Chinese model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks; and Burberry was accused of glamorizing suicide after it presented a hoodie featuring an elaborate knotted drawstring that resembled a noose. Meanwhile, Prada merchandise and Katy Perry shoes have both blithely referenced blackface caricatures.

These missteps differ from one another in important ways. Burberry’s noose touched on issues of mental health, while the Prada outrage was a matter of race. Gucci’s turban, or its balaclava sweater resembling blackface (pictured top), generated backlash in existing markets, while D&G’s ads alienated new ones. But what they collectively reveal is that the fashion industry is struggling — at times — to keep up with tech-savvy consumers who are ready to call out companies in real-time for insensitive imagery.

Hiring diversity advocates might seem like a sensible way to address fashion’s troubling tendency to use stereotypes or cultural appropriation to turn a profit. But the new Chanel appointment has not been without its own controversy: Many on social media expressed their dismay that a white woman, Fiona Pargeter, had been named to the role.

Teen Vogue’s fashion and beauty features director Tahirah Hairston took to Twitter to ask, “why did chanel hire a white woman to be over diversity and inclusion? who is in that room?”

Another user wrote: “white privilege is hiring a Head of Diversity and Inclusion who isn’t a POC @CHANEL.”

In a statement e-mailed to CNN, Chanel said Pargeter’s appointment “is a sign of our commitment to D&I (diversity and inclusion) and its importance to the House.”

The brand declined to comment on questions about its decision to hire Pargeter at a time when fashion industry statistics show that people of color are far less likely to be hired for influential roles than white people. In 2018, The Business of Fashion found diversity to be lacking at the highest levels of leadership after studying 15 of the largest public companies in fashion.

From the outside, it seems obvious that hiring a white woman to lead diversity efforts might elicit a backlash. The blackface and chopstick gaffes seemed even more predictable, playing on racist tropes that have circulated for centuries. So why do they keep happening?

Fashion’s new watchdogs

With designers and brands now contending with instant reactions from social media and a 24-hour news cycle, the backlash has become a fierce, tangible force with real consequences for sales.

Fashion’s watchdogs — once a select group of buyers and editors at closed-door runway shows — are now online influencers and social media accounts, followed by people who might not even buy luxury brands, but are nonetheless vocal critics in cultural debates over ethics and representation.

Take the snarky Diet Prada, an Instagram account (with a cult following of 1.5 million “Dieters”) that calls out copycat scandals and hypocrisy in the fashion industry. It has been credited with, among other things, fanning the flames of D&G’s self-inflicted woes.

Social media has spread fashion — and its critique — faster and wider. And the reputational risks of insensitive blunders are real, potentially prompting boycotts that can cost brands millions.

But controversial campaigns and products are nothing new in the industry. Fashion has a long, fraught history of systemic racism, explains Valerie Steele, chief curator and director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

The industry has been rife with biases and insensitivities toward underrepresented and marginalized groups. Blackface caricatures are images that have persisted since the 19th century, she noted, “and in the 1920s and ’30s, fashion companies would use the n-word, for example, to describe a particular shade of brown” in marketing materials. “It was a fairly common practice in the UK, not so much in the US.”

Meanwhile, stereotypical depictions of Asians can be traced back nearly a hundred years with the popularization of conical straw “coolie” hats — a derogatory reference to Southeast Asian laborers that was later appeared to influence Dior’s “New Look” headgear in the 1940s and again various 1970s Yves Saint Laurent collections inspired by Asia.

Sales of the YSL perfume “Opium” appeared to benefit from protests against the scent’s name, which many felt trivialized China’s painful history of drug abuse and the Opium Wars. The scandal created a notoriety that helped make the scent a bestseller.

“We certainly keep seeing gaffes today, and it leaves one flabbergasted,” Steele said in a phone interview. “How do these things even get greenlighted? Who in the world, for example, thought that D&G’s ad campaign, insulting and patronizing the Chinese model, would appeal to a Chinese audience? It’s absolutely absurd.”

While the D&G ad campaign incensed some viewers, it was Stefano Gabbana’s alleged trail of offensive Instagram direct messages that spurred Chinese audiences to boycott the brand, leading a number of online retailers to pull the brand entirely. Gabbana denied sending the derogatory messages, but the damage had been done.

“The reality is, brands have to be more nuanced,” Steele added. “Not every form of cultural appropriation is, or needs to be, egregious. But some of them have proven to be deeply offensive, over and over again, and yet we keep seeing them.”

Why brands miss the mark

Whether the result of careless mistakes, willful ignorance or even a cynical ploy for headlines, the recent slew of fashion gaffes may not stem from a single cause. Yet, they share a common characteristic: brands pursuing profit at the expense of cultural sensitivity.

This is particularly the case in China, where European fashion houses are competing to court a new generation of wealthy shoppers.

Here, D&G is not alone in having upset potential customers. Earlier this year, Burberry faced criticism after it marked Chinese New Year with a series of family-portrait-style photos that were ridiculed as “creepy” by social media users.

Fashion is full of elaborate cultural code switch, reference and pastiche. In the race to corner new markets, brands have a history of charging in with limited knowledge of the local audiences they seek to entice.

This raises questions about the process that goes into formulating a campaign, and the resources allocated to researching the market.

Former Elle China editor, Ye Zi, also known as Leaf Greener, said the cultural divide between Western and Asian audiences must be bridged in order to move forward. The Beijing native now works as a creative consultant for brands like Chloé, helping to facilitate conversations between staff in Western headquarters and their colleagues in China, while offering insight into Chinese consumers.

She believes that fashion houses must look to hire people who live in, or have previously lived in, the countries and markets being targeted.

“These people should have knowledge of their own country, but also understand what’s going on globally.

“With China and Western countries, there’s a big gap,” she said, noting that cultural misunderstandings can go both ways. “Even (Beijing and Shanghai) can feel like two different cultures or countries. That’s something most people outside of China wouldn’t understand — not to mention basic things like the number of dialects used here.”

Tapping the Chinese market is about more than its buying power, she added, suggesting that brands would benefit from showing more respect to their target audiences’ cultures. She cited the Hermès-backed Chinese lifestyle brand, Shang Xia, founded by Shanghai-born Jiang Qiong Er, as an example of a smart business move — one that allowed the French fashion giant to show respect for Chinese consumers, and a vested interest, both financial and cultural, in the country’s traditional craftsmanship.

More than money

There is clearly no shortage of money at Europe’s biggest fashion houses, and China’s rise as the world’s fastest-growing consumer market makes it the target of many new products and campaigns. Chinese consumers account for nearly a third of spending on luxury goods worldwide, according to a recent report by consultancy firm Bain & Company.

The D&G incident last November serves as a cautionary tale. It is difficult to calculate the amount of money a brand loses in the fallout of a scandal like this, but they can stand to lose millions if campaigns backfire and customers boycott. Within days of the private messages becoming public, one Chinese e-commerce site said it had removed nearly 60,000 D&G products. But understanding a foreign audience’s culture isn’t a matter of money, according to Steele.

If more Chinese people were involved in planning the D&G campaign, she said, there may not have been as many errors. “Giving diverse voices a seat at the table isn’t enough,” she argued, saying that those employees also need to be valued and “in a position that isn’t threatened or penalized for speaking up.”

“You can’t just have change in terms of representation, like a rainbow coalition on the runway,” she said. “You really have to have diversity in terms of who’s in power: Who owns the company, who designs for the company, who does the advertising? You need diversity all the way through the entire power structure, not just the face of the brand.”

Steele and Greener both allude to a broader theory that links overseas missteps with offense caused by the people in headquarters in the West: that these gaffes all directly reflect homogeneity in fashion’s upper echelons. Just as involving Chinese people may help heighten brands’ sensitivity towards China, hiring more black people or Sikhs — in London, Milan or New York — might have stopped garments offending those communities from making it past the drawing board.

And the industry’s problematic lack of diversity isn’t just racial — it may also reflect socioeconomic inequalities.

“Increasingly, you have to be rich to break into (fashion), because you’re getting paid so little at the start, and are less likely to be able to afford unpaid internships,” said Steele.

“On top of everything else, you have a climate which many people say is one of bullying and conformism, (and) which is hostile to anybody who does not fall within the parameters of whatever clique has the power to make decisions.”

This pervasive culture makes it easier for prejudices to go unchallenged, according to New York-based stylist Ashley Owens, who founded the independent art and fashion magazine Suited in 2015.

“Racism, sexism and homophobia are so ingrained that you actually have to be mentally fighting those biases within yourself constantly,” she said in a phone interview. “In order to really change that system, it takes individual, incremental change in the day to day.”

Steps toward accountability

Brands are slowly starting to recognize that they must embrace inclusion within their own ranks if they are to achieve global appeal.

In January, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and PVH, the parent company of brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, published a briefing on inclusivity and diversity, making an ethical and creative case for embracing both.

“The (American) fashion industry … has so far struggled to reflect the country’s diversity in its workforce across all levels,” the briefing stated. “It’s crucial for our industry to understand that diversity and inclusion are not a trend, but the way every company should operate.”

As the report articulated, diversity is “simply a measure of difference” within a company — be it race, age, gender, ability or sexual orientation — while inclusion goes further, creating “a climate in which diverse individuals come together to form a collective whole.” Only then, perhaps, will fashion house employees feel empowered to speak out against campaigns or products that are so obviously going to cause offense.

The current disconnect between diversity and inclusion in fashion’s ivory tower is clear. The major players are, still, overwhelmingly white. Fewer than 4% of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) members listed on its website are black, and until the September 2018 issue, the cover of US Vogue had never been shot by an African-American photographer.

The industry is also overwhelmingly male. In the US, women may spend three times more on clothing than men, but only 14% of major brands are led by a female executive, according to a 2015 Business of Fashion survey of 50 global brands.

Remedies will take time, and the CFDA’s report outlines a number of long-term goals. Attitudes within fashion may be no more offensive than in other homogenous industries, but its public-facing role exposes it to far greater scrutiny. For now, the threat of coordinated action spreading online may be the most powerful force keeping brands in check.

While no fashion house has explicitly blamed their transgressions on insufficient in-house diversity, their responses to controversy offer a tacit acceptance of its role. Shortly after Prada’s blackface accessories were withdrawn, the brand announced that two influential African-American cultural figures, artist Theaster Gates and director Ava DuVernay, would lead a new advisory council that will “elevate voices of color.”

And when Gucci withdrew the aforementioned balaclava sweater from sale, it published an apology alongside what it called a commitment to increase diversity throughout the organization. (It later launched the Gucci Changemakers program, with a particular focus on targeting African-American communities and youth, and announced a $5 million fund “to support social change by investing in community-based programs.)

Burberry soon followed suit, announcing plans to establish employee councils focused on diversity and inclusion, and telling CNN by email that it is rolling out inclusive leadership workshops and mandatory unconscious bias training. Whether such initiatives bring about meaningful change remains to be seen.

But they are, at least, an attempt to right some of the industry’s wrongs, rather than simply apologizing and pulling offensive items from the shelves.

At the time of publication, D&G, Dior and Saint Laurent had not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

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Baltimore Stands Up For Its City After Trump Tweets ‘No Human Being Would Want To Live There’


Baltimore Stands Up For It’s City

Baltimore stands up for its city after Trump tweets ‘no human being would want to live there’

Originally Published: 28 JUL 19 03:01 ET

Updated: 28 JUL 19 10:21 ET

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN

    (CNN) — Baltimore did not take President Donald Trump’s recent attack of the city lying down. Instead, Charm City was quick to stand up and fight back.

Trump lashed out at another prominent African American lawmaker on Saturday, tweeting that his Baltimore district is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

The President’s tirade was directed at House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, who represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the House and recently lambasted conditions at the border. Trump’s attack against Cummings was the latest verbal assault against a minority member of Congress who is a frequent critic of the President.

The President suggested that conditions in Cummings’ district, which is majority black and includes parts of Baltimore, are “FAR WORSE and more dangerous” than those at the US-Mexico border and called it a “very dangerous & filthy place.”

Cummings, the city’s leaders and residents were quick to defend Baltimore. The Twitter hashtag #wearebaltimore was trending Saturday night, with users posting pictures and comments expressing their pride in the city.

“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily,” Cummings wrote on Twitter Saturday in response. “Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”

Baltimore’s Mayor Jack Young also took the attack to heart, criticizing Trump for disparaging a “vibrant American City.”

“It’s completely unacceptable for the political leader of our country to denigrate a vibrant American City like Baltimore, and to viciously attack U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings a patriot and a hero,” Young tweeted.

The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board published a response, highlighting aspects of the city they felt the president left out: the beauty of Inner Harbor, the history of Fort McHenry, the prominence of Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the national dependency on the Social Security Administration, which is housed in the city.

“And it surely wasn’t about the economic standing of a district where the median income is actually above the national average,” the board wrote.

“Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.”

Other Democrats came to Baltimore’s defense on Saturday, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, whose national 2020 presidential campaign headquarters is located there.

“Baltimore has become home to my team and it’s disgraceful the president has chosen to start his morning disparaging this great American city,” Harris wrote on Twitter.

‘City of good Americans’

Others called out the city’s character: “There’s a block party today on my southside street. This is a city of good Americans who deserve more than a grifting, hollow and self-absorbed failure of a man as their president,” tweeted author David Simon.

And while they defended their city, some had criticisms for Trump.

“It should be beneath the dignity of the President of the United States, the person who is supposed to be the leader of the free world, to disparage and personally attack a great American city and another great American leader,” Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott told reporters Saturday. “Instead of up upholding his oath of office to put the greater good of all American citizens, no matter where they live and who they voted for above all else, that he decided to do the opposite.”

Many of the elected officials who spoke out praised Cummings, who grew up in Baltimore, for his help in the recent developments the district has undertaken, though they acknowledge there is still more work to do.

“We stand ready and willing to work with the President, if he is willing to go beyond tweets, to help us solve some of the problems that are deep enrooting in Baltimore’s history,” Scott said.

™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Joint Conference Of Catholic Religious In Baltimore July 20-25

Sister (Sr.) Josita Colbert, SNDdeN is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, a Roman Catholic institute of religious sisters founded to provide education to those made poor. Sr. Colbert reflected on the events, which led her to enter religious service in 1956.

“I became interested when I was in the fifth grade,” said Sr. Colbert, “I had not seen black nuns— only white nuns. The first black nun I ever saw was with the Oblate Sisters of Providence.”

Founded by Mother Mary Lange, The Oblate Sisters of Providence was created to allow black women to enter religious life in the Catholic Church.

“My parents, like most Catholic parents were told to raise their children in the Catholic faith,” said Sr. Colbert. “What they found out was that all Catholic schools did not take black children. So, I had to take three buses to St. Pius V in Baltimore. I was very impressed with the nuns who taught us at both St. Pius and St. Frances Academy.

“My family was also very active in the church. They were also a part of the Girl Scouts and other service organizations. I got this idea of wanting to be of service. I thought that the opportunity to serve and teach was the greatest thing I could do.”

Sr. Colbert is a member of the National Black Sisters Conference (NBSC), one of the religious groups participating in the Joint Conference taking place Saturday July 20, 2019 through Thursday, July 25, 2019 at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards Hotel. The Joint Conference is an annual meeting of black Catholic women religious, clergy, brothers, seminarians, deacons and their wives. Sr. Colbert chairs the Joint Conference Committee. The theme of the Joint Conference is “This Work is Ours to Do.”

“Each place we go for our conference, we celebrate African American people in that city,” said Sr. Colbert, noting that the Oblate Sisters of Providence and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture will be among the stops. “We look at our roots as it relates to Catholics in that City.”

The Joint Conference will include several religious ceremonies, meetings, a concert, and an Awards Ceremony.

“We looked back over the past 50 years in terms of speakers, actions and contributions and looking at 2019, we want to look at what we can do as black religious individuals to support our black communities,” said Sr. Colbert. “We want to look at our gifts and skills, and how they can help in the communities to address the issues that are relevant today.”

Founded in 1968, the NBSC is an inclusive Catholic organization of vowed black Catholic Women Religious and Associates from many congregations of religious across the United States.

“NBSC started in 1968 following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Sr. Colbert. “We wanted to learn about what was going on in 1968 to explain the Black Power Movement and what we could do as black religious woman. It was educating ourselves and reaching out. In 1968, there was just one black bishop.

“We have seen some change but there needs to be a whole lot more change given the climate in the country. In some ways, it seems to be like 1968 and before that time period. Unfortunately, we don’t have as many people of color serving in leadership positions within the Catholic Church. We are still not that large, however we can still be effective.”

Sr. Colbert has been a member of NBSC since it was founded, and has served on several boards within the organization. She says that NBSC works with other organizations, which include The National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of black Catholics across the United States. The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons and wives, and National Black Catholic Seminarian Association are also part of the in the Joint Conference.

“We network with other organizations within the Catholic Church,” she said. “The goal is to become an anti-racist church. We want the Catholic Church to

become more open to receiving African American men and women who may be called to become a Roman Catholic priest, deacon, religious nuns, and brothers.

“That it recognizes, reverence and nurtures God’s call of African-American women and men to the priesthood and religious life. Our role as a Joint Conference is key.”

Sr. Colbert estimates the number of black nuns at 300 to 400 nationally, and says she is one of five African-Americans among the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who are members of the National Black Sisters Conference.

However, history has repeated itself. Just like the nuns who helped shaped the course of her life as a student at St. Frances Academy, she has done the same.

“I have a young student I taught in kindergarten who is now a priest, “said Sr. Colbert. “I feel really good about that.”

Sr. Colbert estimates the Joint Conference will draw between 100 to 200 participants.

“Through the conference, we work together to promote leadership, and basically we challenge ourselves and other members of the Catholic Church to listen to those voices that for too long have been excluded and silenced. We also celebrate each other,” she said.

For more information about the Joint Conference and NBSC, visit: