The Grio

Houston deputy fatally shot in the back while...

Houston deputy fatally shot in the back while pumping gas

HOUSTON (AP) — A sheriff's deputy in uniform was shot and killed Friday night while filling up his patrol car at a suburban Houston gas station, according to authorities.
New Orleans celebrates its recovery 10 years...

New Orleans celebrates its recovery 10 years after Katrina

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With prayers, church bells and brass bands, residents across Mississippi and Louisiana will pay homage Saturday to those who died in Hurricane Katrina, thank those who came to rebuild and celebrate how far the region has come from that devastating day.
Mentally ill man arrested for allegedly stealing...

Mentally ill man arrested for allegedly stealing $5, found dead in cell

REPORT - A young black man arrested by police in Portsmouth, Virginia, has been found dead in his jail cell after spending almost four months behind bars (without bail) for stealing $5 worth of groceries.
Tennessee politician caught making ‘Black...

Tennessee politician caught making ‘Black N****r’ comment in 911 call, responds

REPORT - A Tennessee city councilman is in hot water after audio of him calling someone a racial epithet was made public.
NYC street artist paints graphic and unflattering...

NYC street artist paints graphic and unflattering mural of Donald Trump

REPORT - This week a New York street artist made their feelings for Donald Trump crystal clear.
Prosecutors: No retrial for white officer who...

Prosecutors: No retrial for white officer who shot Jonathan Ferrell

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina state prosecutors announced Friday that they won't retry a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man, saying that talking with jurors after the mistrial helped convince them they cannot get a conviction.

Black Enterprise

NBA Legend Darryl ‘Chocolate Thunder’ Dawkins...

NBA Legend Darryl ‘Chocolate Thunder’ Dawkins Dies

Darryl Dawkins, an NBA legend who played for the Philadelphia Sixers and the New Jersey…
[INFOGRAPHIC] Why We Still Need Women’s...

[INFOGRAPHIC] Why We Still Need Women’s Equality Day

It's Women's Equality Day. Take a look at women in politics in 2015.
Civil Rights Activist Amelia Boynton Robinson...

Civil Rights Activist Amelia Boynton Robinson Passes Away at 104

Civil Rights Activist Amelia Boynton Robinson, who helped lead the "Bloody Sunday" civil rights march…
Nation Commemorates Women’s Equality Day

Nation Commemorates Women’s Equality Day

Today, Aug. 26 is Women's Equality Day, as declared by the White House, commemorating 95…
Black Church Leaders Embark on Israel Visit

Black Church Leaders Embark on Israel Visit

According to reports, Christian leaders from metro Detroit with the largest African-American religious group left…
Kanye West to Receive Video Vanguard Award

Kanye West to Receive Video Vanguard Award

This year at the MTV VMA’s, hip-hop superstar and entrepreneur Kanye West is set to…

The Root

Black Man Held for Months Over $5 Grocery Theft...

Black Man Held for Months Over $5 Grocery Theft Found Dead in Jail

A 24-year-old black man was found dead in a Virginia jail cell after he was held without bail for four months over an alleged theft of $5 worth of groceries, reports the Guardian.

NC Cop Who Shot Unarmed Jonathan Ferrell Will not...

NC Cop Who Shot Unarmed Jonathan Ferrell Will not Be Retried After Mistrial

North Carolina state prosecutors said Friday that they will not retry a white police officer who shot and killed unarmed Jonathan Ferrell after talking with jurors following a mistrial, saying they would not be able to win a conviction, according to the New York Daily News.

Follow the Money: How New Orleans’ Charter...

Follow the Money: How New Orleans’ Charter School System Influences Both Economic Development and Injustice

In part 1 of  “‘Like Another Katrina’: The Charter School Debate Fractures New Orleans Along Lines of Race and Class,” The Root took a comprehensive look at the educational, cultural and racial effects of the charter school system, which rapidly expanded in the city following Hurricane Katrina.

Kevin  Durant, professional basketball...

Kevin  Durant, professional basketball player, philanthropist 

When Kevin Durant accepted the NBA’s 2014 Most Valuable Player honor, there was nary a dry eye in the house. Durant thanked each of his teammates individually and praised the sacrifice of his single mother, “the real MVP”. Since being named the league’s rookie of the year in 2008, the supremely talented sportsman has been on the fast track to legend status—the youngest player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club; the face of “NBA 2K15”; and, this summer, signing an unprecedented $350 million endorsement deal with Nike. Durant, who has about 11 “business tattoos” (meaning they’re purposely covered by his shirt), is also known for his generous philanthropy. “Basketball is just a platform for me to inspire people,” says the modest millennial.

Joshua DuBois, pastor, writer, professor,...

Joshua DuBois, pastor, writer, professor, consultant

Since the shooting death of Amadou Diallo more than 15 years ago by New York City police, Joshua Dubois has heeded the call of political activism, as well as a higher calling. Last year, the young, Pentecostal minister stepped down from his post as head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where he focused on connecting religious leaders with policymakers and also served as the unofficial “pastor in chief” to Barack Obama. Each morning, DuBois sent Obama Bible passages, which became the basis of a book, The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired Barack Obama.  

Jennifer Brea, Filmmaker

Jennifer Brea, Filmmaker

Several years ago, Jennifer Brea was at a restaurant and lost the ability to sign her name. Her health quickly deteriorated; so much so, that she couldn’t speak her vows at her wedding. After years of misdiagnoses, she got a verdict: chronic fatigue syndrome, or more specifically, myalgic encephalomyelitis, thought to affect more than 1 million Americans. Brea, on medical leave as a doctoral student at Harvard, sought a way to document her harrowing health tailspin. Since the condition left her with the inability to write, Brea’s video journals became the documentary Canary in a Coal Mine. The film outlines Brea’s walk with this swiftly attacking, misunderstood (often deemed psychosomatic) disease, and raises awareness about the utter lack of understanding (and funding) by the medical establishment. For her untold story, Brea raised over $200,000 in a Kickstarter campaign and Canary was recently bestowed a grant from the Sundance Institute.

Black Voices (Huffington Post)

7 Facts School Leaders Want You To Know About...

7 Facts School Leaders Want You To Know About Kids In New Orleans

Take a look at the current state of education in New Orleans and you’ll see things have steadily improved since 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.  But while the progress schools have made prompts praise, school leaders say it doesn’t paint the full picture. 

Leaders throughout the city have dedicated their lives to the kids who, they hope, will guide New Orleans to a better future. But as they do, there are still certain challenges students, teachers and families must overcome, many of which disproportionately affect African-American students.

We spoke with black school leaders in New Orleans, who weighed in on the state of education in the city now and the areas that have -- and have not -- improved in the last 10 years.

Here are seven things they want you to know:

1. There Is A Huge Need For More Mentors And More Experienced Teachers

Kids in New Orleans are in deep need of positive role models, says Jamar McKneely, CEO and co-founder of InspireNola charter schools, which represents two faculty-run schools.

“Every day on our news, we're seeing killings, especially in New Orleans, right? And not only are we seeing killings, we're seeing African-American males and females always getting shot,” he said. “So for [kids], they have no self-understanding of what they can become because that's all they've glorified and see.”

Adding to this may be the fact that the predominately black student population in New Orleans now looks less like its teachers than before the hurricane. Following Katrina, teachers in New Orleans were laid off en masse as many schools were closed or converted to charter schools. The teachers who were hired after the fact are whiter and less experienced than those who came before them.

During the 2003-2004 school year, 72 percent of the teacher workforce in New Orleans was black. In 2013-2014, this same number was at 49 percent. During the 2004-2005 school year, only 48 percent of teachers in the area had less than 10 years of experience. By 2013-2014, this number had shot up to 70 percent, according to data from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans.

2. Rates Of Success Have Drastically Increased

In 2005, nearly 75 percent of the schools in New Orleans were failing by state standards. That number has drastically decreased, now standing at 7 percent. The city, which is now the national leader in the black male graduation rate, can credit much of this success to $1.8 billion that was invested in repairing many of the schools that were demolished in the storm -- as well as t0 school leaders who have been committed to bringing about change.

Educational measures suggest that kids are doing better in school now than they were before the hurricane. Graduation rates have increased dramatically in the past 10 years, going from 54 percent to 73 percent. The number of students performing at grade level has shot up, according to a report from the National Urban League.

Sivi Domango, the co-director of Arthur Ashe Charter High School, says she can see the difference.

“Overall, the district is absolutely stronger than it was,” said Domango. “I think right now the focus on education is a key to the success and ongoing growth of the city.”

3. Childhood Poverty Has Serious Effects

More than 50 percent of African American children in New Orleans live in poverty, data shows. The staggering number is a result of low income rates and high unemployment levels among black men and women in the city -- and disparities with their white counterparts continue to widen.

For many black kids, the serious effects of child poverty go beyond examining its impact on their success in school. It also affects their livelihood.

“It goes to show you the various different dynamics that our kids are experiencing in their households where they're just looking for somebody who can believe in them to provide a safe, secure atmosphere,” McKneely said.

“We gotta have some heart-to-heart conversations based on these statistics and say, 'What can we do within the next one to three years to really close the achievement gap even more?' Because if we're still having a lot of kids in poverty, then we're still missing the boat,” he added.

4. There Is A Strong Focus On Post-Secondary Prep And Career Readiness

Domango said that in her school, there is more of an emphasis on college now than she saw in the past or at previous schools.

“We now definitely focus a lot on [college],” said Domango. “Not that college was not the focus initially, but the conversation is happening more.”

This is reflected in college-going rates in New Orleans schools. About 60 percent of students in the class of 2014 enrolled in college upon graduation, the National Urban League reported. Of this number, about 48 percent of the class of 2014 went to an in-state college. In 2004 -- when the Louisiana Department of Education only collected data on kids who stayed in state -- 37 percent of high school graduates went to an in-state university.

5. Psychological And Mental Health Concerns Should Not Go Overlooked

Experiencing the devastation and death in the aftermath of the hurricane had very serious psychological effects on both children and their families.

In New Orleans, 60 percent of children show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to education consultant Nash Crews. And when compared to their peers nationwide, children in the Crescent City are 4.5 times more likely to show symptoms of serious emotional disturbance. 

“It definitely impacted our kids emotionally. They definitely struggled in school, some even after returning to NOLA still had social and emotional struggles,” Domango said.

Meanwhile, schools are struggling to adequately address the needs of students who have psychological distress and disabilities, which often lead to suspensions or expulsion when students exhibit behavioral issues. However, in an attempt to find a solution, the city will soon open a therapeutic day program that aims to provide students with individual services to better address their mental and behavioral health needs.

6. There’s Still Much To Be Done

Although there has been much improvement in the quality of education in New Orleans, things aren’t where they should be ... yet, McKneely said.  

“I think that one of the biggest challenges is although we're making improvements, we still have so far to go,” he said. “We really need, more than ever, our true leaders, to stand up and set an agenda where we can rally around common [goals] of what we need to do.”

“Even if our kids are graduating at a higher rate and we have more African American kids graduating more than ever before, there's still a lack of jobs out there,” McKneely said. “Then what can you do? Even if they graduate and they try to have a job, the only jobs that we can offer are those [that are] still very low-paying. It’s a counterproductive cycle.”

7. But There’s Plenty Of Hope For The Future

Despite the challenges, school leaders say that they are optimistic for the future of New Orleans schools, and have high hopes for where they will be 10 years from now.

In 2006, then-President George W. Bush visited Warren Easton Charter High School to mark the one-year anniversary of the hurricane. He visited again this week.

“When he was here [the first time] we didn’t have air conditioning, we didn’t have a gym, we didn’t have a health center, and we have all of those things now,” said principal Alexina Medley. “With our children we can now say, ‘Hey, we’ve come a long away.’ You can imagine if we’ve done this on the 10th anniversary, then think about what we can do in the next 10 years.”

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Public (School) Enemy Number One: How Structural...

Public (School) Enemy Number One: How Structural Racism Undermines New Orleans Public Education

Let there be no mistake. Public enemy number one in New Orleans' public schools is structural racism.

Despite the various narratives of progress, black and brown kids across our city--almost regardless of school, age, neighborhood, or income--are punished, threatened, failing, and producing predictable, vilified, low test scores. This is no surprise to any of us--not a one.

These results are not a mistake.

No, these are the predictable, consistent results of a system in precise balance. These are the oppressive results of structural racism in both our schools and our city and country at-large.

In fact, white supremacy is prevalent in every layer of New Orleans's public school system--from the dominant media narratives of our city and it's education system to the inequitable funding structures that finance our schools; from disempowered parents to irresponsible and inaccurate uses of data; from resegregation of students and staff to the inequitable representation in governance; from private financing, influence, and bias down to the nuts and bolts of curriculum and school culture.

You think you know, but you have no idea: The True Diary of New Orleans Public Schools
For the myriad articles, books, and documentaries written on the topic, the true story of public education in New Orleans is parallel to that of nearly all public institutions across this great nation--a battle for racial and class equity in a system crippled by the invisible but very real shackles of systems that undermine that pursuit.

As the saying goes, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. There are tens of thousands of well-intentioned, hard-working people who do prodigious things for one another and for the kids of New Orleans, but who do so often blind to the truth of what is holding us all back and therefore often inadvertently hurting the cause they work so hard to help.

Young White Teacher in an Old Black City: Accounting for My Privilege & Mistakes
To be clear, I am an educator: a white transplant educator. I was part of Teach for America's 2008 Greater New Orleans corps of nearly 300 mostly-white, mostly-transplant 20-somethings who were recruited to come to this city to teach for two years to supposedly serve the needs of New Orleans's kids.

I have, unequivocally, been a part of the problem during my time in New Orleans, scolding kids for petty transgressions, buying into staff and school CULTures that model dictatorial power structures for my mostly-black students, punishing kids who were going through deep traumas, and teaching a simplified curriculum divorced from the reality of my kids' lives and needs.

It was constructive dialogue with peers, parents, and students that pushed me to finally analyze the errors in my ways and understand what all of us truly need to do to make sure that all kids in New Orleans live happier and healthier lives.

I am now beginning my eighth year as a public school teacher in New Orleans now at my third school in the region. I am also parents of a 4 year-old son newly enrolled in pre-K in the New Orleans public school system (albeit paying tuition because of my income).

I still teach in a New Orleans open-enrollment charter because I have found a role that allows me to spend my days facilitating more multidisciplinary, liberatory experiences for my amazing students; but I am still a white transplant earning a living wage teaching mostly black and brown kids. Being white, I am privileged to face fewer ramifications for speaking up in certain situations than some of my colleagues of color, and thus feel responsible to help share the perspective that those colleagues of color have helped me and others reach.

So, is it better?: Comparing Pre-Katrina to Post-Katrina
We should also be clear that it is hard to draw a fair comparison between the schools in New Orleans pre- and post-Katrina, just the same way that it's hard to draw a comparison between their respective student bodies.

Both are fundamentally different. And that is ultimately the wrong question to be asking because both are less than what our children deserve.

There are, indisputably, many good things happening throughout the city for kids of color. But there are also, equally clearly, many enduring bad things happening for those same kids and their community.

You see, New Orleans is an indigenous-swampland-turned-bustling-port by European settlers of many ethnicities who amassed the wealth of a continent on the displacement of a civilization of native peoples and the hard labor of enslaved Africans: a place where some of the harshest cruelties of decades of legalized segregation, hatred, rape, and plunder played themselves out for the past three centuries--and arguably still do to this day.

After legal desegregation in 1954 (which still to this day has never truly been enforced almost anywhere in this country!), New Orleans only had the chance to educate a few generations of its children in its public schools before media began skewering the system's faults.

The largely-unpublicized truth is that pre-Katrina New Orleans was a city and education system in multi-generational renaissance where a great diversity of truly public, neighborhood, community schools were instilling a sense of identity, building community, and cultivating leadership. New Orleans was in the early stages of shedding its overtly racist and oppressive past, beginning the deep, generational work of healing and educating its young to create a new type of social fabric.

Yet that same school system in renaissance was also home, in places, to violence, apathy, underachievement, and corruption upon which Katrina provided an opportunity to improve.

Public School Pirates: The Hostile Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools
Unfortunately, that reform movement was commandeered almost entirely by white leadership, both public and private, who jumpstarted the reform effort by firing all 7,000 plus educators in the public school system (mostly educated, black middle-class jobs), dismantling the teacher's union (a historic, black-lead community organization), promoting hyper-disciplined school cultures that demand conformity and total compliance from kids (mostly of color) to teachers (mostly white), and simplifying how we measure schools' successes down to math and reading test scores (measures that don't correlate to the needs of any students).

I hear the many CEOs, school leaders, and non-profit directors of the reform movement saying, "But what about the racism of low expectations that existed before the storm? Don't we need to be promoting rigor and data-driven instruction in our classrooms to make sure that no kid falls behind?" To them I ask, "What are your high expectations now?"

Yes, the expectations for compliance and quantitative data--both from staff and students--are much more rigorous, but to what end?

A dear friend of mine--a black, female assistant-principal of a large charter school--returned horrified after the first day of summer development for teachers at her new school. The opening day was being led by a for-profit consulting group born by a group of "high-performing, no-excuses" schools in Boston--a consulting group whose market share has increased each of its first 3 years in New Orleans.

The instructor opened by asking the room full of teachers and administrators, "Who thinks discipline is the most important thing our school?" My colleague was alarmed when hers was the only hand up in the entire room for discipline not being the most important thing (figuring education, character, happiness, or health might trump it). That alarm quickly turned into disgust when the facilitator briskly corrected her for having the wrong answer, praised everyone else for understanding that key point, and moved on without a moment of debate or discussion.

The Golden Rule and the Audacity of Healing
Whether well-intentioned philanthropy or an example of Disaster Capitalism, this approach to reform undermines what kids and communities in New Orleans really need: a liberatory education that addresses the material conditions of kids' lives, breaks down the societal structures that create their oppression, and promotes self love and worth, healing, reconciliation, and restitution from historical and contemporary traumas.

Educating all of our kids well is within our reach. It's remarkably simple: we must educate every child as if he or she was our own. Though of course we all know that raising our own children well is deep, grueling work.

Below I propose a web of actions we can take at various levels of our society, whether you are an educator, student, parent, or citizen. May these generate discourse and actions that improve all of our lives for generations to come.

We must clarify the goal(s) of educating our children.
I would argue that the best metrics of a successful education are the happiness and health of the human being and the community in which they exist. These stand in opposition to the more standard metrics of accomplishment or competitiveness that are often used to frame the purpose of our education system. We ought to invest time as a society clarifying what we want our kids to really get out of their education.

We must clarify the obstacles preventing us from achieving those goals.
The common answers to this question are "the achievement gap" or "inequity". Though these are both true, I would argue that public enemy number one is the structural racism that maintains and deepens the inequity which creates the achievement gap in this country. If we can actually name structural racism as the biggest obstacle impeding our progress, then we can better align our resources to dismantle those oppressive structures.

We must resource education according to our goal(s).
We must revisit the conversation of how much to spend on education and how to allocate it only once we have clarified our goals. I imagine we might come away deciding that we need to spend much more per-pupil (accordingly, a much larger percent of our federal, state, and local budgets) to really give our children what they deserve. Along with this, we also need to delineate which responsibilities fall under the school (and resource those responsibilities adequately) while also separating out responsibilities that are better served, say, by local health-care or housing agencies.

We must figure out how to measure the actual life outcomes and early indicators of those outcomes that we want for our kids.
Yes, data driven instruction is crucial--the trick is paying attention to the right data. What will help us determine the right data is having a clear sense of goals and what gets in their way. From there we can determine which data points really lead to the types of outcomes we want to see for all of our children, that way our schools can focus on measuring those and get rid of the panoply of tests that currently maintain a stranglehold on urban schools.

We must root our kids' education in real-life experiences (not artificial tests and standards) and measure their progress with real-life tasks.
I imagine this would happen without needing to say it explicitly once our goals are clear. Once our goals are greater than academic achievement, we can no longer rationalize curricular silos called "subjects". Our kids must be immersed in a wealth and diversity of experiences and projects that real humans do--across cultures, ages, and epochs. Kids must do the learning, not receive or memorize it. Every assessment must be a project or task based on projects that real adults do in the real world, every class connected to a real human job, passion, or experience.

We must root our kids' education in critical thinking by questioning our species' "successes".
We must reorient the culture of our schools to foster, teach, and reward kids who ask hard questions, constructively challenge authority, and create new ways of being. We must explicitly promote an agenda of elevating the best things that make us human and solving our species' most endemic problems. We must help our kids reckon with the fact that our scientific "successes" have left us with technology that has reaped ecological destruction and social isolation; and our economic "successes" have left us with the most inequality every experienced by any species on our planet's history built from a history and present of legalized exploitation.

We must root our kids' education in creative and divergent thinking.
Similarly, we must reorient the culture of our schools to foster, teach, and reward kids who do the unexpected, dismantle and rebuild things, and who create new and beautiful things in the world. This applies both to the arts and to teaching kids how to design, build, run, evaluate, improve, and dismantle our systems on Earth from law and media to infrastructure and technology.

We must promote diversity and autonomy (not standardization) in curriculum, pedagogy, and outcomes.
Biodiversity is nature's wonder and it's insurance policy; we must learn from and seek to protect and proliferate the world's indigenous and aboriginal cultures that hold so much of our species' fundamental knowledge of how the universe and we work together. This means promoting a rich biodiversity of schools, goals, pathways, and outcomes.

We must model our human systems off of natural ones.
Our education system cannot be one simply of human extraction or gain. Living systems have the ability to sustain good things for billions of years and evolve into even greater ones. We must orient our human systems around similar goals, carefully observe how natural systems achieve such prosperity, and emulate their design to the benefit of all species. Only that level of design will ensure true, sustaining equity.

We must promote a set of values and character strengths that emphasize love, cooperation, and universal community.
To paraphrase the words of acclaimed Holocaust survivor, child psychologist and author, Dr. Haim Ginott, we must not raise learned engineers who go on to build gas chambers or educated physicians who poison children. Above any curriculum, we must foster, teach, and model a culture based on universal unity and brotherhood of all beings, human and non-human, to truly understand and honor our interconnectedness.

We must teach our kids to question reality, to construct their own truth empirically, and to love themselves for who they are.
To synthesize the previous points, our pedagogy must be based on teaching kids fundamentally to question, synthesize evidence into truth, and be content and self-loving as a foundation for loving others.

We must seek to recruit, develop, retain, honor, and compensate vast leagues of incredibly skilled career educators.
None of us would have become happy, healthy humans without the stable loving care of someone or something in our lives. The best chance we can give all of our kids at achieving such happiness and health is to ensure the stability and preparedness of those entrusted to love and care for them. Accordingly, to steal from the genius of Dr. Jeff Duncan Andrade, we must recruit our educators like we currently do athletes. We must treat them like franchise players, nurture their talents, reward their accomplishments, and honor them culturally and fiscally for the most fundamental work in our society.

We must evaluate ourselves by what we want for our own children and great-great-great-great-great grandchildren
We must not compromise on resources or approaches that we would give to our most privileged children and we must evaluate ourselves by the projected outcomes 7 generations out. This is not to say that every kid should have the same thing, but that we should spare no expense on any kid, the same way we wouldn't on the luckiest. It's not just that we can't spare any expense now, it's that we must understand the implications of our investments for many generations to come, and make wise choices accordingly.

Educators must organize and engage in critical dialogue and praxis parallel to their planning and teaching
No group of responsible adults entrusted with the lives of our young people should do so in a dictatorial school structure that over-works them and neglects their ability to self-organize. Adults teaching kids must constantly be engaged themselves in the acts of facilitating democratic structures, intelligent debate, and community organizing. Educators must debate the structures of their school, school system, and curriculum and make critical choices cooperatively to advance the quality of education and educational institutions.

We adults must maintain active, differentiated involvement: Teach, volunteer, serve on boards, observe, discuss and ask questions, vote, read, write, organize.
Certainly much of this list is written for educators, students, and parents--but all of us fall into those categories at some point in our lives. Wherever you are at this point in your life, maintain an awareness of and a caring for our education system, even if that means just supporting one single child, educator, or project. The beautiful thing is that with a diversity of involvement, we will naturally fulfill all of our needs.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

New Orleans Marks 10 Years Since Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Marks 10 Years Since Hurricane Katrina

By Kathy Finn and Edward McAllister

NEW ORLEANS, Aug 29 (Reuters) - New Orleans, a town renowned for staging big celebrations, faces a tricky challenge on Saturday, 10 years to the day from when Hurricane Katrina slammed into southeast Louisiana and triggered flooding that would leave 80 percent of the city under water.

The city wants to recognize the progress it has made in recovering from the most costly storm in U.S. history. Thousands of people are expected to turn out as the city's trademark "second line" parades snake through the streets and New Orleans puts its famous musical traditions on display.

But Saturday is also a time to remember more than 1,500 New Orleanians who were killed by Katrina and its aftermath, and the 130,000 residents who were displaced.

"A celebration would not be the right gesture for those who will never be made whole," said Kristian Sonnier, an official at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This is more taking stock and recognizing what we have accomplished and that we have a lot more work to do," he said.

Saturday will cap a week of self-examination that has included panel discussions by urban planners, elected officials, recovery experts, architects and neighborhood leaders.

The day begins early with a wreath-laying ceremony in one of the city's historic above-ground cemeteries, the site of the Hurricane Katrina Memorial. The remains of 83 "forgotten" victims have rested there since 2008, their bodies never claimed by relatives. Mayor Mitch Landrieu will pay tribute to them during a brief service.

Other places that were hard-hit will host memorials as well. At Shell Beach, in lower St. Bernard Parish just east of New Orleans, public officials and residents will gather along a waterway that burst through a levee in 2005 and killed 127 people. The ceremony will feature a reading of the names of victims, now etched into a monument there. 

 Tributes are slated in the city's Lower Ninth Ward, where surging waters broke a floodwall on the city's Industrial Canal and devastated the entire neighborhood. Similarly, Lakeview, Broadmoor, Mid-City and a host of other areas are looking back on 2005 with mixed emotions.

"There aren't enough words to describe the loss, especially for the people of the Lower Ninth Ward, because the breach that drowned their neighborhood was the worst in the city," said civic activist Sandy Rosenthal on Friday, just after she had walked in a second-line parade through the ward.

At the same time, she says, the progress the city has made in 10 years is undeniable.

A march and hand-holding ceremony is scheduled at the city's Superdome, which housed thousands of displaced people after the storm and became an emblem of the chaos and hardship that engulfed New Orleans after the flooding.

"It's a great feeling to see that so many people have come back to the city and are doing well, but depression sets in when you think of those who died or those who want to come back but haven't been able to return," said Barbara Blackwell, whose home in the Gentilly neighborhood was a casualty of the flood.

"I know that for many people, this anniversary unearths old wounds, but it's also a healing process," Blackwell said. "The pain never goes away, but it helps to know that loved ones who were lost are being remembered."

 While some residents find it hard to look back, many are heartened to see that national figures continue to show concern and admiration for New Orleans.

President Barack Obama paid tribute to the city's recovery in a visit to the Lower Ninth Ward on Thursday. "I am inspired by you," he told his audience at a local community center.

Former President George W. Bush, who critics say was slow to respond to the unfolding crisis a decade ago, visited the city on Friday. Former President Bill Clinton will address a gathering at a downtown arena on Saturday that will also feature a lineup of well-known local musicians.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker) 

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Dozens Of Young Women Killed In Crash Before...

Dozens Of Young Women Killed In Crash Before Swaziland Royal Ceremony

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 29 (Reuters) - At least 38 young women have died in a road accident in Swaziland on their way to an annual ceremony where the king might have chosen one of them as his wife, an advocacy group said on Saturday.

Trucks transporting scores of young women to the traditional Umhlanga Reed Dance collided on Friday near the town of Matsapha on Swaziland's major highway, the Times of Swaziland reported.

The local hospital's emergency room was full of injured and dead women, the Times of Swaziland reported.

"According to inside sources, a total of 38 young girls have been pronounced dead, with more than 20 others seriously injured," said Lucky Lukhele, spokesperson for the Swaziland Solidarity Network, an advocacy group based in neighboring South Africa.

Lukhele expects the death toll will rise.

The Swazi Observer said some of the girls were flung out of the trucks and run over. It said three trucks were involved.

The Umhlanga Reed Dance has in the past involved bare-breasted young Swazi women dancing and singing in beaded mini-skirts to catch the eye of King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch.

The festival, meant to celebrate womanhood and virginity, is due to start on Saturday.

Thousands of young women descend on the royal residence from all over the nation every year, but in a country where relatively few families own vehicles and where infrastructure is poor, many are squeezed onto open trucks.

Neighboring South Africa, with better infrastructure, has one of the highest road death rates in the world according to the World Health Organisation.

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As Much As I Can, As Black As I Am: The Queer...

As Much As I Can, As Black As I Am: The Queer History of Grace Jones

Grace Jones is perched on a ledge above the dancefloor of New York’s 12 West, the state-of-the-art, members-only gay disco, about to take the stage for one her first performances. The year is 1977, and no one is prepared for what’s about to hit them.

Tom Moulton, father of the dance mix and Jones’ early producer, describes the scene: “All of a sudden the spotlight hits her. She starts singing ‘I Need a Man’, and the place goes crazy. After she finishes, she goes, ‘I don't know about you, honey, but I need a fucking man!’ Talk about a room-worker.Whatever it takes. She was so determined.”

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Scientists Find A Way To Combat Racial Bias Among...

Scientists Find A Way To Combat Racial Bias Among Little Kids

First, they found that infants as young as 3 months old show racial bias. Now they've found a way to shake up those early preferences -- and perhaps undermine more pernicious racial stereotypes as we grow up.

Research from the University of Delaware had earlier shown that 3-month-olds have a visual preference for faces that match the racial group they see most in their daily lives.

new study from the same team -- conducted as part of a decade-long international research project and published last month in the journal Developmental Science -- details an experiment that seemed to shift those unconscious biases seen in young children. 

Why do babies even have such biases? While infants can distinguish different races, they're less able to distinguish individual faces within a less-familiar racial group. So, for example, a white baby may be able to differentiate among -- and thus prefer -- individual white faces while struggling to differentiate among black or Asian faces. 

In other words, these very early leanings seem to be based on visual perception. Actual social biases don't come into play generally until children are around 3 or 4 years old. 

The researchers hypothesized, however, that visual biases in infants might be related to the development of social biases in later childhood and adulthood -- and therefore disrupting early visual biases could help dislodge social biases, perhaps for the long term.

"We hit on the idea that if the perceptual and social biases are linked, we might be able to reduce the social bias by perceptual means," Dr. Paul Quinn, professor of psychology and brain science at the University of Delaware and the study's lead author, said in a press release

To test this hypothesis, researchers in Delaware and China created images of racially ambiguous faces by melding individual photos of African and Asian faces. Some of the faces had pleasant expressions, while others were more severe. 

The researchers showed these photos to Chinese children, aged 4 to 6, and asked them to identify whether the faces were Asian or African. The kids tended to rate the happy-looking faces as Asian and the severe-looking faces as African.

Next, the researchers showed the children five different photos of African faces and gave individual names to the faces. This was repeated for 15 to 30 minutes until the children were able to identify the faces by name. 

When the kids were shown the photos of racially ambiguous faces again, the bias they had displayed toward their own ethnic group was reduced significantly.

Why? The theory is that the children's perceptual bias for the more familiar-looking faces was undercut when they learned to see the unfamiliar faces as individuals, too.

"It may be that the individuation disrupts the process by which stereotypes are generalized across members of a [racial] category," Quinn told The Huffington Post via email. But he noted that further research is needed to explore how long these effects last and to determine whether the effects are the result of mere exposure.

One question would be whether individualizing people must be done with language -- that is, by naming them. "Would we get it with a unique musical tone for each face?" Quinn said. "Would we get it if we just asked the children to memorize the faces?"

In the real world, the study suggests that personal interactions with people of other races may go a long way in counteracting stereotypes. 

"If you want to reduce implicit bias ... provide experience with the other-race group," Quinn said. "In particular, experience that promotes perceiving members of the other-race group as distinct individuals with unique identities."

Other stories in HuffPost's Science of Racism series

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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