December 6th, 2009, by RYAN BOWEN

A version of this post was first published at

This week marks the one-year anniversary of that fateful Tuesday last December when I took off on my bicycle from Los Angeles, en route to see President Obama’s inauguration in Washington D.C. to document this historic moment in our nation’s history.

I gained so many positive things from that 3,000-mile trip: new friends, a passion for cycling, a belief in the American people, optimism unbound and a deep knowledge that anything you dream can be achieved if the intentions are pure and your efforts are supported by like-minded individuals.

As I reflect on what the past year has brought me, I must say that I am filled with emotions — some happy, others quite sad. This past year has been such a wild ride through life that I find myself disillusioned and fizzling on my pro-Obama platform.

And the headline this week…30,000 more troops to Afghanistan?!

If this all goes through, and Mr. Obama becomes just another war president, then I am obliged to state, along with Michael Moore, that he “will do the worst possible thing [he] could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you…You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can’t believe you’re about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn’t so.”

If there’s one thing I learned about politics in this last year, it’s that it is much more challenging than anything I could ever see myself doing. But I do hope we can get some pro-peace momentum going forward.

Ryan Bowen is a photographer and social justice advocate who lives in New York. In 2008 and early 2009, he rode his bicycle from Los Angeles to the presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. and documented the experience on

December 1st, 2009, by

Since 1988, December 1st has been World AIDS Day — the day to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS around the world. The theme this year — HIV: Reality — focuses on real accounts of life with HIV and AIDS.

And at a White House event on the eve of World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the 2012 International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, DC.

That announcement is significant, as the United States only recently lifted the entry ban for HIV-positive travelers. The ban will be lifted on January 4, 2010.

November 30th, 2009, by
Phoenix Suns' Amar'e Stoudemire during the Nov. 25th game that led to his fine.

Social Media Rule #18,526: Don’t tweet while playing in an NBA game.

If you do tweet while playing in an NBA game, Amar’e Stoudemire (@amareisreal) and Tyson Chandler (@tysonchandler), the NBA will fine you $7,500 each.

November 27th, 2009, by
Black Friday shoppers carrying bags up Fifth Avenue in New York City.

If you were among the throngs of Americans out shopping and buying a bunch of items marked down from their original marked-up prices, then you might have missed these news items that are (arguably) interesting but have little-to-no impact on your life.

1) The FAA released the recordings from Northwest Flight 188. If you recall, the pilots of that flight were out of radio contact with air traffic controllers for more than an hour and flew 150 miles past their destination, all because of “cockpit distraction.”

2) Some schools are encouraging students to use their cell phones for schoolwork.

3) An iPhone developer created a Web site that documents the applications that Apple rejects. The site is called App Rejections.

4) The Secret Service apologized for allowing a couple to crash a recent White House state dinner and meet the very people the agency was supposed to be protecting (you know, like President Obama).

5) And speaking of the White House — the Obamas received the White House Christmas tree today — an 18.5-foot Douglas fir.

November 24th, 2009, by
UNAIDS Exec. Dir. Michael Sidib

Check out these stats released Tuesday in Shanghai by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization:

Globally 33.4 million people are living with H.I.V.

– In 2008, 2.7 million people were newly infected with the virus and 2 million people died from AIDS-related deaths.

– The total number of people living with H.I.V. in 2008 was 20% higher than the 2000 number.

The report — “AIDS Epidemic Update 2009” — attributes the continued rise in the H.I.V.-positive population to high rates of new infections and to the “beneficial impact of anti-retroviral therapy.”

The report also lists priority areas that should guide policy and investment, which include stopping violence against women, ensuring that people living with H.I.V. receive treatment and removing “punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination that block effective responses to AIDS.”

And speaking of stigma and discrimination, when President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act in October, he also announced the elimination of the 22-year travel ban that prevents H.I.V.-positive people from entering and traveling through the United States without a waiver. That rule will take effect in January 2010.

November 23rd, 2009, by KAREN CHILTON

While the introduction of three new voices to talk TV–all African-American and all women–is historically significant, what is equally relevant is the relative ease with which they’ve been acknowledged and accepted by viewers across the demographic spectrum.

Whether it is the shoot-from-the-hip style of Mo’Nique, the bawdy comedy of Wanda Sykes (pictured below), or the girlfriend-next-door gossip of former on-air radio personality Wendy Williams, television networks now offer audiences a choice of Black female hosts, marking a real milestone in the medium’s history.

While Tyra Banks maintains a firm footing among ‘tweens, teens and young adult women, and the doyenne of daytime talk, Oprah Winfrey, will continue to hold sway over the airwaves worldwide until her scheduled farewell in 2011, the cultural and historical purport of this viable handful of Black women hosts goes beyond sheer numbers and their ability to engage a niche audience. It speaks volumes about the freedom with which each is able to fashion her own distinctive image and message, a freedom that is, for the most part, taken for granted today, making it difficult, especially for younger generations, to fathom a time when there were scarce few Black faces on television of any kind, whether actors or entertainers, journalists or news anchors, much less a Black woman hosting her own show. Nevertheless, a quick glance back puts progress in perspective.


When the DuMont network (owned by DuMont Laboratories, maker of televisions) set out to compete with broadcasting giants NBC and CBS, they had to be innovative in their operations and programming. Unlike most networks, which had a single sponsor for each show, DuMont was one of the first to sell advertising to multiple sponsors, which gave producers greater freedom and creative control over their programming. When they approached jazz/concert pianist Hazel Scott with the idea of her own show in 1950, she had already achieved international renown as a star of stage and screen, performing with major orchestras all over the world and having made a name for herself as the premier headliner at New York’s Café Society. She welcomed the opportunity, becoming the first Black star to host her own show–solo, without variety acts, a sidekick, or a studio audience.

The Hazel Scott Show aired on July 3, 1950 as a standard fifteen-minute show that ran locally on DuMont’s New York affiliate, WABD, every Friday night. Each live broadcast opened with a performance of her theme song, “Tea for Two,” as the camera panned over a cityscape before focusing on the set, which was designed to resemble a penthouse terrace. Always costumed in gorgeous gowns, diamonds and neatly coifed hair, Hazel, seated at the grand piano, played and sang jazz standards and popular show tunes. Variety wrote, “Hazel Scott has a neat little show in this modest package. Most engaging element in the air is the Scott personality, which is dignified, yet relaxed, and versatile.”

Contrary to the producers’ concerns, white viewers did not object to Hazel’s image, which was in stark contrast to the prevailing image of Black women on television at the time (think: the subservient Negro maid or the nervous, giggling incompetent). Audiences across the country appeared willing to tune in to the elegant pianist, whose confidence and beauty were a stunning addition to her brilliant piano playing. The show garnered such great ratings that DuMont expanded the show from a local once-a-week broadcast to a national broadcast that aired three times a week.


Hazel Scott’s name appeared in Red Channels, the unofficial guide of Communists and Communist sympathizers issued by the right-wing journal Counterattack, which specifically targeted the entertainment community. It was used regularly by the U.S. government during the McCarthy Era to rout out suspected subversives. Despite the fact that Hazel Scott was not a member of the Communist Party, guilt by association was enough to warrant her name on the blacklist. And even though her husband was Harlem’s own Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) showed no mercy when she appeared voluntarily to clear her name. Immediately following the HUAC trial, sponsors pulled their support from her show. The Hazel Scott Show was promptly cancelled that September, just a few short months after its premiere. Hazel Scott would eventually be forced to join the Black expatriate community in Paris.

Though her time on the tube was short-lived, and her name is lesser known today than many of her contemporaries like Ethel Waters, who did a test pilot of The Ethel Waters Show in 1939 for one night only on NBC, and legendary vocalist/pianist Nat King Cole whose variety show aired in 1956 and lasted for 13 months, Hazel Scott’s contribution as one of the pioneers in the industry is undeniable, an inspiring and instructive example for all the women who now tread the trail she blazed.

Karen Chilton is author of Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from Café Society to Hollywood to HUAC.

November 18th, 2009, by
Job seekers at an employment fair in Southern Florida.

There have been Op-Eds in The New York Times saying that “blacks are the ones who are taking the brunt of the recession, with disproportionately high levels of foreclosures and unemployment.”

But a recent article in the paper asserts that the recession is helping bridge the racial divide in a suburb of Atlanta. The article quotes an African American woman, Keasha Taylor, who is seeking help at the Division of Family and Children Services:

“Right now, a lot of white people are in this situation,” Ms. Taylor said. “We’re already used to poverty; they’re really not.”

Does this shared economic suffering change any underlying racial dynamics?

If more whites are using social services, will people be forced to reconsider their stereotypes about who uses these services?

And what does this all mean once we pull out of this recession?

Please share your opinions and experiences and they may be included in an upcoming video blog.

November 16th, 2009, by

As the three-day World Summit on Food Security in Rome began addressing the more than one billion people worldwide who are going hungry Monday, an annual report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that 17 million American households (14.6%) had “difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year” in 2008.

Looking for a way to help? Donate or volunteer at one of Feeding America’s more than 200 food banks.

November 12th, 2009, by BRANDY HAGELSTEIN

Each year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation that sets aside November as National Adoption Month. In addition to the presidential proclamation, many state governors also issue proclamations, in an effort to raise awareness of the need for loving and permanent homes for children in their states.

National Adoption Month, which was originally put in place to make adoption from the foster care system an important social issue, has now become the one month in which members of the adoption community come together in an effort to raise awareness about the different types of adoption and share their experiences.

With well over 100,000 children currently waiting for a forever family to call their own, the need for homes for children in the U.S. foster care system is great. But the need doesn’t stop there.

Globally, there are an untold number of children who will never have a family to call their own. For that reason, National Adoption Month has evolved into a movement that raises awareness for not only children in the U.S. foster care system, but also for children around the world who are waiting for a family.

There are a number of things you can do to help children in the U.S. foster care system, even if you can’t provide a permanent home for a child in need.

Consider volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) — a non-legal advocate who gives a voice to children in the court system and makes recommendations based on the best interest of the child.

Become a licensed respite provider, offering short-term or temporary care for children in the foster care system who need a place to stay for anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Typically, respite care is provided to children who are currently in a long-term foster placement, but for whatever reason, the foster family needs to have the child cared for by someone else for a period of time.

Contact your local or state agency and find out where they have the greatest need.

In addition to the things you can do in the United States, there are a number of opportunities to help children in other countries as well. When donating to help orphans in other countries, make sure to research the charity you are considering. There are a number of reputable and trustworthy nonprofit organizations based in the U.S. that provide for the basic needs of orphans from across the globe; so finding something that fits your needs shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re interested in providing a loving and permanent home for a waiting child, the Photolisting features more than 3,000 children currently waiting for a family.

To learn more about becoming a licensed home for a waiting child in your state, contact your local state agency or complete the Homestudy Assistance Form and someone from your area will contact you to tell you how to get started.

Brandy Hagelstein is the Director of Social Media and Web Content for She is an adopted adult, a birth mother and has served as a licensed foster care provider. She writes about her experiences on

November 11th, 2009, by

As the House managed to pass a healthcare reform bill over the weekend, the recession continued to impact the ability of American families to maintain healthcare coverage. In October alone, the unemployment rate rose from 9.8 to 10.2 percent.

So we want to hear from you.

Have you lost healthcare coverage because of the recession? Please share your story and it may be included in an upcoming video blog.

And for more on this issue, visit our site for the “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.” 

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