NPR: Karen Grigsby Bates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2:26pm

Tue January 21, 2014
Code Switch

'Hispanic' Or 'Latino'? Polls Say It Doesn't Matter — Usually

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 7:55 pm

Comedian Carlos Mencia performs during the Tr3s: MTV, Música y Más Upfront in May 2010.
Jason DeCrow AP

Carlos Mencia is well-known for his standup humor, which is slyly good-natured and often focuses on race and ethnicity. The 46 year-old Mencia has had a successful series on The Comedy Channel (Mind of Mencia) and draws huge crowds when he tours the country. When he was starting out in the business, he spent a lot of time on college campuses. And he learned pretty quickly that how he talked about the ethnicity he thought he shared with his audience could get him into trouble.

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5:46pm

Thu December 5, 2013
Code Switch

The First Time I Heard The Name 'Mandela'

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 7:07 pm

People gather to leave messages of support for Nelson Mandela outside his hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, earlier this year. Mandela has died at the age of 95.
Jeff J Mitchell Getty Images

4:50am

Mon December 2, 2013
Movies

'Best Man Holiday' Resonates Across Racial Lines

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 7:36 pm

The Best Man Holiday is Malcolm Lee's sequel to his film Best Man.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

5:38am

Thu November 21, 2013
Politics

Mexican-American Vets Ignited Kennedy's Latino Support

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 9:12 am

President John F. Kennedy speaks to Mexican-American activists at a LULAC gala in Houston's Rice Hotel on Nov. 21, 1963, the day before he was assassinated.
Alexander Arroyos AP

On the evening of Nov. 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, walked through a wall of applause to take their place as honored guests in a Houston ballroom. They were making a brief stop at a formal dinner held by LULAC — the League of United Latin American Citizens — to show their appreciation for the Mexican-American votes that had helped the young president carry Texas in the 1960 election.

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6:12pm

Mon October 7, 2013
Code Switch

Undocumented Immigrants In Calif. Will Benefit From New Laws

California's Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a group of bills related to immigration because, he said, enough time has passed.
AP

The federal government remains shut down over a budget stalemate, but California's Gov. Jerry Brown decided not to wait for Congress to make decisions on the Gordian knot that is U.S. immigration policy. On Saturday, Brown signed into law a group of bills related to immigration because, he said, enough time has passed.

"While Washington waffles on immigration, California's moving ahead," Brown stated. He added, with trademark bluntness, "I'm not waiting."

The "Trust Act" Vs. "Secure Communities"

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12:23pm

Fri October 4, 2013
Code Switch

Actors With Disabilities In Big Roles? 'We Don't Have A Chance'

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 6:19 pm

The original Ironside starred Raymond Burr as a detective who became a paraplegic after being shot in the line of duty.
The Kobal Collection

2:13pm

Sat September 14, 2013
Code Switch

At Fashion Week, Color Pops And Models Call For Diversity

Originally published on Sat September 14, 2013 5:40 pm

Marc Jacobs is among the designers who were named by the Diversity Coalition for not having enough models of color on the runway.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Color continued to be a big deal on the New York runways during Fashion Week this week, but almost all the color was represented by the clothes being showcased in the new collections and not the models wearing them.

That lack of diversity has been a perennial problem in the fashion industry — at home and abroad — for at least the past 15 years. And while there may be an Asian or Hispanic girl from time to time (in this industry, everyone is a "girl"), discernibly black girls get token representation if they get it at all.

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6:16pm

Tue September 10, 2013
Code Switch

Harlem On Their Minds: Life In America's Black Capital

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 9:38 pm

The poet Langston Hughes liked to wryly describe the Harlem Renaissance — the years from just after World War I until the Depression when black literature and art flourished, fed by an awakening racial pride — as "the period when the Negro was in vogue." Note the past tense. Two new books published Tuesday explore the blossoming of black cultural life in two different decades.

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1:56pm

Sat August 24, 2013
Code Switch

While Unsung in '63, Women Weren't Just 'Background Singers'

Originally published on Sun August 25, 2013 11:17 am

Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville, Miss., speaks to the state's Freedom Democratic Party sympathizers outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 1965.
William J. Smith AP

On that sweltering August day in 1963, almost a quarter-million people thronged the National Mall, from the Washington Monument to the columned marble box that is the Lincoln Memorial. The crowning moment, of course, was Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.

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4:26pm

Mon August 12, 2013
Code Switch

Medgar Evers' Son Honors Civil Rights Icon In His Own Way

Originally published on Mon August 12, 2013 8:06 pm

After Medgar Evers was murdered, his wife, Myrlie Evers, carried on his work. This photo shows Myrlie Evers and her children, Van, 9; Darrell, 16; and Rena, 14, in June 1969 in their Claremont, Calif., home.
AP

James Van Dyke Evers was only 3 when his father, Medgar, was assassinated in the driveway of the family's home in Jackson, Miss., in June 1963.

A sniper shot Medgar Evers in the back as he returned from a meeting late at night. Tensions had been running high because Evers, the first field secretary for the NAACP, was making headway in pushing the state's black citizens to register to vote. White Mississippians who had lived comfortably under segregation could feel the ground shifting beneath them — and they didn't like it.

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2:55am

Mon August 12, 2013
Code Switch

Killed For Taking Part In 'Everybody's Fight'

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 6:21 pm

Viola Liuzzo carries her shoes while walking with other civil rights activist before she was shot and killed in Alabama. Liuzzo-Prado says her mother walked barefoot whenever she could. "She just hated shoes." When her body was removed from the car she was shot in, she was barefoot.
Courtesy of the Liuzzo family

For the past few months, NPR has been commemorating the monumental summer of 1963 by looking at watershed moments in the civil rights movement. In this three-part series, Karen Grigsby Bates talks with the children of civil rights leaders who lost their lives in the battle for racial equality.

In an obscure corner of Detroit, there's a battered playground honoring a civil rights martyr. It has an overgrown baseball field, some missing swings and on a broken fence, a worn, wooden sign.

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3:56pm

Sun August 11, 2013
Code Switch

Amusement Parks And Jim Crow: MLK's Son Remembers

Originally published on Wed August 14, 2013 2:09 pm

Martin Luther King Jr sits on a swing with his eldest daughter, Yolanda, and eldest son, Martin, at an amusement park he helped desegregate.
Courtesy of the King family

In this three-part series, Karen Grigsby Bates talks with children of Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to see how they've coped with the burden and privilege of their legacies.

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4:52pm

Thu July 25, 2013
Code Switch

Key Witness Against Emmett Till's Killers Led A Quiet Life

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 5:43 pm

Willie Reed (right) testified against the men accused of murdering 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. He changed his last name to Louis after fleeing to Chicago and hardly spoke of the trial.
Charles Knoblock AP

Willie Louis may be one of the most celebrated but least-known figures in a pivotal point in American history: He testified against the men accused of kidnapping and murdering 14-year-old Emmett Till. He died July 18, but his wife, Juliet, announced his death this week.

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12:53am

Wed July 24, 2013
Code Switch

Univision Clips 'Tweety's' Wings

Univision has canceled a popular Spanish-language radio show hosted by Eddie Sotelo, also known as Piolín or "Tweety Bird."
Damian Dovarganes AP

If you drive anywhere in greater Los Angeles, you know that you spend a significant amount of time staring at the bumper of the car ahead of you. And you may have noticed that a lot of those bumpers have red and yellow stickers that say "PIOLÍN por la MAÑANA." A lot.

The stickers show up on everything from sleek luxury cars to beat-up pickup trucks, and they advertise the morning drive-time radio show of Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo. (Piolín translates into "Tweety Bird" in Spanish—a gleeful moniker for the cheerful, diminutive host.)

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5:56am

Sun July 21, 2013
Code Switch

Black Americans Welcome Obama's Entry To Race Discussion

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 12:41 pm

A man holds up a sign at the "Justice for Trayvon" rally in downtown Chicago on Saturday.
Scott Eisen AP

As soon as he made his remarks on race Friday, President Obama was part of an intense conversation around the nation.

In dozens of cities across the country on Saturday, protesters held coordinated rallies and vigils over the not-guilty verdict in the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. Many African-Americans insist that understanding the context for black distress over the Zimmerman verdict is key to honest discussions about race.

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6:25pm

Sun July 14, 2013
U.S.

National Reaction To The Zimmerman Verdict: 'What Next?'

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 3:55 pm

A woman, who refused to be identified, carries a young boy on her shoulders as she participates in a rally Sunday in Baltimore protesting the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
Patrick Semansky AP

The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is reverberating far beyond Florida. On Sunday, President Obama acknowledged the strong passions the verdict has incited. He asked Americans "to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son."

Many people are trying to make sense of a case that sparked a national conversation on race and gun laws.

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3:55am

Sun July 14, 2013
Code Switch

With Fla. Verdict, Is Protective Clothing Still Required?

Originally published on Sun July 14, 2013 4:00 am

Many families live in dread of standing in the shoes of Trayvon Martin's parents. His mother, Sybrina Fulton (second from left) and father, Tracy Martin, were in court Friday as a Florida jury began its deliberations.
Gary W. Green AP

"I'm ashamed at how long it took me to realize why so many people in my family have been consumed with looking church-ready when they step out the door regardless of time or day."

That Facebook quote came from Phyllis Fletcher, an African-American colleague at KUOW in Seattle. And it reminded me of something my sister once told me when a white friend teased her about taking too long to get ready when they went on joint shopping expeditions. "Why are you getting all dressed up? Just throw on some jeans, like me, and let's go."

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4:34am

Thu June 20, 2013
Remembrances

Actor James Gandolfini Dies Suddenly While On Vacation

Originally published on Thu June 20, 2013 7:25 am

The 51-year-old actor died on Wednesday in Rome. Reports attribute his death to a heart attack. Gandolfini had been a character actor for years before he was given a chance to read for Tony Soprano in a new series about a New Jersey mob boss HBO was producing in the late 90s.

12:09pm

Thu June 13, 2013
Code Switch

Moynihan Black Poverty Report Revisited 50 Years Later

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 1:45 pm

Daniel P. Moynihan appeared before the Senate Government Operations subcommittee in 1966. He had conducted a study on poverty among blacks.
Bettmann Corbis

On Wednesday, the Urban Institute released a new report that revisits a famous study conducted almost 50 years ago by the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The original study, "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," was written by Moynihan when he was an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor. In the report, Moynihan listed a series of ills he argued had helped cause poverty in black America.

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4:33pm

Wed June 5, 2013
NPR Story

The Reaction To Michelle Obama's Reaction To A Heckler

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 6:19 pm

First lady Michelle Obama's confrontation with a heckler at a Democratic Party fundraiser Tuesday night has sparked a dramatic range of reaction.

3:36am

Mon June 3, 2013
Code Switch

Barrier-Breaking Surfer's Legacy A Reminder Of Work To Do

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 3:31 pm

Surfers surround a celebrant who pours libations and says prayers to honor the spirit of surfers past and present and to give thanks to the sea for providing sustenance and recreation.
Karen Grigsby Bates NPR

The Saturday morning fog was burning off above the part of Santa Monica's beach known as the Inkwell. It's the stretch of sand to which black Southern Californians were relegated by de facto segregation until the 1960s.

Men, women and children walked across the sand in wet suits, carrying surfboards. They're part of the Black Surfers Collective, which aims to get more people of color involved in surfing.

They had gathered to honor pioneer Nick Gabaldon, a legendary surfer who is remembered as the area's first documented board man of African-American and Mexican heritage.

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5:26pm

Fri May 24, 2013
Code Switch

History Makes Hiring Household Help A Complex Choice

Originally published on Sun May 26, 2013 6:39 pm

Actress Marla Gibbs (as maid Florence Johnston) and actor Sherman Hemsley (as her boss, George Jefferson), appear in an episode of The Jeffersons.
CBS/Landov

4:26pm

Mon April 15, 2013
Code Switch

Dumbfoundead: A Rising Star In A Genre In Transition

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 10:02 pm

Korean American rap artist, Dumbfoundead performs at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., on March 26.
Lauren Rock for NPR

3:26am

Tue March 26, 2013
Around the Nation

'American Winter' Families Struggle To Survive Fall From Middle Class

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 9:57 am

Pam Thatcher and her family ultimately moved into her mother's two-bedroom apartment because they couldn't make rent.
Courtesy Devon Terrilll Viewfilm productions/HBO

It's a visual no parent wants to picture: a child describing what it's like to live in a house with no power for lights, heat or cooking. For many middle-class American parents, it's hard to imagine their family ever facing a situation like that. But a new HBO documentary suggests that many seemingly prosperous parents are only a few misfortunes away from dark houses and empty refrigerators.

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4:53pm

Thu March 14, 2013
The Record

Gangsta Rap Swap Meet Proprieter Wan Joon Kim Has Died

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 6:49 pm

Wan Joon Kim (right), with his son Kirk and wife, Boo Ja, at their stall inside the Compton Swap Meet last January.
Courtesy of Sam Quinones

5:52pm

Tue February 12, 2013
History

1963 Emancipation Proclamation Party Lacked A Key Guest

Originally published on Sun April 7, 2013 8:04 pm

Guests at the party included Johnson Publishing magnate John Johnson and his wife, Eunice, and Whitney M. Young, head of the National Urban League.
Abbie Rowe Courtesy of JFK Presidential Library

Fifty years ago, the White House was the site of an unusual party.

It was a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation's centennial, held on Abraham Lincoln's birthday, and many of the guests were descendants of the people Lincoln's historic document freed.

But noticeably absent was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader had declined the invitation after earlier conversations with President Kennedy about segregation had yielded few results.

Born Of Frustration

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6:36am

Sun February 10, 2013
Business

Bloomingdale's Lays Out Welcome Mat To Chinese Shoppers

Originally published on Sun April 7, 2013 8:04 pm

To mark the Lunar New Year, Bloomingdale's is catering to affluent Chinese tourists with an array of pop-up shops.
Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

A number of luxury retailers are rolling out tactics this year to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year. For Bloomingdale's in New York City, though, reaching out to Asian shoppers during the cultural celebration is a decades-long tradition.

The upscale department store's marketing strategy traces back to 1971, the year President Nixon lifted the U.S. trade embargo with the People's Republic of China. Immediately, Marvin Traub, then-president of Bloomingdale's, decided he wanted to sell Chinese goods in his flagship store on the Upper East Side.

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3:19am

Fri January 11, 2013
Television

'Living' In Color, Long Before 'Girls'

Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 1:14 pm

Living Single (1993-1998) featured four young, black, professional women in New York — including Queen Latifah as the ambitious head of a small magazine.
E.J. Camp Corbis

The second season of HBO's critically acclaimed series Girls begins Sunday night, but the show about 20-something girls navigating their social and work lives in New York has itself been criticized for not being diverse enough.

By now, most of you have heard the buzz about Girls: It's written by 26-year-old Lena Dunham, and stars a quartet of young women whose plans sometimes crash face-first into life's nasty realities.

The show's smart dialogue attracted writer Allison Samuels, a cultural critic for Newsweek/The Daily Beast.

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5:03pm

Wed December 12, 2012
U.S.

New Policy For Young Immigrants Creates Paperwork Deluge

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 6:29 pm

A crowd seeks help applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in August. Schools have been inundated with requests for the documents needed to qualify.
Jonathan Alcorn Reuters/Landov

In the six months since a new law opened a path to temporary legal status for some young immigrants in the U.S., more than 300,000 people have applied — and have rushed to request qualifying documents from their schools.

The law, Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, offers legal status, renewable every two years, to people ages 30 and younger who were brought to the country as children. Applicants must prove they were in the U.S. for five consecutive years — something most easily achieved through school transcripts.

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3:26am

Tue November 20, 2012
Movies

Controversial Casting For A Nina Simone Biopic

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 11:35 am

Nina Simone (left) and actress Zoe Saldana are seen in this composite image. Saldana has been cast to play the late singer in a film biopic.
John Minihan/Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

The rumors that had been around for a couple of years have finally been confirmed: At long last, there's a film in the works about the turbulent life of Nina Simone, otherwise known as the "High Priestess of Soul."

Simone was famous from the 1950s through the '70s for her music and her civil rights activism. And although she died in 2003, her voice remains popular on TV, movie soundtracks and commercials.

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