- Created on 19 September 2013
A lack of "literary value" has apparently left Ralph Ellison's landmark 1952 novel, Invisible Man banned from school libraries in Randolph County, N.C., the Asheboro Courier-Tribune reports.
According to the Tribune, a parent of an eleventh grader wrote the school district expressing her disapproval of the book's availability to students stating:
The narrator writes in the first person, emphasizing his individual experiences and his feelings about the events portrayed in his life. This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers. You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge. This book is freely in your library for them to read.
As the school district's policy requires, the parent's complaints lead to votes on the school and district levels. Both held that the book should remain available to students in the library. However, in a 5-2 vote, the school board voted to ban the book, with one board member, Gary Mason, stating, "I didn't find any literary value."
Mason's blunt assessment however, runs counter to decades of intellectual criticism of the novel, which won the 1953 National Book Award for fiction, beating out Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and John Steinbeck's East of Eden.
In 1995, writing for the New York Times, Roger Rosenblatt praised the novel as a masterpiece.
"Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," which won the National Book Award in 1953, was instantly recognized as a masterpiece, a novel that captured the grim realities of racial discrimination as no book had, " Rosenblatt wrote. "Its reputation grew as Ellison retreated into a mythic literary silence that made his one achievement definitive."
Including the book in its list of 100 Best English Language Novels since 1923, Time literary critic Lev Grossman also expressed great admiration for Ellison's work.
"Evenhandedly exposing the hypocrisies and stereotypes of all comers, Invisible Man is far more than a race novel, or even a bildungsroman. It's the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century."
Still, this kind of high praise wasn't enough to prevent the book from being banned from school libraries in Randolph County, N.C.
- Created on 19 September 2013
London (CNN) -- The girls strutting down the runway in The Savoy Hotel share many features - all are long-limbed, fine-boned and have glowing complexions. A silent army marching to the heavy music, past the front row A-listers peering out from behind their dark glasses.
But one girl is different: the only one with black skin in a battalion of white faces. Nadja is one of the few black models lucky enough to make this year's cut for London Fashion Week.
The lack of racial diversity in the fashion industry is a serious issue that needs to be tackled, according to supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman, who this month launched a campaign to raise awareness of racism in the industry.
"The absence of people of color on the runways and photography reinforces to our young girls that they're not beautiful enough, that they're not acceptable enough," said Iman, model and wife of David Bowie, to CNN.
"The diversity that we live in, the world that we live in, is not what is shown on the runway. That to me is the concern. It's a bigger issue at large than just about runway and models."
Campbell and Iman, in a campaign spearheaded by former model agent Bethann Hardison, have written to the major fashion councils of New York, London, Milan and Paris calling for an end to racism.
The "Diversity Coalition," as the trio has named itself, identifies the fashion houses which "consistently use one or no models of color" in their runway shows - including Marc Jacobs, Victoria Beckham, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Rodarte. "No matter the intention," their letter says, "the result is racism."
CNN reached out to each of those companies for comment, but has received no response.
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Campbell says the situation for black models has become worse - not better - since her debut.
"When I started modeling in '86 there was Asians, blacks, whites, Indians, Chinese. It was very diverse," Campbell told CNN. "It's not like that today. It's heart-breaking to me that we're in 2013 and we're sitting here talking about this. But it has to be done and people need to know."
The numbers speak for themselves.
At New York Fashion week in February, only 6% of designs were shown on black models, according to statistics compiled by blog Jezebel. The vast majority of runway spots (82.7%) went to white models, with a growing proportion of Asian girls (9.1%).
In London, renowned model agent Carole White, who managed Campbell's career for 17 years, says designers here also tend towards white models for their shows.
"I think clients have this perception that black girls do not sell products, which goes way back to the 50's. I think it's engrained in every magazine editor. There are more products for blonde and blue-eyed girls. Everything is geared to that."
White has only 13 black models on her books, out of the 300 or so girls she manages. She says the bar is set much higher for black models and they have to be flawless to get booked, so she cannot afford to take them on.
"We're more discerning about the type of black girl we take, because we know they have to be stunningly beautiful, have an incredible body. "
"They have to be actually perfect" she says, whereas white girls, can be more quirky-looking.
Back at The Savoy Hotel, Nadja is walking for Temperley London as one of only three non-white models in the cast. She feels lucky to get work, but says it's harder for black models compared to their white peers.
"When I come to a show the hairdressers are not really ready for a black girl, for black hair. The makeup artists, they don't know how to do black skin. I can feel it sometimes - to be a black girl it's a bit tougher than for a white girl or a European girl."
Nadja says she sometimes feels like the token black girl in a show.
"I would love to be booked for shows ... because I am me - for my personality, for the person, for the model I am and not because I will be the only black girl for the show."
This tokenistic attitude towards diversity is something Campbell, Iman and Hardison are trying to tackle. But designers complain that they don't have enough good black models to choose from.
"There are not enough models coming to castings that are black," designer Alice Temperley told CNN. "That's basically not having the choice."
Iman also criticizes casting directors and stylists for their part in providing too few black models to designers. She says it's an attitude that has to change.
"I don't want to ever hear again a young model telling me that [casting directors] have said to her: 'We are not seeing black models this season.' To me that's offensive. To me that's a racist remark."
The Diversity Coalition hopes that by getting the conversation started and raising awareness of the lack of black models, they will force out discrimination from all corners of the industry.
Campbell says they'll keep speaking out until they see real change that lasts from season to season.
"We don't want this to be a trend. We want this to last."
In this famously fickle industry, these three women have a fight on their hands.
- Created on 19 September 2013
Jawaan McCullough, left, and Jaleesa Martin, center, and lawyer Kristi Davis speak during interviews following an appeal hearing regarding their son's name at Cocke County Chancery Court on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, in Newport, Tenn. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Amy Smotherman Burgess)
NEWPORT, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee woman will be allowed to name her 8-month-old son "Messiah," a judge ruled Wednesday, overturning an order from another judge who said the boy's name should be changed to Martin because "'Messiah' is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ."
Jaleesa Martin said she couldn't believe it when child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew last month ordered Martin's 8-month-old son's name changed during a paternity hearing. The parents were disputing the baby's surname, with Martin hoping to keep the name she had given him — Messiah Deshawn Martin — and father Jawaan McCullough wanting the baby to bear his last name.
Ballew surprised both parents by ordering that the baby's name change to Martin Deshawn McCullough, saying that the name Messiah was not in the baby's best interest. Her written order stated that "'Messiah' is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ," and "Labeling this child 'Messiah' places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfill."
She also said that the name would likely offend many residents of Cocke County, with its large Christian population.
That decision quickly made international news, and the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a complaint against Ballew with the state's Board of Judicial Conduct. The board has not yet made any public ruling on the complaint.
At an appeal hearing in Cocke County Chancery Court on Wednesday, Chancellor Telford E. Forgety overturned Ballew's decision, finding that she acted unconstitutionally.
Forgety said that there is no basis in the law for changing a child's first name where both parents are in agreement about it. He also said that Ballew's decision violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
By agreement of the parents, Forgety ordered the child's name to be changed to Messiah Deshawn McCullough.
Speaking after the hearing, Jaleesa Martin said she found Ballew's original ruling "ridiculous" and had been confident it would be overturned.
She never stopped calling the baby Messiah, a name she picked out because she liked the way it sounded with the names of her other two sons, Micah and Maison, she said.
Martin and McCullough were both in the courtroom along with several family members, including Martin's mother, who wore a T-shirt with the names of the three boys printed on the back next to tiny footprints.
"Everybody's just happy," Martin said after the ruling. "I'm glad it's over with, and I know they are too."
Martin's attorney, Kristi Davis, said after the hearing that she was not surprised by how much public interest there was in the case, calling it "a reflection of the fact that we, as Americans, care about our civil liberties.
"I think it's truly a recognition by the citizens of our country that when a judge oversteps his or her bounds and infringes on the constitutional rights of the people that come in front of them, it's something that we don't like, and it's something that we pay attention to."
- Created on 18 September 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama is ordering changes in its sorority system amid charges of discrimination in the Greek-letter organizations, which the president acknowledged Tuesday are segregated by race.
President Judy Bonner mandated that sororities belonging to a campus association composed of white sororities begin using a recruitment process in which new members can be added at any time, and she expanded the maximum allowable size of the groups to 360 people to increase the chances for prospective members.
Bonner, in a video statement released by the university, said people are watching Alabama just as they did when it admitted its first black students five decades ago.
"This time it is because our Greek system remains segregated and chapter members admit that during the recruitment process that ended a few weeks ago decisions were made based on race," she said.
Bonner said "systemic and profound changes" were required for graduates to compete globally.
"While we will not tell any group who they must pledge, the University of Alabama will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," said Bonner, who became the university's first female president less than a year ago.
Bonner enacted the new policy Monday just days after the student newspaper, The Crimson White, detailed allegations that alumnae of some all-white sororities had blocked chapters from adding two black students as new members in August, when the university announced 1,896 new sorority members.
Members of the Faculty Senate, meeting after Bonner's statement was issued, said the new rush rules were a step in the right direction, but many said more action was needed to eradicate racism in Greek-letter groups.
Language and classics teacher Sierra R. Turner, a black woman, said opening up the recruitment process was "rather token" since it wasn't accompanied by any way to measure progress.
"It's not good enough," she said.
Other teachers questioned why action wasn't being taken to integrate men's organizations, and some called for an investigation of a Greek-controlled organization called "The Machine" that influences campus politics.
Faculty Senate President Steve Miller said students and teachers would march from the library to the administration building on Wednesday morning to demonstrate for change.
"We're going to be there awhile," he said.
University of Alabama trustee John England Jr., a state court judge in Tuscaloosa and a former member of the Alabama Supreme Court, last week confirmed his step-granddaughter was one of two young black women who tried to join an all-white sorority but were rejected for membership.
Gov. Robert Bentley and trustee Paul Bryant Jr., son of the legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, are among those who have publicly criticized segregated Greek-letter organizations at the university since The Crimson White story.
The charges of racism are marring a year in which the university is trying to show racial progress in the 50 years since then-Gov. George C. Wallace's "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" blocking integration at Alabama, and with the school's football team ranked No. 1 nationally.
Allegations of racism at Alabama provided a backdrop over the weekend at ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 bombing that killed four black girls at a church in Birmingham. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson suggested picketing all-white sororities at the university, and Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, whose district includes Tuscaloosa, said the situation at Alabama shows discrimination isn't dead.
"When we still have fraternities and sororities in our state that block because of race, we still have work to do," said Sewell.
The university enrolled a record 34,852 students this semester, and about 13 percent of its students last year were black. Its Greek organizations have been segregated by race since the first black students enrolled and established social organizations, with one oversight organization composed of white sororities and another composed of minority sororities.
Only a few blacks ever have attempted to join historically white Greek groups at Alabama, where there are also historically black fraternities and sororities.
University spokeswoman Cathy Andreen said Bonner's order on recruitment applies to 18 white sororities in the Alabama Panhellenic Association, the campus arm of the National Panhellenic Conference. Eight black sororities and fraternities at Alabama are affiliated the National Pan-Hellenic Council Inc.
The Interfraternity Council overs 27 historically white fraternities, and an umbrella organization is composed of leaders of all three groups.