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Commentary: African American Scientists and Inventors
by Black Kos Editor, Sephius1

Rick Antonius Kittles (born in Sylvania, Georgia, United States) is an American biologist specializing in human genetics. He is of African-American ancestry, and achieved renown in the 1990s for his pioneering work in tracing the ancestry of African Americans via DNA testing.

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Kittles grew up in Central Islip, New York. He holds a B.S. degree in biology from the Rochester Institute of Technology (1989), where he pledged Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, and a Ph.D. in biology from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (1998). He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

In 1990 he began his career as a teacher in several New York and Washington, D.C. area high schools. From approximately 1995 until 1999, as a researcher with the New York African Burial Ground Project (NYABGP), a federally funded project in New York City, in which Howard University researchers, led by anthropologist Michael Blakey, exhumed the remains of 408 African Americans from an 18th-century graveyard;[1] Kittles gathered DNA samples from the remains and compared them with samples from a DNA database to determine from where in Africa the individuals buried in the graveyard had come.

Beginning in 1998, as he was completing his Ph.D. at George Washington University, Kittles was hired as an assistant professor of microbiology at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and also named director of the African American Hereditary Prostate Cancer (AAHPC) Study Network at the university's National Human Genome Center. Kittles also co-directed the molecular genetics unit of Howard University's National Human Genome Center......Read More

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                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

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If  there was any doubt that Don Cheadle would completely embody Miles Davis in his upcoming biopic Miles Ahead, it’s time to put it all to rest. The Grio: First Look: Don Cheadle as Miles Davis for upcoming biopic.
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Actor Don Cheadle’s obsession with Miles Davis began as a child with the jazz trumpeter’s album Porgy and Bess, a beloved staple of his family’s music collection. Now, Cheadle will make his feature film directorial debut with a crowdfunded biopic on Davis that will focus on the musician’s transition into music after a five-year hiatus—otherwise known as his “silent period”—and tumultuous relationship with first wife Frances Taylor Davis.

In an EW exclusive of the actor in character, Cheadle gave fans a first look at his interpretation of the icon during in the period leading up to his 1969 jazz-rock fusion recording In a Silent Way. “It’s surreal,” says the 49-year-old House of Lies actor, who in the photograph totes a trumpet and sports Davis’ trademark jheri-curled mullet.


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Meshach Taylor’s role on Designing Women offered something few other characters at the time or since did. Slate: A Belated Tribute to Meshach Taylor and His Groundbreaking Designing Women Character.
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Meshach Taylor’s role on Designing Women offered something else, or did once the show warmed up to its own possibilities in season two. Created by longtime Bill Clinton supporters Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (this debuted when he was still governor of Arkansas), and running from 1986 to 1993, Designing Women was about four white women of differing ages and economic backgrounds who co-owned an interior-decorating business in Atlanta. The show was often topical and inflected with a specifically southern, droll take on the imperfect world around us. Story lines touched on HIV, spousal abuse, pornography, women in the church, and union labor, among other things. There were constant digs at Dan Quayle, and a whole episode was centered around Anita Hill. Audiences thrilled to Julia’s sparkling, self-righteous tirades, that Dixie Carter, a coloratura, delivered like musical solos. A high-minded liberal who spoke her mind on a variety of perceived injustices, Julia Sugarbaker was rarely engaged with questions about race. The show didn’t really want to go there. When the group wanted to acknowledge Anthony’s difference, they referenced his prison history. Rarely was he ever called black.

TV shows in their first year are often crude versions of what they will become, and Designing Women was no exception. When Anthony Bouvier first turned up half way through the season, he was affable but sidelined, a black ex-con whose colorful stories seemed to alienate his mostly proper work colleagues. When an irritating client turned up dead in his second episode, the Sugarbaker women assume that Anthony must be responsible and spend the rest of the episode—it’s Thanksgiving—squirming in their red-lacquered, Chippendale-style chairs. Then the police come and Julia points at Anthony, who says, coolly, “I don’t know why, but I’ve always hated waking up with white people pointing at me and a police officer standing beside them.” Later the women apologize and give him bags of leftovers for his dog and everything’s sort of okay, because Anthony isn’t the type to hold a grudge and because the women’s apologies seem sincere. Nothing like that ever happens on the show again.

In fact, Anthony’s prison record is increasingly seen as an aberration, and over time, Anthony starts to seem more and more like one of the gang. In a truly excellent episode from season two, the whole Sugarbaker firm heads to St. Louis for a conference. Julia, Mary Jo, and Charlene make the last flight out of Atlanta before a freak snowstorm makes air travel impossible, so Suzanne (Delta Burke) is forced to ride in the van with Anthony, who is bringing up the design firm’s displays. Suzanne, a gold-digger and former beauty queen, often acts as the group’s most conservative member. It’s she who worries what others might think, and she who insists that Anthony take care of her luggage. In the middle of the night, they’re forced off the road and take shelter in a hotel with only one available room. The proprietor doesn’t like the implications of an unmarried white woman and black man sharing a hotel room. Neither does Suzanne, so Anthony is sent out to sleep in the unheated van.

Meshach Taylor's Designing Women character Anthony Bouvier broke new ground for television.
                                                                             Image via CBS


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A comprehensive new bill would ensure that marijuana in New York state is decriminalized not only for white people, but for all people, a group of progressive lawmakers said Wednesday. Huffington Post: New York Could Decriminalize Pot For More Than Just White People.
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A  comprehensive new bill would ensure that marijuana in New York state is decriminalized not only for white people, but for all people, a group of progressive lawmakers said Wednesday.

Under the Fairness and Equity Act, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana would not be charged with a criminal misdemeanor. Instead, they would face only a violation, and in some instances, a fine comparable to a parking ticket.

New York is the marijuana arrest capital of the world, even though the state technically decriminalized the drug all the way back in 1977. That's because the 1977 law had a loophole: Those arrested for "private" possession would be issued a violation, while those arrested for "public" possession would be charged with a criminal misdemeanor.

In the late 1990s, New York City police started asking the hundreds of thousands of people they stopped on the streets each year to empty their pockets. In 2013, 85 percent of those stopped were black or Latino.

When weed comes out of the pocket, it becomes "in public view," thus allowing cops to make an arrest for misdemeanor criminal possession.

This "in public view" loophole has meant jail time and criminal records for thousands of New Yorkers, most of whom are minorities. Since 2010, the city has averaged 30,000 to 50,000 marijuana arrests each year. And during the decade between 2002 and 2012, a full 87 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession in the city were black or Latino.

The Fairness and Equity Act would close this loophole, making public possession only punishable by a noncriminal violation.

New York State Senator Daniel Squadron speaks on the steps of New York City Hall in support of the proposed Fairness and Equity Act, which would attempt to reform racially biased arrests in regards to marijuana possession in New York state, on July 9, 2014. | Andrew Burton via Getty Images

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A 25-year study of blacks and whites in Baltimore finds that income status can be an equalizer, but race does make a difference. The Root: Surprised? Even Poor Whites Have It Better Than Blacks.
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For 25 years, a group of researchers from Johns Hopkins University tracked 800 mostly low-income schoolchildren from Baltimore from the start of first grade until they were just shy of 30 years old. In one of the very few projects to compare and contrast the lives of poor black and poor white kids, the researchers interviewed the youngsters, their parents and teachers, checking in with them regularly over the years. What the sociologists found was disheartening: The long-held truism that education trumps social class didn’t hold up. The children who were born poor tended to stay poor—no matter their race.

More often than not, one’s lot in life is determined by that of one’s parents. Almost half the kids surveyed remained in the same social class as their parents—and almost none of the kids, black or white, from low-income families graduated from college. Four percent of kids from poor homes finished college by age 28, compared with 45 percent of kids coming from more well-off backgrounds, even though the disadvantaged kids spoke of wanting to continue their educations. They, too, believed that education was the key to getting ahead.

“It’s a story of middle-class privilege,” says sociologist Karl Alexander, who, along with his colleagues Doris Entwistle and Linda Olson, reported their findings in a new book, The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth and the Transition to Adulthood.

“When the dust settles, not very many of these [inner city] kids are moving up in life, following the path that we tell them to follow,” Alexander says. “That’s sad and that’s sobering. The challenges are very real and there are many of them. There’s not just one thing getting in the way.”

And there are more things getting in the way for poor black kids compared with their poor white counterparts, according to Alexander. Low-income urban white neighborhoods tend to be more stable and less violent than urban black neighborhoods with an almost identical income profile, he says.

Boarded up row houses in east Baltimore, three blocks north of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dec. 2, 2003
                                                         ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES


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Brazil was the epicenter of the largest enslavement of Africans. Huffington Post: Brazil May Have The World's Largest Slavery Reparations Program In The Works.
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hen Luiz Pinto was growing up, his parents wouldn't let the family talk about slavery. The issue raised ugly memories.

Pinto’s grandmother was born into slavery. She threw herself into a river before Pinto was born, taking her own life after the son of a wealthy, white landowner raped her. The subjects of slavery and racism became taboo in the Pinto household, a sprawling set of orange brick homes perched on a hilltop where Rio de Janeiro’s famed statue of Christ the Redeemer is visible in the distance through the trees.

“I only knew her from photographs,” says Pinto, a 72-year-old samba musician.

These days, Brazil’s legacy of slavery takes up much of Pinto’s time. He travels across the state of Rio de Janeiro and back and forth to the capital in Brasília, more than 700 miles away, to lobby for the land rights of people who live in communities said to be founded by runaway slaves. Such communities are known in Portuguese as “quilombos.” According to Brazilian law, residents of quilombos have a constitutional right to land settled by their ancestors -- and that right, though rarely fulfilled, is quietly revolutionizing the country’s race relations.

In the past year, as all eyes turned toward Brazil in anticipation of the World Cup, international media offered ample coverage of the country’s staggering inequality. Reports have highlighted the stark contrast between Brazil’s hardscrabble slums and its glittering soccer stadiums. What has received less attention is the civil rights movement gradually gaining momentum throughout the country.

Brazil imported more slaves from Africa between the 16th and 19th centuries than any other country in the Americas. In 1889, it became the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the institution. Today, more people of African descent live in Brazil than in any country in the world besides Nigeria. People of color make up 51 percent of Brazil’s population, according to the most recent census.

Luiz Pinto, who has been fighting eviction for decades, at home with his dog. (Carolina Ramirez/The Huffington Post)

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Originally posted to Black Kos on Fri Jul 11, 2014 at 01:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, and LatinoKos.

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