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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Race
4:37 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Why Did Black Voters Flee The Republican Party In The 1960s?

Barry Goldwater greets an Indianapolis crowd during a campaign tour in Oct. 1964.
AP

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 12:43 pm

If you'd walked into a gathering of older black folks 100 years ago, you'd have found that most of them would have been Republican.

Wait... what?

Yep. Republican. Party of Lincoln. Party of the Emancipation. Party that pushed not only black votes but black politicians during that post-bellum period known as Reconstruction.

Today, it's almost the exact opposite. That migration of black voters away from the GOP reached its last phase 50 years ago this week.

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Code Switch
11:03 am
Thu July 3, 2014

The Late Walter Dean Myers Wrote In The Language Of Teens

Author Walter Dean Myers tours his old Harlem neighborhood in New York, Dec. 13, 2010.
Charles Sykes AP

Originally published on Thu July 3, 2014 1:01 pm

Writer Walter Dean Myers died on Wednesday after a brief illness at age 76, leaving mourners in the adult world and young readers who saw themselves in his books. He expanded the face of publishing so that many children of color saw themselves reflected in his work.

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Law
2:02 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

The Jury Is Still Out On Why O.J. Simpson Was Acquitted

A demonstrator protests the verdict in the trial of four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating motorist Rodney King outside the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mike Nelson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 9:15 am

On June 12, 1994, the butchered bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found on the front walkway of Simpson's condominium in Brentwood, an upscale section of Los Angeles. Within days, Brown's ex-husband, O.J. Simpson, was considered the prime suspect in the murder of both.

The year that followed was legendary in its cast of characters and legal maneuvering. The N-word. "If it does not fit, you must acquit." The dog howling in the night. Then, finally, the verdict.

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Code Switch
4:47 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Condiment Detente: Sriracha Plant To Stay In California City

Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif.
Nick Ut AP

The Sriracha-slurping public no longer has to worry about hoarding bottles and bottles of the spicy stuff: There will be hot sauce tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Sriracha will continue to be made in the state-of-the-art plant David Tran built in Irwindale, Calif. And residents near the plant who complained about spicy odors when chilies for the famous hot sauce were ground (from roughly August to October, during harvest season) should now be able to breathe more easily.

You get the feeling that this whole thing was a schoolyard spat that got out of control.

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Remembrances
2:06 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

The Life Of Poet Maya Angelou, From Poverty To Presidential Prizes

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 4:18 pm

Poet, performer and political activist Maya Angelou has died after a long illness at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86.

Code Switch
3:39 am
Sat May 17, 2014

Nostalgia For What's Been Lost Since 'Brown V. Board'

This racially segregated Monroe Elementary School class from March 1953 shows Linda and Terry Lynn Brown, who, with their parents, initiated the Brown v. Board of Education case that helped propel school integration.
Carl Iwasaki Getty Image

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 11:41 am

Brown v. Board of Education became the law of the land when it struck down de jure segregation in Topeka, Kan., on May 17, 1954, saying, "We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate facilities are inherently unequal."

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Code Switch
1:46 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Sriracha-Maker Says Factory Will Remain In California

Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif. CEO David Tran has been at odds with the local City Council over the smells emitted by the sauce factory.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 4:53 pm

Sriracha hot sauce-maker Huy Fong Foods has been tussling with the City Council of Irwindale, Calif., near Los Angeles for months now over whether the factory's spicy smells harm its neighbors. There have been legal action and suggested fixes, but also pleas from other cities for the company to consider moving there.

David Tran, the CEO of Huy Fong, says he escaped from Vietnam almost 35 years ago to be free of the communist government there and its many intrusions.

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Media
2:59 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

After 6 Decades As A Staple, 'Jet' Magazine Ends Print Run

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 7:59 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. An era in magazine history is closing. Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co., or JPC, says "Jet" magazine is going digital. Some 700,000 subscribers will no longer see a print edition. It's with the exception of one special print issue a year. "Jet" has been a weekly staple in many African American communities for more than six decades.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates, from our Code Switch team, has this report.

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Code Switch
7:52 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Critics Find Little Humor In 'SNL' Writer's Jokes About Slavery

Leslie Jones played an "image expert" on last weekend's SNL.
NBC

Almost 21 years ago, Whoopi Goldberg was honored at the New York Friars' Club. More than 3,000 people crowded into the New York Hilton to hear Goldberg roasted by her celebrity friends.

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Code Switch
6:23 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Jessica Cleaves: A Silky, Soulful — And Funky — Voice Goes Silent

Jessica Cleaves made a name for herself as a lead singer with the group Friends of Distinction. She later played with Earth, Wind & Fire as well as George Clinton
YouTube screengrab

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Code Switch
2:24 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Why Would The NAACP Honor Donald Sterling Anyway?

Actress Meagan Good and actor Chris Brown present an award during the 37th Annual NAACP Image Awards on Feb. 25, 2006
Kevin Winter Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 8:45 pm

Update: The NAACP issued a press release on Thursday advising that Leon Jenkins has resigned his post as president of the Los Angeles chapter. The national organization said it is "developing guidelines for its branches to help them in their award selection process."

"The Los Angeles NAACP intention to honor Mr. Sterling for a lifetime body of work must be withdrawn, and the donation that he's given to the Los Angeles NAACP will be returned."

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Television
3:17 am
Tue April 29, 2014

PBS Documentary Examines Ruben Salazar's Life And Death

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 11:07 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A new documentary explores the life and death of Ruben Salazar. He was a journalist. He's considered one of the founders of the modern Chicano movement and by many a martyr. He was killed in 1970 while covering an anti-war demonstration in East Los Angeles. He was shot with a tear gas canister. His death added to the urgency for Mexican-American civil rights in Southern California.

A documentary on his life airs tonight on PBS and Karen Grigsby Bates of NPR's Code Switch Team has more.

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Code Switch
1:07 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Who Runs The World? 'Time' Magazine Says Beyoncé

This image released by Time shows entertainer Beyoncé on the cover of the magazine's "100 Most Influential People" issue.
Time Magazine AP

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 7:22 am

The euphoria over Lupita Nyong'o's appearance on People's "50 Most Beautiful" list was still swirling on the Interwebs when word came, a mere four days later, that Time's "100 Most Influential" issue was on newsstands. Staring out at us was Beyoncé Knowles Carter, dressed in what appears to be a white two-piece bathing suit with a see-through cover-up.

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Code Switch
5:22 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Why Lupita Nyong'o's 'People' Cover Is So Significant

People is calling actress Lupita Nyong'o the most beautiful woman in the world. She's the third black woman to get the magazine's title.
People AP

It has been a very good 12 months for Lupita Nyong'o: piles of awards (including an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Patsy in 12 Years a Slave), a contract to be the face of Lancôme Paris cosmetics, and now this: the cover of People's annual "50 Most Beautiful" issue.

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Around the Nation
2:05 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Some In Irwindale Still Not Happy About Smelly Neighbor, Sriracha

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 5:26 pm

The skirmish continues between Sriracha and Irwindale, Calif. Irwindale's city council declared that owner David Tran must curb his hot sauce factory's smelly fumes or they'll do it themselves. Tran is considering relocating, and he has already received several offers.

Code Switch
2:58 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Playwright Phillip Hayes Dean Dies At 83

Courtesy of Craig Schwartz Photography

Playwright Phillip Hayes Dean died earlier this week. His family says the 83 year-old died in Los Angeles of a heart condition. He was in the midst of overseeing a production of his most famous play, "Paul Robeson."

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Code Switch
5:27 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Congressional Black Caucus Urges Rethink Of Army Hair Rules

According to a US Army PowerPoint presentation, none of these three hairstyles would be acceptable under the new regulations.
US Army

Originally published on Sat April 12, 2014 12:09 pm

The women of the Congressional Black Caucus have sent a letter asking Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reconsider new Army regulations that made headlines earlier this month.

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Music News
1:34 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Hip-Hop Academy: Inside A Beatmaker's Harvard Class

9th Wonder addresses Harvard students in a scene from the documentary The Hip-Hop Fellow, which chronicles a year the producer spent teaching hip-hop culture as an academic subject.
Price Films

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 8:21 am

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Code Switch
4:26 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Why A Proper Lady Found Herself Behind Bars

Mary Peabody leaves the dining room of a motel in St. Augustine, Fla., on March 31, 1964, after being arrested.
Harold Valentine AP

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 8:55 pm

This story is part of NPR's 50th anniversary coverage of 1964.

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Code Switch
8:11 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Stokely Carmichael, A Philosopher Behind The Black Power Movement

Martin Luther King Jr., shown here with Stokely Carmichael during a voter registration march in Mississippi in 1966, regarded the younger Carmichael as one of the civil rights movement's most promising leaders.
Lynn Pelham Time

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 10:26 am

Before he became famous — and infamous — for calling on black power for black people, Stokely Carmichael was better known as a rising young community organizer in the civil rights movement. The tall, handsome philosophy major from Howard University spent summers in the South, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, to get African-Americans in Alabama and Mississippi registered to vote in the face of tremendous, often violent resistance from segregationists.

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Business
3:15 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Sriracha-Maker Given More Time To Contain Spicy Fumes

Sriracha chili sauce bottles are produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:40 pm

The saga over the darling of the condiment world, Sriracha, continues.

The popular hot sauce in the rooster bottle is made by Huy Fong Foods in the Los Angeles suburb of Irwindale. The city has had to balance its need for business success against complaints from some residents about spicy fumes from the plant.

Wednesday night, after a contentious hearing, Irwindale's city council decided to give Huy Fong a bit more time to figure out how to contain those fumes.

The Sauce America's Hot For

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Code Switch
7:18 pm
Sat February 15, 2014

Drive For Diversity, NASCAR's Commitment To Race

Darrell Wallace Jr., a graduate of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity Program, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 26 in Martinsville, Va.
Robert Laberge NASCAR via Getty Images

On Sunday, the K&N Pro Series East begins down in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. And if the track and pit look a little more diverse than they have in the past, that's in part because of a NASCAR program designed to entice different communities to try out the sport.

Market research says NASCAR's bread-and-butter fan base is about 60 percent male and 80 percent white, mostly from the Southern and Midwestern states. But as the country continues to become even more diverse, the sport is working to make sure its fan base is, too.

That's a challenge.

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Code Switch
6:16 am
Sat February 15, 2014

Love In Technicolor: Interracial Families On Television

In Parenthood, Dax Shepard plays Crosby, whose wife, Jasmine, is played by Joy Bryant. Their son is Jabbar (Tyree Brown).
NBC NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Originally published on Sat February 15, 2014 5:04 pm

I Love Lucy was one of the most popular shows in the history of television. Its stars, redheaded Lucille Ball and her Cuban-American husband Desi Arnaz, became TV icons — but they almost didn't get on TV.

Kathleen Brady is the author of Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball. She says the network that wanted Ball to star in her own sitcom was not interested in her husband.

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Television
3:01 am
Mon February 3, 2014

'American Promise' Probes Race Issues In NYC Private School

Seun Summers (left) and Idris Brewster have been best friends since before they were kindergartners. They're both college sophomores today, and their parents say each is thriving in his respective school. (Seun is at York College, part of The City University of New York; Idris is at Occidental College in Los Angeles.)
Jason Kempin Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 5:42 am

Monday evening, PBS will air American Promise, a documentary that traces the lives of two African-American students for 13 years. They both enroll as kindergarteners at The Dalton School, an elite private day school in New York City that says it's making a commitment to diversity.

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Code Switch
12:26 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 5:55 pm

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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Code Switch
8:23 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

To Thine Own Selfie Be True, But Not In All Places At All Times

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark's Prime Minister, Helle Thorning Schmidt, during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela Tuesday in Johannesburg, South Africa. First lady Michelle Obama is on the right.
Roberto Schmidt AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 12:32 pm

Editor's Note: Roberto Schmidt, the Agence France-Presse staffer who took the photographs discussed in this blog post, has now weighed in on the discussion and provided context. In his own blog post, Schmidt wrote "photos can lie. In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance."

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Movies
2:50 am
Mon December 2, 2013

'Best Man Holiday' Resonates Across Racial Lines

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

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 5:36 pm

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Politics
3:38 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Mexican-American Vets Ignited Kennedy's Latino Support

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

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 7:12 am

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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Code Switch
3:43 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

An Appreciation: 'Essence' Cover Girl Barbara Cheeseborough

Barbara Cheeseborough died a few weeks ago in California at age 67.
Courtesy of Essence

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 4:18 pm

If you were black and female and grew up in the '70s, you were used to looking at pretty white women on the covers of major fashion and beauty magazines. If you wanted to borrow their look, you had to adapt. Ebony helped, with its Fashion Fair cavalcade of models — but they were fantasy ideals: lots of polish, no funk. Ebony was your mother's magazine.

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Author Interviews
3:42 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Amy Tan Weaves Family Mystery Into 'Valley Of Amazement'

Amy Tan's latest novel, The Valley of Amazement, will be published on Tuesday.
Rick Smolanagainst Against All Odds Productions

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 3:28 pm

Amy Tan was 200 pages into a new novel when she attended a large exhibition on Shanghai life in the early 1900s. While there, she bought a book she thought might help her as she researched details on life in the Old City. She stopped turning pages when she came upon a group portrait.

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