Karen Grigsby Bates

Tributes have cascaded in since Sidney Poitier died last week at 94. And so they should have. He was, as many have noted, an unparalleled actor, a committed activist, and a beloved family member. He was also, frankly, a heartthrob – quite literally tall, dark and handsome.

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I hadn't thought of this in years, but when I screened Passing, the new Netflix movie adaptation of Nella Larsen's classic book, a long-buried memory floated to the surface.

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson taught at an elementary school for two decades before becoming, as she jokes, "a 50-year-old debutante" author. She's been writing since grade school, but Johnson says her debut story collection, My Monticello, which came out this month, might not have been able to come much sooner: "I think the world has to be in a place to accept and be interested in what you have to say," she muses, "Some...things are within your control and some...are just not.

Bethany C. Morrow already had several books in different genres published when she was asked to consider another: a re-envisioning of the beloved classic Little Women. She agreed, on one condition — her book would not reimagine anything. "I know that as soon as I make the March sisters Black girls, I am not reimagining Little Women," she said, "I'm telling a completely different story."

There is a saying a friend with Louisiana roots has about people who keep doing the same thing, even while that keeps yielding less-than-felicitous results. Those people, my friend says, are "stuck on stupid."

I have a confession: I am not a fan of the passing trope.

Before President Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday this week, the day — which memorializes the day in 1865 that enslaved Texans found out they had been freed — was mostly celebrated by Black folks in Texas. So we decided to talk to Christopher Williams, a Houston-based chef. Williams says people who are newly learning about Juneteenth can partake in the food and traditions, but should first and foremost acknowledge what the day represents, "before you throw that hot dog on the grill or whatever you're going to do. Know what this is really about."

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In the early 1900s, Greenwood — a Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Okla. — was a thriving, successful, independent town. But on May 31, 1921, a mob of white people stormed the town, killing an estimated 300 people, burning down homes and businesses, and leaving thousands homeless. There are competing theories as to what ultimately incited what came to be known as the Tulsa Race Massacre — but author Jewell Parker Rhodes says it was likely related to the perception that Black people "shouldn't be educated, shouldn't be uppity, shouldn't be, enjoying this kind of success."

On this week's episode of the podcast, we went to Tulsa to report on the 100th anniversary of the 1921 massacre, in which a white mob destroyed a Black neighborhood called Greenwood and killed an estimated 300 people, most of them Black. In addition to our reporting on Tulsa, we wanted to tell you about a few books and articles about the massacre that will allow you to take a deeper dive — including some recommendations from a bookstore owner from Tulsa.

Writer Paula Yoo was 13 years old and finishing up seventh grade when Vincent Chin was killed. Chin was a 27-year-old draftsman who was celebrating his impending wedding at a strip club in Detroit, when he was bludgeoned to death by a pair of white men. Those men were apparently upset by their perception that American auto jobs were disappearing as a result of Japanese success in the auto industry. (Chin was Chinese.)

The Smithsonian museums, like so many public spaces, have been closed down for more than a year now. Buildings that were once overflowing with admirers of art, history and science are now largely empty. Before the pandemic hit the U.S., the National Museum of African American History and Culture was one of D.C.'s most sought after destinations. So we decided to ask for a private (virtual) tour from Lonnie G. Bunch III, the creator of the Blacksonian and the current Secretary of the Smithsonian (translation: he runs the place — all 19 museums, 21 libraries and the National Zoo).

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If you've picked up a book with very fit, very attractive Black people dressed in 19th century clothing on the cover, there's a good chance it's by Beverly Jenkins. Jenkins is the undisputed queen of the Black 19th century romance.

After the Capitol was cleared of insurrectionists on Jan. 6, there was work to be done. You may have seen the video of a group of Capitol workers cleaning up the great halls, trying to restore order and dignity to rooms that had been trashed and defaced.

When Kamala Harris stepped to the podium in Delaware on Saturday night to speak to supporters as vice president-elect, she made all kinds of history: She'll become the first woman to serve as vice president. The first woman of African descent (on her father's side) and also the first Asian American (on her late mother's side). The first graduate of a historically Black college or university (Howard)—and the first member of a Black sorority to sit a heartbeat away from the presidency.

This week on the Code Switch podcast, we tried to settle a months-long debate we've been having on the team: Which kind of books are best to read during the pandemic? Ones that help you escape our current reality? Or ones that connect you to it on a deeper level? In doing so, we got a chance to catch up with the authors of some of our favorite pandemic reads.

This week on the Code Switch podcast, we tried to settle a months-long debate we've been having on the team: Which kind of books are best to read during the pandemic? Ones that help you escape our current reality? Or ones that connect you to it on a deeper level? In doing so, we got a chance to catch up with the authors of some of our favorite pandemic reads. We'll be sharing interviews with those authors throughout the week.

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There was already a lot embedded in the name Karen. But it really caught on after this incident in New York.

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As the protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis began to mount over the past several days, my inbox and Facebook page began to fill with observations from my contemporaries. Many of them said variations of the same thing:

This is just like 1968.

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The world is less generous and less welcoming because B. Smith, former model, entertainer and lifestyle doyenne, has left it.

At age 70, Smith succumbed to early onset Alzheimer's, which she had been battling for years. She died Saturday at her Long Island home with family nearby.

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Finally today, got snacks? The Academy Awards are today, the capstone event to the awards season in Hollywood that began with the Golden Globes.

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SCARLETT JOHANSSON: And the Golden Globe goes to Awkwafina.

This week, the Code Switch team is sharing conversations with some of our favorite authors about the books we're starting the decade with. Today, senior correspondent Karen Grigsby Bates talks to Susan Straight about her new memoir, In The Country of Women.

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We're betting that there are a lot of us out there who remember getting books as presents back in the day. I definitely remember receiving a copy of Little Women for Christmas when I was about 10 and later, copies of Jane Eyre (still one of my faves), Emma and Pride and Prejudice. When I was older, James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni joined them on my bookshelves.

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