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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Code Switch
5:00 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

Originally published on Sat February 15, 2014 9:18 pm

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
8:16 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 7:04 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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Code Switch
5:27 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

'Vanity Fair' Adds Color To Hollywood's Golden Moment

Chiwetel Edjifor (from left), Julia Roberts, Idris Elba, George Clooney, Michael B. Jordan, Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong'o, Naomie Harris, Brie Larson, Chadwick Boseman, Margot Robbie, Lea Seydoux.
Annie Leibovitz Via Vanity Fair

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 5:49 pm

Today, the March issue of Vanity Fair magazine hit newsstands in New York and Los Angeles; it will be available nationally on Tuesday. This is the 20th annual Hollywood issue, which showcases some of the industry's best talent. But this issue is quite different: Fully half the actors on the cover's three-panel foldout are black.

Befitting the occasion, the Oscar nominees on the cover are dressed in formal wear. George Clooney and Jared Leto are elegant in white tie and tails, and Julia Roberts wears the top half of a dinner jacket, a big grin and little else.

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Television
5:01 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 7:42 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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Movies
4:50 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 7:36 pm

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Politics
5:38 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 9:12 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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Author Interviews
5:42 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 5:28 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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Code Switch
1:02 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Asian-Americans To Evangelicals: We're Not Your Punch Line

A joking Facebook post by Saddleback Church's Rick Warren was the catalyst for a pointed letter from some 700 evangelical Asian-Americans.
Donna McWilliam AP

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 9:48 am

"We the undersigned, are distressed about the continuing divide that persists in the North American evangelical church in the area of racial harmony."

That's the first line of a four-page open letter to American Evangelicals ("On Cultural Insensitivity and Reconciliation in the Church") from a coalition called Asian American Christians United. The letter was released earlier this week.

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Code Switch
1:56 pm
Sat August 24, 2013

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

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

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

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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Code Switch
4:26 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

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

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

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

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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Code Switch
4:37 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

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

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

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

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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Code Switch
5:56 am
Sun July 21, 2013

Black Americans Welcome Obama's Entry To Race Discussion

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

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

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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U.S.
6:25 pm
Sun July 14, 2013

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

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

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

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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Code Switch
3:24 am
Sun July 14, 2013

With Fla. Verdict, Is Protective Clothing Still Required?

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

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

"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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Remembrances
4:32 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Rodriguez Kept 'Mexican Repatriation' From Being Forgotten

Ignacio Pina, who holds his birth certificate in this 2004 photo, was one of numerous American citizens deported to Mexico in the early 20th Century. The late historian Raymond Rodriguez was instrumental in bringing this story to light.
Damian Dovarganes Associated Press

Originally published on Wed July 10, 2013 7:11 pm

In an often-hidden part of the American past, an estimated million American citizens and legal immigrants of Mexican descent were deported to Mexico in the so-called "repatriation movement" of the 1930s. We might not know about this if not for a scholar named Raymond Rodriguez, who we recently learned died of a heart attack at age 87 in his Long Beach home in late June.

Raymond Rodriguez was nearly 80 when he testified before a state committee on the California repatriation. But in his voice, you can hear the pain of the boy he once was.

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Remembrances
4:34 am
Thu June 20, 2013

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.

Code Switch
3:36 am
Mon June 3, 2013

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

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

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

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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Code Switch
5:26 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

History Makes Hiring Household Help A Complex Choice

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

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

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Remembrances
4:44 am
Wed April 17, 2013

Mexican-American Civil Rights Activist Salvador Castro Dies

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 2:46 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Salvador Castro was a Mexican American civil rights activist and fervent education reformer. He died on Monday in Los Angeles at 79 years old. Castro was revered as a teacher and mentor, and for being one of the central figures in what would come to be known as the 1968 Walkouts. These were protests by Mexican-American students that helped spark what would soon become known as the Chicano movement.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has this remembrance.

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Code Switch
4:26 pm
Mon April 15, 2013

Dumbfoundead: A Rising Star In A Genre In Transition

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

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

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Around the Nation
3:26 am
Tue March 26, 2013

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

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

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

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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History
5:52 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

1963 Emancipation Proclamation Party Lacked A Key Guest

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

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

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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Around the Nation
4:47 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Some In L.A. See Fired Cop Dorner As A Victim

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 6:24 am

The fired Los Angeles police officer who has been targeting other officers remains a fugitive. Chistopher Dorner is wanted in connection with three murders. Dorner claims he was fired because of racism. That claim has struck a chord with many of the city's Black and Latino residents

Business
6:36 am
Sun February 10, 2013

Bloomingdale's Lays Out Welcome Mat To Chinese Shoppers

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

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

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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Arts & Life
3:22 am
Mon January 21, 2013

Aretha Franklin Was Already Famous, But Her Hat-Maker Wasn't

At the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration of President Obama, Aretha Franklin's hat nearly stole the show. Her chapeau became a sensation, and made its creator, 36-year-old Luke Song, famous overnight.
Ron Edmonds AP

Originally published on Mon January 21, 2013 12:54 pm

After the first Obama inauguration, everybody talked about three things: the historic moment, the Arctic weather — and Aretha Franklin's hat.

If it is possible for a piece of millinery to steal the thunder of one of the most-watched moments in recent memory, the Queen of Soul's hat managed to do it. Her gray felt cloche was topped with a giant, matching bow, outlined in rhinestones that flashed in the chill sunlight as she sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

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Television
3:19 am
Fri January 11, 2013

'Living' In Color, Long Before 'Girls'

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

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

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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U.S.
5:03 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

New Policy For Young Immigrants Creates Paperwork Deluge

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

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

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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Television
4:48 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

Comedians Parody Two Sides Of President Obama

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 6:18 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have an avid following for their weekly show, "Key and Peele" on Comedy Central. They've parodied everything from the names of black athletes to white people with dreadlocks. This year, the duo set their sights on the presidential campaign and examined the role that race played in it.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has that story.

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Movies
3:26 am
Tue November 20, 2012

Controversial Casting For A Nina Simone Biopic

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

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

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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Presidential Race
5:04 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Black Voters Still Enthusiastic About Obama

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 5:50 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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