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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4:23am

Mon October 20, 2014
The Changing Lives Of Women

The Look Of Power: How Women Have Dressed For Success

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 7:22 am

A publicity still from the movie Working Girl, which prominently featured the beloved power suit.
20th Century Fox

Remember power suits? At the same time women were entering the corporate workplace in large numbers, the power suit began to pop up. It was usually a long jacket with the kind of big, padded shoulders Joan Crawford made famous, a straight skirt and, often, a floppy silk bow tie that Little Lord Fauntleroy would have been at home in. The 1980s power suit was designed to ignore a woman's shape so it didn't hinder her mobility as she worked her way up the corporate ladder.

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8:35am

Sat October 11, 2014
Code Switch

Comer Cottrell, Creator Of The People's Jheri Curl, Dies At 82

Comer Cottrell, right, confers with adman Jerry Metcalf in 1977.
Los Angeles Times

5:58pm

Tue October 7, 2014
Code Switch

'A Chosen Exile': Black People Passing In White America

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 2:24 pm

Dr. Albert Johnston passed in order to practice medicine. After living as leading citizens in Keene, N.H., the Johnstons revealed their true racial identity, and became national news.
Historical Society of Cheshire County

Several years ago, Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs was talking with a favorite aunt, who was also the family storyteller. Hobbs learned that she had a distant cousin whom she'd never met nor heard of.

Which is exactly the way the cousin wanted it.

Hobbs' cousin had been living as white, far away in California, since she'd graduated from high school. This was at the insistence of her mother.

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5:25pm

Fri August 22, 2014
Race

Obama's Reaction To Ferguson Raises Questions About President's Role

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 9:22 am

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Ferguson, Mo., residents Angela Whitman (left) and Jill Richards on Wednesday at Drake's Place Restaurant about issues surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown.
J.B. Forbes MCT/Landov

Ferguson, Mo., has seen nearly two weeks of protests after an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. This week, a black leader stepped in to help defuse tensions. But it wasn't a civil rights spokesman or the first African-American president. It was Attorney General Eric Holder.

Some political observers are asking why Obama can't seem to speak for himself on race. Many observers argue that Holder often talks frankly about race when the president can't or won't.

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1:03pm

Thu July 3, 2014
Code Switch

The Late Walter Dean Myers Wrote In The Language Of Teens

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

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

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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6:47pm

Thu May 29, 2014
Code Switch

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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5:46am

Sat May 17, 2014
Code Switch

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

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 1:41 pm

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

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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3:46am

Mon May 12, 2014
Code Switch

Sriracha-Maker Says Factory Will Remain In California

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 6:53 pm

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

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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4:29pm

Wed May 7, 2014
Media

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

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 9:59 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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4:24pm

Tue April 29, 2014
Code Switch

Why Would The NAACP Honor Donald Sterling Anyway?

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 10:45 pm

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

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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5:17am

Tue April 29, 2014
Television

PBS Documentary Examines Ruben Salazar's Life And Death

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 1:07 pm

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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3:01pm

Mon April 28, 2014
Code Switch

Who Runs The World? 'Time' Magazine Says Beyoncé

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 9:22 am

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

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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4:16pm

Mon April 21, 2014
Around the Nation

Some In Irwindale Still Not Happy About Smelly Neighbor, Sriracha

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 7:26 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.

7:27pm

Fri April 11, 2014
Code Switch

Congressional Black Caucus Urges Rethink Of Army Hair Rules

Originally published on Sat April 12, 2014 2:09 pm

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

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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6:34pm

Fri March 28, 2014
Code Switch

Why A Proper Lady Found Herself Behind Bars

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 10:55 pm

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

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

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10:11am

Mon March 10, 2014
Code Switch

Stokely Carmichael, A Philosopher Behind The Black Power Movement

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 12:26 pm

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

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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5:00pm

Sat February 15, 2014
Code Switch

Drive For Diversity, NASCAR's Commitment To Race

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

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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8:16am

Sat February 15, 2014
Code Switch

Love In Technicolor: Interracial Families On Television

Originally published on Sat February 15, 2014 7:04 pm

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

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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5:01am

Mon February 3, 2014
Television

'American Promise' Probes Race Issues In NYC Private School

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 7:42 am

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

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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2:26pm

Tue January 21, 2014
Code Switch

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

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 7:55 pm

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

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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6:52pm

Thu December 5, 2013
Code Switch

The First Time I Heard The Name 'Mandela'

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 7:07 pm

People gather to leave messages of support for Nelson Mandela outside his hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, earlier this year. Mandela has died at the age of 95.
Jeff J Mitchell Getty Images

4:50am

Mon December 2, 2013
Movies

'Best Man Holiday' Resonates Across Racial Lines

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 7:36 pm

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

5:04am

Thu November 21, 2013
Politics

Mexican-American Vets Ignited Kennedy's Latino Support

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 9:12 am

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

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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5:42am

Mon November 4, 2013
Author Interviews

Amy Tan Weaves Family Mystery Into 'Valley Of Amazement'

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 5:28 pm

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

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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1:02pm

Fri October 18, 2013
Code Switch

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

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

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

"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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6:12pm

Mon October 7, 2013
Code Switch

Undocumented Immigrants In Calif. Will Benefit From New Laws

California's Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a group of bills related to immigration because, he said, enough time has passed.
AP

The federal government remains shut down over a budget stalemate, but California's Gov. Jerry Brown decided not to wait for Congress to make decisions on the Gordian knot that is U.S. immigration policy. On Saturday, Brown signed into law a group of bills related to immigration because, he said, enough time has passed.

"While Washington waffles on immigration, California's moving ahead," Brown stated. He added, with trademark bluntness, "I'm not waiting."

The "Trust Act" Vs. "Secure Communities"

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12:23pm

Fri October 4, 2013
Code Switch

Actors With Disabilities In Big Roles? 'We Don't Have A Chance'

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 6:19 pm

The original Ironside starred Raymond Burr as a detective who became a paraplegic after being shot in the line of duty.
The Kobal Collection

2:13pm

Sat September 14, 2013
Code Switch

At Fashion Week, Color Pops And Models Call For Diversity

Originally published on Sat September 14, 2013 5:40 pm

Marc Jacobs is among the designers who were named by the Diversity Coalition for not having enough models of color on the runway.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Color continued to be a big deal on the New York runways during Fashion Week this week, but almost all the color was represented by the clothes being showcased in the new collections and not the models wearing them.

That lack of diversity has been a perennial problem in the fashion industry — at home and abroad — for at least the past 15 years. And while there may be an Asian or Hispanic girl from time to time (in this industry, everyone is a "girl"), discernibly black girls get token representation if they get it at all.

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6:16pm

Tue September 10, 2013
Code Switch

Harlem On Their Minds: Life In America's Black Capital

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 9:38 pm

The poet Langston Hughes liked to wryly describe the Harlem Renaissance — the years from just after World War I until the Depression when black literature and art flourished, fed by an awakening racial pride — as "the period when the Negro was in vogue." Note the past tense. Two new books published Tuesday explore the blossoming of black cultural life in two different decades.

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1:56pm

Sat August 24, 2013
Code Switch

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

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

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

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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