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
2:18 pm
Sat December 13, 2014

Black Fraternities And Sororities Split On Protest Policy

The home page of the Dallas Morning News on Dec. 6, 2014 showed a protester wearing a Delta Sigma Theta shirt. Soon after, some black sororities banned members from wearing their logos at protests.
PastPages.org

Thousands of Americans gathered in Washington, D.C. Saturday for the 'Justice for All' rally. The demonstration was to protest the police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, as well as decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y.

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Code Switch
2:57 pm
Sat November 29, 2014

'The Banh Mi Handbook': A Guide To A Viet-French Sandwich

Paperboy Kitchen, Melbourne

Originally published on Sat November 29, 2014 4:29 pm

Some kids know they want to be doctors or pilots or professional sports players— Andrea Nguyen knew by the time she was 10 she wanted to be a sandwich maker. She says she's been making sandwiches and fooling around with the recipes and the ingredients since elementary school.

The sandwich she fell for first and that she still loves the most? Banh mi. (It's pronounced "bun-mee.") Her latest cookbook, The Banh Mi Handbook, is a guide for home cooks who want to make banh mi of their own.

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Race
4:48 am
Fri October 24, 2014

A Black Cosmetic Company Sells, Or Sells Out?

Real Housewives of Atlanta star Lisa Wu Hartwell gets a hair treatment at a "Curl Party" hosted by Carol's Daughter and theYBF.com in 2010.
Paras Griffin Landov

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 12:50 pm

Cosmetics giant L'Oréal purchased Carol's Daughter, a beauty company that sells natural hair and skin products for black women, earlier this week. It may seem like an unlikely chapter in the story of a business that began in a Brooklyn kitchen.

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The Changing Lives Of Women
2:23 am
Mon October 20, 2014

The Look Of Power: How Women Have Dressed For Success

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

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 5:22 am

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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Code Switch
6:35 am
Sat October 11, 2014

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

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Code Switch
3:23 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 12:24 pm

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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Race
3:25 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 7:22 am

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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Book News & Features
1:31 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Aye, Sassenach — Gabaldon's Appeal Is Timeless

Caitriona Balfe as time-traveling Claire Randall, and Sam Heughan as her Highlander lover Jamie Fraser in the new television adaptation of Outlander.
Sony PicturesTelevision

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 10:02 pm

Novelist Diana Gabaldon writes books that sell like crazy but are hard to categorize. Her Outlander series, featuring a determined heroine who falls backward through time to the 18th century Scottish Highlands, has made Gabaldon both wealthy and famous.

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Code Switch
2:56 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Crime Writer Creates A Hero For Her Beloved, Much-Maligned South LA

Hall sits in a sunny bay window to write. "My first drafts are always in long hand, on legal pads," she explains. "I love putting pen to paper."
Andre Ellis

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 5:35 am

Rachel Howzell Hall is easing her big, laurel green Mercedes sedan through the streets of Los Angeles. A slim woman with big eyes, Hall says this Benz is her dream car, the thing she'd planned to buy for herself once she'd become a successful writer, probably around age 50.

But something happened to speed up her schedule.

"When I was 33 years old," Hall says, "I was diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer. And I was pregnant. And it was terrifying."

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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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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
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
2:16 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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Code Switch
4:05 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
3:00 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 7:18 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
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
3:46 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

The First Time I Heard The Name 'Mandela'

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

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

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