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Karen Grigsby Bates

Back in May, 1963, then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy invited a select group of black entertainers to meet with him at his father's apartment in New York City.

Singer-actor Harry Belafonte was there. So was Lorraine Hansberry, whose play about black upward mobility, A Raisin in the Sun, had received rapturous reviews when it debuted two years earlier. Writer James Baldwin came, as did singer Lena Horne. Each of the invitees was active in civil rights, and Bobby Kennedy was interested in hearing more about the movement.

Some people read about history; poet Kevin Young actually saw an important part of history each week, when he went to his family's church in Topeka, Kan. The former pastor of St. Mark's African Methodist Episcopal Church was the Rev. Oliver Brown, of Brown v Board of Education fame. Rev. Brown was before Young's time, but he was still a felt presence.

The current furor over the Brooklyn Museum's appointment of a white woman to oversee the museum's African art collection is not surprising or infuriating to Steven Nelson. Nelson is an African-American art historian at UCLA who specializes in African art, and he says, "There are very few of us in the field."

The world lost a lot of notable people this year, and it feels as if they're departing even more quickly as the year runs out. Activist/humanitarian Dick Gregory, actress/singer Della Reese, musicians Fats Domino, Al Jarreau, Geri Allen and Dave Valentin were all well-known names. So was journalist Roger Wilkins.

And so at year's end we've compiled our own Code Switch list. It's not comprehensive; instead, we wanted to spotlight some of the people we might not have known as well, and share them with you.

"England's First Black Princess!" lots of media blared a variety of that this week, immediately after the official announcement of what several tabloids have been speculating about for months: Prince Harry, brother of Prince William, son of Charles and Diana, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, is engaged. His intended, Meghan Markle, is American, divorced, three years older than the prince — and biracial. Which has led to a lot of breathless reporting that she is the first black member of the royal family.

If you close your eyes and listen to Joe Ide, you might think you were talking to a black man, a brother who knows his way around the neighborhood. The slang, the inflection. It's all there.

But Joe Ide is 100% Japanese-American.

And he has a simple explanation for why he sounds the way he sounds:

"Most of our friends [growing up] were black," he says.

A Colorful South LA Childhood

Ide (pronounced "EEE-day") grew up in South Los Angeles, with his extended family.

The NFL's players are 70 percent black; its fans are 83 percent white and 64 percent male, according to online sports site The Real GM.

And when it comes to the controversy over the national anthem and players taking a knee, that statistic is playing a huge role.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Ebony magazine has been the magazine of black America since it was first published in November 1945. Its stories of success and achievement were a welcome antidote to how its readers normally saw themselves portrayed in mainstream newspapers and magazines. (If they were featured at all, it was usually for something that reinforced the mainstream stereotype of who and what black Americans were.) Until a decade ago, Ebony regularly sold out on newsstands and had a large and loyal subscriber base.

Octavia Butler used to say she remembers exactly when she decided to become a science fiction writer. She was 9 years old and saw a 1954 B-movie called Devil Girl from Mars, and two things struck her. First: "Geez, I can write a better story than that!" And second: "Somebody got paid for writing that story!" If they could, she decided, then she could, too.

In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African-American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Hers was a Pulitzer in poetry, specifically for a volume titled Annie Allen that chronicled the life of an ordinary black girl growing up in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago's famous South Side.

Brooks was in her living room when she learned she had won, she recalled in a Library of Congress interview, and it was growing dark. She didn't turn on the lights, because she knew what would happen. Money was tight, and the bill hadn't been paid.

Tennis queen Serena Williams is serious about trying new things this year. In addition to becoming engaged and being pregnant, La Serena has taken on the challenge of helping to diversify Silicon Valley — a task that might be hardest of all. Williams has joined the board of SurveyMonkey.

Oh, Code Switch fam: Has there ever been such a week? Because of the virtual smorgasbord of unfortunate news, you may have skipped putting these on your plate. Dig in. Keep a chaser of Pepto handy.

Twenty-five years ago this week, four Los Angeles policemen — three of them white — were acquitted of the savage beating of Rodney King, an African-American man. Caught on camera by a bystander, graphic video of the attack was broadcast into homes across the nation and worldwide.

Fury over the acquittal — stoked by years of racial and economic inequality in the city — spilled over into the streets, resulting in five days of rioting in Los Angeles. It ignited a national conversation about racial and economic disparity and police use of force that continues today.

The New England Patriots returned to the White House for the now-traditional visit to the president and presentation of a game helmet, jersey and other team-related swag. Correction, some of the Patriots visited the White House. Several, including most famously tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive back Devin McCourty and running back LeGarrette Blount, bowed out early on. (Blount was blunt: "I will NOT be going to the White House. I don't feel welcome in that house. I'll leave it at that," he told the Rich Eisen Show on Feb.

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