Michel Martin

This Tuesday's Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans has thrust into the spotlight a controversial local tradition dating back more than 100 years.

Every year, members of the city's Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club don grass skirts, feather headdresses and bone jewelry for the Mardi Gras parade.

The Zulus' African-American members — and even some of their white members — also paint their faces black.

At the Oscars red carpet last Sunday, various stars posed for the cameras in show-stopping fashion: Lady Gaga donned a black Alexander McQueen dress and matching gloves, Rami Malek was dapper in a Saint Laurent suit by Anthony Vaccarello – and Billy Porter wore a velvet tuxedo gown by Christian Siriano that broke gender norms and amassed a huge response across the Internet.

A small moment of anger pushed Grammy-winning artist Gary Clark Jr. to create the unapologetic, seething song "This Land."

Today, I have two names for those tempted to gloat, despair, or be ashamed because of Jussie Smollett, the actor now accused of orchestrating a fake bias crime against himself.

Those two names are Charles Stuart and Susan Smith.

For those who don't remember: In October 1989, Charles Stuart sent Boston police on a tear looking for the black man he claimed forced his way into his car — after a childbirth class no less — and then shot and wounded him and killed his pregnant wife.

After dance pioneer Alvin Ailey died in 1989, the future of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was uncertain. It's difficult to keep a dance company profitable after its founder is long gone – many have tried and failed. But 30 years later, the group is thriving, and decided to celebrate its 60th anniversary and founder by commissioning a new work titled Lazarus.

In 2015, a verdict was delivered on the cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools.

Despite what her social media handle suggests, Noname isn't hiding anymore. The soft-spoken but quick-witted rapper has spent years bubbling in Chicago's hip-hop scene and sparring on tracks with friends like Saba and Chance The Rapper while still maintaining a low profile.

Taraji P. Henson is known for her hardened exterior, at least in the dramatic roles she's used to playing. But as she tells NPR's Michel Martin, it's not just an act.

"I'm such a fighter," she says. "Some women can take up for themselves. That's why I feel like I need to speak up to be an example for women."

In an interview with NPR Thursday, former executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, responded to allegations of plagiarism related to her new book Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts.

"Though I did cite these publications and tried to credit everybody perfectly, you know, I fell short," Abramson said.

In the book, which hit shelves Tuesday, Abramson examines four news outlets Buzzfeed, Vice, The New York Times and the Washington Post as they navigate an age of multi-platform news.

Fears of brain injuries has deterred many parents and their children from choosing to play football.

After years of publicity about how dangerous football can be, football enrollment has declined 6.6 percent in the past decade, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Those who still play the sport are increasingly low-income students.

He was an adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. and the organizer behind the 1963 March on Washington.

Still, Bayard Rustin's legacy as a leading figure in the civil rights movement is little known today, even among many history buffs and within the LGBTQ community. His homosexuality cost him that visibility and was considered by some as a hindrance to the movement's success.

The path to innovation is not always a smooth, straight line. In some cases, it's U-shaped.

In September, a 2,000-foot-long floating barrier, shaped like a U, was dispatched to the Great Pacific garbage patch between Hawaii and California, where roughly 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic have formed a floating field of debris roughly twice the size of Texas. Made of connected plastic pipes, the barrier was meant to catch and clean-up the plastic.

Actor Jackie Hoffman grew up hearing Yiddish, but not really speaking it.

"I spoke what my mother calls kitchen Yiddish," Hoffman says — words here and there that she picked up from conversations between her mother and grandmother.

The language had always been a part of her life, but when she landed the part of Yente the matchmaker in a Yiddish-language version of Fiddler on the Roof, she panicked. "It was intimidating," Hoffman admits.

Amid a sea of dire climate change news, researchers say they've found a rare bright spot.

A meadow of seagrass among Australia's Great Barrier Reef — estimated to be twice the size of New Jersey — is soaking up and storing carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

Regina King appears in a new film which brings the searing social commentary of James Baldwin to the screen. If Beale Street Could Talk is based on Baldwin's 1974 novel of the same name.

Beale Street is the story of two young lovers, Tish and Fonny, and their fight after Fonny is jailed for a crime he didn't commit. The movie is directed by Barry Jenkins — it's his first film since his Oscar-winning Moonlight.

On display now at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is a special exhibit centered on a rare Bible from the 1800s that was used by British missionaries to convert and educate slaves.

What's notable about this Bible is not just its rarity, but its content, or rather the lack of content. It excludes any portion of text that might inspire rebellion or liberation.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Those awkward, angsty teenaged years have long been fodder for pop music, but Alessia Cara has her own take on them. Her sensible, subdued pop songs like smash hits "Here" and "Scars to Your Beautiful" and laid-back demeanor speaks to millions — wallflowers, misfits and extroverts alike — who are just trying to figure themselves out. Maybe that's because Cara is still figuring herself out, too.

Reggae is known by many as Jamaica's most recognizable and influential musical genre. And now it has been officially recognized by the United Nations.

In 1847, Frederick Douglass published one of the most influential antislavery newspapers of its time -- The North Star. In the newspaper's first issue, the abolitionist, himself formerly enslaved wrote, "It is evident that we must be our own representatives and advocates, not exclusively, but peculiarly, — not distinct from, but in connection with — our white friends."

Even if you don't follow the art scene, you might have heard about the wild incident at a London auction a few weeks ago when the street artist known as Banksy was selling a screen print.

The minute the hammer came down and the piece was sold — for nearly $1.4 million — the canvas started self-destructing because Banksy had installed a shredder inside the frame. There's now speculation that the piece might be worth even more after the stunt.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now, we started the program hearing about the final days of this very competitive election season. And here is where we want to have a reality check. The fact is, in recent decades, most Americans who are eligible to vote in the midterm elections don't.

If you were one of the millions of people around the world who watched the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle earlier this year, chances are you remember the gospel choir.

The Kingdom Choir, which is based in London, captivated audiences from around the world with their performance. When they left the chapel that day, crowds called out to the members, trying to take selfies, offering a very different experience than hours before when they entered, says choir conductor Karen Gibson.

A shooting on Saturday at a synagogue in Pittsburgh left at least 11 people dead. Earlier this week, at least 14 pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats and their supporters — apparently because of their political views.

But even before this week's events, people across Pennsylvania were saying they are frustrated with the tone of the country's public discourse and the lack of civility. They say they're hoping for more unity.

Let's go back to 2002. Good Charlotte's "The Anthem" was the sound of the new millennium. The Maryland group was at the top of the list of early 2000s emo punk bands. The angst was very real and these bands stood out with music that expressed the feelings of kids who saw themselves as fringe outcasts and misfits. Now it's almost 20 years later, and lives of the members are very different — they're married and most have kids. But Good Charlotte is still making music and speaking to the moment.

When you think of Nashville, you probably think of country music. Soul and jazz? Not so much. But Kandace Springs is aiming to change that. In 2014, Springs was signed to Blue Note Records, which is known for recording the jazz greats like Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk. Springs owned that warm classic jazz sound on her debut album, 2016's Soul Eyes.

For some of the 40 million or so Americans who currently use online dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge, the findings of the new HBO documentary Swiped might be intuitively obvious.

But for others, there may still be revelations aplenty in the film, which is subtitled Hooking Up in the Digital Age. It's about how these apps may change how we think about relationships — and it doesn't paint a positive picture.

You might not know his name and you might not know his face, but there are two things you might very well know about DeRay Mckesson: his blue vest and his tweets.

Both became synonymous with the protest movement that developed in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

A new movie from director Spike Lee has a premise that's almost impossible to believe.

It's 1978 and a black police detective in Colorado Springs, Colo., manages to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. He not only gets a membership card straight from Grand Wizard David Duke, but he's also asked to lead a local chapter because he's everything they are looking for — loyal, smart and a true believer.

He establishes a relationship with David Duke over the phone. And for meetings in person, he recruits a white co-worker to go in his place.

Last year, Hurricane Irma blasted through the Caribbean, leveling schools, homes and businesses, and leaving people emotionally battered. A couple of weeks later, Hurricane Maria swept through and added to the devastation. In the days and weeks after the two storms, people tried to find ways to help. Country music star Kenny Chesney, who lives in St.

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