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.

Pages

Race
6:02 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Economic Improvement Remains Stagnant For Poor Blacks

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 6:52 am

In 1965, sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who would later become a U.S. senator from New York, authored a controversial report. It concluded the decline of the black nuclear family was a major component to black poverty. Nearly 50 years later, the Urban Institute has released a follow-up to Moynihan's study that looks at the current barriers poor black families continue to face, and compares those findings to the country's other ethnic groups.

U.S.
5:16 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

The Reaction To Michelle Obama's Reaction To A Heckler

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 6:19 pm

First lady Michelle Obama's confrontation with a heckler at a Democratic Party fundraiser Tuesday night has sparked a dramatic range of reaction.

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.

Read more
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

Read more
Code Switch
2:13 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Benson Lee Goes 'Seoul Searching'

Filmmaker Benson Lee poses for a photo.
Karen Grigsby Bates NPR

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 6:36 pm

Read more
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.

Read more
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

Read more
Code Switch
10:16 am
Thu April 11, 2013

A World Of Advice For Those Who Try To Code-Switch

Issa Rae tackles some uncomfortable code-switching situations in her series "Awkward Black Girl."
Isaac Matthew White Courtesy of Issa Rae

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 3:13 pm

Read more
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.

Read more
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

Read more
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.

Read more
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."

Read more
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.

Read more
Arts & Life
6:22 am
Sun September 16, 2012

Beverly Hills' Refuge For The Stars Turns 100

The Beverly Hills Hotel as it looked when it opened in 1912. The bleak landscape would eventually be replaced by lush tropical foliage, and after the depression, the white Spanish Mission-style hotel would be painted its now-famous pink.
Courtesy of Robert S. Anderson

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 5:26 pm

The Beverly Hills Hotel, a place fondly known as the Pink Palace, has preserved guests' privacy and indulged their every whim for 100 years, and the entire year will be filled with celebrations of its centennial.

There have been parties for the neighbors, parties for the staff, and a celebration this week as the hotel becomes the first historic landmark in the city of Beverly Hills, Calif.

Read more

Pages