Shereen Marisol Meraji

Shereen Marisol Meraji tries to find the humor and humanity in reporting on race for the NPR Code Switch team.

Her stories center on the real people affected by the issues, not just experts and academics studying them. Those stories include a look at why a historically black college in West Virginia is 90 percent white, to a profile of the most powerful and most difficult-to-target consumer group in America: Latinas.

Prior to her time with Code Switch, Meraji worked for the national business and economics radio program Marketplace, from American Public Media. There, she covered stories about the growing wealth gap and poverty in the United States.

Meraji's first job in college involved radio journalism and she hasn't been able to shake her passion for story telling since. The best career advice Meraji ever received was from veteran radio journalist Alex Chadwick, who said, "When you see a herd of reporters chasing the same story, run in the opposite direction." She's invested in multiple pairs of running shoes and is wearing them out reporting for Code Switch.

A graduate of San Francisco State with a BA in Raza Studies, Meraji is a native Californian with family roots in Puerto Rico and Iran.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on August 9, 2015.

Fresh air, the smell of pine trees, the sounds of birds chirping and brooks babbling — all of these have helped American city-dwellers unwind for generations. But in the era of Jim Crow segregation, nature's calm also gave African-Americans a temporary respite from racism and discrimination.

Decked out in spandex and a yellow and orange racing jersey with Eastside Bicycle Club: Ride To Live on the front, Gabriela Bilich was hanging out at club founder Carlos Morales' bike shop before a Saturday evening group-ride last weekend, joking with the other cyclists in spanglish.

Bilich says a couple of years ago, she would never have imagined herself riding a bike through the streets of LA. She says the cycling world just didn't feel welcoming to a 40-something Latina from Southeast LA who struggled with her weight.

In 2009, Rue Mapp was thinking about business school, weighing the pros and cons, and wondering if it was the right choice. The former Morgan Stanley analyst turned to her mentor for advice. But rather than give her an answer, her mentor asked a question: If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be?

Just like that, Mapp knew an MBA wasn't in her near future. Instead, she decided to combine everything she loved — from nature to community to technology — into an organization that would reconnect African-Americans to the outdoors.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

For the U.S. women's soccer team, three is the magic number. In Vancouver last night, the team won their third soccer World Cup, thanks to three spectacular goals by the U.S. captain. NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji has the story.

'Dope' is out in theaters this weekend, and if you need to know more about the film, check out my story that aired on Morning Edition earlier this week. Five minutes and 16 seconds wasn't long enough to showcase all of writer and director Rick Famuyiwa's reasons for making the film, or what inspired the main characters. So here's some of what hit the cutting room floor.


Interview Highlights

When and why Famuyiwa started writing Dope

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The U.S. faced off against Sweden in the marquee match in the group stage of the women's World Cup last night in Winnipeg, Canada. NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji was there.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team entered the World Cup stage last night in a big way by beating Australia 3-to-1.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Soccer fans are replacing their favorite club jerseys for national colors as the best female players in the world prepare to face off in Canada for World Cup 2015, which starts on June 6.

The American Outlaws, considered the biggest U.S. national soccer fan association, has already been rocking red, white and blue to cheer on the women's national team.

Only a small number of Boy Scouts make Eagle Scout.

The feat is even harder when you come from inner-city poverty.

Yet for 27 years, Romy Vasquez has successfully encouraged boys from South Central Los Angeles to become Scouts, and he has seen more than a dozen members of Troop 780 go on to reach scouting's highest rank.

His pitch: You want to be in a gang? Scouting is the biggest gang in the world.

"It's global," he tells the Scouts. "We got some in Japan, China, Israel, all over. So guess what? You belong to BSA!"

Just outside Pittsburgh is the tiny borough of Braddock, Pa., best known as the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie's first steel mill. Today, it's something of a poster child for rust belt revitalization, a place where artists can buy property for pennies and even construct outdoor pizza ovens using the bricks from abandoned or demolished buildings.

Editor's note: Code Switch reporter Shereen Marisol Meraji spent Wednesday with a West Baltimore principal charged with a huge task: helping her middle and high school students, who are overwhelmingly poor and black, make sense of what's happening in Baltimore right now.

How would you like to be remembered, in a word or two? That question was posed by a black man and answered by other black men in a multimedia art project called "Question Bridge: Black Males."

Some of the answers to that query included "warrior," "sincere," "motivated," "dedicated," "family-oriented" and "father."

Right now, high school seniors across the country are trying hard not to think about what is — or isn't — coming in the mail.

They're anxiously awaiting acceptance letters (or the opposite) from their top-choice colleges and universities. But this story isn't about them. It's about a big group of seniors who could get into great schools but don't apply: high-achieving students from low-income families who live outside of America's big cities.

AMC's The Walking Dead holds the record for the most-watched cable television drama. If you've never seen it, it's about the zombie apocalypse and follows a group survivors trying to stay alive in Atlanta, Ga. If you're a fan — and there are millions upon millions of us out there — you know that no character is safe, and you've got a favorite character that you don't want to die.

Anger and frustration over two recent cases where unarmed black men were killed by police brought new protests to New York City, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Miami and Cleveland this week.

On a recent Wednesday night in Ferguson, black and white community members are trying a different tactic to create change — a potluck.

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