From NPR: Later That Same Life

Thinking about another year going by, this is a personal favorite from awhile back.

In 1977, an 18-year-old Peter “Stoney” Emshwiller filmed himself asking questions meant for his future self. Emshwiller tells NPR’s Ari Shapiro, “I was going through what I think a lot of 18-year-olds go through — where you’re leaving high school and you’re about to start sort of your real life — and felt like I wanted to ask somebody who knows. And of course there isn’t anybody, but I decided to pretend there was and sit down and talk to a blank wall asking every question I could think of and responding to every answer I thought I might get back.”

Thirty-eight years later, the writer and voice actor sat down to answer his young self’s questions. The result is Later That Same Life, a film cut together to look like one seamless interview.

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From NPR: Hidden Figures

Many Americans are familiar with the astronaut heroes of the 20th century space race — names like Gus Grissom and Neil Armstrong. But who did the calculations that would successfully land these men on the moon?

Several of the NASA researchers who made space flight possible were women. Among them were black women who played critical roles in the aeronautics industry even as Jim Crow was alive and well.

“When the first five black women took their seat in the office in 1943, it was in a segregated office with a ‘colored girls’ bathroom and a table for the ‘colored’ computers,” author Margot Lee Shetterly tells NPR’s Michel Martin.

Shetterly, a Hampton, Va., native and daughter of a former Langley scientist, tells the story of these women in the new book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. The book has already been adapted for the big screen; the film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae premieres in January.

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From NPR: Bid To Boost Black Men’s Voting Heads To The Barbershop

By Katie Colaneri.

Leroy Robinson Jr. owns a barbershop in West Philadelphia. He’s been doing this work for 40 years — and he says the trade runs in the family.

“My father’s a barber, my brother is a barber and here I am,” he says.

His favorite part of the job is talking to his customers about, well, nearly everything.

“Right now, the political thing is on the horizon,” Robinson says, “But the biggest thing right now is Villanova.”

Robinson is part of a project trying to get barbers like him to focus less on local NCAA champions and more on the “political thing” in this election year.

The project, called Sharp Insight, is the brainchild of Duerwood Beale, a rapper-turned-local nonprofit director. Beale has been doing outreach work in barbershops for about 20 years, sharing information about STD testing and registering people to vote. Beale says barbershops, which have been called the “black men’s country club,” are the ideal place to reach men of color of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs.

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From NPR: Why My Mom Didn’t Say ‘I Love You’ For 11 Years

By Adebisi Alimi.

Earlier this year on my 40th birthday, my mother sent me a text that said, “I love you.”

This was the first time she said this to me since I publicly came out as gay on Nigerian television in 2004.

A few months before my birthday, my father called me. We had not spoken in almost ten years. He had tried to pressure me into an arranged marriage with a woman. When I refused, he said he never wanted to speak to me again and cut me out of his life. He called after a near-death experience. He cried as he apologized for misunderstanding me, for hating me for something he knows I can’t help and for failing to remember the bigger picture: I am his son.

This story of acceptance is not unique to me. Over the past few years, parents and other family members, and friends of LGBT people, have begun sharing their stories with me and telling me how my story has helped them communicate with their children.

Of course, Nigeria is still a very difficult place for the LGBT community. A same-sex relationship is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. And polls show that 90 percent of Nigerians believe homosexuality is unnatural.

But the latest polls do show a significant shift that mirrors the changes in my family. While 96 percent of people opposed relationships between same-sex couples in 2010, that number is now only 87 percent. And 30 percent of Nigerians said they believe that LGBT people should have access to healthcare, housing and education.

And as attitudes change, I am hearing some remarkable stories.

A woman wrote to me on Facebook after she kicked her daughter out of their home for coming out as a lesbian. She had come across one of my interviews on YouTube. This led her to contact me. After her painful narrative of her guilt, regrets and confusion, she asked what she should do. I told her to go look for her daughter and bring her home.

Nigeria is at the tipping point of greater change. We have a new government that campaigned on a change agenda. I believe that, along with the progress shown in the poll, now is the time to start work to review Nigeria’s repressive laws and work to create non-judgmental educational curriculum and civil society engagement on the issue of sexuality and gender. With an increase in open discussions around sexual orientation and gender identity comes more understanding, tolerance and acceptance.

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From NPR: Only Three Observant Sikh Men Serving In The U.S. Military

By Tom Gjelten.

If a Muslim woman may wear a headscarf at work, as the U.S. Supreme Court has now affirmed, perhaps a Sikh man should be able to wear a turban while serving in the U.S. military.

So argues the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy organization that has long opposed a Pentagon ban on facial hair and religious headgear among service members. That campaign got at least a moral boost with this week’s court decision.

“What I’m anticipating with this decision is that we will have a move in this country to recognize the right of individuals from different religious backgrounds to live in an America that does not discriminate against them on the basis of how they appear,” says Simran Jeet Singh, the senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition.

As a general rule, the Department of Defense prohibits facial hair and the wearing of religious headgear among service members, though it offers “accommodation” on a case-by-case basis in recognition of “sincerely held beliefs.”

Such waivers, however, are given only when they would not undermine “military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or any other military requirement.”

In practice, those considerations can present major obstacles. Currently, just three observant Sikh men serve in the U.S. military, all in the Army, and all are in noncombat positions. That’s out of an active-duty military force of 1.4 million.

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