I never had the chance to meet Maya Angelou. But she has been in my life all along.
The entryways to some of the University of Chicago dorms near the corner of East 61st and South Cottage Grove resemble the doors of a prison. And if you look around, it's clear that instead of trying to keep trouble locked in, the 123-year-old private school is trying to keep trouble out.
Remember the birthers?
The NAACP needs to sit down.
Bashing Cliven Bundy for his remarks regarding race is like LeBron James dunking on a 5-foot rim: Pointless.
We've all done things in our past we might prefer the general public not talk about, but only the lucky few get to be the targets of whole industries dedicated to digging those things up.
Pope Francis sent shock waves around the globe last July when in addressing the issue of gays in the church, he opted not to remind his 1.6 billion followers about the fiery pits of hell but instead posed a question: "Who am I to judge?"
There are two Web clips featuring Beyonce that have been getting a lot of attention.
In the fall of 1995, I jumped into a large van with about 20 other young black men, and we headed out from the small college town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Washington.
A 36-year-old man goes out with some friends.
"I don't want a Black History Month."
Kevin Baker, a student at Harold Washington College in Chicago, and his cousin, a senior at DePaul University, were walking home from school one day last week in the city's Chicago Lawn neighborhood.
The image of Solomon Northup's body hanging from a tree -- noose around his neck, hands tied behind his back, feet barely touching the ground -- is uncomfortable to look at.
I grew up a poor kid in Detroit.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal got involved in the "Duck Dynasty" controversy Thursday by tweeting his response to A&E's decision to suspend Phil Robertson for his inflammatory remarks in a recent GQ interview.
Despite objections from popular Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, it seem the much-criticized budget deal will get final congressional approval this week, sidestepping the cooked-up dramas that have come to define the 113th Congress.
Renisha McBride's toxicology report is out and now we know the 19-year-old had a blood-alcohol level that was more than twice the legal limit for driving. This would explain why, according to her family, she was involved in a single-car accident.
You know those electronic collars that zap dogs that stray outside their electronic fences?
Winamac, Indiana, is pretty much how it sounds.
I'm a sucker for all of those man-on-the-street interviews that late-night shows do to reveal just how dumb Americans are.
In the third act of the opera "Aida," there is an aria, "O Patria Mia," that begins, "Oh, my country, I shall never see you again."
If volunteer work is a requirement, is it really volunteer?
A detail in the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Shaaliver Douse by a New York Police Department officer earlier this month has been stopping me from grieving his death.
On August 13, 1963, in a last ditch effort to derail the pending March on Washington, Strom Thurmond took the Senate floor and hurled a series of vicious, personal attacks against the man organizing the largest protest in U.S. history.
I once met a mother who named her newborn daughter Kia Sophia.
Usually when we talk about the 1936 Olympics in Berlin we focus on two men -- Adolf Hitler and Jesse Owens -- and rightfully so. They are the two with an undeniable impact on history, albeit in vastly different ways.
If you want to know why there's little cooperation in Washington these days, I'd start with a campaign promise made in 1988 by presidential candidate George H.W. Bush.
Tavis Smiley: Bitter, party of one.
Hours before the George Zimmerman not-guilty verdict was announced, my partner and I were discussing ways to prevent our 16-year-old son from getting shot while jogging in the upper-middle-class, predominantly white neighborhood we had recently moved into.
Of all the parts that make up my somewhat quirky life, there are few things that raise a stranger's eyebrows faster than discovering I love country music.
On North Halsted Street, between Buckingham and Roscoe in Chicago, a monument stands with a plaque in honor of a brilliant thinker who is as responsible for the way we live our lives today as any person who has ever lived.
I'm a big fan of Michelle Obama's, but if she's going to be hitting the circuit to raise money for Democrats, she has to be prepared for heckling. Especially heckling from gay rights activists like the one who interrupted her speech Tuesday night.
Remember when Sarah Palin was the face of the Republican Party?
Each day more than 55 million students attend the country's 130,000 schools.
Supreme Court justices are in the top 10% of earners in this country. They attended the best universities and have access to the best health care, a pension plan unaffected by the economy and oh, by the way, immense power.
I went online this morning to see the Mountain Dew ad -- the one some are calling the most racist in history -- expecting to see some really offensive stuff. Instead, I saw some really silly stuff.
You know things in Chicago are bad when 70 murders in the first quarter can be seen as a good thing. But context is everything: Last year at this time there had been more than 120 murders, so I guess we should thank God for small favors.
If September 11, 2001, was the day everything changed, then April 15, 2013, serves as another reminder of that change, of our frailties and of a new reality in which "it can't happen here" has been replaced by "it can happen anywhere."
In 2009, Brad Paisley released the song "Welcome to the Future" from his album "American Saturday Night."
Late one night, in the summer of 1958, three police officers opened an unlocked door of a small home in rural Virginia, walked into the bedroom and pointed a flashlight at a couple sleeping in the bed.
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he reportedly said Democrats would lose the South for a generation. At the time, 115 of the 128 senators and representatives from the 11 former Confederate states were white Democrats.
Can women have it all?
Two days past 18
It seems everyone knows a college degree is important but few have a plan to keep it affordable.
You would think that in the shadow of a general election dubbed "Year of the Woman," the last thing any Republican in Washington would want to do is tick off women.
When then Sen. Obama was running for president, many of his critics accused him of being a Muslim -- as if being a Muslim in a country that prides itself for its freedom of religion is a bad thing.
On Tuesday, a man identified by authorities as Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a school bus as it stopped to drop off children and demanded two students. Police say that when the bus driver, Charles Albert Poland, refused, Dykes -- who was arrested last month, accused of shooting at neighbors in a dispute over a speed bump -- shot Poland four times, killing him. As I'm writing this, he is in a standoff with police, who say he's holding someone's 5-year-old boy hostage in his underground doomsday bunker.
Watching the President Obama-Hillary Clinton love fest on "60 Minutes" was more like witnessing an infomercial than an interview.
Well, that settles it: CBS' Bob Schieffer must be straight.
The first statuette of the 70th annual Golden Globe awards went to Christoph Waltz, whose character in "Django Unchained" shot two men and a horse in two scenes before I even opened my box of M&M's.
I wish I were surprised that Texas Gov. Rick Perry doesn't see a problem with concealed weapons in schools, but after watching his failed bid for the presidency, the truth is there's very little that man can say that will truly surprise me.
December 13, 1996.
Over the past few days we've heard a lot of criticism directed at the National Football League after the arrest of a Dallas Cowboy player on an intoxication manslaughter charge. And justifiably so: A 25-year-old father-to-be who was riding in the player's car is dead.
Recently it has seemed that every other tweet or Instagram posted by pop star Rihanna taunts the public with an uncomfortable thought: Singer Chris Brown, the man who beat her so badly in 2009 that was she was almost unrecognizable, may once again be her lover.
For all of our post-2012 election talk about the changing culture, the changing demographics and, perhaps, a changing party, preliminary thoughts out of D.C. about the 2016 election have us headed toward not much change at all: Clinton vs Bush ... again.
One day, many years from now, future generations will look back at this time in our country's history and wonder what in the hell were we thinking.
While there is still a lot of talk about how the Republican Party needs to reinvent itself, Democrats should keep in mind they could use a touch-up themselves.
I have smoked pot.
I am conflicted about the YouTube video clip of 25-year-old Shidea Lane getting punched in the face by a male bus driver in Cleveland. So many words come to mind, but I have to admit that "victim" isn't one of them.
If I had a nickel each time a white guy e-mails or tweets that I have my job because I'm black, I wouldn't need the job, because I'd be rich.
This morning, I decided to wear jeans.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asking random people who identify as Republicans if they trust Mitt Romney, and each of them gave me an answer like this -- "I trust him more than I trust Obama." It's just a long winded way of saying "no."
The first "cup" was used in hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.
Not since that cranky old lady asked "where's the beef?" has a fast food chain had an ad as funny as the Chick-fil-A cows begging people to "Eat Mor Chikin."
For all of the rhetoric about Christianity being under attack in this country, oftentimes it feels no one does a better job of hurting Christianity than the people who call themselves Christians. Especially after a national tragedy.
Mississippi may be the fattest state in the country. And it may be among the least educated and have provided the backdrop to some of the country's most heinous displays of racism.
When my son was in middle school, I remember attending one of his school band concerts that wasn't very good.
Over the past year we've heard a lot about class warfare, the "Buffett Rule" and the tax code and so on. But if you want to see a blatant form of poor vs. rich, walk into a grocery store. Here we are forced to decide between what's good for our kids and what we can afford to feed them.
It feels as if I've been living a double life all of these years, and I do not want to deceive you, or myself, any longer. The burden has become too heavy, the struggle to deny my true self, too great.
President Obama appeared at two recent fundraisers with some serious sticker shock.
For the better part of four years, voters have said the No. 1 issue is the economy.
Let's be clear about one thing: Vice President Joe Biden's recent comment about being OK with marriage equality did not place the president in a difficult situation.
During the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night, Jimmy Kimmel made a joke that President Obama laughed at, but that you could see was just killing him inside.
Jennifer Tyrrell dislikes public speaking so much that when she was in high school, she almost failed marketing because she didn't want to speak in front of the class.
Ted Nugent should be arrested.
We do a lot for -- and to -- our children in the name of parenting. I know when I get it kinda right, I know when I get it mostly wrong, and I know when I've been lucky. I will tell you that giving my teenage son a debit check card last summer was the best thing I've ever done for him. I will also tell you that move was pure luck.
Within the next day or two we could hear from the special prosecutor's office about her decision on whether to charge George Zimmerman.
I thought she was over. Madonna, that is.
As the rallies for Trayvon Martin grow, as the media coverage surrounding the tragedy deepens and as the calls for justice get louder, we all must remember one thing: Revenge and justice are not the same thing.
I don't trust cops and I don't know many black people who do.
I have a good friend in New York who turned the upstairs of her house into a bed and breakfast to help make ends meet -- a great idea on paper. My girlfriend was not a morning person. But she is now -- up and making breakfast with a smile -- because she likes the lights staying on more than she dislikes alarm clocks. She also has a consulting company and gives speeches.
I'm sure if President Barack Obama were stuck between a rock and a hard place, that would be preferable to the spot he currently finds himself in.
In politics, we're all used to seeing various "cards" being played to fire up voters and gain the upper hand.
In case you plan to see Wednesday's GOP debate, allow me to offer up some crib notes so you don't get lost.
One very clear reason why Mitt Romney is far from a lock to win the Michigan primary, despite his ties to the state, is that he's not really tied to the state.
I had just pulled up in front of my hotel in Los Angeles when I heard Whitney Houston had died at the Beverly Hilton, just a few blocks from where I was staying. I sat motionless in the car for a brief moment, not in shock, but temporarily paralyzed by a profound sense of sadness.
I believe it was the great American philosopher Kenny Rogers, who, while meditating on the nuances of Darwinism, gave the world this piece of advice:
My son had barely taken his first breath when the people in the hospital started telling me how lucky I was.
I am sitting here in front of my computer, looking at the headline that former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has died, and I honestly don't know how or what I should feel. If he had passed a year ago, it would be a no-brainer. For a World War II soldier who dedicated more than 50 years to one institution and one wife during a time in which examples of both grow rarer by the decade, it seems flags should be flown at half staff.
Speak to an agent.
My mother and stepfather both held full-time jobs and it wasn't unusual for them to work overtime. Sometimes days would go by when I wouldn't see my stepfather because he was working a double shift on consecutive days.
Here is what the election next year is about: the fence-sitters, the independent voters. At this point, there is not much President Barack Obama can say that will win over conservatives, and given the current GOP field, he doesn't have to worry too much about losing liberals. But what can he say to convince the middle to give him four more years?
I had been wrestling with eye redness for weeks. After trying nearly every brand of over-the-counter eyedrops available, I finally decided to see a doctor.
I don't know if it's sexism or wisdom or just plain fear, but men have been socialized to avoid saying two words in the presence of women.
I'm going to assume anyone who heard about Newt Gingrich's proposal to ease child labor laws and still wants him to be president doesn't have kids.
I am a big-time news junkie but there are days in which I don't turn on the television because I don't want to find out who's next.
On November 8, 1965, 48 American soldiers lost their lives during "Operation Hump" after the 400 men of the 173 Airborne Brigade were ambushed by roughly 1,200 Viet Cong fighters.