Karen Grigsby Bates

Ebony magazine has been the magazine of black America since it was first published in November 1945. Its stories of success and achievement were a welcome antidote to how its readers normally saw themselves portrayed in mainstream newspapers and magazines. (If they were featured at all, it was usually for something that reinforced the mainstream stereotype of who and what black Americans were.) Until a decade ago, Ebony regularly sold out on newsstands and had a large and loyal subscriber base.

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Octavia Butler used to say she remembers exactly when she decided to become a science fiction writer. She was 9 years old and saw a 1954 B-movie called Devil Girl from Mars, and two things struck her. First: "Geez, I can write a better story than that!" And second: "Somebody got paid for writing that story!" If they could, she decided, then she could, too.

This week in race: Bill Maher crosses a line; Kevin Hart takes a pass on President Trump; a Cosby Kid stands up for Dr. Huxtable. Let's get to it.

Can white artists understand the racial traumas people of color undergo in America enough to apply them to their work? Creating art about cultures other than your own — especially of populations that have been marginalized or oppressed — has once again come under fire.

In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African-American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Hers was a Pulitzer in poetry, specifically for a volume titled Annie Allen that chronicled the life of an ordinary black girl growing up in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago's famous South Side.

Brooks was in her living room when she learned she had won, she recalled in a Library of Congress interview, and it was growing dark. She didn't turn on the lights, because she knew what would happen. Money was tight, and the bill hadn't been paid.

Tennis queen Serena Williams is serious about trying new things this year. In addition to becoming engaged and being pregnant, La Serena has taken on the challenge of helping to diversify Silicon Valley — a task that might be hardest of all. Williams has joined the board of SurveyMonkey.

Oh, Code Switch fam: Has there ever been such a week? Because of the virtual smorgasbord of unfortunate news, you may have skipped putting these on your plate. Dig in. Keep a chaser of Pepto handy.

A lot of things in this country rely on information gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau every 10 years. Congressional districts. Federally funded public works (bridges, tunnels) and emergency services. Decisions based on population estimates affect everyone in ways large and small, so an accurate count of who lives where is critical. That's why it was big news when the current Census director, John Thompson, announced he's stepping down. The abrupt departure left Census-watchers worried.

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