Leah Donnella | KUOW News and Information

Leah Donnella

Leah Donnella is a news assistant on NPR's Code Switch team, where she primarily blogs and assists with the Code Switch podcast production.

Donnella originally came to NPR in September 2015 as an intern for Code Switch. Prior to that, she was a summer intern at WHYY's Public Media Commons, where she helped teach high school students the ins and outs of journalism and film-making. She spent a lot of time out in the hot Philly sun tracking down unsuspecting tourists for man-on-the-street interviews. Donnella also worked at the University of Pennsylvania for two years as the House Coordinator at Gregory College House, which is the University of Pennsylvania's language and cinema-themed dorm.

Donnella graduated from Pomona College with a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies.

"Tupac wasn't cool."

It felt sacrilegious to even hear my brother say those words the other day, but I knew instantly that it was true.

David and I were little kids when Tupac Shakur died. That was 20 years ago. We were stunned by the drive-by in Las Vegas; the four gunshot wounds; Pac's death on Friday the 13th.

The Camp of the Sacred Stone is full of all manner of people — kids, elders, lawyers, laid-back hippies, and representatives of several Native American tribes — all gathered alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Nation to resist construction of a controversial oil pipeline that would cut across the American heartland.

Early Sunday evening, news broke that Juan Gabriel, one of the most famous Mexican singers in history, had died at age 66. At dinner, my friend and colleague Adrian Florido spread the word, explaining just how huge a superstar Juan Gabriel is. "This is the biggest loss in Mexican music since Selena," Adrian said. "He was universally beloved. There is no one in Mexico who isn't a fan."

As many have heard by now, Mexican music giant Juan Gabriel passed away on Sunday at age 66. Gabriel was one of Mexico's biggest superstars — a singer and songwriter who sold tens of millions of records and is adored by millions.

On this week's episode of the Code Switch podcast, Karen Grigsby Bates sat down with some folks to talk about the upcoming film The Birth of a Nation, and a recently resurfaced, 17-year-old sexual assault case against Nate Parker, the movie's highly lauded newcomer director.

It's the summer of 1998 and I'm at the mall with my mom and my sister Anna, who has just turned 5. I'm 7. Anna and I are cranky from being too hot, then too cold, then too bored. We keep touching things we are not supposed to touch, and by the time Mom drags us to the register, the cashier seems a little on edge.

"They're mixed, aren't they?" she says. "I can tell by the hair."

Mom doesn't smile, and Mom always smiles. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about," she says.

Later, in the kitchen, there is a conversation.

This week, in a tale of Olympic scandal and intrigue, Ryan Lochte is in the spotlight for an ugly encounter at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro.

Thursday night in Rio, for the first time in history, a black woman won an individual swimming medal in the Olympics. Simone Manuel, a 20-year-old from Sugar Land, Texas, tied for the gold medal in the women's 100-meter freestyle with an Olympic record time of 52.70 seconds.

On Wednesday morning, the United States Department of Justice announced the result of a yearlong investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, which found that BPD habitually violates the civil rights of its residents. These violations, the Justice Department found, have an outsized effect on the city's black population.

In her speech Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama said she wakes up "every morning in a house that was built by slaves." She spoke about the feeling of watching her daughters, "two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn."

In the two weeks since Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesota after being pulled over for a broken taillight, we've learned that for Castile, routine traffic stops were far more routine than many people might imagine.

After more than a week of violence and racial tension sparked by the deaths of black men at the hands of police and the shooting deaths of five officers in Dallas, we're getting more perspective from African-American law enforcement officials. We wanted to know how black officers, folks who find themselves right in the middle of heated conversations about race and policing, are processing everything that happened.

We're still waiting for the full picture of what happened in Dallas, Texas — and in Baton Rouge, La., and in Falcon Ridge, Minn., for that matter — to emerge. But what we know so far is this: In Dallas on Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered for what had been a peaceful protest over the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, two black men who were killed by police officers earlier in the week.

On Thursday night, the votes poured in: After months of debate, the United Kingdom officially voted to leave the European Union in a referendum nicknamed "Brexit."

The attack on a largely Latino crowd at a gay nightclub in Orlando by a Muslim American mass shooter has meant different things to different people. The devastation cuts across many facets of culture, identity and community.

We wanted to speak to people who might be feeling this most acutely — folks who belong to the LGBTQ and Latino communities that were disproportionately affected, folks who shared the shooter's Muslim background, and people whose identities fall somewhere in both camps.

Sunday began with one of the deadliest shootings in American history — at least 49 people were killed and more than 50 were injured. The attack took place at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and the suspect was an American Muslim who pledged allegiance to ISIS the night of the attack.

As the weather teeters between 1997 DJ Jazzy Jeff and 2002 Nelly, we've been spending a lot of time staring out the window, wishing to be anywhere but inside: the beach, the pool, the basketball court, Grand Teton National Park.

Pages