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Saco-Indonesia.com - Seorang Bill Gates dan istrinya, Melinda Gates, percaya bahwa negara miskin dapat keluar dari kemiskinan. Ia memprediksi tak akan ada lagi negara miskin di dunia pada tahun 2035.

Dalam surat tahunan Yayasan Bill dan Melinda Gates setebal 25 halaman, ia menepis mitos yang mengatakan bahwa negara miskin akan tetap miskin, dan tidak bisa menjadi kaya.

"Negara-negara miskin tidak ditakdirkan untuk tetap miskin. Beberapa negara yang disebut negara berkembang sudah benar-benar dikembangkan," kata Gates dalam sebuah catatan yang dipublikasi Selasa, (21/1/2014).

Argumen Gates mengenai negara miskin didasari atas klasifikasi Bank Dunia tentang negara-negara berpenghasilan rendah —disesuaikan dengan inflasi. Bank Dunia menetapkan garis kemiskinan dengan penghasilan sebesar 1,25 dollar AS per kapita per hari.

"Saya cukup optimis tentang ini dan karena itu saya bersedia membuat prediksi. Pada 2035, hampir tak ada negara-negara miskin yang tersisa di dunia."

Pendiri perusahaan teknologi Microsoft ini berpendapat, sebuah negara akan belajar dari negara tetangganya yang paling produktif tentang manfaat inovasi seperti vaksin baru, bibit yang baik, dan revolusi digital.

"Dengan ukuran apa pun, dunia akan menjadi lebih baik dari sebelumnya. Umur seseorang lebih panjang, hidup dengan sehat. Tingkat kemiskinan ekstrim telah dipotong setengahnya dalam 25 tahun terakhir. Kematian anak menurun. Banyak negara penerima bantuan yang sekarang sudah mandiri," lanjutnya.

Pandangan ini akan disampaikan Gates dalam Forum Ekonomi Dunia, pada 22 sampai 25 Januari 2014 di Davos, Swiss, yang juga akan dihadiri pemerintah serta pengusaha dari berbagai negara.

Sumber: CNBC/kompas.com
Editor : Maulana Lee

Bill Gates Ramalkan "Kepunahan" Negara Miskin

Aku mengenalnya  12 tahun yang lalu, dalam sebuah acara pengajian rutin kami,…

Sosoknya terkadang membuatku bergegas untuk bersegera memenuhi apa yg beliau sarankan kepada kami, entah apa penyebabnya..di awal pertemuan dengannya pun aku merasa deg degan.karena konon dari informasi yang aku dapat beliau ini orangnya tegas (afwan ya…nggak berani dong kalo aku sebut beliau galak…emang singa/) dan benar…bahkan untuk menatap matanyapun terkadang aku tidak berani.sekilas dari pertemuan pertama kami, aku menangkap bahwa beliau memang   orang yang cerdas, gesit dan sibuk.itu kesanku…

aku biasa memanggilnya dengan mba Sari…seindanh namanya,…kata katanya memang selalu menjadi sari bagi kehidupanku…banyak hal hal yg beliau kritik dalam kehidupanku…meski terkadang sakit hati di awalnya tetapi manis di akhirnya…

seiring berjalannya dengan waktu…aku mulai bisa memahami beliau..kelihatannya beliau adalah seorang koleris melankolis sejati.he…he…bisa di bayangkan kan?karisma yang ada padanya terpancar karena kesholehahannya…

ketegasan beliau memang terkadang membuaku stress…tapi melihat kedekatan beliau dengan ilahnya membuat aku menutup mata dengan segala hal yg terkadang bisa membuat aku menangis…tapi itulah beliau, kedekatan dengan Robbnya ini membuat semua nasihatnya terdengar bernas, mencambuk hati,dan memaksa jazadku untuk selalu menjadi lebih baik.

meski terkadang ada bebrapa temanku yang terheran heran dengan persahabatan kami…kok..mba heni bisa tahan ya?dengan orang yg keras sperti itu?aku hanya bisa tersenyum…yah…di sekelilingku banyak sekali orang orang keras, saat aku kecil,saat aku sekolah di sd,smp dan sma, bahkan tatkala kuliahpun banyak orang orang yang keras, tetapi Alhamdulillah aku bisa berdamai dengan mereka…aku bisa mendengarkan mereka bercerita…aku fikir…justru di balik kekerasan mereka tersimpan kelembutan loh….

seiring berjalannya waktu juga…beliau  jadi seperti kakak , dan sebagai seorang adik pasti aku juga tahu dong…kehidupannya, subhanalloh..sangat sederhana..beliau berdua dengan suaminya..kalo boleh saya katakan betul betul rajin sekali bersedekah…bukan cuma dengan sedekah uang, tapi juga bersedekah dengan ilmu mereka,pekerjaan tetap suaminya adalah seorang pedagang buku…yg terkadang laku terkadang juga tidak.kesan yang aku tangkap adalah bahwa pekerjaan mereka berdua sebetulnya bukan berjualan buku …tapi justru berdakwah..dan pekerjaan sambilannya adalah pedagang buku.Alhamdulillah Alloh mencukupkannya untuk membiayai kehidupannya bahkan untuk kuliah ketiga anak mereka.

” Jangan takut masalah rejeki,.Allohlah yg mencukupkannya ” kata kata itu yg selalu beliau katakan, “yang penting Intan surulloha yansurukum,wa yu tsabit aqdamakum” barang siapa yang menolong agama Alloh pasti Alloh juga akan menolong kita dek…

Masya Alloh…resep mujarap ini pulalah yg aku terapkan sampai sekarang dalam berbisnis…orientasi sebenarnya adalah bisnis akhirat…sehingga Alloh pasti akan melancarkan bisnis kita di dunia…

tak masuk akal memang tapi inilah yang aku jalani…terkadang hampir satu minggu penuh aku berpindah dari majelis taklim ke majelis taklim..tanpa sempat mempromosikan jualanku (bakso, mpek@ dsb) tapi…Allohlah pemilik rezky,,selalu ada saja yang memesan daganganku…

kembali ke cerita tentang  mba sari…

hingga awal januari 2011 , beliau tiba tiba meng sms “dek..doain mba ya..insya Alloh mba berangkat haji tahun 2015.iyya mba insya Alloh..waktu haji kemaren tanpa mba minta juga sudah aku doain kok…

ternyata ceritanya tidak akan sampai di 2015…karena 2 minggu yang lalu…tiba tiba telepon rumahku berdering jam 11 malem…

“dek…hick…hick…terust…hening….cuma ada suara tercekat menahan tangis…” ada apa mba?tanyaku penuh ke khawatiran,

“mas dek…” katanya meneruskan..”ada apa dengan mas Handoko mba? tanyaku khawatir…

“Alhamdulillah barusan dapat kabar kalo mas di tugaskan jadi TPHD” katanya masih dengan penuh haru…Alhamdulillah dong mba…terus kenapa menangis mba?bukannya harus bersyukur? tanyaku…

“hick..doain mba ya…adek kan tahu, mba sari nggak mau kalo kami hajinya sendiri sendiri,mba bener bener minta di dorong dengan doa, semoga Aloh benar benar mengundang kami berdua menjadi tamnu Nya …sekarang mas han lagi berusaha cari peluang kursi kosong di daerah temapt beliau di tugaskan, bener bener minta di dorong dengan doa ya dek…”

iyya mba insya Alloh, tenang saja mba…semua kejadian kan sudah di tulis di lauh mahfudz..pasrahkan semua kepada Alloh swt.mudah mudahan semuanya di mudahkan oleh Alloh swt.

2 hari kemudian aku mendapat sms…”dek nanti malem mba ke rumah yah”. meski penasaran juga , beliau mau apa ke rumah, tapi langsung aku jawab “siap mba”.dan ternyata bd magrib…beliau sudah di depan pintu rumahku sambil membawa martabak coklat manis kesukaan anak kami…” dek…katanya seolah tak sabar, mba Insya Alloh jadi berangkat haji sekarang..”katanya sambil memelukku, menangis berdua kami sambil berpelukan di depan pagar, Tabarakalloh…mba…alhamdulillah..” mba kesini mau belajar banyak yah…soalnya mba kan nggak sempat manasik…

“ah…mba ada ada saja..”biasa saja mba..kebetulan saja kami pergi lebih dahulu…kalo dari segi ilmu mba dan mas han lebih dari kami, kataku merendah…”.eh…serius dek…mba mau belajar…kan manasik itu sunah” kata beliau merendah.

dan malam itu, kami berempat benar benar berdiskusi, berbagi pengalaman sambil sama sama membuka kitab tentang haji.mempelajari hukum hukum mana yang rukun, mana yang syarat dan mana yang sunah, sambil berbagi pengalaman tentang pengalaman yg pernah kami lalui.

seperti dugaanku bukan manasik sebenarnya yg menjadi intinya…karena kalo dari segi ilmu beliau beliau ini lebih mumpuni dari kami.Dengan suara yang sedikit berat mas han menceritakan bahwa..dalam 2 hari ini beliau membutuhkan uang sekitar 20 jutaan sebagian untuk  melunasi bpih mba sari, sebagian untuk bekal dan biaya beli hadyu, dan yang paling penting adalah uang saku untuk ketiga putra putri beliau.

kami berdua tercekat…ya Alloh,…seandainya kami punya, dan belum sempat kami mengemukakan alasan kami, mas han sudah mendahului, sebenarnya kami masih punya cadangannya sih..mobil VW tua  kami…insya Alloh kalo di jual juga laku 20 an juta.tapi menjual mobil tua dalam waktu 2 hari sepertinya hal yang susah…katanya mengaakhiri pembicaraannya.

Dan malam itu kami tercenung…”allohumma yasirru wa la tu ashiru” ya Alloh…hamba yakin engkau pasti akan menolong dan mencarikan jalan keluar yang baik bagi dua orang sholeh ini…ehm…mas…coba nanti ana browsing ya ke komunitas mobil VW..siapa tahu ada yang minat…ana lihat mobil antum masih cukup terawat”, ana cuma butuh fotonya saja, besok pagi kalo sudah terang , yah sekitar jam tujuhan lah sebelum ana ke kantor ana foto dulu ya mas, siapa tahu bisa laku cepat.Alloh kan melihat usaha kita.

dan malam itu…mereka berpamitan.

esok paginya bersama suami aku berangkat ke rumah mba sari,

“assalamu’alaikum,”

“wa alaikum salam….masuk dek…”

kulihat mukanya ceria sekali meski matanya terlihat sembab bekas bekas air mata masih terlihat jelas di wajahnya.

‘duduk de…sebentar ya,,mas han lagi mandi dulu”

tak berapa lama mas han muncul dari dalam rumah.

wah..sudah siap bawa kamera nih katanya sambil menjabat tangan suamiku.

begini ah…ana jadi tambah bingung nih…kata mas Han membuka pembicaraan,

“antum sudah cerita ke mana saja akh?” tanyanya dengan serius…

“cerita apa mas?” dengan suara dan mimik yang tak kalah serius suamiku balik bertanya.

“cerita bab uang 20 juta?” kata mas Handoko

“ha?” kata suamiku kaget…”belum akhi,..belum sempat cerita cerita…kan tadi malem kita selesai jam 11 malem.ada apa mas?”

“begini akh johni, tadi malem sepulang dari tempat antum, ana dapat sms dari sesorang minta nomor rekening, ana kira berkaitan dengan iklan mobil vw , malah ana sempat berfikir..wah..antum cepet juga yah cara kerjanya,jadi ana kasih saja tuh nomor rekening”,kata mas han serius

“terus akh”kata mas johni nggak sabaran..

“tadi pagi ana dapat sms lagi..nih bunyinya”, kata mas han sambil memberikan hpnya ke tangan suamiku

Perlahan tapi pasti mas johnipun membaca sms tsb.dengan suara keras agar semua bisa mendengar : “mohon di cek apakah sudah di terima uang sebesar 25 juta?”

“ana langsung cek tuh akh john,

“Subhanalloh..ternyata memang ada uang masuk sebesar 25 juta, jadi ana sms balik”,uang sudah masuk, maaf ini dengan pak siapa ya?”mobil mau diambil kapan?kata mas han sambil memperagakan gerakan tangannya ketika sms.

“nggak berapa lama kemudian,kemudian orang itu sms “barakalloh..semoga antum bisa menjadi haji yang mambrur insya Alloh uangnya halal dan anggaplah itu rejeki dari Alloh”,  sampai di sini ana jadi lemesh akh…ana masih bingung apa sebenarnya maksud sms tersebut, sampai ana ulang bersama istri di baca bolak balik…apa benar ini maksudnya si akh ini ngasih Rizki ke ana?”….dengan tetap  berwajah tawadhu mas meneruskan ceritanya ,

“ana telepon saja nomornya,ternyata sampai sekarang nggak nyambung nyambung, bahkan dari tadi pagi ana sudah sibuk mencari cari adakah yg kenal dengan nomor kontak ini…tapi tak ada satupun yang faham…dan kenal…sepertinya “ikhwah ini” sengaja membeli kartu prabayar akh…yang sekali buang…subhanalloh…ana ingin sekali bertemumuka langsung…

Dan seperti tadi malam…kamipun menagis terharu…”Hal jazaa ul ihsanu ilal ihsan…” hal yang baik pasti akan di balas dengan kebaikan, kami yakin, orangnya pasti orang dekat dengan beliau…tapi subhanalloh…kami tak bisa menbaknya satu persatu.. siapapun yang menolong sahabat kami ini. kami yakin seratus persen…pasti akan mendapatkan balasan atas semua kebaikannya oleh Alloh SWT.

Dan Sekarang Alhamdulillah kedua sahabat kami sedang di Madinah sekarang sedang bersiap menuju ke makah al mukaromah, untuk bersiap melakukan prosesi haji. semoga di mudahlkan dalam menjalani ibadah mereka dan menjadi haji yg mabrur.aamiin.

ALLOH BUKAN MEMANGGIL ORANG YG MAMPU,TETAPI MEMAMPUKAN ORANG YANG MENJAWAB PANGGILAN NYA

saco-indonesia.com, Rumah calon legislatif (Caleg) Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (PKB) nomor urut 2 DPRD Surabaya, Jawa Timur, Sefta Rudianto telah disatroni maling, Minggu dini hari (22/12). Motor Yamaha Mio yang berNomor polisi L-6812-HG miliknya pun juga raib digondol si pencuri.

Diceritakan Sefta, motor warna putih yang telah terparkir di teras rumahnya Jalan Jambangan 77, Surabaya itu, raib menjelang Subuh tadi. Padahal, cakram ban depan motor kesayangannya itu juga sudah dikunci ganda dengan menggunakan gembok.

Selanjutnya, atas kejadian itu, Sefta-pun telah melaporkannya ke Polsek Jambangan. "Habis Salat Subuh, saat saya hendak keluar rumah, ternyata motor sudah tidak ada di tempatnya," terang Sefta usai melapor ke Mapolsek Jambangan.

Sebelum kejadian tersebut , sekitar pukul 00.00 WIB dini hari, dia baru saja pulang dari acara partai pendukungnya. Seperti biasa, sesampai di rumahnya, dia langsung memarkir motornya di halaman rumah dan mengunci Yamaha Mio putih itu dengan gembok ganda.

"Tiap hari memang saya parkir di situ. Biasanya tidak aman-aman saja. Tapi semalam kondisi sekitar rumah memang sepi. Kebetulan juga gerimis dan warga tak ada yang nongkrong di luar rumah seperti biasanya," lanjut dia.

Sefta juga menduga, pelaku juga sudah memantau sekitar rumahnya. Pelaku juga menggunakan kunci duplikat dan gunting besi. Hal itu terlihat dari gembok motor yang ditinggal pelaku. Dan sekitar 04.00 WIB, Sefta yang hendak keluar usai Salat Subuh di rumah, terkejut saat mendapati motornya amblas dan hanya mendapati gemboknya saja.

Sementara itu Kanit Polsek Jambangan, AKP Made Patera Negara juga mengatakan, pasca-laporan Sefta, pihak kepolisian langsung melakukan olah TKP. "Anggota sudah ke sana (TKP). Kita masih selidiki. Kita juga sudah menyebar anggota ke lapangan," tandas Made.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

RUMAH CALEG PKB DISATRONI MALING

Jika orang mendengar sesuatu hal seperti jasa pengiriman paket yang murah, tentu mereka akan memiliki pemahaman yang sangat berbeda. Banyak orang beranggapan bahwa sesuatu yang murah selalu identik dengan kualitas buruk atau tidak memadai di benak para pelanggan. Tentu saja hal ini tidaklah benar karena orang tentu akan selalu memanfaatkan bagaimana mereka akan mampu untuk mendapatkan jasa kirim barang via darat ke balikpapan. Berkat kemajuan teknologi informasi, jasa kurir menjadi lebih terjangkau bagi klien mereka. Perusahaan kirim barang dapat memotong biaya mereka saat operasi seperti dalam pengelolaan sampah dan lain sebagainya. Dengan memanfaatkan teknologi, Anda juga akan lebih cepat untuk memproses informasi dan menghemat waktu pelanggan dalam mengisi formulir yang diperlukan, mengurangi kesalahan dalam pengiriman informasi, dan memungkinkan untuk dapat memeriksa langsung isi kiriman tertentu dan rute perjalanan.

Selain itu, keuntungan untuk dapat mencari jasa kirim barang via darat ke Balikpanan secara online akan dapat mempengaruhi beberapa daerah operasi bisnis. Dalam mencari jasa pengiriman yang murah, Anda tentu akan perlu juga mencari beberapa keunggulan dari jasa tersebut. Beberapa hal yang perlu dipertimbangkan adalah mengenai layanan pelanggan yang lebih baik, manfaat lingkungan yang lebih baik, jasa yang mengurangi biaya operasi langsung, telah menyediakan 24/7 akses dokumen, melakukan penghematan pembelian peralatan/sewa, dan juga mengurangi ruang penyimpanan. Aspek tersebut tentu amat perlu untuk memastikan bahwa Anda dapat memperoleh harga jasa yang lebih murah karena juga mendapatkan kualitas yang lebih menarik dan mumpuni.

Penyedia layanan kurir paling murah harus meyakinkan pelanggan mereka bahwa mereka mampu memberikan layanan dimana saja bahkan ke daerah terpencil yang tidak terletak pada peta biasa. Tingkat layanan pelanggan akan dinaikkan karena aspek teknologi yang membuat biaya yang lebih rendah dalam jasa pengiriman. Mencari jasa pengiriman yang murah berarti Anda harus pula mampu untuk dapat mencari jasa yang mana menawarkan bantuan sistem navigasi seperti GPS. Karena itulah jangan sembarangan memilih jasa kirim barang tanpa memperdulikan aspek pertimbangan tersebut. Ini adalah pertimbangan paling utama tentunya.

 

JASA PENGIRIMAN MURAH BELUM TENTU TIDAK BERKUALITAS

PANGKALPINANG, Saco_Indonesia.com - Kasus pemukulan terhadap pramugari Sriwijaya Air, Nur Febriani, yang dilakukan Kepala Badan Koordinasi Penanaman Modal daerah (BKPMD) Provinsi Bangka Belitung (Babel) diambil alih Polres Pangkalpinang.

"Berkas dari Polsek Pangkalanbaru sudah kita ambil alih. Pengambil alihan perkara ini supaya proses penyidikannya lebih cepat. Karena di Polsek Pangkalanbaru, penyidiknya masih menangani beberapa kasus lainnya," kata Kapolres Pangkalpinang, AKBP Bariza Sulfi, sabtu (8/6/2013) kemarin.

Ia mengatakan, berkas perkara dan barang bukti dari Polsek Pangkalanbaru sudah diserahkan penyidik Polres Pangkalpinang. Selanjutnya, berkas tersebut akan ditangani oleh Unit Reskrim Polres Pangkalpinang.

AKBP Bariza Sulfi menjelaskan, pihaknya hanya menangani perkara penganiayaan yang dilakukan Zakaria terhadap Nur Febriani. Untuk dugaan pelanggaran undang-undang keselamatan penerbangan tidak ditangani Polres Pangkalpinang.

"Saat ini kita hanya menangani kasus pidana pemukulannya saja. Kita tidak menerapkan kasus ke dalam undang-undang keselamatan penerbangan," kata Bariza Sulfi.

Hal ini karena sesuai pemeriksaan, hal-hal yang berkait dengan dugaan pelanggaran keselamatan penerbangan tidak terjadi di Pangkalpinang. Akan tetapi, terjadinya di Bandara Soekarno Hatta, Tangerang.

Seperti diberitakan sebelumnya, Zakaria dilaporkan ke aparat kepolisian oleh seorang pramugari Sriwijaya Air bernama Febriani. Pemukulan itu terjadi di pesawat bernomor penerbangan SJ 078 tak lama setelah mendarat di Bandara Depati Amir, Pangkal Pinang, Rabu (5/6/2013) sekitar pukul 19.30 WIB.

Dalam kasus ini, Zakaria sudah ditetapkan sebagai tersangka dan sudah ditahan oleh aparat kepolisian. Zakaria dianggap bertanggung jawab karena telah memukulkan gulungan koran ke arah bagian belakang leher korban sehingga menimbulkan bekas kemerahan. Pemukulan tersebut dipicu kekesalan tersangka karena ditegur korban untuk mematikan ponsel saat pesawat akan lepas landas dari Bandara Soekarno-Hatta, Tangerang, sekitar satu jam sebelumnya.

Upaya damai kedua belah pihak sudah ditempuh dengan permohonan maaf dari Zakaria. Namun, Febriani masih trauma dan tidak terima dengan perlakuan tersebut sehingga kasus ini tetap dibawa ke jalur hukum. (Hendra)

Editor :Liwon Maulana
Sebuah Kasus Pemukulan Pramugari Diambil Alih Polres Pangkalpinang

As he reflected on the festering wounds deepened by race and grievance that have been on painful display in America’s cities lately, President Obama on Monday found himself thinking about a young man he had just met named Malachi.

A few minutes before, in a closed-door round-table discussion at Lehman College in the Bronx, Mr. Obama had asked a group of black and Hispanic students from disadvantaged backgrounds what could be done to help them reach their goals. Several talked about counseling and guidance programs.

“Malachi, he just talked about — we should talk about love,” Mr. Obama told a crowd afterward, drifting away from his prepared remarks. “Because Malachi and I shared the fact that our dad wasn’t around and that sometimes we wondered why he wasn’t around and what had happened. But really, that’s what this comes down to is: Do we love these kids?”

Many presidents have governed during times of racial tension, but Mr. Obama is the first to see in the mirror a face that looks like those on the other side of history’s ledger. While his first term was consumed with the economy, war and health care, his second keeps coming back to the societal divide that was not bridged by his election. A president who eschewed focusing on race now seems to have found his voice again as he thinks about how to use his remaining time in office and beyond.

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Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

At an event announcing the creation of a nonprofit focusing on young minority men, President Obama talked about the underlying reasons for recent protests in Baltimore and other cities.

By Associated Press on Publish Date May 4, 2015. Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

In the aftermath of racially charged unrest in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and New York, Mr. Obama came to the Bronx on Monday for the announcement of a new nonprofit organization that is being spun off from his White House initiative called My Brother’s Keeper. Staked by more than $80 million in commitments from corporations and other donors, the new group, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, will in effect provide the nucleus for Mr. Obama’s post-presidency, which will begin in January 2017.

“This will remain a mission for me and for Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency but for the rest of my life,” Mr. Obama said. “And the reason is simple,” he added. Referring to some of the youths he had just met, he said: “We see ourselves in these young men. I grew up without a dad. I grew up lost sometimes and adrift, not having a sense of a clear path. The only difference between me and a lot of other young men in this neighborhood and all across the country is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.”

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Organizers said the new alliance already had financial pledges from companies like American Express, Deloitte, Discovery Communications and News Corporation. The money will be used to help companies address obstacles facing young black and Hispanic men, provide grants to programs for disadvantaged youths, and help communities aid their populations.

Joe Echevarria, a former chief executive of Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, will lead the alliance, and among those on its leadership team or advisory group are executives at PepsiCo, News Corporation, Sprint, BET and Prudential Group Insurance; former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey; former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.; the music star John Legend; the retired athletes Alonzo Mourning, Jerome Bettis and Shaquille O’Neal; and the mayors of Indianapolis, Sacramento and Philadelphia.

The alliance, while nominally independent of the White House, may face some of the same questions confronting former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins another presidential campaign. Some of those donating to the alliance may have interests in government action, and skeptics may wonder whether they are trying to curry favor with the president by contributing.

“The Obama administration will have no role in deciding how donations are screened and what criteria they’ll set at the alliance for donor policies, because it’s an entirely separate entity,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One en route to New York. But he added, “I’m confident that the members of the board are well aware of the president’s commitment to transparency.”

The alliance was in the works before the disturbances last week after the death of Freddie Gray, the black man who suffered fatal injuries while in police custody in Baltimore, but it reflected the evolution of Mr. Obama’s presidency. For him, in a way, it is coming back to issues that animated him as a young community organizer and politician. It was his own struggle with race and identity, captured in his youthful memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” that stood him apart from other presidential aspirants.

But that was a side of him that he kept largely to himself through the first years of his presidency while he focused on other priorities like turning the economy around, expanding government-subsidized health care and avoiding electoral land mines en route to re-election.

After securing a second term, Mr. Obama appeared more emboldened. Just a month after his 2013 inauguration, he talked passionately about opportunity and race with a group of teenage boys in Chicago, a moment aides point to as perhaps the first time he had spoken about these issues in such a personal, powerful way as president. A few months later, he publicly lamented the death of Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager, saying that “could have been me 35 years ago.”

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President Obama on Monday with Darinel Montero, a student at Bronx International High School who introduced him before remarks at Lehman College in the Bronx. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

That case, along with public ruptures of anger over police shootings in Ferguson and elsewhere, have pushed the issue of race and law enforcement onto the public agenda. Aides said they imagined that with his presidency in its final stages, Mr. Obama might be thinking more about what comes next and causes he can advance as a private citizen.

That is not to say that his public discussion of these issues has been universally welcomed. Some conservatives said he had made matters worse by seeming in their view to blame police officers in some of the disputed cases.

“President Obama, when he was elected, could have been a unifying leader,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican candidate for president, said at a forum last week. “He has made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions.”

On the other side of the ideological spectrum, some liberal African-American activists have complained that Mr. Obama has not done enough to help downtrodden communities. While he is speaking out more, these critics argue, he has hardly used the power of the presidency to make the sort of radical change they say is necessary.

The line Mr. Obama has tried to straddle has been a serrated one. He condemns police brutality as he defends most officers as honorable. He condemns “criminals and thugs” who looted in Baltimore while expressing empathy with those trapped in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

In the Bronx on Monday, Mr. Obama bemoaned the death of Brian Moore, a plainclothes New York police officer who had died earlier in the day after being shot in the head Saturday on a Queens street. Most police officers are “good and honest and fair and care deeply about their communities,” even as they put their lives on the line, Mr. Obama said.

“Which is why in addressing the issues in Baltimore or Ferguson or New York, the point I made was that if we’re just looking at policing, we’re looking at it too narrowly,” he added. “If we ask the police to simply contain and control problems that we ourselves have been unwilling to invest and solve, that’s not fair to the communities, it’s not fair to the police.”

Moreover, if society writes off some people, he said, “that’s not the kind of country I want to live in; that’s not what America is about.”

His message to young men like Malachi Hernandez, who attends Boston Latin Academy in Massachusetts, is not to give up.

“I want you to know you matter,” he said. “You matter to us.”

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Mr. Tepper was not a musical child and had no formal training, but he grew up to write both lyrics and tunes, trading off duties with the other member of the team, Roy C. Bennett.

Sid Tepper Dies at 96; Delivered ‘Red Roses for a Blue Lady’ and Other Songs

Though Robin and Joan Rolfs owned two rare talking dolls manufactured by Thomas Edison’s phonograph company in 1890, they did not dare play the wax cylinder records tucked inside each one.

The Rolfses, longtime collectors of Edison phonographs, knew that if they turned the cranks on the dolls’ backs, the steel phonograph needle might damage or destroy the grooves of the hollow, ring-shaped cylinder. And so for years, the dolls sat side by side inside a display cabinet, bearers of a message from the dawn of sound recording that nobody could hear.

In 1890, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The recordings inside, which featured snippets of nursery rhymes, wore out quickly.

Yet sound historians say the cylinders were the first entertainment records ever made, and the young girls hired to recite the rhymes were the world’s first recording artists.

Year after year, the Rolfses asked experts if there might be a safe way to play the recordings. Then a government laboratory developed a method to play fragile records without touching them.

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The technique relies on a microscope to create images of the grooves in exquisite detail. A computer approximates — with great accuracy — the sounds that would have been created by a needle moving through those grooves.

In 2014, the technology was made available for the first time outside the laboratory.

“The fear all along is that we don’t want to damage these records. We don’t want to put a stylus on them,” said Jerry Fabris, the curator of the Thomas Edison Historical Park in West Orange, N.J. “Now we have the technology to play them safely.”

Last month, the Historical Park posted online three never-before-heard Edison doll recordings, including the two from the Rolfses’ collection. “There are probably more out there, and we’re hoping people will now get them digitized,” Mr. Fabris said.

The technology, which is known as Irene (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.), was developed by the particle physicist Carl Haber and the engineer Earl Cornell at Lawrence Berkeley. Irene extracts sound from cylinder and disk records. It can also reconstruct audio from recordings so badly damaged they were deemed unplayable.

“We are now hearing sounds from history that I did not expect to hear in my lifetime,” Mr. Fabris said.

The Rolfses said they were not sure what to expect in August when they carefully packed their two Edison doll cylinders, still attached to their motors, and drove from their home in Hortonville, Wis., to the National Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. The center had recently acquired Irene technology.

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Cylinders carry sound in a spiral groove cut by a phonograph recording needle that vibrates up and down, creating a surface made of tiny hills and valleys. In the Irene set-up, a microscope perched above the shaft takes thousands of high-resolution images of small sections of the grooves.

Stitched together, the images provide a topographic map of the cylinder’s surface, charting changes in depth as small as one five-hundredth the thickness of a human hair. Pitch, volume and timbre are all encoded in the hills and valleys and the speed at which the record is played.

At the conservation center, the preservation specialist Mason Vander Lugt attached one of the cylinders to the end of a rotating shaft. Huddled around a computer screen, the Rolfses first saw the wiggly waveform generated by Irene. Then came the digital audio. The words were at first indistinct, but as Mr. Lugt filtered out more of the noise, the rhyme became clearer.

“That was the Eureka moment,” Mr. Rolfs said.

In 1890, a girl in Edison’s laboratory had recited:

There was a little girl,

And she had a little curl

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Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,

She was very, very good.

But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Recently, the conservation center turned up another surprise.

In 2010, the Woody Guthrie Foundation received 18 oversize phonograph disks from an anonymous donor. No one knew if any of the dirt-stained recordings featured Guthrie, but Tiffany Colannino, then the foundation’s archivist, had stored them unplayed until she heard about Irene.

Last fall, the center extracted audio from one of the records, labeled “Jam Session 9” and emailed the digital file to Ms. Colannino.

“I was just sitting in my dining room, and the next thing I know, I’m hearing Woody,” she said. In between solo performances of “Ladies Auxiliary,” “Jesus Christ,” and “Dead or Alive,” Guthrie tells jokes, offers some back story, and makes the audience laugh. “It is quintessential Guthrie,” Ms. Colannino said.

The Rolfses’ dolls are back in the display cabinet in Wisconsin. But with audio stored on several computers, they now have a permanent voice.

Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

Mr. Haroche was a founder of Liberty Travel, which grew from a two-man operation to the largest leisure travel operation in the United States.

Gilbert Haroche, Builder of an Economy Travel Empire, Dies at 87

Mr. Bartoszewski was given honorary Israeli citizenship for his work to save Jews during World War II and later surprised even himself by being instrumental in reconciling Poland and Germany.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, 93, Dies; Polish Auschwitz Survivor Aided Jews

Late in April, after Native American actors walked off in disgust from the set of Adam Sandler’s latest film, a western sendup that its distributor, Netflix, has defended as being equally offensive to all, a glow of pride spread through several Native American communities.

Tantoo Cardinal, a Canadian indigenous actress who played Black Shawl in “Dances With Wolves,” recalled thinking to herself, “It’s come.” Larry Sellers, who starred as Cloud Dancing in the 1990s television show “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” thought, “It’s about time.” Jesse Wente, who is Ojibwe and directs film programming at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, found himself encouraged and surprised. There are so few film roles for indigenous actors, he said, that walking off the set of a major production showed real mettle.

But what didn’t surprise Mr. Wente was the content of the script. According to the actors who walked off the set, the film, titled “The Ridiculous Six,” included a Native American woman who passes out and is revived after white men douse her with alcohol, and another woman squatting to urinate while lighting a peace pipe. “There’s enough history at this point to have set some expectations around these sort of Hollywood depictions,” Mr. Wente said.

The walkout prompted a rhetorical “What do you expect from an Adam Sandler film?,” and a Netflix spokesman said that in the movie, blacks, Mexicans and whites were lampooned as well. But Native American actors and critics said a broader issue was at stake. While mainstream portrayals of native peoples have, Mr. Wente said, become “incrementally better” over the decades, he and others say, they remain far from accurate and reflect a lack of opportunities for Native American performers. What’s more, as Native Americans hunger for representation on screen, critics say the absence of three-dimensional portrayals has very real off-screen consequences.

“Our people are still healing from historical trauma,” said Loren Anthony, one of the actors who walked out. “Our youth are still trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in this society. Kids are killing themselves. They’re not proud of who they are.” They also don’t, he added, see themselves on prime time television or the big screen. Netflix noted while about five people walked off the “The Ridiculous Six” set, 100 or so Native American actors and extras stayed.

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But in interviews, nearly a dozen Native American actors and film industry experts said that Mr. Sandler’s humor perpetuated decades-old negative stereotypes. Mr. Anthony said such depictions helped feed the despondency many Native Americans feel, with deadly results: Native Americans have the highest suicide rate out of all the country’s ethnicities.

The on-screen problem is twofold, Mr. Anthony and others said: There’s a paucity of roles for Native Americans — according to the Screen Actors Guild in 2008 they accounted for 0.3 percent of all on-screen parts (those figures have yet to be updated), compared to about 2 percent of the general population — and Native American actors are often perceived in a narrow way.

In his Peabody Award-winning documentary “Reel Injun,” the Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond explored Hollywood depictions of Native Americans over the years, and found they fell into a few stereotypical categories: the Noble Savage, the Drunk Indian, the Mystic, the Indian Princess, the backward tribal people futilely fighting John Wayne and manifest destiny. While the 1990 film “Dances With Wolves” won praise for depicting Native Americans as fully fleshed out human beings, not all indigenous people embraced it. It was still told, critics said, from the colonialists’ point of view. In an interview, John Trudell, a Santee Sioux writer, actor (“Thunderheart”) and the former chairman of the American Indian Movement, described the film as “a story of two white people.”

“God bless ‘Dances with Wolves,’ ” Michael Horse, who played Deputy Hawk in “Twin Peaks,” said sarcastically. “Even ‘Avatar.’ Someone’s got to come save the tribal people.”

Dan Spilo, a partner at Industry Entertainment who represents Adam Beach, one of today’s most prominent Native American actors, said while typecasting dogs many minorities, it is especially intractable when it comes to Native Americans. Casting directors, he said, rarely cast them as police officers, doctors or lawyers. “There’s the belief that the Native American character should be on reservations or riding a horse,” he said.

“We don’t see ourselves,” Mr. Horse said. “We’re still an antiquated culture to them, and to the rest of the world.”

Ms. Cardinal said she was once turned down for the role of the wife of a child-abusing cop because the filmmakers felt that casting her would somehow be “too political.”

Another sore point is the long run of white actors playing American Indians, among them Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson, Audrey Hepburn and, more recently, Johnny Depp, whose depiction of Tonto in the 2013 film “Lone Ranger,” was viewed as racist by detractors. There are, of course, exceptions. The former A&E series “Longmire,” which, as it happens, will now be on Netflix, was roundly praised for its depiction of life on a Northern Cheyenne reservation, with Lou Diamond Phillips, who is of Cherokee descent, playing a Northern Cheyenne man.

Others also point to the success of Mr. Beach, who played a Mohawk detective in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and landed a starring role in the forthcoming D C Comics picture “Suicide Squad.” Mr. Beach said he had come across insulting scripts backed by people who don’t see anything wrong with them.

“I’d rather starve than do something that is offensive to my ancestral roots,” Mr. Beach said. “But I think there will always be attempts to drawn on the weakness of native people’s struggles. The savage Indian will always be the savage Indian. The white man will always be smarter and more cunning. The cavalry will always win.”

The solution, Mr. Wente, Mr. Trudell and others said, lies in getting more stories written by and starring Native Americans. But Mr. Wente noted that while independent indigenous film has blossomed in the last two decades, mainstream depictions have yet to catch up. “You have to stop expecting for Hollywood to correct it, because there seems to be no ability or desire to correct it,” Mr. Wente said.

There have been calls to boycott Netflix but, writing for Indian Country Today Media Network, which first broke news of the walk off, the filmmaker Brian Young noted that the distributor also offered a number of films by or about Native Americans.

The furor around “The Ridiculous Six” may drive more people to see it. Then one of the questions that Mr. Trudell, echoing others, had about the film will be answered: “Who the hell laughs at this stuff?”

Native American Actors Work to Overcome a Long-Documented Bias

Pronovost, who played for the Red Wings, was not a prolific scorer, but he was a consummate team player with bruising checks and fearless bursts up the ice that could puncture a defense.

Marcel Pronovost, 84, Dies; Hall of Famer Shared in Five N.H.L. Titles

Mr. Mankiewicz, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for “I Want to Live!,” also wrote episodes of television shows such as “Star Trek” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.”

Don Mankiewicz, Screenwriter in a Family Film Tradition, Dies at 93

Hockey is not exactly known as a city game, but played on roller skates, it once held sway as the sport of choice in many New York neighborhoods.

“City kids had no rinks, no ice, but they would do anything to play hockey,” said Edward Moffett, former director of the Long Island City Y.M.C.A. Roller Hockey League, in Queens, whose games were played in city playgrounds going back to the 1940s.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, the league had more than 60 teams, he said. Players included the Mullen brothers of Hell’s Kitchen and Dan Dorion of Astoria, Queens, who would later play on ice for the National Hockey League.

One street legend from the heyday of New York roller hockey was Craig Allen, who lived in the Woodside Houses projects and became one of the city’s hardest hitters and top scorers.

“Craig was a warrior, one of the best roller hockey players in the city in the ’70s,” said Dave Garmendia, 60, a retired New York police officer who grew up playing with Mr. Allen. “His teammates loved him and his opponents feared him.”

Young Craig took up hockey on the streets of Queens in the 1960s, playing pickup games between sewer covers, wearing steel-wheeled skates clamped onto school shoes and using a roll of electrical tape as the puck.

His skill and ferocity drew attention, Mr. Garmendia said, but so did his skin color. He was black, in a sport made up almost entirely by white players.

“Roller hockey was a white kid’s game, plain and simple, but Craig broke the color barrier,” Mr. Garmendia said. “We used to say Craig did more for race relations than the N.A.A.C.P.”

Mr. Allen went on to coach and referee roller hockey in New York before moving several years ago to South Carolina. But he continued to organize an annual alumni game at Dutch Kills Playground in Long Island City, the same site that held the local championship games.

The reunion this year was on Saturday, but Mr. Allen never made it. On April 26, just before boarding the bus to New York, he died of an asthma attack at age 61.

Word of his death spread rapidly among hundreds of his old hockey colleagues who resolved to continue with the event, now renamed the Craig Allen Memorial Roller Hockey Reunion.

The turnout on Saturday was the largest ever, with players pulling on their old equipment, choosing sides and taking once again to the rink of cracked blacktop with faded lines and circles. They wore no helmets, although one player wore a fedora.

Another, Vinnie Juliano, 77, of Long Island City, wore his hearing aids, along with his 50-year-old taped-up quads, or four-wheeled skates with a leather boot. Many players here never converted to in-line skates, and neither did Mr. Allen, whose photograph appeared on a poster hanging behind the players’ bench.

“I’m seeing people walking by wondering why all these rusty, grizzly old guys are here playing hockey,” one player, Tommy Dominguez, said. “We’re here for Craig, and let me tell you, these old guys still play hard.”

Everyone seemed to have a Craig Allen story, from his earliest teams at Public School 151 to the Bryant Rangers, the Woodside Wings, the Woodside Blues and more.

Mr. Allen, who became a yellow-cab driver, was always recruiting new talent. He gained the nickname Cabby for his habit of stopping at playgrounds all over the city to scout players.

Teams were organized around neighborhoods and churches, and often sponsored by local bars. Mr. Allen, for one, played for bars, including Garry Owen’s and on the Fiddler’s Green Jokers team in Inwood, Manhattan.

Play was tough and fights were frequent.

“We were basically street gangs on skates,” said Steve Rogg, 56, a mail clerk who grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, and who on Saturday wore his Riedell Classic quads from 1972. “If another team caught up with you the night before a game, they tossed you a beating so you couldn’t play the next day.”

Mr. Garmendia said Mr. Allen’s skin color provoked many fights.

“When we’d go to some ignorant neighborhoods, a lot of players would use slurs,” Mr. Garmendia said, recalling a game in Ozone Park, Queens, where local fans parked motorcycles in a lineup next to the blacktop and taunted Mr. Allen. Mr. Garmendia said he checked a player into the motorcycles, “and the bikes went down like dominoes, which started a serious brawl.”

A group of fans at a game in Brooklyn once stuck a pole through the rink fence as Mr. Allen skated by and broke his jaw, Mr. Garmendia said, adding that carloads of reinforcements soon arrived to defend Mr. Allen.

And at another racially incited brawl, the police responded with six patrol cars and a helicopter.

Before play began on Saturday, the players gathered at center rink to honor Mr. Allen. Billy Barnwell, 59, of Woodside, recalled once how an all-white, all-star squad snubbed Mr. Allen by playing him third string. He scored seven goals in the first game and made first string immediately.

“He’d always hear racial stuff before the game, and I’d ask him, ‘How do you put up with that?’” Mr. Barnwell recalled. “Craig would say, ‘We’ll take care of it,’ and by the end of the game, he’d win guys over. They’d say, ‘This guy’s good.’”

Tribute for a Roller Hockey Warrior

The 2015 Met Gala has only officially begun, but there's a clear leader in the race for best couple, no small feat at an event that threatens to sap Hollywood of every celebrity it has for the duration of an East Coast evening.

That would be Marc Jacobs and his surprise guest (who, by some miracle, remained under wraps until their red carpet debut), Cher.

“This has been a dream of mine for a very, very long time,” Mr. Jacobs said.

It is Cher's first appearance at the Met Gala since 1997, when she arrived on the arm of Donatella Versace.

– MATTHEW SCHNEIER

Cher and Marc Jacobs

Ms. Plisetskaya, renowned for her fluidity of movement, expressive acting and willful personality, danced on the Bolshoi stage well into her 60s, but her life was shadowed by Stalinism.

Maya Plisetskaya, Ballerina Who Embodied Bolshoi, Dies at 89

BEIJING (AP) — The head of Taiwan's Nationalists reaffirmed the party's support for eventual unification with the mainland when he met Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of continuing rapprochement between the former bitter enemies.

Nationalist Party Chairman Eric Chu, a likely presidential candidate next year, also affirmed Taiwan's desire to join the proposed Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank during the meeting in Beijing. China claims Taiwan as its own territory and doesn't want the island to join using a name that might imply it is an independent country.

Chu's comments during his meeting with Xi were carried live on Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Television.

The Nationalists were driven to Taiwan by Mao Zedong's Communists during the Chinese civil war in 1949, leading to decades of hostility between the sides. Chu, who took over as party leader in January, is the third Nationalist chairman to visit the mainland and the first since 2009.

Relations between the communist-ruled mainland and the self-governing democratic island of Taiwan began to warm in the 1990s, partly out of their common opposition to Taiwan's formal independence from China, a position advocated by the island's Democratic Progressive Party.

Despite increasingly close economic ties, the prospect of political unification has grown increasingly unpopular on Taiwan, especially with younger voters. Opposition to the Nationalists' pro-China policies was seen as a driver behind heavy local electoral defeats for the party last year that led to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou resigning as party chairman.

Taiwan party leader affirms eventual reunion with China

Ms. Meadows was the older sister of Audrey Meadows, who played Alice Kramden on “The Honeymooners.”

Jayne Meadows, Actress and Steve Allen’s Wife and Co-Star, Dies at 95

THE WRITERS ASHLEY AND JAQUAVIS COLEMAN know the value of a good curtain-raiser. The couple have co-authored dozens of novels, and they like to start them with a bang: a headlong action sequence, a blast of violence or sex that rocks readers back on their heels. But the Colemans concede they would be hard-pressed to dream up anything more gripping than their own real-life opening scene.

In the summer of 2001, JaQuavis Coleman was a 16-year-old foster child in Flint, Mich., the former auto-manufacturing mecca that had devolved, in the wake of General Motors’ plant closures, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities, with a decimated economy and a violent crime rate more than three times the national average. When JaQuavis was 8, social services had removed him from his mother’s home. He spent years bouncing between foster families. At 16, JaQuavis was also a businessman: a crack dealer with a network of street-corner peddlers in his employ.

One day that summer, JaQuavis met a fellow dealer in a parking lot on Flint’s west side. He was there to make a bulk sale of a quarter-brick, or “nine-piece” — a nine-ounce parcel of cocaine, with a street value of about $11,000. In the middle of the transaction, JaQuavis heard the telltale chirp of a walkie-talkie. His customer, he now realized, was an undercover policeman. JaQuavis jumped into his car and spun out onto the road, with two unmarked police cars in pursuit. He didn’t want to get into a high-speed chase, so he whipped his car into a church parking lot and made a run for it, darting into an alleyway behind a row of small houses, where he tossed the quarter-brick into some bushes. When JaQuavis reached the small residential street on the other side of the houses, he was greeted by the police, who handcuffed him and went to search behind the houses where, they told him, they were certain he had ditched the drugs. JaQuavis had been dealing since he was 12, had amassed more than $100,000 and had never been arrested. Now, he thought: It’s over.

But when the police looked in the bushes, they couldn’t find any cocaine. They interrogated JaQuavis, who denied having ever possessed or sold drugs. They combed the backyard alley some more. After an hour of fruitless efforts, the police were forced to unlock the handcuffs and release their suspect.

JaQuavis was baffled by the turn of events until the next day, when he received a phone call. The previous afternoon, a 15-year-old girl had been sitting in her home on the west side of Flint when she heard sirens. She looked out of the window of her bedroom, and watched a young man throw a package in the bushes behind her house. She recognized him. He was a high school classmate — a handsome, charismatic boy whom she had admired from afar. The girl crept outside and grabbed the bundle, which she hid in her basement. “I have something that belongs to you,” Ashley Snell told JaQuavis Coleman when she reached him by phone. “You wanna come over here and pick it up?”

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Three of the nearly 50 works of urban fiction published by the Colemans over the last decade, often featuring drug deals, violence, sex and a brash kind of feminism.Credit Marko Metzinger

In the Colemans’ first novel, “Dirty Money” (2005), they told a version of this story. The outline was the same: the drug deal gone bad, the dope chucked in the bushes, the fateful phone call. To the extent that the authors took poetic license, it was to tone down the meet-cute improbability of the true-life events. In “Dirty Money,” the girl, Anari, and the crack dealer, Maurice, circle each other warily for a year or so before coupling up. But the facts of Ashley and JaQuavis’s romance outstripped pulp fiction. They fell in love more or less at first sight, moved into their own apartment while still in high school and were married in 2008. “We were together from the day we met,” Ashley says. “I don’t think we’ve spent more than a week apart in total over the past 14 years.”

That partnership turned out to be creative and entrepreneurial as well as romantic. Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.

But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.

“When you read our books, you’re gonna realize: ‘Ashley & JaQuavis are storytellers,’ ” says Ashley. “Our tales will get your heart pounding.”

THE COLEMANS’ HOME BASE — the cottage from which they operate their cottage industry — is a spacious four-bedroom house in a genteel suburb about 35 miles north of downtown Detroit. The house is plush, but when I visited this past winter, it was sparsely appointed. The couple had just recently moved in, and had only had time to fully furnish the bedroom of their 4-year-old son, Quaye.

In conversation, Ashley and JaQuavis exude both modesty and bravado: gratitude for their good fortune and bootstrappers’ pride in having made their own luck. They talk a lot about their time in the trenches, the years they spent as a drug dealer and “ride-or-die girl” tandem. In Flint they learned to “grind hard.” Writing, they say, is merely a more elevated kind of grind.

“Instead of hitting the block like we used to, we hit the laptops,” says Ashley. “I know what every word is worth. So while I’m writing, I’m like: ‘Okay, there’s a hundred dollars. There’s a thousand dollars. There’s five thousand dollars.’ ”

They maintain a rigorous regimen. They each try to write 5,000 words per day, five days a week. The writers stagger their shifts: JaQuavis goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes up early, around 3 or 4 in the morning, to work while his wife and child sleep. Ashley writes during the day, often in libraries or at Starbucks.

They divide the labor in other ways. Chapters are divvied up more or less equally, with tasks assigned according to individual strengths. (JaQuavis typically handles character development. Ashley loves writing murder scenes.) The results are stitched together, with no editorial interference from one author in the other’s text. The real work, they contend, is the brainstorming. The Colemans spend weeks mapping out their plot-driven books — long conversations that turn into elaborate diagrams on dry-erase boards. “JaQuavis and I are so close, it makes the process real easy,” says Ashley. “Sometimes when I’m thinking of something, a plot point, he’ll say it out loud, and I’m like: ‘Wait — did I say that?’ ”

Their collaboration developed by accident, and on the fly. Both were bookish teenagers. Ashley read lots of Judy Blume and John Grisham; JaQuavis liked Shakespeare, Richard Wright and “Atlas Shrugged.” (Their first official date was at a Borders bookstore, where Ashley bought “The Coldest Winter Ever,” the Sister Souljah novel often credited with kick-starting the contemporary street-lit movement.) In 2003, Ashley, then 17, was forced to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. She was bedridden for three weeks, and to provide distraction and boost her spirits, JaQuavis challenged his girlfriend to a writing contest. “She just wasn’t talking. She was laying in bed. I said, ‘You know what? I bet you I could write a better book than you.’ My wife is real competitive. So I said, ‘Yo, all right, $500 bet.’ And I saw her eyes spark, like, ‘What?! You can’t write no better book than me!’ So I wrote about three chapters. She wrote about three chapters. Two days later, we switched.”

The result, hammered out in a few days, would become “Dirty Money.” Two years later, when Ashley and JaQuavis were students at Ferris State University in Western Michigan, they sold the manuscript to Urban Books, a street-lit imprint founded by the best-selling author Carl Weber. At the time, JaQuavis was still making his living selling drugs. When Ashley got the phone call informing her that their book had been bought, she assumed they’d hit it big, and flushed more than $10,000 worth of cocaine down the toilet. Their advance was a mere $4,000.

Photo
The roots of street lit, found in the midcentury detective novels of Chester Himes and the ‘60s and ‘70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines.Credit Marko Metzinger

Those advances would soon increase, eventually reaching five and six figures. The Colemans built their career, JaQuavis says, in a manner that made sense to him as a veteran dope peddler: by flooding the street with product. From the start, they were prolific, churning out books at a rate of four or five a year. Their novels made their way into stores; the now-defunct chain Waldenbooks, which had stores in urban areas typically bypassed by booksellers, was a major engine of the street-lit market. But Ashley and JaQuavis took advantage of distribution channels established by pioneering urban fiction authors such as Teri Woods and Vickie Stringer, and a network of street-corner tables, magazine stands, corner shops and bodegas. Like rappers who establish their bona fides with gray-market mixtapes, street-lit authors use this system to circumnavigate industry gatekeepers, bringing their work straight to the genre’s core readership. But urban fiction has other aficionados, in less likely places. “Our books are so popular in the prison system,” JaQuavis says. “We’re banned in certain penitentiaries. Inmates fight over the books — there are incidents, you know? I have loved ones in jail, and they’re like: ‘Yo, your books can’t come in here. It’s against the rules.’ ”

The appeal of the Colemans’ work is not hard to fathom. The books are formulaic and taut; they deliver the expected goods efficiently and exuberantly. The titles telegraph the contents: “Diary of a Street Diva,” “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Murderville.” The novels serve up a stream of explicit sex and violence in a slangy, tangy, profane voice. In Ashley & JaQuavis’s books people don’t get killed: they get “popped,” “laid out,” get their “cap twisted back.” The smut is constant, with emphasis on the earthy, sticky, olfactory particulars. Romance novel clichés — shuddering orgasms, heroic carnal feats, superlative sexual skill sets — are rendered in the Colemans’ punchy patois.

Subtlety, in other words, isn’t Ashley & JaQuavis’s forte. But their books do have a grainy specificity. In “The Cartel” (2008), the first novel in the Colemans’ best-selling saga of a Miami drug syndicate, they catch the sights and smells of a crack workshop in a housing project: the nostril-stinging scent of cocaine and baking soda bubbling on stovetops; the teams of women, stripped naked except for hospital masks so they can’t pilfer the merchandise, “cutting up the cooked coke on the round wood table.” The subject matter is dark, but the Colemans’ tone is not quite noir. Even in the grimmest scenes, the mood is high-spirited, with the writers palpably relishing the lewd and gory details: the bodies writhing in boudoirs and crumpling under volleys of bullets, the geysers of blood and other bodily fluids.

The luridness of street lit has made it a flashpoint, inciting controversy reminiscent of the hip-hop culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s. But the street-lit debate touches deeper historical roots, reviving decades-old arguments in black literary circles about the mandate to uplift the race and present wholesome images of African-Americans. In 1928, W. E. B. Du Bois slammed the “licentiousness” of “Home to Harlem,” Claude McKay’s rollicking novel of Harlem nightlife. McKay’s book, Du Bois wrote, “for the most part nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its filth I feel distinctly like taking a bath.” Similar sentiments have greeted 21st-century street lit. In a 2006 New York Times Op-Ed essay, the journalist and author Nick Chiles decried “the sexualization and degradation of black fiction.” African-American bookstores, Chiles complained, are “overrun with novels that . . . appeal exclusively to our most prurient natures — as if these nasty books were pairing off back in the stockrooms like little paperback rabbits and churning out even more graphic offspring that make Ralph Ellison books cringe into a dusty corner.”

Copulating paperbacks aside, it’s clear that the street-lit debate is about more than literature, touching on questions of paternalism versus populism, and on middle-class anxieties about the black underclass. “It’s part and parcel of black elites’ efforts to define not only a literary tradition, but a racial politics,” said Kinohi Nishikawa, an assistant professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton University. “There has always been a sense that because African-Americans’ opportunities to represent themselves are so limited in the first place, any hint of criminality or salaciousness would necessarily be a knock on the entire racial politics. One of the pressing debates about African-American literature today is: If we can’t include writers like Ashley & JaQuavis, to what extent is the foundation of our thinking about black literature faulty? Is it just a literature for elites? Or can it be inclusive, bringing urban fiction under the purview of our umbrella term ‘African-American literature’?”

Defenders of street lit note that the genre has a pedigree: a tradition of black pulp fiction that stretches from Chester Himes, the midcentury author of hardboiled Harlem detective stories, to the 1960s and ’70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, to the current wave of urban fiction authors. Others argue for street lit as a social good, noting that it attracts a large audience that might otherwise never read at all. Scholars like Nishikawa link street lit to recent studies showing increased reading among African-Americans. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that a greater percentage of black Americans are book readers than whites or Latinos.

For their part, the Colemans place their work in the broader black literary tradition. “You have Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James Baldwin — all of these traditional black writers, who wrote about the struggles of racism, injustice, inequality,” says Ashley. “We’re writing about the struggle as it happens now. It’s just a different struggle. I’m telling my story. I’m telling the struggle of a black girl from Flint, Michigan, who grew up on welfare.”

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The Colemans in their new four-bedroom house in the northern suburbs of Detroit.Credit Courtesy of Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman

Perhaps there is a high-minded case to be made for street lit. But the virtues of Ashley & JaQuavis’s work are more basic. Their novels do lack literary polish. The writing is not graceful; there are passages of clunky exposition and sex scenes that induce guffaws and eye rolls. But the pleasure quotient is high. The books flaunt a garish brand of feminism, with women characters cast not just as vixens, but also as gangsters — cold-blooded killers, “murder mamas.” The stories are exceptionally well-plotted. “The Cartel” opens by introducing its hero, the crime boss Carter Diamond; on page 9, a gunshot spatters Diamond’s brain across the interior of a police cruiser. The book then flashes back seven years and begins to hurtle forward again — a bullet train, whizzing readers through shifting alliances, romantic entanglements and betrayals, kidnappings, shootouts with Haitian and Dominican gangsters, and a cliffhanger closing scene that leaves the novel’s heroine tied to a chair in a basement, gruesomely tortured to the edge of death. Ashley & JaQuavis’s books are not Ralph Ellison, certainly, but they build up quite a head of steam. They move.

The Colemans are moving themselves these days. They recently signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press, which will bring out the next installment in the “Cartel” series as well as new solo series by both writers. The St. Martin’s deal is both lucrative and legitimizing — a validation of Ashley and JaQuavis’s work by one of publishing’s most venerable houses. The Colemans’ ambitions have grown, as well. A recent trilogy, “Murderville,” tackles human trafficking and the blood-diamond industry in West Africa, with storylines that sweep from Sierra Leone to Mexico to Los Angeles. Increasingly, Ashley & JaQuavis are leaning on research — traveling to far-flung settings and hitting the books in the libraries — and spending less time mining their own rough-and-tumble past.

But Flint remains a source of inspiration. One evening not long ago, JaQuavis led me on a tour of his hometown: a popular roadside bar; the parking lot where he met the undercover cop for the ill-fated drug deal; Ashley’s old house, the site of his almost-arrest. He took me to a ramshackle vehicle repair shop on Flint’s west side, where he worked as a kid, washing cars. He showed me a bathroom at the rear of the garage, where, at age 12, he sneaked away to inspect the first “boulder” of crack that he ever sold. A spray-painted sign on the garage wall, which JaQuavis remembered from his time at the car wash, offered words of warning:

WHAT EVERY YOUNG MAN SHOULD KNOW
ABOUT USING A GUN:
MURDER . . . 30 Years
ARMED ROBBERY . . . 15 Years
ASSAULT . . . 15 Years
RAPE . . . 20 Years
POSSESSION . . . 5 Years
JACKING . . . 20 YEARS

“We still love Flint, Michigan,” JaQuavis says. “It’s so seedy, so treacherous. But there’s some heart in this city. This is where it all started, selling books out the box. In the days when we would get those little $40,000 advances, they’d send us a couple boxes of books for free. We would hit the streets to sell our books, right out of the car trunk. It was a hustle. It still is.”

One old neighborhood asset that the Colemans have not shaken off is swagger. “My wife is the best female writer in the game,” JaQuavis told me. “I believe I’m the best male writer in the game. I’m sleeping next to the best writer in the world. And she’s doing the same.”

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple
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