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saco-indonesia.com, Real Madrid telah berhasil memenangkan delapan pertandingan terakhir mereka tanpa kemasukan gol satu pun. Ini berarti, klub yang berjuluk Los Blancos itu resmi menjalani Januari terbaik mereka di sepanjang sejarah. Total delapan kemenangan yang telah mereka raih, empat di antaranya terjadi di La Liga dan sisanya di Copa Del Rey.

Catatan statistik telah menunjukkan bahwa El Real tidak pernah sekalipun untuk memenangkan begitu banyak laga secara beruntun di bulan Januari sebelumnya. Kali terakhir tim hanya bisa menang di lima laga berurutan dan itu telah terjadi di tahun 1961, 1964, dan 2009.

Delapan kemenangan tersebut juga dihiasi dengan kesolidan lini belakang klub, yang telah membuat gawang mereka terus perawan, tak peduli siapapun lawannya. Rataan gol Madrid pun cukup mengagumkan, 2,1 per laga selama tahun 2014, yang kemudian membuat mereka telah berhasil mencetak total 17 gol. Cristiano Ronaldo dan Karim Benzema menjadi penyumbang terbesar dengan masing-masing 5 gol.

Patut jadi catatan bahwa di dua laga terakhir Desember 2013, Madrid juga telah meraih kemenangan. Ini artinya tim sudah menang di 10 laga beruntun dan sudah tak terkalahkan di 20 pertandingan terakhir. Madrid kini sudah memastikan diri lolos ke babak semifinal Copa Del Rey dan hanya terpaut satu angka dari pimpinan klasemen La Liga.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

PERFORMA MADRID PALING MAKSI

saco-indonesia.com, Seorang penumpang bus Kopaja telah ditodong penjahat kemudian merampas laptop,  saat kendaraan telah melintas di depan gedung GKBI Jalan Jenderal Sudirman, Tanah Abang, Jakarta Pusat. Pelaku telah berhasil dibekuk warga.

Tersangka M Soleh, yang berusia 35 tahun , warga Pulogadung, Jakarta Timur, juga sempat diamuk massa kini telah diamankan ke kantor polisi berikut laptop hasil kejahatan. Sedang korban Furgon Wirawan, yang berusia 46 tahun , asal Cilacap, Jawa Tengah, telah dimintai keterangan.

Keterangan yang telah dihimpun sekitar pukul 18:40, korban naik angkutan umum Kopaja dari Blok M menuju Tanah Abang. “Memang saat kejadian penumpang padat disertai hujan gerimis, pelaku tunggal diperkirakan sudah menga mati,”tegas Kapolsek Tanah Abang Kompol Kus Subiantoro.

Namun setibanya bis di depan gedung perkantoran Kopaja yang lagi melaju pe lan tiba-tiba bandit yang berdiri disamping korban telah menempelkan pisau sambil mengancam. “Ayo serahkan dompet dan jangan lirik-lirik kalau mau selamat,”gertak pelaku, seperti diuraikan korban di kantor polisi.

Melihat korban megang tas yang berisi laptop, bandit tunggal ini kemudian telah mengincar tas tersebut, dan dalam waktu yang singkat, tas yang digenggam korban telah dirampas hingga laptop berpindah tangan, setelah itu pelaku kabur saat bis sedang melaju pelan.

Melihat bandit sudah berada di jalan, korban histeris meneriaki rampok.. Rampok, sambil menuju kearah pria yang lagi menenteng tas. Dan tak pelak lagi, bandit tergolong nekat itu begitu ia tertangkap massa, spontas diamuk warga hingga wajah bonyok dikeroyok massa.

Namun aksi main hakim itu juga cepat diatasi oleh petugas yang tiba kelokasi kejadian. Kini bandit warga Pulogadung, Jakarta Timur itu, tlah diamankan ke Polsek Metro Tanah Abang, dan dari tangannya juga telah di sita laptop hasil kejahatan, milik korban.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

PENUMPANG BUS DIRAMPOK

saco-indonesia.com,

CARA MEMELIHARA ALAT LABORATORIUM
 

Agar efektifitas pemanfaatan alat peraga laboratorium dapat dicapai dengan sempurna , maka diperlukan syarat pengetahuan dan keterampilan penggunaan peralatan yang telah meliputi :
a.   Pengetahuan tentang spesifikasi peralatan.
b.  Pengetahuan tentang pengoperasian peralatan.
c.  Pengetahuan tentang kondisi peralatan.
d. Pengetahuan tentang target dan sasaran pengamatan dan atau pengukuran dengan
    peralatan tersebut.
e. Pengetahuan metoda, waktu dan teknik pengamatan dan atau pengukuran dengan
    peralatan tersebut.
Pengetahuan dan keterampilan penggunaan peralatan ternyata telah memegang peranan yang sangat penting dalam perawatan peralatan agar peralatan berfungsi dengan baik dan kerusakan dapat dihindarkan sejauh mungkin.

 Macam-macam Peralatan laboratorium
            Secara garis besar peralatan laboratorium telah dapat dikategorikan menjadi 4 (empat) bagian, yaitu :
1.                  Peralatan elektronika.
2.                  Peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku logam.
3.                  Peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku gelas.
4.                  Peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku karet/plastik.
Peralatan elektronika adalah peralatan yang telah mempergunakan sumber daya listrik,
misalnya : Kit Listrik (catu daya, meter dasar, multi meter, audio generator, osiloskop,
pembangkit getaran)
Bahan baku logam yang biasa dipakai untuk dapat membuat peralatan, di antaranya nikel, tembaga, besi, seng dan logam campuran lainnya. Peralatan yang telah terbuat dari bahan baku logam misalnya : Kit Mekanik (micrometer sekrup, jangka sorong, pegas spiral, neraca pegas), Kit Listrik dan Magnet (papan rangkaian), Mikroskop.
Bahan gelas yang biasa dipakai untuk dapat membuat peralatan, di antaranya : pyrex dan fiber glass. Peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku gelas, di antaranya : Kit Optika (lensa, balok kaca, prisma, cermin), Kit Kimia (tabung reaksi, pipet, buret), Kit Gelombang dan temodinamika (gelas kimia, thermometer, batang gelas), cermin pada mikroskop.
Peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku karet/plastik, di antaranya : pemukul garpu tala, sarung tangan dan mistar.

Perawatan peralatan elektronika
            Peralatan elektronika memiliki sifat-sifat :
1.                  Sensitif terhadap goncangan.
2.                  Sensitif terhadap medan magnet.
3.                  Tidak tahan terhadap suhu di atas 250 C.
4.                  Tidak tahan terhadap terhadap udara lembab.
5.                  Tidak tahan terhadap kotoran dan debu.
Berdasarkan sifat-sifatnya itu, maka peralatan elektronika harus perlu dihindari dari guncangan dan medan magnetik agar sensitifitas peralatan dapat terjaga. Selain itu, hendaknya penggunaan peralatan elektronika berada dalam ruangan yang bertemperatur antara 180 C – 250 C.
Setelah penggunaan peralatan elektronika, peralatan hendaknya harus dibersihkan dari kotoran dan debu kemudian disimpan di ruangan yang kering.

Perawatan peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku logam.
            Peralatan yang telah terbuat dari bahan baku logam telah mudah mengalami karatan. Untuk dapat menghindari terjadinya karatan itu maka peralatan harus disimpan di tempat yang bertemperatur tinggi (± 370 C) dan lingkungan kering. Jika perlu gunakan bahan silicon sebagai penyerap air.
            Sebelum disimpan peralatan harus bebas dari kotoran, debu ataupun air yang melekat kemudian telah diolesi dengan minyak olie, minyak rem atau paraffin cair.

Perawatan peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku gelas.
Bahan gelas banyak dipakai dalam laboratorium kimia dan biologi. Ada beberapa keunggulan maupun kelemahan peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku gelas, yaitu :
A..       Keunggulannya :
            1.         Bahan baku gelas tahan terhadap reaksi kimia.
2.         Bahan baku gelas tahan terhadap perubahan temperatur yang mendadak.
3.         Bahan baku gelas telah memiliki koefisien muai yang kecil.
4.         Bahan baku gelas telah memiliki daya tembus cahaya yang besar.
B.        Kelemahannya :
            1.         Bahan baku gelas sangat mudah pecah terhadap tekanan mekanik.
2.         Bahan baku gelas mudah tumbuh jamur sehingga mengganggu daya tembus cahaya.
            3.         Bahan baku gelas mudah tergores.

Untuk perawatan terhadap peralatan yang terbuat dari gelas bukanlah perkara yang sulit akan tetapi menuntut ketekunan laboran. Dengan memperhatikan keunggulan dan kelemahan dari bahan baku gelas, maka untuk perawatan peralatan berbahan baku gelas harus memperhatikan :
1.                  Ruang penyimpanan peralatan juga harus bertemperatur antara 270 C – 370 C dan diberi tambahan lampu 25 watt.
2.                  Ruang penyimpanan diberi bahan silicon sebagai zat higroskopis.
3.                  Pada saat memanaskan tabung reaksi hendaknya telah ditempatkan di atas kawat kasa. Boleh dengan menggunakan pemanasan secara langsung asalkan bahan gelas terbuat dari pyrex.
4.                  Gelas yang akan direbus hendaknya tidak dimasukkan langsung ke dalam air yang sedang mendidih melainkan gelas direndam dengan air bersih dan dingin kemudian tambahkan detergent, larutan kalium dichromat 10 gr, asam belerang 25 ml dan aquadest 75 ml. Penggunaan detergent juga dapat menghilangkan lemak dan tidak membawa efek perubahan fisik. Kadang-kadang memerlukan waktu perendaman sampai beberapa jam, kemudian dibilas dengan air bersih. Keringkan dengan udara panas lalu simpan di tempat yang kering.
5.                  Debu, keringat, minyak dari telapak tangan sangat mudah menempel pada peralatan berbahan baku gelas. Oleh karena itu setelah digunakan luangkan waktu sejenak untuk dapat membersihkan permukaan peralatan dengan kain lembut atau dengan kertas tissue khusus. Gunakan alcohol, acetone, kapas, sikat halus dan pompa angina untuk dapat membersihkan lensa jangan sampai merusak lapisan lensa. Saat ini juga terdapat cairan pembersih khusus kaca/lensa yang dapat diperoleh di optic untuk dapat membersihkan kaca/lensa dengan lebih sempurna. Hindarkan membersihkan kaca/lensa dalam keadaan kering apalagi dengan menggunakan  kain yang berseray kasar karena hal itu juga dapat menimbulkan goresan pada kaca/lensa.
6.                  Letakkan peralatan berbahan baku gelas di tempat ketika tidak digunakan. Meletakkan peralatan tidak di tempatnya beresiko merusak kondisi alat karena mungkin saja peralatan tersebut tertindih atau tertekan yang mengakibatkan terjadinya perubahan fisik permanent.

Perawatan peralatan yang terbuat dari bahan baku karet/plastik.
            Peralatan berbahan baku karet yang bersifat elastis dan tidak tahan terhadap panas karena dapat menggangu elastisitas karet.
Sarung tangan dari karet mudah sekali meleleh atau lengket apabila disimpan terlalu lama. Untuk dapat menghindari kerusakan pada peralatan berbahan baku karet/plastik, hendaknya peralatan dibersihkan dari berbagai kotoran dengan menggunakan detergent kemudian dikeringkan (sangat baik jika menggunakan hembusan udara panas). Setelah itu ditaburi talk (bedak) pada seluruh permukaan karet dan disimpan dengan menggunakan tablet formalin


MEMBERSIHKAN PERALATAN LABORATORIUM
Kebersihan peralatan laboratorium, baik yang berupa peralatan gelas atau non gelas seperti bejana polyethylene, polypropylene dan teflon, juga merupakan bagian yang sangat mendasar dalam kegiatan laboratorium dan merupakan elemen penting dalam program jaminan mutu.
Perhatian kepada kebersihan barang-barang tersebut harus ditingkatkan dan harus proporsional dengan tingkat kepentingan pengujian, akurasi pengukuran yang diperlukan dan menurunnya konsentrasi analit yang akan ditentukan.
Setiap laboratorium harus menetapkan prosedur yang memadai untuk dapat membersihkan peralatan gelas dan non gelas yang digunakan dalam berbagai macam pengujian. Apabila metodologi pengujian tertentu mensyaratkan prosedur membersihkan secara spesifik, maka prosedur tersebut harus diikuti.
Cara Membersihkan Peralatan Laboratorium Secara Umum
Proses membersihkan harus dilakukan segera setelah peralatan digunakan. M
Cara Membersihkan Timbangan
Kebersihan timbangan harus dicek setiap kali selesai digunakan, bagian dan menimbang harus dibersihkan dengan menggunakan sikat, kain halus atau kertas (tissue) dan membersihkan timbangan secara keseluruhan timbangan harus 392 dimatikan, kemudian piringan (pan) timbangan dapat diangkat dan seluruh timbangan dapat dibersihkan dengan menggunakan pembersih seperti deterjen yang lunak, campurkan air dan etanol/alkohol. Sesudah dibersihkan timbangan dihidupkan dan setelah dipanaskan, cek kembali dengan menggunakan anak timbangan.
Cara Membersihkan dan Merawat Penangas Air (Water Bath) Thermostat
Perawatan secara reguler oleh Jasa Layanan pelanggan tidak diperlukan. Pembersihan yang telah dibutuhkan pada perawatan (seperti membersihkan sudu-sudu / baling-baling roda yang berputar) dilakukan oleh Operator laboratorium sesuai dengan petunjuk pabrik.
 
Media pemanas dan Alat
Media pemanas (misal air) harus dapat diganti dalam kasus bila terlihat adanya kontaminasi ( seperti partikel-partikel, kontaminasi dari reagen). Permukaan alat harus dibersihkan dengan menggunakan pembersih (sabun/ deterjen yang biasa digunakan). Kontaminasi lebih kuat ( adanya deposit kapur), dapat dihilangkan dengan pembersih yang khusus/cocok (misal asam asetat encer).
embuang bahan berbahaya dan pembersihan bahan korosif sebelum peralatan tersebut dibersihkan. Peralatan cuci manual atau otomatis harus menggunakan deterjen yang sesuai dengan kegunaannya.
Residu organik memerlukan perlakuan dengan larutan pembersih asam kromat. Peralatan harus dikeringkan dan disimpan dalam kondisi yang tidak memungkinkan terjadinya kontaminasi oleh debu atau bahan lain.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

CARA MEMELIHARA ALAT LABORATURIUM

 Berikut Sedikit Menjelaskan Kenapa Kebanyakan Lampu Sorot Berwarna Kuning, Ini Adalah karena Efek Tyndall.

Penampilan system koloid pada umumnya keruh, tetapi tidak selalu begitu. Beberapa ‘larutan’ koloid tampak “bening” dan sukar dibedakan dengan larutan sejati. Bagaimanakah cara mengenali system koloid? Salah satu cara yang sangat sederhana yaitu dengan menjatuhkan seberkas cahayakepadanya. Larutan sejati meneruskan cahaya (transparan), sedangkan koloid menghamburkannya. Oleh karena itu, berkas cahaya yang melalui koloid dapat di amati dari arah samping. Efek Tyndall ini ditemukan oleh John Tyndall (1820-1893), seorang ahli fisika Inggris. Oleh karena itu sifat itu disebut efek Tyndall.
 
Efek Tyndall adalah adanya gejala penghamburan berkas cahaya oleh partikel-partikel koloid. Apabila seberkas cahaya dijatuhkan ke dalam sistem koloid, maka cahaya akan dihamburkan. Apabila seberkas cahaya dijatuhkan ke dalam sistem larutan, maka cahaya akan diteruskan.
 

Dalam Kehidupan sehari-hari, kita sering mengamati efek Tyndall ini, antara lain:

 
  •   sorot lampu pada malam yang berkabut
  • sorot lampu proyektor dalam gedung bioskop yang berasap /berdebu, dan
 
  • berkas sinar matahari melalui celah daun pohon pada pagi hari yang berkabut.
 
 

 

Efek  Tyndall tidak sama untuk setiap sinar yang mempunyai panjang gelombang berbeda. Sinar kuning, misalnya, lebih sedikit dihamburkan. Itulah sebabnya lampu warna kuning dipakai pada saat berkabut, di mana cahaya kuning dapat menembus kabut dan terlihat oleh pemakai jalan.

Karena Inilah kenapa kebanyakan lampu sorot berwarna kuning senja.

By Tensai

http://lampusorot.com
EFEK TYNDAL PADA LAMPU SOROT

Saco-Indonesia.com - Sosok Desi Priharyana jadi sorotan. Murid kelas 1 SMKN 2 Yogyakarta itu membawa sepeda ontelnya yang dipasangi gerobak berisi aneka makanan ringan yang akan dijual. Bersepeda sejauh 12 kilometer menjadi rutinitas paginya menuju sekolahnya yang terletak di Jalan AM Sangaji, Jetis, Yogyakarta.

Desi berjualan slondok, camilan tradisional Yogya yang terbuat dari singkong. Hal ini dilakukannya supaya bisa terus bersekolah.

Desi ingin menjadi seorang pengusaha yang sukses dibidang kuliner. Dia berniat untuk mengembangkan usahanya berjualan Slondok sehingga dia bisa mendapatkan keuntungan besar. Namun hal tersebut baru akan dilakukannya setelah dia menyelesaikan sekolahnya.

"Kalau sekarang waktunya belum ada, nanti kalau sudah lulus pengen saya kembangkan usaha ini," ujar Desi.

Meski demikian, Desi juga berharap, setelah lulus sekolah dia bisa melanjutkan ke perguruan tinggi negeri di Yogyakarta. Dia mengatakan, jika ada kesempatan untuk melanjutkan ke pendidikan lebih tinggi dia akan memilih UGM atau UNY sebagai tempatnya belajar.

"Kalau ada kesempatan pengen kuliah di UGM atau di UNY di fakultas Teknik, kalau nggak ya masih bisa buka usaha. Doakan bisa dapat beasiswa di sekolah, biar bisa nabung buat kuliah," harap Desi.

Laiknya anak muda yang sedang bergairah dalam urusan cinta, Desi pun tak mau kalah ketinggalan. Biarpun tidak sekeren anak-anak muda yang menggunakan sepeda motor dan dandanan modis, Desi tetap bisa memikat kekasih hatinya.

Dengan malu-malu Desi bercerita tentang kisah cintanya yang tergolong unik. Kala itu desi tengah mendekati seorang gadis yang merupakan atlet atletik. Saat Desi mengutarakan perasaannya dan meminta sang pujaan hati untuk menjadi pacaranya, Desi diberikan syarat.

"Dulu punya pacar, atlet atletik. Sebelum jadian dikasih syarat. Karena dia atlet dikasih syarat harus bisa kalahin dia lari, kalau bisa kalahin mau jadi pacar," kenang Desi.

Tanpa pikir panjang, Desi pun langsung menyanggupi syarat tersebut. Desi pun meminta waktu dua minggu untuk berlatih lari. Setelah dua minggu dilalui, dengan menggunakan sepedanya, Desi melaju dengan semangat dari Toino tempatnya tinggal menuju Kalasan yang jaraknya sekitar 20 kilo meter.

Sampai disana tanpa basa-basi Desi pun langsung mengajak adu lari. Beruntung, Desi memenangkan perlombaan itu sekaligus memenangkan hati pujaannya.

"Untungnya menang, jadi punya pacar," ungkapnya.

Meski demikian, Desi tidak mau disibukkan hanya untuk urusan pacaran. Desi beranggapan masa mudanya jauh lebih berarti jika digunakan untuk berkarya.

"Pacaran ya positif, tapi ada juga hal lain yang baik untuk menunjang masa depan," jelasnya.

Sumber : Merdeka.com

Editor : Maulana Lee

Kisah cinta dan cita-cita Desi, anak SMK penjual slondok

A former member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Smedvig helped found the wide-ranging Empire Brass quintet.

Rolf Smedvig, Trumpeter in the Empire Brass, Dies at 62

Gagne wrestled professionally from the late 1940s until the 1980s and was a transitional figure between the early 20th century barnstormers and the steroidal sideshows of today

Verne Gagne, Wrestler Who Grappled Through Two Eras, Dies at 89

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.

Continue reading the main story Video
Play Video|1:17

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.”

Photo
 
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.”

Advertisement Politics Obama Finds a Bolder Voice on Race Issues

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

With 12 tournament victories in his career, Mr. Peete was the most successful black professional golfer before Tiger Woods.

Calvin Peete, 71, a Racial Pioneer on the PGA Tour, Is Dead

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.

Audio

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.

Audio

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

Audio

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

Judge Patterson helped to protect the rights of Attica inmates after the prison riot in 1971 and later served on the Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Robert Patterson Jr., Lawyer and Judge Who Fought for the Accused, Dies at 91

Mr. Alger, who served five terms from Texas, led Republican women in a confrontation with Lyndon B. Johnson that may have cost Richard M. Nixon the 1960 presidential election.

Bruce Alger, 96, Dies; Led ‘Mink Coat’ Protest Against Lyndon Johnson

Since a white police officer, Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in a confrontation last August in Ferguson, Mo., there have been many other cases in which the police have shot and killed suspects, some of them unarmed. Mr. Brown's death set off protests throughout the country, pushing law enforcement into the spotlight and sparking a public debate on police tactics. Here is a selection of police shootings that have been reported by news organizations since Mr. Brown's death. In some cases, investigations are continuing.

Photo
 
 
The apartment complex northeast of Atlanta where Anthony Hill, 27, was fatally shot by a DeKalb County police officer. Credit Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal Constitution

Chamblee, Ga.
Fatal Police Shootings: Accounts Since Ferguson

A 214-pound Queens housewife struggled with a lifelong addiction to food until she shed 72 pounds and became the public face of the worldwide weight-control empire Weight Watchers.

Jean Nidetch, 91, Dies; Pounds Came Off, and Weight Watchers Was Born

Public perceptions of race relations in America have grown substantially more negative in the aftermath of the death of a young black man who was injured while in police custody in Baltimore and the subsequent unrest, far eclipsing the sentiment recorded in the wake of turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., last summer.

Americans are also increasingly likely to say that the police are more apt to use deadly force against a black person, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds.

The poll findings highlight the challenges for local leaders and police officials in trying to maintain order while sustaining faith in the criminal justice system in a racially polarized nation.

Sixty-one percent of Americans now say race relations in this country are generally bad. That figure is up sharply from 44 percent after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed in Ferguson in August, and 43 percent in December. In a CBS News poll just two months ago, 38 percent said race relations were generally bad. Current views are by far the worst of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The negative sentiment is echoed by broad majorities of blacks and whites alike, a stark change from earlier this year, when 58 percent of blacks thought race relations were bad, but just 35 percent of whites agreed. In August, 48 percent of blacks and 41 percent of whites said they felt that way.

Looking ahead, 44 percent of Americans think race relations are worsening, up from 36 percent in December. Forty-one percent of blacks and 46 percent of whites think so. Pessimism among whites has increased 10 points since December.

Continue reading the main story
Do you think race relations in the United States are generally good or generally bad?
60
40
20
0
White
Black
May '14
May '15
Generally bad
Continue reading the main story
Do you think race relations in the United States are getting better, getting worse or staying about the same?
Getting worse
Staying the same
Getting better
Don't know/No answer
All adults
Whites
Blacks
44%
37
17
46
36
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41
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15

The poll finds that profound racial divisions in views of how the police use deadly force remain. Blacks are more than twice as likely to say police in most communities are more apt to use deadly force against a black person — 79 percent of blacks say so compared with 37 percent of whites. A slim majority of whites say race is not a factor in a police officer’s decision to use deadly force.

Overall, 44 percent of Americans say deadly force is more likely to be used against a black person, up from 37 percent in August and 40 percent in December.

Blacks also remain far more likely than whites to say they feel mostly anxious about the police in their community. Forty-two percent say so, while 51 percent feel mostly safe. Among whites, 8 in 10 feel mostly safe.

One proposal to address the matter — having on-duty police officers wear body cameras — receives overwhelming support. More than 9 in 10 whites and blacks alike favor it.

Continue reading the main story
How would you describe your feelings about the police in your community? Would you say they make you feel mostly safe or mostly anxious?
Mostly safe
Mostly anxious
Don't know/No answer
All adults
Whites
Blacks
75%
21
3
81
16
3
51
42
7
Continue reading the main story
In general, do you think the police in most communities are more likely to use deadly force against a black person, or more likely to use it against a white person, or don’t you think race affects police use of deadly force?
Police more likely to use deadly force against a black person
Police more likely to use deadly force against a white person
Race DOES NOT affect police use of deadly force
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All adults
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Blacks
44%
37%
79%
2%
2%
1%
46%
53%
16%
9%
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Do you favor or oppose on-duty police officers wearing video cameras that would record events and actions as they occur?
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Oppose
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All adults
Whites
Blacks
92%
93%
93%
6%
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2%

Asked specifically about the situation in Baltimore, most Americans expressed at least some confidence that the investigation by local authorities would be conducted fairly. But while nearly two-thirds of whites think so, fewer than half of blacks agree. Still, more blacks are confident now than were in August regarding the investigation in Ferguson. On Friday, six members of the police force involved in the arrest of Mr. Gray were charged with serious offenses, including manslaughter. The poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday; results from before charges were announced are similar to those from after.

Reaction to the recent turmoil in Baltimore, however, is similar among blacks and whites. Most Americans, 61 percent, say the unrest after Mr. Gray’s death was not justified. That includes 64 percent of whites and 57 percent of blacks.

Continue reading the main story
As you may know, a Baltimore man, Freddie Gray, recently died after being in the custody of the Baltimore police. How much confidence do you have that the investigation by local authorities into this matter will be conducted fairly?
A lot
Some
Not much
None at all
Don't know/No answer
All adults
Whites
Blacks
29%
31
22
14
5
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33
20
11
5
20
26
30
22
In general, do you think the unrest in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray was justified, or do you think the unrest was not justified?
Justified
Not justified
Don't know/No answer
All adults
Whites
Blacks
28%
61
11
26
64
11
37
57
6

Negative View of U.S. Race Relations Grows, Poll Finds

A lapsed seminarian, Mr. Chambers succeeded Saul Alinsky as leader of the social justice umbrella group Industrial Areas Foundation.

Edward Chambers, Early Leader in Community Organizing, Dies at 85

Ms. Crough played the youngest daughter on the hit ’70s sitcom starring David Cassidy and Shirley Jones.

Suzanne Crough, Actress in ‘The Partridge Family,’ Dies at 52

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

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?”

Photo
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.”

Photo
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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