Why are people using the word ‘ratchet?’

s_sadeghi_slang_500x279Ratchet. What does it mean?

According to Dictionary.com:
/ˈraCHit/ Noun
A device consisting of a bar or wheel with a set of angled teeth in which a pawl, cog, or tooth engages, allowing motion in one direction…

Here’s how popular slang lexicon Urban Dictionary defines it:
ratchet: adj. a term for someone who is either 1. a whore 2. dirty/nasty 3. ghetto as HELL 4. being annoying 5. busted

How did the urban community come to adopt this word and why?

This weekend on WFUV‘s Fordham Conversations, Robin Shannon talks with Fordham University student Julianny Gomez and Dr. Aimee Cox, an assistant professor of African American Studies, about the popular slang term.

Julianny’s research examines how the derogatory term has been adopted as a way for young African Americans to police, embarrass and degrade one another.

Tune in to 90.7 FM on Saturday, June 8, at 7 a.m., or listen online here.

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Young Movement: Helping young people understand today’s economy

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One of the best things about working at a Jesuit university is that you’re often inspired by students who take the foundational element of Jesuit education, “Men and Women for Others,” and run with it.
Case in point: Michael Partis, a young man I wrote about who graduated from Fordham in 2008.
Partis is now a doctoral student, and through his work, he is doing something for the next generation.
Young Movement, Inc. is a nonprofit organization he has worked on building and developing for the past two years.
In conjunction with CUNY Hostos Community College’s Black Male Initiative, Young Movement will launch the one-day F.E.E.L Program at Hostos Community College, in the Savoy Building, Multi-Purpose Room.
“The one-day program is geared to help youth and young adults not only understand today’s economy, but also to succeed and transform it,” Partis says.
Workshop topics will include:
  • financial literacy
  • wealth-building
  • community leadership

Representatives from TD Bank and American Express, along with minority entrepreneurs and business-owners, will be in attendance.

Throughout the day, guest speakers will discuss topics such as social entrepreneurship, “turning classroom learning into a career,” and how local neighborhoods can accelerate local economic development.

Partis urges all youth, young adults, and area institutions and agencies, to attend.

Admission is free.

The first 100 people to RSVP and attend will receive a free book. Breakfast and lunch will also be served. RSVP HERE: http://spring2013feelprogram.eventbrite.com
Click here to learn more about how Employment ReadinessPersonal Finance, and Higher Education fits into Young Movement’s vision for economic empowerment and community development.

For more information, contact: michael@youngmovement.org

Follow Young Movement, Inc., on Twitter: @Young_Movement

A Bronx story that relates to the murders in Chicago

ImageBy Mark Naison
Professor of History, Fordham University
Jan. 30, 2013
It’s the mid 1950’s. Howie Evans, a 15 yearold up-and-coming basketball and track star, is shooting hoops in the night center at Public School #99 in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, which like most elementary school gymnasiums in New York City, was kept open five nights a week from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.

Howie’s friends rush into the gym. Their mostly Puerto Rican gang, of which Howie is a member, is having a rumble with a much feared Black gang called the “Slicksters.” The head of the night center,Vincent Tibbs, a powerfully built African American teacher who was a friend to many young people in the neighborhood, overheard what was going on and walked slowly over to the door of the gym. When Howie tried to rush out, Mr Tibbs stood in front of the door and said “I’m not letting you leave here. You have a future. You’re not going to die in the street.”

Howie, who told me this story during an oral history interview I did with him, screamed and cried. But Mr. Tibbs, who had the strength and appearance of a weightlifter, wouldn’t move. Howie ended up missing the rumble. It is well he did because two young men died that night, not something that often happened in a time before guns were common weapons on the streets of New York. And Mr Tibbs was right., Howie did have a great future. He went on to become a teacher, a young center director, a college basketball coach (which is how I met him) and the sports writer for the Amsterdam News, a position he holds to this day.

But the story is not just about Howie, it’s about the incredible after school and night centers that were a fixture of every single public school in New York City until they were closed down during the NYC fiscal crisis of the 1970’s. These centers ( I attended one religiously in Brooklyn) had basketball and Nok-hockey, arts and crafts and music programs, and held tournaments and dances.

Some of them, like the P.S. 99 Center, held talent shows which spawned some of New York City’s great doo-wop and Latin music acts. But all of them had teachers like Mr. Tibbs who provided supervision, skill instruction, mentoring, and sometimes life saving advice to two generations of young men and women who attended the city’s public schools, a good many of whom lived in tough working class neighborhoods like Morrisania.

Now let’s segue to Chicago, where young people are killing one another at an alarming rate. The Schools in that city are in upheaval; many have been closed, some are faced with closing, teachers and students are being told that the fate of the schools they are at depend on how well students score on standardized tests; some of which have been installed at the expense of arts and music and sports programs in the schools. Those in charge of education, locally and nationally, think these strategies will improve educational achievement.

But what happens in these schools after regular school hours finish? Do they offer safe zones for young people in Chicago’s working class and poor neighborhoods? Do they have arts and sports programs that will attract young people off the streets? Do they have teacher mentors like Mr. Tibbs who will take a personal interest in tough young men and women and place their own bodies between them and the prospect of death through gang violence?

If the answer is no, that these schools are largely empty once classes end, and they do little or anything to attract young people in, maybe it’s time to start rethinking current school programs. Wouldn’t it be better to have a moratorium on all policies- like school closings- which destabilize neighborhoods- and invest in turning schools into round the clock community centers the way they were in NYC when Howie Evans was growing up?

And if the problem is money, how about taking the money currently spent on testing and assessment, and using it to create after school programs where caring adults offer activities that build on young people’s talents and creativity?

But to do this, we have to rethink the roles school play in neighborhoods like the Bronx’s Morrisania and Chicago’s Humbolt Park, and view them, not primarily as places to train and discipline a future labor force, but as places which strengthen communities and nurture young people into become community minded citizens. But to do that, we have to also treat teachers differently, respecting those who have made teaching a lifetime profession and who are committed to nurturing and mentoring young people even in the most challenging circumstances.

If we don’t do that kind of reconfiguration of our thinking, and ultimately, our policies, we are likely to mourning a lot more young people killed by their peers, and not just in Chicago.

Mark Naison is professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University. He is the author of White Boy: A Memoir.

For the next generation: Making Movies puts on M.U.S.I.C.A. camp

I was introduced to Kansas City rock band Making Movies during last month’s CMJ Music Marathon in NYC. They fuse Afro-Cuban rhythms with indie sensibilities to come up with bilingual songs that rock.

When they’re not working on their own music, the band is passing their knowledge onto the next generation. But it’s far more than just a guitar lesson here and there. Recently, Making Movies teamed up with the Kansas City-based nonprofit, the Mattie Rhodes Center, to put on “Musicians United by Social Influence and Cultural Awareness (M.U.S.I.C.A.)“, a camp which introduces high risk Hispanic youth from the northeast Kansas City area to the world of music.

As you’ll see in this video, they’re reaching a great group of youngsters who might not otherwise be exposed to the arts. Even better, they’re becoming young artists. The smiles on their faces as they’re playing guitar chords or belting out “La Bamba?” Priceless.

And for more information on the band, check out my Q & A with lead singer Enrique Chi in Sounds and Colours here.