The texts chosen are very specific to my students. These are texts that will keep them engaged. It is very important to choose age-appropriate texts, which will keep all students interested, otherwise the objective of the unit will not be reached.
Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing
This text questions how communities create separation and also allow for the possibility of union. The fictional film takes place in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, NY. Sal's Pizzeria, an Italian owned business, is in the heart of a neighborhood that experiences racial tension between the African Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, Jamaican Americans, Korean Americans, and Italian Americans. Much like New Haven, the communities in Lee's movie live in close proximity, but have hatred for one another. New Haven is broken into many different "neighborhoods" which are, sometimes, only street lengths long and sits next to a rivaling "neighborhood." Fair Haven, The Jungle, and parts of The Hill are all considered "Puerto Rican and Mexican" (which is used by many students to include all Spanish-speaking people of New Haven. The Ville, The Island, and parts of The Hill are considered "Black." While blacks from The Ville "beef" (argue) with blacks from The Hill, there is also tension between the blacks and the Spanish-speaking community. Within the Spanish-speaking community, there are tensions between the Puerto Ricans and the Mexicans. Lee's movie, regardless of its publication date, will allow my students to relate to the issues they face each day in their neighborhoods and question the effectiveness of the communities set in place.
VH1's Basketball Wives
This VH1 reality television show documents the community of women who are dating, married to, divorced from, or have children by famous NBA basketball players. The show glamorizes the wealth of these women, while capturing all their drama. These women are bound by a common thread, but bring each other down as often as possible. Much like the girls at New Horizons, there is a lack of womanhood. The women in both the reality TV show and New Horizons allow men to come between them. The men linked to the women in this community generally tend to be absent from the drama, even when they are the root of it. This community questions the idea of unity and how to create unity when members who are not a part of the community want to watch the drama play out.
Notorious BIG's Juicy
This 1994 hip-hop song highlights the idea that all black people come up from struggle in the hood. My students often relate to his lyrics, even though originally sang when my students were very young, because of his childhood struggle. He speaks about living in public housing and not being able to receive Christmas or birthday gifts because of how poor his single mother was. However, the stereotype this song presents for others is that all black people live or have lived this way. The goal is for my students to analyze this song and question the separation it may cause between those who can relate to the lyrics and those who point to the lyrics to understand a whole group of people.
Steve Stoute's The Tanning of America
This documentary, The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy, draws a line from 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where President Obama serves as the first black president. This documentary highlights the ups and downs of a community and how together they made life-changing historical moments happen in America. This text focuses on a large community that grew from racism and segregation into togetherness and equality. Similarly, New Haven is a community that has tried and continues to try to come together to unite all people and move forward.