“The linkage between Jews and “ghetto” began in the early 16th century. In 1516, as a compromise offering to those agitating for the city to be Christian-only, Venice confined its Jewish population to a little island in the northern part of the city known as the New Ghetto. The name “Ghetto” likely derived from the Venetian verb gettare, meaning to pour or to cast, and probably can be traced to the earlier presence of a copper foundry in what was to become the all-Jewish district. From the 16th to the 18th century, the institution of the legally compulsory and physically enclosed exclusively Jewish enclave spread to Rome, Florence Mantua and a host of other Italian towns and cities. The Venetian label stuck, and these mandatory Jewish areas throughout Italy came to be called ghettos too.”
Black people began to refer to their zoning and housing restrictions as the ghetto in the 1910s. Due to zoning and segregation laws, we were only able to live in specific areas and if they were predominantly white, then legally you were not able to stay there. But the word Ghetto and Black during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements became synonymous. This switched the primary connotation of the word forever.
I began to think about how blatant racism still lives and breaths in things as simple as the words that people use. My mind went down a rabbit hole of things. It’s a term that is popularized by the media but truly sets us a part by the literal boundaries that are created to segregate us. One day my mom reminded me about the differences in the sections of town that We lived versus predominantly white neighborhoods. Many of our hoods are lined with unpleasantries such as railroads, cemeteries, liquor stores and Family Dollars which are actually owned by white companies. When I actually thought about it, I’ve never seen any of these things in white neighborhoods.
As support for my very own community, 25% of the proceeds from each “Ghetto Kids Make the World Go Round” graphic T will be donated to the 42nd Street Community Garden of Miracles. Pastor RJ Stevenson of New Saint Paul AME Church is providing resources of fresh produce right in the middle of a food desert.
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