African American Studies
Interviewee: Ivan Sanchez
Interviewer: Dr. Mark Naison
Summarized by: Daniel Matthews
Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing Up Wild Style in the Bronx. Ivan was born near 170th Street off Jerome Avenue on 9/21/1972. His father is from Puerto Rico, while his mother was born in New York and has Puerto Rican ancestry. He has an older brother, a younger sister, and seven stepsiblings by his father. He was close to his Titi, whom he considered a second mother. He spent much of his time at her home on Bailey Avenue near Kingsbridge Road. Sanchez’s father was largely absent from his life. He worked as a mechanic and trucker. He sexually and physically abused Sanchez’s mother, and was addicted to alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. In the late 70s, Sanchez’s mother moved her children to Creston Avenue on 196th Street near Kingsbridge, where many nearby buildings were burning. He describes his mother as a hustler on welfare who did all she could to send her children to Catholic schools. His mother’s family were well educated and successful, and they disowned her for having children in her teens with someone they considered a thug. She always emphasized the importance of education and hoped her children would attend college. She earned her GED and is retired at the time of this interview. Sanchez says his mother struggled with depression, suffered regular nervous breakdowns, and attempted suicide about ten times. He often stayed with extended family during these episodes. His older brother beat him frequently, which he hid from his mother. He attended elementary school at our Lady of Refuge, a Catholic school primarily populated by Latinos, at a time when drugs entered the community and began to cause violence. Sanchez recalls getting into fights with public school boys on his way to and from school. He credits a priest there, Father Jenick, for instilling in him the values that kept him from becoming a drug dealer. His apartment building on Creston Avenue was populated by Irish, Italians, and Albanians, and his was the first Puerto Rican family to move in. Sanchez says the families were loyal to their community, a loyalty undermined when Jamaican dealers brought drug money into the neighborhood in the late 80s. Growing up, Sanchez’s mother played soul, R&B, and Motown in the house. He was first exposed to hip-hop when staying with his Titi Velma in the mid-80s. He was a DJ and b-boy as well as a graffiti artist, and his mother encouraged him and his friends to practice their arts. Graffiti artist Staz mentored him. As the drug trade increased, so did the violence. Sanchez says that his friends robbed local drug dealers, but many of them ended up dead or incarcerated. He doesn’t recall any aspirations for college, and most boys dropped out in their early teens. He describes his neighborhood as devoid of fathers or other responsible adult males. In the late 80s, his mother moved to Virginia with his sister, but Sanchez refused to leave until 1993 when one of his cousins was murdered. Some of his other cousins retaliated and were jailed for a triple homicide. Sanchez was living with his girlfriend and one year-old daughter and was determined to escape the crime and his cocaine addiction. In Virginia, he was able to get work due to computer skills he picked up working in the World Trade Center. He went on to get his Associates Degree in computer networking and security before getting his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Phoenix.
Sanchez says he wrote Next Stop to honor his fallen friends and to teach his daughters about the community he grew up in. On account of the many personal stories, he has received countless death threats. At the time of this interview, he was working on the memoirs of DJ Disco Wiz, the first Latino DJ. He has worked with April Lee Hernandez to speak with children in the Bronx about their “next stop” and making positive changes despite their disadvantages.
Sanchez, Ivan. May 2, 2008. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
Click below to download supplemental content.Sanchez, Ivan Part 1.mp3 (84387 kB)
Sanchez, Ivan Part 2.mp3 (38342 kB)