'Freshman 15' Defined / Ray Charles' Last Album / Black History Month



DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

The Grammy-nominated music of Ray Charles and some friends …

A question about a weighty part of college life ...

And a look at the upcoming observance of Black History Month.

Black History Month

Black History Month begins Tuesday in the United States. The idea for this yearly observance dates back to the work of an African American historian, Carter Woodson. Faith Lapidus has our story.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Carter Woodson was born in Virginia in eighteen seventy-five. He was the son of former slaves. As a young man, Mister Woodson worked as a coal miner. Later, he studied at Harvard University and received a doctorate degree.

Carter Woodson became an educator. He saw that not much was written about the involvement of black people in American history. And what was written was not always correct.

So, in nineteen-fifteen Mister Woodson formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The goal was to organize and support research into black history.

In nineteen twenty-six, one week in February was chosen to observe what was then called Negro History Week. In nineteen seventy-six, it became Black History Month.

This year, Black History Month honors the Niagara Movement. That movement was formed in nineteen oh five by another educator and Harvard graduate, W.E.B. DuBois.

The Niagara Movement rejected the ideas of Booker T. Washington, a leading black thinker of the time. He did not think black people should protest unfair treatment by the white majority. He thought they should accept it for a time. Booker T. Washington urged African Americans to try to improve their place in society through hard work.

The Niagara Movement of W.E.B. DuBois called for complete political, civil and social rights for black Americans. The Niagara Movement lasted only five years. But, it led to the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The N-double-A-C-P is still active today in the fight to end racism and improve conditions for people of color in America.

Freshman Fifteen

DOUG JOHNSON: Our VOA listener question this week comes from Japan. Fumio Nishimoto teaches English at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies. His students have heard about the "freshman fifteen." They want to know what it means.

It means fifteen pounds, or about seven kilograms. This is how much weight students might expect to gain in their first year of college.

People used to talk about the "freshman ten." Before that, it was the "freshman five." Are freshman more inflated, or just the expression?

The fact is, many young men and women do put on extra weight when they start college. Some schools have done research on the issue. Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has found that freshmen gain an average of four pounds during their first twelve weeks. That is almost two kilograms.

If weight gain continues at this rate, how long before they put on fifteen pounds? Let's see [scribbling sounds] ... that's one pound every three weeks, times fifteen, equals ...

The answer is forty-five weeks, or almost a year.

The next question is, why do so many freshmen gain weight? The answers listed by experts are not so surprising. One is poor diet. College students often eat foods high in fat and sugar and starch. After all, there are no parents around to say no to junk food.

Students may also miss meals. They could be in class or studying or just … busy. In any case, those who miss meals are more likely to overeat when they do have food.

Also, freshmen often use food to put their mind at ease. They have college pressures to deal with. Not only that, many are living away from home for the first time.

Another reason college students gain weight is that they often do not get enough exercise.

Finally, there is something else that can add up to the "freshman five" or ten or fifteen. That is alcohol. Alcohol is high in calories. This is especially true of beer. And, no, freshmen are not supposed to be drinking. Not unless they are twenty-one, the legal drinking age in America.

For many college students, the extra weight they put on in their freshman year can be as hard to escape as term papers and final exams.

Genius Loves Company

The American music industry will present its Grammy Awards on February thirteenth in Los Angeles, California. An album by Ray Charles has been nominated for ten Grammy Awards. Jim Tedder tells us about it.

JIM TEDDER: The famous singer and musician Ray Charles died in June. "Genius Loves Company" is the last album he recorded. He performed songs with Natalie Cole, Elton John, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and other famous artists. "Genius Loves Company" is nominated for Best Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and eight other Grammy Awards.

This song, "Here We Go Again," is nominated for Record of the Year. Ray Charles sings it with Norah Jones.


"Genius Loves Company" was released in August. It has sold more than two million copies in the United States alone. This is more than any other record Ray Charles made during his sixty years of recording music.

Another song on the album, "Heaven Help Us All," was nominated for Best Gospel Performance. Here are Ray Charles and Gladys Knight.


Ray Charles made two hundred fifty recordings. He received twelve Grammy Awards and many other honors. A popular new movie about his life, called "Ray," opened in October. Critics highly praised the movie. We leave you now with another Grammy-nominated song from "Genius Loves Company." It is "Sinner's Prayer" with Ray Charles and B.B. King.


DOUG JOHNSON: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program this week.

This show was written by Shelley Gollust, Jill Moss and Caty Weaver. Our producer was Paul Thompson. And our engineer was Efeem Drucker.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.