67°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

MK Asante presents his memoir Buck on campus

MK Asante, bestselling author and award-winning filmmaker, spoke at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Campus Center Ballroom on Thursday, May 1. He presented his memoir, Buck, in which he narrates the anecdotal story of his childhood growing up in the “hood.”
The event which was named Hood Economics was hosted by the Hip-Hop Initiative.
Buck is a memoir. It deals with my life story between the age of 13 to 18 years old,” Asante said. “I was wild,” he recalled.
Asante also talked about his street education, his understanding of prison and the system, and his self-education.
Buck focuses on my education: my mis-education, my street education, my re-education, and my realization that school and education are f*cking different,” he stated.
During his troublesome teenage years, Asante spent most of his time out of school. According to Asante he just could not carry the weight of the discrimination that he was constantly experiencing simply for the color of his skin, and in some cases he was being expelled from schools. “F*ck school,” Asante once wrote to his creative writing teacher.
Asante mentioned that he does not believe in an educational system that consisted of having students memorize “shit” and later repeat it to a teacher. He also does not believe in taking tests at school. “Life is my test,” he declared.
“The corner boys were my little professors,” he said. Asante educated himself through unconventional teachers: outlaws and eccentrics, rappers and mystic strangers, homeless men on the street, ghetto philosophers and strippers.
“The whole world is university,” he stated. “Anybody can be a professor.” Asante believes if someone wants to learn and be taught, they simply need to go out and experience the world.
Asante grew up in Philadelphia, which he refers to as “Killadelphia” because of the culture of gun violence that is destroying the community. He calls Pennsylvania “Pistolvania” for the excessive crimes that are part of the daily life.
He explained that growing up in Philadelphia, at that period, young black men were constantly chased by cops. The smallest and the slightest mistake would get them imprisoned and change the course of their life.
“Prison is a business, they need young black men in to make money,” he reasoned.
Asante said that during a visit to his brother who was in jail in Arizona, he came to understand that locking up young black men was more about looking for ways to make money or providing security than preventing crimes. “Judges spent more time talking about fines and money and restitution and penalties and paybacks and fees than anything else,” he said. “Shit is racket.”
“The system is business yo,” he added. He further explained how everybody in the system is banking: the lawyers, the judges, the guards, the cops, the old chick with glasses typing, and all the companies making the uniforms, the handcuffs and the shackles.
Asante believes that there is more effort given to putting young black men in prison than to prevent them from being in jail. “The whole town in Pennsylvania is prison,” he claimed. “The whole f*ckin’ economy depends on black people to be in jail,” he emphasized.
“This book is about education. It is about survival against the system,” he said. Asante noted that being a true buck is bucking up against the system, the status quo, the statistics, the stereotypes and the norms that are designed to cripple down the young black lads.
He urges his audience to read his book as a way to self-educate themselves, and to start thinking more critically about issues that are going on. “The more you read, the more vocabulary you know. The more extensive your vocabulary is you know the more you can think about,” he stated.
Asante defied the notion that young black students do not like to read. He said that the reason they seem disinterested is because the readings are written in a language that is not theirs, and their books are full of stories that are not related to them.
Asante is currently an associate professor of creative writing and film in the department of English and Language Arts at Morgan State University. He is a graduate of the Crefeld School. He studied film and literature at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, earned a B.A. in Africana Studies and English from Lafayette College, and an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from UCLA School of Theater Film and Television.
Manuel Monteiro, a junior majoring in Africana Studies and Founder of Ambitious Men Engaged in Necessary Dialogue at UMass Boston, claims Buck to be his new Bible.