M.K. Asante’s While Black
Junious Ricardo Stanton
M.K. Asante is the son of a scholar, academician, professor and his father Molefi Kete Asante is the founder of the Afrocentric movement. M.K. is just as gifted and talented as his father. He too is a scholar, academician and teacher but he’s added film making, producing, being an author and a recording artist to his repertoire. The Philadelphia native now teaches at Morgan State University and in 2017 was appointed to Distinguished Professor-in-Residence at the MICA (Institute of Strategic Marketing and Communication) in India.
M.K. was in town along with his son Ion to speak at this father’s Institute for Afrocentric Studies located at 5535 Germantown Avenue in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. He came home to share information about his docuseries on SnapChat called While Black.
Young Asante explained the genesis behind the series, its point of view and how important it is for people of color to tell our own stories. During his introduction Asante recited a poem “Two Sets of Notes” about the dichotomy between Eurocentric propaganda and our reality, using it to set the stage for his presentation and illustrate the reasons he created and produces the series. Citing Chinua Achebe the famous Nigerian author, poet and professor who popularized the African proverb, “Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter”, Asante explained the intent of the lecture and his series.
“I really want this to be a conversation to share some things with you and I want you to also share your ideas and comments with me.” His poem about taking two sets of notes was not merely about the Eurocentric indoctrination process we call education or school. To Asante it is deeper and more pervasive; it impacts our psyches on so many levels.
“The idea of taking two sets of notes can be applied to everything not just being a student in school, it’s the way we watch the news, the way we consume information, it’s the way we create information and media. One of the things I do is, I’m executive producing and hosting a show called While Black. It’s exclusively on SnapChat we did the first five episodes in November and we are receiving about two point five million unique views on each episode. The episodes are really about educating a whole new generation.”
Asante recited a part of Two Sets of Notes again, about the minds of the youth being “polluted, diluted, convoluted and not culturally grounded and rooted” and said, “I also believe if you make an observation you have an obligation. So if you are observing that the children are not being culturally rooted and these things are not being taught, then what are you doing? What’s the obligation?”
“So for me one of the obligations is to create media and content that informs, inspires and reaches the next generation.” He detailed why he chose that medium. “I’m excited about short form video content on the Web because it reaches people where they are.”
He showed several episodes of the series and afterwards there was comment and he entertained a few questions. Each episode is about ten minutes in length just enough time to capture and retain the attention span of today’s multi-tasking short attention spanned society.
His time was limited because he had to catch and plane; but promised he would return in February. He did say a few of the new episodes either were shot in Philly or would be shot in Philadelphia.
Explaining the business of film making Asante stated, “My journey as a filmmaker has been interesting. Many of the films have been independent meaning I go raise the money myself from investors. I’ve been fortunate to have many investors who have been African-American, but not all the time. That’s been a great experience being around African-Americans who have the resources to help me make movies.”
“The SnapChat project has several companies involved SnapChat, NBC, Maine Event Media and MK Asante Productions, four companies. MK Asante Productions you know what we are about but then you’ve got all these other companies who, do they really care about what we care about? I have to not be naïve to that, no they don’t care, they see this as an opportunity to reach a particular demographic and sell ads.”
“But that’s not what we see it as. So it’s about being strategic and navigating that so that you can ultimately say what you want to say in the way that you want to say it and not compromise that. When we make something like this we employ people, we feature people who have not been featured before, we shed new light on things and we help educate.”
While Black is a ten episode series streaming on the SnapChat app you can download the app and sign up to access it.
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