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A workshop and community initiative to create physical, emotional, relational, and social safety for children and youth

Values


Write my Future

A community conversation with author MK Asante about safety, agency, and the power of storytelling

Fields of Knowledge
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Memory
  • Pedagogy
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

SafeKidsStories.com

Contributing Institutions

School of Social Policy and Practice, the Department of English, and the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, and Slought

Organizers

Lorene Cary

Contributors

Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, editor; Peter Conn, UPenn liaison; Allaire Wohlgemuth, Education Council Manager

Acknowledgments

School District of Philadelphia, PhillyCAM, West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC), Letters to My Father, Mighty Writers, Kensington International High School for Business, B.B. Comegys Afterschool program, The Houston School Anti-Bullying Project, Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, The Philadelphia School Notebook, Bon Appétit Management Company

Opens to public

10/07/2015

Time

4:00-6:00pm

Address

Slought
4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web

SafeKidsStories.com

Slought and SafeKidsStories.com are pleased to announce a community conversation on Wednesday, October 7th, 2015, from 4:00-6:00pm, to celebrate the launch of SafeKidsStories, a project celebrating the power of young people and those who care for them to tell their own stories—of struggle, capacity, and growth--amidst stories told about them in our media, of danger and incapacity. Students, writers, artists, teachers, scholars, and community leaders come together as a real and virtual community to write our way toward more cultural protections for children and youth, starting here in urban Philadelphia and radiating out. At the center of our celebration will be MK Asante, whose memoir, Buck, describes his own hard journey to self-definition, not just as the offshoot of a safe and purposeful adult life, but as a pathway to it.

The site springs from organizer Lorene Cary's experience convening the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's first Safety Committee in 2012. In her role as chair, she heard hundreds of stories of excellent, innovative, even brilliant, programs and strategies to make educational relationships into the refuge that beleaguered communities need and that caring educators yearn to provide. Relationships, researchers agree, are key to children's physical safety, and other forms of safety that help protect them and teach them to heal from and manage trauma. Since January SafeKidsStories has collected narratives and begun to build a fledgling community dedicated to finding and sharing stories as a way to know ourselves and to imagine each other. From the Institute for Family Professionals' courses helping educators move from punitive sanctions to more effective discipline, to the growing-up memories of a young Muslim in Lancaster County, PA, to a letter to young activists from a transgender college writer, these stories intrigue, captivate, and show human possibilities. That we aim to create deeper cultural protections for kids does deny the rough side of the mountain so many of them and their families are scaling; rather we hear from people who are making the trail to show us the way and keep children company, despite the risks.

MK Asante's own story, told with pain and beauty, lays out SafeKidsStories themes: adult care, impatience, frustration, mental illness; family gifts and wounds; youth drug use and the seduction of selling drugs; indifferent schooling's failure to provide an attractive-enough alternative; and then, a second chance when impassioned schooling does.

Young people's expression frames our conversation with Asante. We've invited a slam poetry group, a jazz combo under the direction of Brent White featuring young musicians from Kimmel Center and the Cleff Club, and a Upenn student featured in the Philadelphia School Notebook's three-part documentary, "Glen's Village."

Plus food, more music, and a book signing. To do the work of community building: a party!

read more

MK Asante is a bestselling author, award-winning filmmaker, rapper, and professor who CNN calls "a master storyteller and major creative force."

Asante is the author of the acclaimed memoir Buck, described by Maya Angelou as "A story of surviving and thriving with passion, compassion, wit, and style." Buck made the Washington Post bestseller list in 2014 and 2015 and is a NAACP Image Award finalist. His other books are It's Bigger Than Hip Hop, Beautiful. And Ugly Too, and Like Water Running Off My Back. Asante is a Sundance™ Feature Film Fellow for the movie adaptation of Buck. He directed the prize-winning Starz TV documentary The Black Candle and wrote/produced 500 Years Later, winner of five international film festival awards.

Asante studied at the University of London, earned a B.A. from Lafayette College, and an M.F.A. from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. He has given distinguished lectures at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, as well as hundreds of other universities.

Called "the voice of a new generation" by Essence, Asante's essays have been published in USA Today, Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times.

Described by Vibe magazine as "brilliantly complex," Asante is also a rap artist who has performed on four continents. His debut music project, the Buck: Original Book Soundtrack, was described by Okayplayer as "one of the most moving and visually brilliant rap projects to land in quite some time."

Asante is a tenured professor of creative writing and film in the Department of English and Language Arts at Morgan State University.

" I grip the pen and something shoots down my spine, sits me straight up. The pen feels heavy, like it's made of stone.

At exactly which point do you start to realize that life without knowledge is death in disguise?

I stare deeply into the blank page and see myself. I feel something I've never felt before: purpose. I don't know what my exact purpose is yet, but I know it has something to do with this pen and blank page. I am a blank page.

Holding the pen this way, snug and firm in my fist, makes me feel like I can write my future, spell out my destiny in sharp strokes."

-- MK Asante, Buck: A Memoir, 2013