Ashanti was born and raised in the Flatbush & Bushwick neighborhoods of Brooklyn. He comes from a very inspiring family whose members include police officers, firemen, engineers, teachers, artists, and two professors.
Ashanti’s mother has been his inspiration since he was 6-7 years old. He remembers when she drew a black Superman and a black Mighty Mouse while explaining, “Our heroes can look like us as well.” At a very early age, Ashanti’s mother instilled in his brother and him the importance of embracing and loving being black. At the same time, she also taught them about the unfortunate and challenging reality of racism and its prevalence in society. Ashanti has experienced those realities first-hand.
Ashanti moved to Fort Greene in 1985 when he was 7 years old, and has been in love with the neighborhood ever since. He has also lived through the dramatic changes that have taken place in Fort Green over the ensuing 33 years.
“I’ve lost some friends in this neighborhood, and it does something to one’s mind,” Ashanti says of his experience seeing friends he grew up with fall victim to incarceration and drug addiction, often as a result of having no male role models to help deal with the repercussions of peer pressure.
In his professional pursuits, Ashanti initially focused on becoming a comic book artist, but lost his way a bit in junior high school after a substitute teacher told him “You will never become that [a comic book artist] because it is a difficult job to achieve”. After High School Ashanti became part of a hip hop group called “The K.U.R.S.E.,” whose acronym stood for Kings Under Real Stress Everyday. That experience led him to pursue a career in music. Ashanti’s goal with his music is to infuse some of his personal life lessons in the lyrics with the hope of inspiring and influencing youth to channel their energy in a positive and productive manner.
After witnessing some of the disturbing trends in Fort Greene brought on by neighborhood violence, insufficient community programs to support youth, police brutality, black-owned businesses fading away, and the early stages of gentrification, Ashanti decided at age 19 to become more active in the community. He was motivated to try to impact positive change.
Ashanti worked with the late Council Member James E. Davis on his “Love Yourself, Stop the Violence” movement. Along his journey Ashanti was introduced to and at times accompanied renowned activist and founder of BK Nation, Kevin Powell. He also joined the organization against the Atlantic Yards project, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, and has worked with numerous other community leaders and organizations to be a voice for the voiceless.
Simply put Ashanti would love for the world to be a better place for all. He has learned through his experiences that many changes must be made for that to start to become a reality; those changes can begin in our local community. For every one of us (all ethnicities, cultures, genders, religions, etc.), learning to respect one another is one of many important first steps.
Ashanti sees Fort Greene as an ideal place to establish a blueprint for how to take the steps to achieve a new model of equity in our diverse society. He believes that together, WE can be the beacons for other communities across New York City, New York State and beyond. If we start by learning how to agree to disagree and still respect one another and live together, we can achieve great things.