Trent Masiki Chosen to Lead Black Studies Program

Seasoned scholar, author, and educator shares his thoughts on what’s next for the program

Dr. Trent Masiki, a scholar, author, and educator who specializes in African American and Afro-Latino American Studies, has been selected as the next director of the Suffolk University College of Arts & Sciences’ Black Studies Program and Assistant Professor in the English Department. 

Masiki comes to Suffolk from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he served as assistant professor of Africana studies. Before that he spent 20 years as Assistant, Associate and Professor of English at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He has taught a range of Africana studies courses, and established robust co-curricular programming at various institutions. This has included the Sankofa Lecture Series at Quinsigamond Community College, which highlights scholars whose research focuses on people of African, Latino, Native American, and/or Asian descent, and a series of virtual events with high-profile speakers at Boston University where he served as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Kilachand Honors College. 

A portrait of Trent Masiki in front of a bookshelf
Dr. Trent Masiki

His first book, The Afro-Latino Memoir: Race, Ethnicity, and Literary Interculturalism (UNC Press 2023), won the 2024 Anna Julia Cooper and C.L.R. James Award for Outstanding Scholarly Production in Africana Studies from the National Council for Black Studies. He earned a PhD in Afro-American studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as graduate certificates in African diaspora studies and Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino studies. 

Masiki shared his thoughts about joining the Suffolk community and the future of the Black Studies Program: 

How have your past experiences led you to this new role as the Director of Suffolk’s Black Studies Program? 

I’ve always been interested in the history and culture of people of African descent, but when I went to college for my undergraduate degree, that interest grew even more. I went to Southern University, an HBCU, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before most doctoral programs in Africana studies even existed. What was special about Southern, for me, was the campus bookstore. It carried all kinds of books on African and African American history and culture. That section of the bookstore was a gold mine. It, and other like-minded students and professors, gave me access to information I’d never been taught before. So, later in life, when I decided to pursue my doctorate, I followed my passion for wanting to know more about people of African descent and their contributions to national and world culture. I chose to be a scholar of Africana studies because when you love the work you do, it doesn’t feel like work. 

I am looking forward to bringing my leadership in cultural programming and my expertise in Africana literary and cultural studies to Suffolk’s Black Studies Program and its English Department. 

Your research focuses on ties between African Americans and other communities of African descent. Why is interethnic solidarity (which speaks to the interactions between differing ethnic groups) important to the field of Black Studies, and why is it so important that students have an understanding of it? 

Black America consists of African Americans, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Caribbeans, and a range of different peoples from Africa and the global African diaspora. It is important for students to understand that contemporary Black America is not an ethnic monolith because that awareness has the potential to increase social cohesion, build interethnic solidarity, and foster an historical consciousness. Ethnic diversity within the Black American demographic increased dramatically after 1965. Africana studies courses can not only teach students how and why that demographic shift happened, but also help them understand the enriching impact it continues to have on American literature and culture. 

You’re coming to Suffolk from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and have studied at UMass Amherst and Emerson College. Has studying and teaching in Massachusetts influenced and impacted your scholarship at all? 

Earning my doctorate from the W.E.B. Du Bois Afro-American Studies Department at UMass Amherst provided me with the knowledge and skills I needed to teach and write about subjects I’ve always been passionate about, subjects which I could not have taught or written about with just a background in creative writing. However, my training in creative writing at Emerson has been invaluable to me as a scholar and teacher of literature because at Emerson I studied literature as a practitioner of the craft rather than solely as a literary theorist or historian. 

You have a master’s degree in creative writing in addition to a PhD: How does creative writing fit into your work as an academic? 

The duty of a writer is to tell a compelling story compellingly. That was top of mind as I wrote my book. Although it’s a scholarly text, I tried to make it as engaging and as accessible as possible. Effective storytelling is a valuable life skill that’s portable across disciplines. It’s just as valuable as the ability to give constructive feedback. In most of my courses, I use the peer review protocols that I learned as a student of creative writing. I invite my students to be open, candid, and tactful in their peer review sessions, providing pros and cons in both written and oral feedback. Learning how to give and receive constructive feedback makes us better content creators and more discerning content consumers. I am a better scholar and instructor because of my creative writing training than I would be without it. 

Do you have a favorite book or text that you like to teach from, and why? 

I would like to teach a course on the six memoirs that I have been studying over the last twelve to thirteen years: Down These Mean Streets (1967) by Piri Thomas; Mama’s Girl (1996) by Veronica Chambers; Black Cuban, Black American (2000) by Evelio Grillo, When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio (2004) by Marta Moreno Vega; Pichón: Race and Revolution in Castro’s Cuba (2008) by Carlos Moore; and Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina (2013) by Raquel Cepeda. Although I like teaching each of these memoirs, I’m partial to Down These Mean Streets because it is a significant Black Arts Movement text and because it inspired generations of writers and scholars to respond to it. It’s just so rich, rewarding, and relevant. 

What would you like the Suffolk community to know about your plans for the Black Studies Program? 

The Black Studies program at Suffolk is over 30 years old. It’s important to first get a sense of what is working and what has worked well for the program to effectively maintain and advance its success. I plan to take time to listen to the ideas and interests of student leaders, faculty, and administrators to collectively move the program into the next chapter of its history. I want to increase the number of students taking Black Studies courses and grow the number of Black Studies minors by offering new courses, connecting with relevant student organizations, and engaging with other programs, departments, and faculty members at Suffolk. I’m also looking forward to raising the profile of Suffolk’s Black Studies Program by collaborating with other universities, institutions, and community organizations in Boston. 

What most excites you about joining the Suffolk community? 

I am excited about several opportunities: working with students who are interested in Africana studies, experiential learning, and study abroad; planning annual and new events with the Suffolk University Black Alumni Network (SUBAN); and deepening community engagement with local institutions like Embrace Boston, BAMS Fest, and the Museum of African American History. 

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