From triumph to empire: MK Asante

Jonathan Smith, Staff writer

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The emancipation of one’s mind comes from being able to articulate language in various forms and to decode what’s been taught to people systematically. MK Asante, best known for his memoir “Buck” shared with students at San Diego Mesa College on April 10 some ways to decode systematic language that are used to suppress not only people of color, but people who stand out amongst the rest. Asante spoke frequently about the importance of finding your own voice and being able to translate it well to others. What does this mean exactly?

As someone who hasn’t always walked in the light of being a “leader”, Asante talks about understanding why it’s important to “crawl before you walk”. Coming from a family of scholars, Asante takes great pride in his father’s establishment of “Afrocentrism”, understanding the African diaspora in America, which later led to him finding his niche. “Buck” highlights some pivotal moments in his life between the ages of 13 and 18, where he talks about his mother’s mental health, depression and subsequent abuse of prescription drugs, his brothers incarceration and his perception of it all. For many African-American children, this environment isn’t uncommon. Asante talks about the importance of embracing your upbringing and allowing that to fuel you creatively, to use those moments as a release.

During the group counsel before the discussion panel, Asante talks about the importance of being persistent with anything that you’re pursuing. He used the analogy about a basketball player who isn’t having a good game with shooting and missing the goal. “Keep shooting”, he says, when referring to someone who’s easy to give up what they’re going after. He insists that in order to be successful in what it is you are pursuing, you have to continue practicing and believe in yourself. He talks about an experience at an alternative school he was sent to where the teacher was requesting that the kids pick up their pens and write. Asante says he remembers being frustrated with the teacher and being rebellious, he wrote “f*** school” on the paper.

This was the beginning of something that he soon will be in love with; writing. Being pressed and motivated to dig deep into yourself to find what it is you need is life changing. He recalls being confused as to why the teacher would encourage him to continue writing after having written profanity, but he says that the teacher felt his passion. She knew that there was something in him that needed to be released, that he had something more to say. 

Through all of the adversity and objections Asante has faced, he stands tall and humble today. Tuesday, students had the opportunity to pick his brain and get to know him personally. He spoke about being mentored by legendary Maya Angelou, who would breathe wisdom and knowledge into him. “A story of surviving and thriving with passion, compassion, wit, and style”, Angelou stated, referencing Asante’s memoir, “Buck”. Asante demonstrates what it means and looks like to be someone who is well polished; a diamond in the rough.

Professor Thekima Mayasa, head of the Black Studies Department, talks about the importance of having someone of Asante’s influence on campus regularly to give other students a physical example of being aware of your own potential. In the weeks leading to Asante’s second visit, many classes on campus were familiarizing themselves with him by being assigned “Buck” to read for class participation. Asante not only carries himself well, but he’s also very awarded and cited. “It’s not about the accomplishments, but more so the people that were receptive to what you have to offer”, Asante says. Having been a guest speaker at many universities all across the U.S., U.K. and Africa, Asante says that he truly enjoys helping the youth find their light. “Buck” is currently being turned into a feature film that will include some of the soundtrack that was created along with the memoir, both written and produced by Asante.

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