Author M.K. Asante talks escape from troubled life through music, writing

Michael Lopick

M.K. Asante describes his mother as being “out of commission” as he recalls reading her emotional diary entries about her struggle with depression.

These entries are now available for the world to see thanks to her “extremely courageous actions,” Asante said.

“The reason why I say she’s so courageous is because when you write for your journal, it’s there for you and no one else,” he said. “She got to a point where she was able to say to me as I wrote my memoir, ‘use my journals in whatever way you want because they shed light on issues that need to be brought up in our community.’”

 M.K. Asante is an African-American professor, filmmaker, rapper and award-winning author of his memoir “Buck.” He told students Wednesday night in Oscar Ritchie Hall about his life and how his story, along with the stories of family members like his mother, is meant to elevate people’s thinking.

“ ‘Buck’ is a book about education but not necessarily school,” he said, “there’s a difference. School gives you a base of knowledge but only explains so much. Education is taking that knowledge and using it to find your truth.”

Now Asante hopes to continue telling his story and inspiring others to act through an upcoming Sundance film based off of his memoir and his music.

“Music is a powerful way to teach people,” he said. “You can all remember every line of a hip-hop song, but I doubt you could recite me a page of the last textbook you read. I want my art to start individual revolutions, for people to become more aware and start doing something about the problems they see.”

Asante wasn’t always a scholar. Growing up in inner city Philadelphia, he was exposed to drugs, sex and guns before the age of 16.

After his brother went to prison for driving a stolen car and having a falling out with his father, a notable African-American professor who coined the term “Afrocentricity,” he turned to his brother’s friends, who now admits were a “negative influence” on his life.

“I was unreachable, completely wild,” he said. “I had been kicked out of so many schools there were none left that would take me.”

At one point, he fled to Texas with a friend who had an “APB” or “all points bulletin” put out for his arrest. While there, he got word that his mother overdosed on medication.

As he made his way back to Philadelphia, his friend was arrested, leaving him to travel the rest of the way alone.

When he got to the hospital to see his mother she pleaded with him to pursue an education, he said.

“She told me that an education was the only thing that could put me on the right path,” he said. “So I told her that if she found a school that would take me, I’d go, and she did.”

Asante was placed in an alternative school, where he had an epiphany that changed his life when a teacher asked him to write what he felt, he said. After first writing a profane message, his mind began to wonder.

“Something sparked in my mind,” he said. “I finally felt a purpose, like I was the blank page and could have any story written on me: my story.”

Junior communications major Monique Seller felt invigorated by Asante’s story and hoped that she’ll be able to share her own success story in the future.

“It’s great to see young African-Americans making a name for themselves,” she said. “To look back on my past struggles and see how far I’ve come gives me hope that I can change the world for the better like Mr. Asante is doing.”  

Contact Michael Lopick at [email protected]