At a glance, MK Asante looked much like a Southwestern College student in his timberlands, leather jacket and baseball cap. But the arrival of the 32-year-old
Morgan State University professor attracted hundreds to Student Union East and to hear an African-American story of struggle, redemption and success.
Asante is an award-winning filmmaker, novelist, musician and professor of creative writing and film. He was invited to speak at SWC about his book, “Buck,” by Staff Development Coordinator Janelle Williams.
Published in 2013 when Asante was 30 years old, “Buck” is an autobiography of Asante’s life and details his struggles with school, family, drugs and crime. “Buck” was a Los Angeles Times Summer Read and was Baltimore Magazine’s best book of 2013. It also won a NAACP Image Award. Maya Angelou said it was “a story of surviving and thriving with passion, compassion, wit, and style.”
Asante had 40 copies of “Buck” available for purchase at a book signing after the lecture. The copies sold out in less than 15 minutes.
Williams was not surprised. She said she had heard Asante was a fantastic guest lecturer so she contacted his coordinator to have him come to SWC.
“The book is raw and brilliant,” she said.
Asante said he chose “Buck” as the title of his memoir because he wanted it to slap readers in the face.
“See, for me, when I chose ‘Buck’ it was young buck, buck wild, buck shot, buck town, slave buck, black buck, made buck, buck it was all of those things,” he said. “The book is about bucking now.”
Education happens constantly, Asante said, in and outside of school.
“School and education can be as close or distant as love and sex,” he said. “Want me to repeat that?”
For Asante, a thirst for knowledge came as he neared adulthood. After being kicked out of multiple high schools and completely out of options, his mother enrolled him in an alternative school. His new classmates, however, made him rethink the promise he made to his mother to attend.
“Damn, I’m not this alternative!” he reminisced.
His epiphany came in a creative writing class, he said. Acting out, he wrote, “fuck school,” on his paper. Instead of being punished, his teacher encouraged him to keep writing.
From that point, he said, he became immersed in writing.
“If you limit someone’s vocab, you limit their thoughts,” he said.
Asante read a passage from his book and said he was no longer limited.
“Now I see why reading was illegal for black people during slavery,” he read. “I discovered that I think in words. The more words I know, the more things I can think about.”
Asante said he did not censor anything when writing his book and presented his story in its gritty and honest form.
Thekima Mayasa, chair of Black Studies at San Diego Mesa College, said her department uses “Buck” for all its classes. She said Asante and his honest approach to writing has continue to changed the lives of her students.
“What I hope everyone takes away today is what a black man looks like, what a black man thinks like,” she said. “You are beautiful, you are brilliant, you are powerful, you are valuable and your life matters.”