UB Interview: MK Asante Speaks on New Critically Acclaimed Memoir “Buck”

[mark]”I believe that the whole world is one big ass university & there are professors everywhere!”
– MK Asante [/mark]

MK-Asante-

MK Asante is a bestselling author, award-winning filmmaker, hip-hop artist, and professor who CNN calls “a master storyteller and major creative force.”

Asante is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Buck, described by Maya Angelou as “A story of surviving and thriving with passion, compassion, wit, and style.” Buck is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. His other books are It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop, Beautiful. And Ugly Too, and Like Water Running Off My Back.

Asante directed The Black Candle, a prize-winning Starz TV movie. He wrote and produced the film 500 Years Later, winner of five international film festival awards, and produced the multi award-winning film Motherland.

Asante studied at the University of London, earned a BA from Lafayette College, and an MFA from the UCLA School of Film and Television.

Asante has toured in over 40 countries and has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, as well as hundreds of other universities. He was awarded the Key to the City of Dallas, Texas.

He has been featured on the CBS Early Show, NBC News, BBC America, and NPR. Asante’s essays have been published in USA Today, Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and the New York Times.

He recently made his debut as a hip hop artist on the song “Godz N The Hood” featuring Talib Kweli. His inspirational story “The Blank Page” is featured in the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Soul: 20th Anniversary Edition.

Asante is a tenured professor of creative writing and film in the Department of English and Language Arts at Morgan State University.

Recently Aries from UrbanBridgez.com talked to MK Asante about his memoir “Buck,” what challenges he faced while writing it, why he decided to write it so early in his career, what inspires him, when we can expect more new music from him and much more!

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UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us about “Buck” in your own words?
MK Asante: Buck is my memoir, it’s a story about me coming up in Philadelphia. In an extraordinary time and in an extraordinary family and in an extraordinary difficult situation at the same time. It deals with a young boy being lost and finding himself. Educating himself in a lot of different ways and ultimately liberating himself.

UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve been called a great story teller, what would you say was your biggest challenge while writing this book?
MK Asante: You know I wrote the book in the first person present tense. Which means I wrote the book in the perspective of me. Me coming of age, this is me at 13, this is me at 14, 15, 16, 17. This is what I’m thinking, this is what I’m saying. So the most difficult thing about writing this particular book was going back and really writing from that perspective, that took a lot of physiological work. So that was a big challenge.

UrbanBridgez.com: Were you worried about anybody who was portrayed in the book and the reaction they might have?
MK Asante: Not really, no I wasn’t. One of the things you have to do mentally when you write a memoir is you can’t care! You really can’t give a fu*k, because if you do you’re going to write a bad memoir. You’re going to write a book that no one wants to read, because it’s not real. So if you really have to write a book that tells your story. You can’t be so concerned about what you think folks are going to think. Because if you are, then you’ll end up paralyzed. That was the other thing that I had to do mentally to be able to write this book. To really to not care what people might think, again it’s speculation anyway for what they “might” think. I was just completely free when I was writing this.

UrbanBridgez.com: What made you write it now, you’re young and it’s early in your career even though you’ve accomplished a lot?
MK Asante: You know I felt the book was important because of my success. Sometimes when you’re successful people don’t know what you went through. I felt like it was important and inspirational for young people to see, that sure yes I’ve received great success but I struggled in my youth and I was kicked out of school. I had a very different path to get here than a lot of people, I thought that it would be inspiring because of where I’m at, at this point. I thought that it was necessary, in showing people in terms like Fredrick Douglas said that without struggle, that there really is no progress. The fact now that we’re in a situation where schools are failing and all these things that are going on. Buck is a book about education, about miseducation, re-education, self-education, street-education and the difference between school and education. The distance between school and education. I thought it would be timely to write a book that was education in such a real way that educators could resonate with. I thought that it was also important to tell a story — to write a book that I wanted to read. When I was 16, 17, 18 and the book I want to read right now. To write the book that I don’t see existing. I believe that if you make an observation, you have an obligation. My observation was where is Manchild in The Promised Land of the 21st century? Where is I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings of the 21st century, where is The Big C of this generation? Where are the classics, African American literary works. About the black experience, but go so much deeper beyond that. That are real and resonate with people. So my obligation, is to stop asking the question and write the book!

UrbanBridgez.com: You just touched on this in a sense, but what is the main thing you want people to get out of the book once they read it?
MK Asante: I wrote this book in dedication to all my young bucks. On the one hand I wrote this book as a love letter about my experience, kind of a love letter to this next generation. But what I want people to get out of the book is a few different things. Fist of all this notion of the game, that there is no progress. Second, there is a notion of finding what you’re passionate about, finding that thing in life that drives you & motivates you. Gets you excited and enthusiastic and pursuing that relentlessly. That’s what I want, for me with the blank page that excited me, it’s the blank page that fired and triggered my mind. To think about all of these different stories and an idea and that gets me excited and going. For other people it will be different things, once you find that thing, that passion, it can really shape your life and change your life. So that’s one thing, to kind of be on that search for that. The thing is education comes from so many different places. I believe that the whole world is one big ass university & there are professors everywhere! It could be a barber or a bum on the street, all of these people are professors and have knowledge. Your education doesn’t come from school, I mean you may be able to get educated in school but education happens everyday, all around us 24/7 everywhere. And that’s the main thing I want people to get out of it. The other idea is it doesn’t matter where you start but how you finish. We all fall down but it’s about getting up, how we react to falling down, what do you do after you get pushed down. To me that’s what this book is ultimately about. That spirit and determination of after we fall down.

UrbanBridgez.com: Who and what inspires you?
MK Asante: I’m inspired by life and so many aspects of life. People and the capacity of the human spirit. You ask what Buck is about, Buck is about the graceful survival of impossible circumstances. I’m inspired by those circumstances and that survival and that grace. I’m inspired by art, I’m inspired by love, by children.

UrbanBridgez.com: “Godz N The Hood” dropped not too long ago, with Talib Kweli and Bishop Lamont, when can we expect some more new music from you?
MK Asante: Well I have a soundtrack coming out and I’m doing something revolutionary. You know we’ve never seen the marriage between Hip-Hop and literature. I’m doing a soundtrack for this book, people are like a soundtrack for a book? Yeah a soundtrack for a book, like I know you seen the trailer for the book. That was different than most trailers that people have seen. But we’re doing a soundtrack that’s completely radical, it features music with me and other huge music artists. But it also has excerpts from the book in the music. So it’s a true marriage of literature and music and hip-hop. Just telling the story in a completely new way. That’s what I’m interested in at this point and always, is just doing things that have never been done before. I’m interested in pushing new grounds, breaking new grounds, being a pioneer, a trailblazer, and if it doesn’t exist than I’m interested in it.

UrbanBridgez.com: Anymore movies coming up where you’re acting or directing?
MK Asante: I just closed a deal to finance the Buck movie. So yeah that’s my next movie. So that movie is going down, I’m directing, writing the script and producing it.

UrbanBridgez.com: Congrats! What’s next for you?
MK Asante: Thanks man! The soundtrack, the movie and I’m on tour with Buck. I have a whole bunch of other stuff, I’m really just getting started. This is just the warm-up, I’m just getting started. I have more books, more movies, more stories, more music, more everything. I can’t sit still!

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