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African Diaspora speaker encourages audience to ‘never settle for average’

M.K. Asante Jr., an author, filmmaker and tenured professor, was born in Zimbabwe, but moved to America when he was young with his parents and brother, Uzi. He has toured over 40 countries lecturing at various events and universities and has been deemed “The Voice of a New Generation.” Asante was the keynote speaker at one of the African Diaspora Month events sponsored by Loyola’s African Student Union.

Growing up in a severely impoverished area of “Killadelphia, Pistolvannia,” Asante was exposed to violence, drugs and sex his entire life. In his latest novel “Buck,” Asante recalls the events of his life between the ages of 13 and 18. The majority of the lecture was spent on Asante telling stories from his difficult childhood such as getting kicked out of every school he attended, watching his mother fall into deep depression and ultimately becoming suicidal, the arrest and relocation of his brother and his father abandoning their family. Asante was left alone with two options: he could sink or swim.

Asante interjected random rap lyrics to his lecture, making them up on the spot. He called it “rap Tourette’s,” and said throughout his entire life he constantly rapped rap lyrics all day. Asante closed the lecture by encouraging the audience to use education and the knowledge around them to brighten their futures and make the world a better place. Maggie Kenna, a first-year, said, “[Asante] was easy to relate to because I felt he knew the challenges people of our generation face today…he offered encouragements and solutions.”

Asante attended an alternative school where he found his passion for reading and writing. Reading taught him to strive for freedom from his impoverished lifestyle and he used words and language to liberate himself like a modern day slave. Asante explained how he began to understand that knowledge could open up many new doors, saying, “Education is your passport for the future.” Asante urged the audience to make a difference and to strive for greatness, never settling for average.

The opening quote of “Buck” and the metaphor he lives by is, “If you make an observation, you have an obligation.” Asante explained that it is easy to ask why we don’t have something but the answer will always be, “because you have not invented it or made it yet.”

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African Diaspora speaker encourages audience to ‘never settle for average’