At 29, when most of us are struggling to set our feet firmly somewhere, M.K. Asante is already an author of three celebrated books, the latest being It's Bigger than Hip Hop, a filmmaker and a professor. This Zimbabwean gem says he was conceived at the night of a Bob Marley concert and birthed nine months later. Thus, at conception point Asante was/is a man of the arts.
This exceptional professor shows that one can be a professor and be 'hip' at the same time. The two go together. In sweatshirt, Nike 'foot' and a cap over his Rasta hairdo, Asante has given lectures in over 25 countries across the world. He says that what counts is not the material things we wear, but the intellect - that intangible thing seated in the head which has no correlation with your dressing - that counts. A first glance would lead you to judge him as a hip hop star or a fashion aficionado; but Asante says it's bigger than hip hop.
The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as a "a rare, remarkable talent that brings to mind the great artists of the Harlem Renaissance." Asante is the recipient of the Langston Hughes Award and his latest book has been hailed by the Los Angeles times as "An empowering book that moves you to action and to question status quo America."
Note that all these were not grabbed from the classroom. He is also street-smart and have earned his fair share of rustication, dismissals and 'negative-branding' by teachers. He was told he would not amount to nothing, but ten, twelve years on, he has amounted to some so significant that his achievements are worth sharing. Asante's other books are Beautiful. And Ugly Too and Like Water Running Off My Back, winner of the Jean Corrie Prize from the Academy of American Poets.
As an acclaimed filmmaker, Asante direcated The Black Candle, a film he co-wrote with renowned poet Maya Angelou who also narrates the prize-winning film. It was through this work that Maya Angelou commented on his talents on facebook. And this is where I met Asante. He wrote and produced the film 500 Years Later, winner of five international film festival awards as well as the Breaking the Chains award from the United Nations. He also produced the multi award-winning film Motherland. Read more about him here, but first listened to this interview with CNN's African Voices.