Never let anyone tell you no: Asante on rejection, hip hop, and writers who are better than you

Asante Workshop PictureIf you were one of the lucky ones, than you were able to attend the author’s meet and greet today at the Library, where MK Asante quickly turned the event into a hall of wisdom for aspiring writers and music artists.  If you weren’t, here are some nuggets of wisdom:

On Rejection: When one of the participants proposed that being a writer is an exercise in rejection, Asante said, right off, that he wiped all rejections out of his mind.  He would not expand any energies towards that.  “The only time I remember who rejected me is when I’m successful.  Then I’m like… I know who you are.”  You get a feeling listening to him talk that you wouldn’t want to be on the other end of that pointing finger.  MK Asante then went on to give us two examples of why rejections are a waste of time:

  1. When he was 14 years old in the streets of Philadelphia, one of the things he had to do if he wanted a social life was having to walk up to young ladies he’d never met before and try to talk to them and see what happened.  “Some of them wouldn’t even acknowledge your space,” he said. So he moved on to the next one, or the one after that, “and maybe then it works out.” He also reminded us not to take it personally.  “Maybe that girl had a boyfriend, or she was interested in girls. You don’t know.”
  2. When one of his friends applied to film school and got rejected, upon receiving the standard rejection letter, he showed it to Asante and said, “This is only the beginning.”  Thinking this was time for a “move on and forget it” speech, Asante went along with it and told his friend he didn’t need to go to film school, film school is not the only path, etc.  Well, his friend shook his head no.  “You don’t understand. This is just the beginning of the negotiations.”  The next day, the friend sent an email to the Dean of the school, telling him that he really felt like he belonged at that program, etc.  The Dean responded, not in so many words, you and 1,000 other people who get rejected, buddy. Still the friend persevered. To make a long story short, by the end of the next month, the friend had turned a rejection into an acceptance.

Summary: “If you want something bad enough, you will get it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

On writing, music, and the Beat generation

If you’ve read Asante’s work, you will notice it has a rhythm to it not unlike hip hop.  It is not an accident that the soundtrack of his book, BUCK features such greats as Stevie Wonder, King Mez, Mike Tyson, Maya Angelou, and Talib Kweli.  When asked if music influenced his writing, Asante confessed his love for the Beat generation of poets and writers who freestyled their work inspired by African American jazz musicians: Kerouak, Burroughs, Corso, Ferlenghetti, Ginsberg were the big names and they were inspired by jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Bird, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis.  “These poets were good,” said Asante, “but when I listened to black poets inspired by jazz, they were great.” Among the favorites, coming up a few times during these conversations is Amiri Baraka.  Now hip hop is inspiring a new generation of writers, and hip hop is about to undergo what Asante calls a resurrection.

Here is a link to a SoundCloud streaming of Asante’s Buck soundtrack.buck-white

On writers who are better than you.

When a student asked Asante what someone should do when confronted with a writer or artist who is much better then you.

“I ask questions,” said Asante without missing a beat.  “The best way to deal with people who are better than you is to ask them questions.”  Ask them how they do or did the thing that you want to do.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Asante reminded us again and again of the generosity of his own mentors, people like Maya Angelou who certainly had more things to do then to help a young graduate student with his film, yet as these people put time aside for him, so does Asante feel like has to put time aside for the next generation of aspiring writers.

We certainly feel that Asante has been extremely generous to students at Georgia Southern with his many tidbits of wisdom and his time.

If you haven’t had a chance to meet him yet, there is still time.

His reading and performance will be on Thursday October 15 at 7pm in the College of Education auditorium 1115.  

MK Asante’s residency at Georgia Southern University was sponsored in part by a grant from SouthArts in partnership with the NEA and by Georgia Southern University.

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