Kevin Powell

Kevin Powell will be speaking at Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore about his new book.

It has been over 20 years since Kevin Powell made a name for himself on the first season of MTV’s “The Real World.” Since then he’s gone on to become an outspoken activist, an award-winning journalist, an author several times over and even a politician. He looks back on his journey in his latest book, “The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood.”

In the book, Powell takes readers through his early years growing up poor in New Jersey with his single mother, aunt and cousin. He writes about family dysfunction, his time on MTV, his struggles with success and the loss of that success. He said it’s a story he’s been thinking about telling for years.

“It was just time,” he said in an interview with The AFRO. “I’ve been carrying it around in my head for about 20 years.”

Powell was offered the opportunity to write a memoir years ago, but said if he had, it would have been a very different book because he was a very different, much angrier, person.

“In my 40’s I’ve had a chance to put things into perspective.” He credits “years and years of therapy,” along with a lot of spiritual work with helping him become the person he is today.

Powell has written for publications such as Vibe, Ebony, The Huffington Post and Rolling Stone. He also ran for Congress twice. Both times he was unsuccessful. Now, though, he says he is focused on helping Black people heal and move forward.

“What I care about is serving people,” he said. “I live a very simple life.” He said there are people in the public eye who try to make it about them – and that is something he tries not to do. “My life is not valuable if I’m not helping someone else.”

As a veteran activist, he said he has been watching Baltimore just like he’s been watching New York, Missouri and all the other places across the country where protests have sprung up. He said that leaders of the movement need to be honest about who they are and work to be healthy – inside and out.

“Be transparent. You have people in Baltimore who say one thing and do the other. We have enough people lying about our people. Just be honest about who you are,” he said.

“I have been a part of every organization you can name…all that is irrelevant if you are not subscribing to being a healthy being. One of the things we have to build as a people is spiritual and mental wellness.

He also said he was not a fan of what he called “drive-by leadership,” which is when people swoop into town when they think they are needed, but leave soon after.  He said he has been in touch with Baltimore’s Councilman Brandon Scott, but prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

“I really believe in local leadership. I’m here to speak and talk about some things, but there are the people in the space who ya’ll need to be supporting,” he said.

And what is his main message be when he gives talks?

“Love,” he said. “We need love. That’s the answer – love.”

Kevin Powell will be at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. for a discussion and book signing.