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Suziq
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Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 07:34 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm posting this article from the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer. It's a huge profile of a 23 year old writer named M.K. Asante, Jr. who is blowin up. He's also the son of Dr. Molefi Asante.

(Philadelphia Inquirer, OCT 30th, 2005)

M.K. Asante Jr. - poet, filmmaker, son of Temple professors - grew up among intellectuals, flirted with thug life, and has become a renaissance man.

By Annette John-Hall

Inquirer Staff Writer

M.K. Asante Jr. boasts the kind of resume that would make a writer twice his age proud.

He's that rare artist who has won awards for both poetry and filmmaking. And he's got pedigree to boot, as the son of Temple professor Molefi Kete Asante, creator of the Afrocentricity movement, and Temple dance scholar Kariamu Welsh.

All of that, and the world-traveled Asante, 23, has yet to finish his formal education. He's due to receive his master's degree in fine arts from UCLA in the spring.

To be sure, Asante's second book of poetry, Beautiful. But Ugly Too. (Africa World Press), penetrates, casting an unflinching eye on humanity through a historical kaleidoscope. But he's no entitled, intellectual snob-in-training.

It's hard to believe that the young man whose sophisticated sheen brings to mind the artists of the Harlem Renaissance was a teenage would-be thug. Not until he switched high schools did he discover his passion.

He told his father he wanted to be a writer. The elder Asante, a prolific author who developed a field of scholarship centered on blacks across the African diaspora, gave his son 25 books and said, "In order to be a good writer you have to be a good reader," the son said.

So the younger Asante (pronounced ah-SAHN-tay) read works by Jack Kerouac ("On the Road changed my life"), Amiri Baraka, and Langston Hughes, among others.

Beautiful. And Ugly Too. takes its title from a line in a Hughes essay, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," written for the Nation in 1926. It reads: "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too... . We stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves."

"That essay always stuck out," says Asante, who adds that though he has not yet attained artistic freedom, he is ascending. "When you're climbing, you never know where your art is until you take a pause. I took a pause and wrote this book."

His first collection, Like Water Running Off My Back, won the Academy of American Poets Jean Corrie Prize. The prestigious annual award for college students has singled out such notables as Sylvia Plath and J.D. McClatchy.

"He has remarkable energy and compassion," says Lee Upton, a professor of English who taught Asante at Lafayette College in Easton. His work, she says, "has a generosity of spirit and is filled with political perspective."

In Beautiful, Asante's poems are more reflective, paying homage to those who came before.

"Molefi uses history as a way to explain the present. Very few people have that," notes Philadelphia playwright Charles Fuller, whose 1982 Pulitzer Prize- winning drama, A Soldier's Play, is being reprised Off-Broadway. "He's not one of those young people whose understanding goes back [only] to the Beatles."

In the new volume, Asante introduces a form called "screen poems," which use dialogue, verse, even director's cues. A piece titled "Sinema Noir" illustrates this poetic experiment. "The goal is to eventually take the screen poems and make films out of them," says Asante, who will graduate with a master's in screenwriting.

He also addresses politics, racial identity, and misogyny in hip-hop.

"Ghetto Booty: The Hottentot Remix" is dedicated to Saartjie Baartman, the South African woman who was dubbed "the Hottentot Venus" by the 19th-century Europeans who exhibited her as a curiosity because of her protuberant backside. Asante's poem draws a parallel to the exploitation of women in rap videos:

I'm ashamed, only because, if that was then, - where was I, and the rest of our men?/ Must have been studying them, for how to treat daughters, scattered to Atlantic winds./ We've become masters.

When it is suggested that he is part of the hip-hop generation, Asante cringes.

"I define myself as post-hip-hop... . 'Hip-hop' doesn't respond anymore. It's dormant and stagnant. It's a good corporate tool for branding, not a musical genre.

"I kind of think the first step in defining who you are is defining who you are not. Right now, I define myself as a black writer writing in America."

Asante's mother isn't surprised at her son's choice of his life's work, given his upbringing.

He "grew up with all kinds of [artists and intellectuals] coming to the house," says Welsh, who was divorced from Asante's father in 2002. "He was dragged to all the seminars and book signings."

Yet he struggled to find himself. He was kicked out of Friends Select in the eighth grade for writing graffiti in bathrooms and on the building walls. "I wouldn't just tag a name. Sometimes I would write little questions or phrases that, at the time, I thought were deep," Asante says. "I felt culturally and personally invisible."

At Samuel Fels High School, he barely made passing grades.

"Basically, all the black kids wanted to be 'down' and miss class," Asante says. "Even then, I was focused - I worked hard at doing bad stuff."

It wasn't until 10th grade, when his parents enrolled him at the Crefeld School, that Asante blossomed. The small private academy in Chestnut Hill for students with artistic sensibilities made classes optional and stressed self-expression. "There was a lot of intellectual and ideological diversity," he says.

Asante created his own agenda at Lafayette College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English. Like Water Running Off My Back was published during his sophomore year. He spent his junior year based at the University of London, from which he traveled to 20 countries to write and coproduce 500 Years Later, a documentary that examines the struggle for freedom throughout the African diaspora.

Directed by Owen Alik Shahadah, the 2005 film examines the psycho-cultural effects of slavery. Interviewees include South African Desmond Tutu, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and local activist Charles Gray, better known as the "Mayor of Germantown."

This year, Later won the documentary award at the Pan African Film Festival. It also was picked as best film in the Black Berlin International Cinema competition, and won the international-documentary prize at the Harlem International Film Festival.

After Asante graduated from college, he became engaged to visual artist Maya Freelon, 22, daughter of jazz singer Nnenna Freelon and architect Philip Freelon, who codesigned the new Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore.

A wedding date has not been set for the Lafayette classmates, but both sets of parents are proud.

"She is perfect for him," the elder Asante says of Freelon, who is pursuing an MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The next step for Asante is earning a doctorate, possibly in the Boston area. "I'd like to create my art from an academic base," he says.

And though he plans to be an academician, Asante says he feels no pressure to live up to his family's legacy of achievement.

"I feel more pressure to be a good citizen. A good person for my race, for my community, for my country."

For Asante Sr., that validates "what I tried to teach. The joy for me is seeing someone who understands his mission."

"Clipped-Wing Birds"

Clipped-wing birds

don't fly.

They

dance to

keep from falling;

laugh to

keep from crying;

pray to

keep from calling;

work to

keep from trying.

They

injure themselves

by not flying.

- M.K. Asante Jr.

From Beautiful. And Ugly Too.
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Jeffery Wright
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Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 11:17 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hmm. Interesting story. Thanks for sharing. I might have to cop Beautiful. And Ugly Too on amazon. Wait, I'm on a budget, scrap that, if anyone has any of his poems -- post them so i can read them. I'll buy the book when I get paid next week.
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Kola
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Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 02:02 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hi Jeffery,

Thanks for posting. :-) You're funny.

I'm a huge fan of his father's, so I'm glad to hear the Professor has an artist in the family.

That's always good.


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John Rhames
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Posted on Saturday, November 05, 2005 - 09:15 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

This is a very good article. I look forward to reading his stuff. Thanks for sharing this Kola.
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plewis
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Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 01:34 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

He's okay. I mean, he's not great. Paul Beatty and Latasha Natasha Diggs can kick his ass.

The boy needs more experience in life and needs to be something other than a thug or goody-two-shoes. Plus, he needs to leave social "responsibility" and "respectability" behind him if he REALLY wants to be a poet.
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Shane Amos
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Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 07:58 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

plewis,
I don't think poetry and literature is about kicking anyone's ass. That's stupid. Paul Beatty is my age (mid 40's). This guy is 23 and he's already prolific. bTW, more experience? The article says he travelled to over 20 countries -- when's the last time you left the house?
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IRIE FM
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Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 01:22 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

plewis, don't hate on the youth dem. He is the few-cha. respect.
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Kola
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Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 01:32 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Well, I can tell you one thing about M.K. Asante, Jr. that I like already.

He's bringing a lot of people to my board.

Welcome to all.

__________

And again, I talk about his father in my autobiography and what a hero he is to me. I fantasized about being his father's wife (or mistress) when I was a teen.

Which from a Half-Arab girl is a huge compliment.
_________

I'm a huge fan of Paul Beatty, but I think that every poet is very different and has their own unique voice.

Lucille Clifton and Wanda Coleman can both blow you away--but they're nothing alike.

I'm not sure that I agree with plewis saying that one has to leave "social responsiblity" alone in order to be a poet.

My own poetry collection "Nile River Woman" is one of most socially conscious (from a North African perspective) books out there. But it's also very very lush, unpredictable and just plain wild. I think it's the angriest book I've ever written.

I was inspired by Mari Evans's 1960's book "I Am A Black Woman" for it.

And Paul Beatty has inspired my fiction writing a lot more than my poetry.

My next poetry collection is called "Koolox: The Curtis Mayfield Poems" and is an entirely different book. But the title refers to the fact, that after I first learned English, it was the old early 70's music of Curtis Mayfield that actually made me into a poet.

None of the poems are about him, but his "ethos" sort of clings to my flesh like flakes of dried sperm.

I feel him (his work) everywhere with me.

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Kola
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Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 01:52 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Here is the title poem from my "Nile River Woman".


"Nile River Woman"
(a Dinka slave of the Sudan)

my feet were bound by eel-skin
and river stones.
my nose and throat were caked
with blood,
I could hardly breathe.
the sun beat my face.
Nothing but hate was in my heart.

You came into the world anyway.

I split open and you came.
For that time, I had to stop running.
In the trees near an artery
--of blue shallow water,
I had to learn your heartbeat and breathe
inside of you and make human sound.
Against my fur-hole I warmed you
and from my breasts I fed you.

I didn't mind after a while that you had
come, but I thought
about killing you.

I thought about clearing a path--to run.




"Fly Away Sleeping"

I will kill God

before I see my black babies dead.
Black men and White men
and those toxic White bitches
who called me Sister,
do not understand.

They are God.

I would be happy to slit their throats--to
crush their evil heads in the toilet.
To place my babies on my pretty
brown back
And sail into the sunset.

I would be like a goddess.
I would be nappy and smiling.
I would be tall and dark as charcoal.
I would be singing.
I would be free.

Free at last.

To make up my own prayers.



________________

My poem "Black Beauty's Totem" used to
be my favorite poem by me....but now
"Fly Away Sleeping" is.

Of course, my work (and themes) are so
very EXOTIC compared to what you're used to.




Nile River Woman

Does anyone have any of M.K.'s poems to share or his book cover?

I will do a search later on.

It would be good to post a cover and some poems.

I am interested in his work now.

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Suziq
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Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 06:48 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Kola, here's what I was able to get on the new book. I don't know what the hell he's holding in his hands: BTW, I got it from MK's site @ www.asante.info

Beautiful. And Ugly Too

Book Description:

Beautiful. And Ugly Too, the critically-acclaimed, second poetry collection from award-winning author M.K. Asante, Jr., reveals through its delicate rhythm, the plurality of being alive. The poems, sketched from influences and drawn from experiences around the world, are colorful comments on the human condition.

"A thought provoking journey down the lonely road of wisdom and whiplash."
—Los Angeles Times

"Sensitive yet iconoclastic! His words channel ancestral resistance."
— Bruce George, Co-founder of Def Poetry Jam

"A vivid, yet carefully constructed meditation on reality Beautiful and Ugly Too is a timely dissection of twentieth-century isms through verse... life and all of her blemishes reflected through a collage of eloquent vignettes."
—Philadelphia Tribune

"The earmarks of a great writer!"
—The Gaither Reporter


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Kola
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Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 07:46 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

What a great web site!!! I really like him. :-)

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Suziq
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Posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - 01:33 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Kola, Fly Away Sleeping is sooo good, girl. Very deep. Yeah, M.K.'s site is great. Still don't know what he's holding in his damn hands, though. Paper?
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plewis
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Posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - 07:58 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Shane, I was speaking metaphorically about Paul Beatty being able to kick Asante's ass. Anyway, he's still young and has a lot to learn--that's what I implied when I said he was "okay". He certainly has potential, but the future will tell what he does with it.

As for me, I was outside the house just a few months ago, having come back from Berlin, Germany(where I lived for a couple years). Add Brazil, Algeria, Cuba, Romania, Turkey, Syria, Czech Republic, Greece, etc., So yes, I have been outside of my house, thank you.
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Kola
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Posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - 08:34 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

P. Lewis,

I'm assuming you're Black American.

And what I find so sad...is that I notice you haven't been to any of the countries of your ancestors.

To West Africa.

What the hell were you looking for in Algeria? People with good hair?




A few years ago, I took note of Cornel West as well--saying that he had been to Ethiopia and Paris and Japan--but never to West Africa.

I lost a little respect for him after that.

I just find it astonishing.

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Afroamerican
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Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - 11:57 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Would going to some West Indian country like Jamicia or Barbadoes count? I hear the Carribean is the 1# destination for Afro-American vactioners OUTSIDE the US?
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Kola
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Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - 03:32 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

But the Jamaicans make the pilgrimage to Nigeria EVERY YEAR...to be in the land of their ancestors.

Your original ancestors came from West Africa.

Why would you not go to the very beginning of you?

I truly believe that "niggerism" keeps you from it.

You have a mental block that other people don't have.




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Afroamerican
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Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - 03:58 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Kola I believe that SOME (Afrocentric ones) make the pilgrimage to Nigeria every year, however NOT the average one.

If it were true, than "Browning" wouldn't be a national pastime!

What sense would it make for Jamaicans to go to Nigeria every year to show how much they "Honor" their ancestors and then fly back home and BLEACH to try their damnest to look as farthest from their ANCESTORS as possible???

________________

I'm talking about everyday people here! Not the Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, revoluntionaires......

___________________

In general I think most people TRY to vaction in some country that is deemed

1.) SAFE

2.) CHEAP (and not $2,000 plane ride to Africa alone cheap either)

3.) A PLACE THAT SPEAKS THEIR LANGUAGE

That is actually why I believe the Carribean is the 1# tourist spot. Plus Black people tend to love hot weather.
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Kola
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Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - 04:21 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

You're making excuses.

You think NIGERIANS aren't "brow'n" too?

The Nigerians and Jamaicans have a joint pilgrimage every year. Jamaicans save up their whole life to be on de boat.



Plus Black people tend to love hot weather.

waaa ?????

So you think it's cold in Ghana or Senegal?

And it's actually SAFER in Ghana or Senegal than in Jamaica.

And there are affordable "group plans".

The bottom line is....where there's a WILL, there's a way.

You're making excuses.




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Suziq
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Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - 07:11 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Kola,
Now you can put a face with the young poet, Asante, Jr. These photos were printed w/ the original article...
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plewis
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Posted on Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - 08:39 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Yes, I visited North Africa simply because at the time (fifteen years ago) I could not afford the $1000 one-way fare to Dakar or Accra; it was much cheaper to go to Cairo for only $400. And of course, with my light brown-skinned face, I stood far less of a chance of standing out in the North--meaning, the street touts and hustlers were less of a problem for me than for the white boys who went there. But now that I have money, and NOW that I'm planning on visiting Gambia and Mali next year(and perhaps a few other places south of the Sahara), I know my cafe-au-lait ass is going to be toast on the streets of Timbuktu or Dakar--the beggars and touts won't leave me alone!!!
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Zuriburi
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Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2005 - 01:36 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

And he's cute too!
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Tanzanian Princess
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Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2005 - 06:20 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Zuriburi,
I second that!
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Kola
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Posted on Friday, November 18, 2005 - 02:22 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Yeah, he looks adorable.

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Kola
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Posted on Friday, November 18, 2005 - 02:26 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

You know, it angers me so much that Paul Beatty thinks he's ugly.

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Milessmiles
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Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2005 - 06:33 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

This was a great read. Thanks.

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