“Molefi Asante the Next Director of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture?” I Truly Hope So!!

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

I received the above captioned press release recently in reference to the Schomburg Center selection of a new leader; and am reprinting it, with a few editorial notes, for your edification and information.

As I stated some months before, I am, along with so many other brothers and sisters, wholeheartedly support Brother Molefi Asante becoming the next chair of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Brother Howard Dodson, who has had the position for 25 years has left some mighty big footprints to follow; and it would take someone of Asante‘s caliber to come behind him.

Asante, the author of 70 books on African culture, lectures on African history and culture at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, has toured extensively throughout the Motherland, and is actively involved in proactive activities for Africans and African Americans.

More than just a library or a repository of our Black history here in the US, Africa, the Caribbean and other parts of the universe, the Schomburg Center is where Black people gather with the brightest and best amongst us to share information, provide documentation, and expand our knowledge of who we are and who we can become as individuals and as a people. It was started by a Black man for and about Black people. And, even though it is currently under the auspices of the New York Public Library, it must still resonate to the needs and history of Black people, in the same way that museums of and for Jewish History, or American Indian History, or East Indian History would have to do for their people.

And at the present time, while deliberations are being made as to who will follow in Howard Dodson’s foot steps, the consensus of the village -- I.e. Black people -- is that Molefi Asante is their new leader of choice for the Schomburg. As was stated at a recently held town hall meeting, hosted by PR Diva, Terrie Williams, Molefi Asante was and is most logical choice to continue the good work started under Dodson. However, as James McIntosh cautioned the audience, it still rested with the community not to assume that the mainstream would act in the best interest of the community. “We must not assume that they will carry out our wishes just because we held this meeting. We must make sure we stay on top of the issues and stay involved.”

And so it was that recently, on Saturday September 18, 2010, Molefi Asante spoke to a standing room only crowd at the John Henrik Clark House, in Harlem. His topic “Afrocentricity in the Age of Obama.” Anytime Asante comes to the New York community, it is a cause for celebration. Indeed, there is usually a lot of preliminary advertisement about his arrival.

However, this was relatively short notice for his appearance at Clarke House. Asante was actually in New York that Saturday for an interview for the position of Director of the Schomburg. Because it was such short notice, Solomon Goodrich, Chair of the Board of Education for People of African Ancestry, pulled the event together at the last minute. Dr. James McIntosh of CEMOTAP, Omowale Clay of December 12th Movement and Bernard White of Take Back WBAI helped get the word out and the people in.

Unfortunately, yours truly, along with so many others, was in D.C. for the Congressional Black Caucus’s 40th anniversary celebration. I would have loved to have been here for that event.

Asante covered the breadth of the African World from the Caribbean to Latin America to Europe and Africa, with a grasp of African history, politics, religion,  literature and folkways that is the hallmark of his career. He also spoke of the difficult time the “Tea Party” is having in believing in, and accepting, a Black leader of the United States Government.

Asante covered the challenges President Obama faces as President of the United States: 1. Fierce and desperate pressure from the right (Teapot Movement) charging under the banner “Let’s take back America,”  2. The structural protections and controls built into the American Governmental System designed to assure that Americas Corporations will ultimately always be the ones essentially in control and 3. Lack of enough pressure from the Black Electorate.

Asante correctly identified the fact that corporate control was so extensive that “the United States Government would actually function even if there were no office of the president. If that had not been the case, the entire government would have collapsed under Reagan (who was virtually not there the entire time he was in office).

Asante made it clear, however, that properly educated, organized and mobilized, African People have the power to determine their own destiny. He said that with enough pressure Obama would be able and would in fact perhaps be “willingly forced” to represent African interests to a greater degree. Asante said there there are right wing websites that have actually accused Obama of being a follower of Dr. Molefi Asante.
He asserted that the system that exists in the American Government also exists in the Academic world. Activist and December 12th Movement veteran, Omowale Clay was the first to pick up on the parallel processes suggested by Asante’s lecture. He compared the community struggle to protect our history at the Schomburg to the struggle to protect our political rights. He called for greater efforts to support the Freedom Party and their Black Candidate for New York State Governor Charles Barron. Clay exhorted the crowd to show up in strength at the African American Parade scheduled for the following day.

He made it clear that he wanted the position of Director of the Schomburg and that he is qualified and has a plan that would make the Library serve its stated mission. He said that although he had been interviewed that day he had not (yet) been offered the position and that indeed others were being interviewed soon.  That was not what the crowd wanted to hear.
Though Asante never asked the crowd for their support; nor did he say that it was the sort of energy that will be needed to make Library and City officials be fair in the selection process, it was clear that he was moved by their enthusiasm.

To give those of you who are not familiar with Professor Assante’s background, I’m including an overview of his bio below.

Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, Professor of Temple University’s Department of African American Studies, is considered by his peers to be one of the most distinguished contemporary scholars.

Asante’s most recently published books are Maulana Karenga: An Intellectual Portrait, An Afrocentric Manifesto, Encyclopedia of African Religion, co-edited with Ama Mazama, The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony, Cheikh Anta Diop: An Intellectual Portrait, Handbook of Black Studies, co-edited with Maulana Karenga, Encyclopedia of Black Studies, co-edited with Ama Mazama, Race, Rhetoric, and Identity: The Architecton of Soul, Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation, Ancient Egyptian Philosophers, Scattered to the Wind, Custom and Culture of Egypt, and 100 Greatest African Americans. The second edition of his high school text, African American History: Journey of Liberation, 2nd Edition, is used in more than 400 schools throughout North America. The comprehensive Encyclopedia of African Religion, co-edited with Ama Mazama, will be published by Sage Publications in December 2008.
Asante has been recognized as one of the ten most widely cited African Americans. In the 1990s, Black Issues in Higher Education recognized him as one of the most influential leaders in the decade.

After graduating from Oklahoma Christian College in l964, and completing his M.A. at Pepperdine University in l965, he received his Ph.D. from UCLA. He chaired the Communication Department at SUNY-Buffalo. While at Southwestern Christian College, Asante met Essien Essien, a Nigerian scholar, who inspired Asante to learn more about Africa.  After completing his undergraduate degree, Smith undertook studies of African languages and literature. He began to visit Africa frequently and spent a year on the continent in 1982, while serving as director of the English language journalism curriculum at the Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communications.

Dr. Asante later became chair of the African American Studies Program at Temple University where he created the first Ph.D. Program in African American Studies in 1987. He has directed more than 140 Ph.D. dissertations. He has written more than 400 articles and essays for journals, books and magazines and is the founder of the theory of Afrocentricity.

Born one of sixteen children in Valdosta, Ga., Asante is a poet, dramatist, and painter. His work on African culture and philosophy and African American education has been cited by journals such as the Journal of Black Studies, Journal of Communication, American Scholar, Western Journal of Black Studies, and Africaological Perspectives. The Utne Reader called him one of the “100 Leading Thinkers” in America. In 2001, Transition Magazine said “Asante may be the most important professor in Black America.”

His TV appearances include Nightline, Nighttalk, BET, McNeil Lehrer News Hour, Today Show, the Tony Brown‘s Journal, Night Watch, Like It Is and 60 Minutes and as well as hundreds of local and international TV shows.

He has appeared in several movies including “500 Years Later,” “The Faces of Evil,” and “The Black Candle.” In 2002 he received the distinguished Douglas Ehninger Award for Rhetorical Scholarship from the National Communication Association.

The African Union cited him as one of the twelve top scholars of African descent when it invited him to give the keynote address at the Conference of Intellectuals of Africa and the Diaspora in Dakar in 2004. He was inducted into the Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent at the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University in 2004.

Dr. Asante holds more than 100 awards for scholarship and teaching including the Fulbright, honorary doctorates from three universities, and is a guest professor at Zhejiang University.

In 1995 he was made a traditional king, Nana Okru Asante Peasah, Kyidomhene (Chee dom heni) of Tafo, Akyem, Ghana. Dr. Asante has been or is presently a consultant for a dozen school districts.

He is the Chair of the United States Commission for FESMAN III to be held in Dakar, Senegal in 2011. He is the father of the filmmaker and writer, M. K. Asante who teaches creative writing at Morgan State University.

Asante was elected in September, 2009, by the Council of African Intellectuals as the Chair for the Diaspora Intellectuals in support of the United States of Africa. Dr. Molefi Asante believes it is not enough to know the truth, one must act to humanize the world.

Dr. Asante is often compared to the Schomburg’s first Curator Arturo Schomburg. He is also likened to John Henrik Clarke, the man for whom Clarke House is named. Dr. Molefi Asante is a master teacher, thinker, activist, and leader, and a great choice to take the Schomburg to the next level of greatness. Now it's up to us to make sure that we do our part in making our wishes known to the selection committee.

Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson

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