Dr. Asante: People's Choice As Schomburg Chief

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[New York: Comment]

On Saturday September 18, 2010, a “Standing Room Only” crowd of Community Residents crammed the meeting space of the John Henrik Clarke House, to hear Dr. Molefi Asante speak on the topic “Afrocentricity in the Age of Obama.”

The loftily titled lecture had been hastily called by Solomon Goodrich, Chairman of the Board for the Education of People of African Ancestry when he learned that Asante would be in town that day interviewing for the position of Director of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.”

Dr. James McIntosh of CEMOTAP, Omowale Clay of December 12th Movement and Bernard White of Take Back WBAI helped organize the meeting.  As Asante spoke on his topic, he covered the breadth of the African World from the Caribbean to Latin America to Europe and Africa. The crowd listened intently but the 10,000 pound elephant in the room was the question that the crowd had really come to hear answered, “Is Molefi Asante going to be the next Director of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.”

Asante, the author of 70 books on African culture proceeded with a grasp of African history, politics, religion,  literature and folkways  that only he has, spoke of the difficult time the Tea Party element is having both in believing and accepting Black leadership of the United States Government. Sometimes Asante would call it “The Tea Pot” movement with laughter from the audience each time he did it.  Asante said that the weaknesses in Obama’s performance stemmed from three main sources, 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 asserted that  corporate control was so extensive that “the United States Government would actually function even if there were no office of the president. “ 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.

In a subtle almost subliminal way Asante taught the crowd that the same sort of system that exists in the American Government exists in the Academic world. 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.

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. McIntosh also picked up on the theme of pressure needed to assist any Blacks who would lead a white controlled system. He asked the crowd if they were willing to “Crank it Up” --support for Dr. Molefi Asante as Director of The Schomburg. The crowd went ballistic with Shouts of  “Yes that’s Right. We want Molefi Asante.”
Asante never asked the crowd for this nor did he say that this sort of energy is what will be needed to make Library and City officials be fair in the selection process. Yet that is what they learned. This is why Dr. Asante is compared so often to the Schomburg’s first Curator Arthur Schomburg and to John Henrik Clarke, the man for whom the house where the lecture took place is named.  As were they, Dr. Molefi Asante is a master teacher.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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