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Molefi Asante Jr. ’04, author of Like Water Running Off My Back, will give a poetry reading 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Oechsle Hall auditorium (room 224).

Free and open to the public, the event is sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Development, Friends of Skillman Library, Association of Black Collegians, and Brothers of Lafayette.

A double major in Africana Studies and English from Philadelphia, Pa., Asante had Like Water Running Off My Back, a collection of more than 20 poems, published this summer by Africa World Press. He also has been published in the poetry anthology Letters From The Soul.

“The poems in Like Water Running Off My Back are driven by a music heard in the deep recesses of our collective African-American memory,” says Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Fuller. “What is remarkable about them is their energy, their focus, their truth – and they emerge from a generation many of us believed had been lost. Bravo! Asante Jr. is a writer to watch.”

“This well conceived, beautifully written book of poetry by Molefi K. Asante, Jr. is incredible,” says Wendy Day of The Rap Coalition. “He molds words like soft clay, illustrating his thoughts and ideas on everything from culture, to hip-hop, to life. This first book is a must-have for any thinking human being…like knowledge running through my brain.”

Asante gave a dozen readings this summer in England, Jamaica, Philadelphia, and Chester, Pa. He will be guest poet at the 14th annual Cheikh Anta Diop Conference Oct. 10-11 in Philadelphia, Pa.

Last school year, Asante received Lafayette’s Jean Corrie Poetry Prize, awarded annually to students who submit the best poetry in a contest conducted by the Academy of American poets.

Competition judge Beth Seetch, lecturer in English and coordinator of the College Writing Program, says Asante’s winning poem “demonstrates an eagerness to play with words and imagery while at the same time taking language seriously. By ‘seriously,’ I mean that this poet’s playfulness leads him to explore the richness of our American language, to find out more about its history and how it works, and then to use that complexity in his poems.”

Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, but raised in Philadelphia, Asante says he decided to pursue the major “because while growing up and throughout high school, you don’t learn about Africa in-depth, and when you start to find out things on your own, you learn all of these great things, and you want to study it more.”

Asante, who says he wants to make his own contribution to Africa, is concentrating on Egypt within the Africana Studies major.

This spring, he conducted an independent study with Ghana native Kofi Opoku, professor of religion, on the African origins of hip-hop music in America. Asante is working on a book about the relationship between the hip-hop MC and the West African griot.

“Dr. Opoku is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met. All of the professors in Africana Studies are great. They know so much and are willing to talk more about anything at any time. Also, many are from the continent, so they can give a first-hand account,” he says.

“Some of the ideas discussed in Africana Studies classes not only have inspired me to dig deeper into those issues myself, but also have inspired some of my poetry, both published and unpublished,” he adds. “In terms of ideas and thoughts, the major has helped my poetry.”

Asante will study at University of London School of Oriental and African Studies in the spring. He also is leading a trip to Egypt for college students next summer. He has been studying in Egypt for the last six years under the tutelage of Egyptologist and African scholars, learning about ancient Egyptian civilization and deciphering hieroglyphics on tombs. Last year, he was a featured speaker on ancient Egyptian mythology at the tenth annual ANKH conference in Aswan, Egypt.

A graduate of Crefeld School, Asante is a member of Association of Black Collegians, Brothers of Lafayette, and Students for Social Justice. He is co-editor of the Aya literary magazine and has written a screenplay titled Extreme Pressure, a fantasy/adventure feature-length film that he is trying to sell. He received Most Valuable Player honors on last spring’s intramural recreational league championship five-on-five basketball team. He also has begun work on his first novel.

Categorized in: Academic News