Friday, March 17, 2006

Autum Ashante: Child Prodigy Or Something Else?

In New York City, a seven-year old African-American girl named Autum Ashante has stirred-up a hornet's nest of controversy: (emphasis added)
A 7-year-old prodigy unleashed a firestorm when she recited a poem she wrote comparing Christopher Columbus and Charles Darwin to "pirates" and "vampires" who robbed blacks of their identities and human rights.

Hundreds of parents of Peekskill middle- and high-school students received a recorded phone message last week apologizing for little Autum Ashante's poem, titled "White Nationalism Put U in Bondage." [Ed's Note, please scroll down to see the complete text of the poem.]

"Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse," the aspiring actress and poet wrote. "They took the gold, the wisdom and all the storytellers. They took the black women, with the black man weak. Made to watch as they changed the paradigm of our village.

"Yeah white nationalism is what put you in bondage. Pirates and vampires like Columbus, Morgan and Darwin."

Autum was invited to speak at the Westchester schools on Feb. 28 by Melvin Bolden, a music teacher at the middle school who advises the high school's Black Culture Club and is a member of the Peekskill City Council.

Autum, whose résumé includes several television appearances and performances at the Apollo Theater and the African Burial Ground in Manhattan, told The Post that her poem was meant to instill pride in black students and to encourage them to steer clear of violence.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with my poem. I was trying to tell them the straight-up truth," Autum said. "I'm trying to tell them not to fight because they're killing the brothers and sisters."

Autum, who is home-schooled in Mount Vernon and speaks several languages, prefaced her performance at the high school with a Black Panthers' pledge asking black youngsters to not harm one another. [Ed's note: According to Newsday, when white students also stood during her recitation of the pledge, Autum asked them to sit down.]

It did not sit well with parents.

In a telephone interview with The Post, Bolden said Autum has been "unofficially" banned from performing in a district school again and that school officials would review transcripts of future speakers.

"It's unfortunate, because some teachers said they wanted this little girl to explain the things she said to their students, but some parents don't want her on school grounds," Bolden said.

"[The poem] might have been a little too aggressive for what the middle-school kids are ready to handle," Bolden added.

Kimberly Greene, a mother of children in the high school and middle school, said she was shocked when she got the recorded phone message.

"If there are people who are upset about what she said, the schools should have talked about and analyzed it rather than send a message to everyone saying this little girl was offensive," Greene said.

Autum's father, Batin Ashante, said he can't believe the fuss over his daughter's poem.

"She's a little girl who does poetry about real things. She doesn't do poetry about cotton candy," Ashante said. "She's a serious little person."
I wonder what the response from the mainstream media would have been if Autum had been white?

Interestingly, Autum made no mention of the fact that it was often blacks who enslaved other blacks for the purpose of "selling" them to white slave traders on the African coast in the first place.

I actually "get" the bit about Columbus and slaver Captain (John) Morgan. But what did Charles Darwin have to do with slavery or the oppression of American blacks?

Like all Americans, Autum Ashante has the absolute right to recite her poem wherever she sees fit. But just because she has the right to deliver her diatribe, I also have the right not to like it. And I don't.

She (and I assume her father) should have chosen a different venue to deliver her lines.

But I can't deny the fact that the young Miss Ashante does provoke thought, doesn't she? And isn't that what the "Free Exchange Of Thoughts And Ideas" is all about? Read a differing viewpoint right here and a Fact Check by Roy Innis, Chair of the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) over there.

I believe that this talented young girl is going to continue making quite a name for herself. But whether or not she uses her remarkable gift in order to help or hurt remains to be seen.

And quite a bit of that is in the hands of her father.

Stay tuned.

Update: Via Michelle Malkin, here is the complete text of Autum's controversial poem:
"White Nationalism Put U In Bondage"

White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirate and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin
Drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel, tricks and deceit.

Nothing has changed take a look in our streets
The mis-education of she and Hegro — leaves you on your knee2grow
Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse

They took the gold, the wisdom and all of the storytellers
They took the black women, with the black man weak
Made to watch as they changed the paradigm
Of our village

They killed the blind, they killed the lazy, they went
So far as to kill the unborn baby

Yeah White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirates and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin

They drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel laden feet, throw in the tricks alcohol and deceit.
Nothing has changed take a look at our streets.
I wonder what her next project will be?
See this week's edition of The Carnival of Education here and our latest posts over there.