Friday, March 31, 2006

TOPIC: Poet, 7, Sets Off Racial Controversy
Original article by Adrienne Mand Lewin

A 7-year-old New York poet has fired up adults following a racially charged performance at a middle school. Autum Ashante, who is home-schooled and lives with her father in Mount Vernon, was invited by a music teacher to present her poetry during a Black History Month program at Peekskill Middle School on Feb. 28. She has written her own poetry and performed in front of audiences since she was four.

Before reciting a poem, Ashante asked only the black students in the audience to stand and recite with her the "Black Child's Pledge" by the Black Panther Party's Shirley Williams. It begins, "I pledge allegiance to my black people. I pledge to develop my mind and body to the greatest extent possible. I will learn all that I can in order to give my best to my people in their struggle for liberation."

Ashante then presented her poem "White Nationalism Put U In Bondage," which rails against Christopher Columbus, J.P. Morgan and Charles Darwin: "White nationalism is what put you in bondage. Pirate and vampires like Columbus, Morgan and Darwin... Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse," the poem states. "They took the gold, the wisdom and all of the storytellers. They took the black women, with the black man weak."

Inappropriate Actions?
The conflict began when the school district apologized for the performance in phone messages left for parents, which upset others who believed Ashante had a right to express herself. Some thought it was her tone that riled the audience. "Someone so angry, the way she presented it, which acting-wise is what she did, but the way it was perceived, a lot of people took offense to it probably," said Mel Bolden, who invited Ashante to perform.

"We live in a culturally diverse community," said parent Chantell Peeples, "and I think she certainly added an element to a black history program that was maybe a little different, but I think it was certainly well received. As a parent, I wasn't upset at all."

But Peekskill City School District Superintendent Judith Johnson told ABC News it was Ashante's actions — not her words — that the principal apologized for.
[WHY her actions?! The words are extremely offensive.]

"She's not been banned. She's not been censored," Johnson said, adding, "She came to an assembly and faced a culturally diverse group of kids and asked the black kids to stand and recite a pledge. … Everybody, black and white, was pretty upset by it."
[What!?! If a WHITE kid had had white students stand up and recite some sort of white-biased pledge, she would have been snatched out of the classroom before she could utter a single word of her poem. IF, for some reason, this theoretical white child was allowed to recite a racially-biased poem, she would be banned from the school, her parents would be on the receiving end of death threats and the school would be raising hell about the problem. WHY isn't this being done regarding the poison bias of this young black bigot?!?]

She said that students complained to the school's principal after the assembly. "Kids were coming into his office very, very upset that somebody would do that in a school where we never, never divide by color."
[Well, at least the KIDS get it. The school administration and PARENTS should take a listen!]

The phone messages to parents said the school apologized if their children were offended by the behavior. "No one knew that she was going to do this," Johnson said. "If this were a classroom and there was an opportunity for discussion and dialogue, it would not be an issue."
[Why not an issue? A classroom setting in middle school is NOT the place for bigotry and racially discriminatory speech to occur.]

Ashante has received support from the Rev. Al Sharpton and New York City Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther.
[Who'da thunk it? Al "the Charlatan" Sharpton makes his living claiming white people discriminate against blacks. Yet, he claims to be a civil rights leader for all. Wonder where his sensibilities went when this little bigot got up and spoke racial discrimination against whites?]

Hot Speech
...For her part, Ashante, who has performed on Showtime at the Apollo and HBO's Def Poetry Jam, said she would like to present her poems around the world, adding that she's concerned about the reaction to her work.

"I feel confused and a little saddened about what it might do to my career," she said. "They are just making a big fuss about a poem."
[Aw, we're SOOO sorry that this might hurt her career. That's right, folks. She wasn't worried about hurting people's feelings or the venom in her speech -- only that the flack might hurt her ability to make money for this kind of garbage. Don't we feel sorry for her, and her father? NOT!]

Her father, Batin Ashante, said he is "really, really proud of her... I will encourage her to continue to do what she does and not to be offensive," he said, "not to be rude."
[Um, Mr. Ashante, allowing your daughter to stand up in a "culturally diverse" group of students, single out black kids for a pledge to being black, then spewing hate speech at whites IS RUDE and OFFENSIVE. But, I bet you'll stay proud of your little meal ticket as long as she's making money for you. Right? DISGUSTING!]

ABC News' New York affiliate WABC-TV contributed to this report.
[And the Sope-Bocks author contributed the orange text, emphasis, formatting for a couple of paragraphs and corrections to incorrect grammar from the original article.]

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