Dr. Molefi Kete Asante is more than just a professor; he is a poet, a scholar, a writer and an activist. Asante has written more than 60 books, traveled to every continent and spoken at numerous colleges and universities.
“He opened up my eyes to many vary principles of intellectual black thoughts,” said Mosheh Gains, a former student in Dr. Asante’s Dimensions of Racism class. Asante’s scholarly work in African American studies has made him a prominent professor at Temple and abroad.
Born Arthur Lee Smith Jr. in Valdosta, Ga., Asante was one of 16 children. His parents were his primary influences, instilling in him the values of life and knowledge.
While earning his doctorate at the University of California, Asante was an active participant in the civil rights movement. He served as the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, while pushing for a black studies program.
Asante wrote his first book, “Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change” in 1980. Since then, that has become his dominant field of study. Afrocentricity focuses on Africa and African people in relation to history or cultural influences.
Upon arriving at Temple, Asante was instrumental in establishing the world’s first African American Studies Ph.D. program.
“The creation of the Ph.D. program was itself a bitter struggle, one that many people said would never happen,” Asante said.
He credits former University President Peter Liacouras, former Provost Dr. Barbara Browstein and the Philadelphia black community among others for their support in establishing the program.
Asante believes that despite being the world’s first African American Studies doctorate program, the department is now suffering, due to a staff cut.
“At one time this department had five full professors, at this time it only has one, and that’s me,” Asante said. “At one time I think Temple was at the point where it could be the key institution in the world in African American studies.”
Despite what he feels is a lack of support from the Temple administration, Asante continues his work in educating young scholars.
“The most challenging issue facing blacks today is to be properly educated; I don’t think American society has ever properly educated black people,” Asante said.
As a professor of afrocentricity, Asante’s aim is to accomplish what the society has not.
“[He] allows us to express everything to the class and allows us to interpret each others’ viewpoints on racism,” said junior Marcia Dorsy.
Asante’s work and teaching style has also been incorporated into the North Philadelphia school system. Asante helped institute the study of afrocentricity in the Philadelphia public school system. Even with his career as a professor and community activist, Asante is still pursing his long-term goals, one of which is to finish writing his African history text.
Renita Burns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.