Mwatabu S. Okantah
Life and career
Born Wilbur Thomas Smith in 1952 in Newark, New Jersey, he was raised in Vauxhall, NJ, and graduated from Union High School (Union Township) in 1970. He holds a B.A. degree in English and African Studies from Kent State University (1976), where he studied with Halim El-Dabh and Fela Sowande. He earned a M.A. in creative writing from the City College of New York in 1982.
He has said of his name change during the 1970s: "I made this decision after having been introduced to Richard Wright's Native Son, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X during the spring of my freshman year at the university. Reading those books literally changed my life. I changed my name because my study of the African experience in America affected me - quite to my surprise - on a very profound and personal level.” His chosen surname, Okantah, means "breaker of rock" in the Ga language of Ghana. "Mwatabu" is Swahili for "born in a time of tribulation or sorrow."
He is currently an Assistant Professor and Poet in Residence in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University, and also serves as the Director of that university's Center of Pan-African Culture.
- (1977) To Sing a Dark Song. Beachwood, Ohio: Sharaqua Pub. Co.
- (1983) Afreeka Brass. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland State University Poetry Center.
- (1984) Collage: Poems. Detroit, Michigan: Lotus Press.
- (1987) Legacy: for Martin & Malcolm
- (1997) Cheikh Anta Diop: Poem for the Living: A Poem. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Black History Museum, UMUM/LOH Pub.
- (2004) Reconnecting Memories: Dreams No Longer Deferred: New & Selected Poems. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press.
- Mwatabu S. Okantah biography from TimBookTu
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