Mwatabu S. Okantah

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Mwatabu S. Okantah (born August 18, 1952 in Newark, New Jersey, United States) is an American poet, essayist, professor, and vocalist.

Life and career[edit]

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.”[1] 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.

He is the lead vocalist with the Muntu Kuntu Energy Ensemble and has performed frequently with the Cavani String Quartet of Cleveland, Ohio.[1]


  • (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.


External links[edit]