Askia Touré

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Askia Touré

Askia Touré was born Rolland Snellings in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is a poet, community activist, lecturer, educator, and one of the pioneers of the Black Arts Movement. As a member of the SNCC, Touré participated in the Atlanta Project and co-authored the SNCC’s “Black Power Position Paper.” During the 1960s he was also a contributing editor for the magazine Black Dialogue, an editor-at-large for the Journal of Black Poetry, and a staff writer of Liberator Magazine and Soulbook. As an educator, Touré taught African history in San Francisco State University’s pioneering Africana Studies program. His volumes of verse include African Affirmations: Songs for Patriots (2007), Dawnsong!: The Epic Memory of Askia Touré (1999), which was awarded the Stephen Henderson Poetry Award, From the Pyramid to the Projects: Poems of Genocide and Resistance (1989), a collection of poems for which he won the American Book Award, Songhai! (1972), and Juju: Magic Songs for the Black Nation (1970). His poems have been anthologized in Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present (2004) and From Totems to Hip Hop: A Multi-Cultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900-2002 (2002). In 1996, Touré was awarded the Gwendolyn Brooks Lifetime Achievement Award. Touré has lived in Boston since 1997, where he is a member of the African-American Master Artists-in-Residence Program at Northeastern University. He is working on an independent film based on his play, “Double Dutch: A Gathering of Women,” as well as a libretto based on his poem, “From the Pyramids to the Projects, From the Projects to the Stars.”

From Dawnsong!

(for the Ancient Anu/Nubians: founders of Nile Valley Civilization)

Ethiopia and the African interior have always been
considered by Egyptians as the holy land from which
their forebears had come…The priestess of Amon at
Thebes, the Egyptian holy site par excellence, could
not be other than a Meroitic Sudanese [a Nubian].

–Cheikh Anta Diop
The African Origins of Civilization

Bennu bird, emerge from your ashes,
broadcast ecstatic cries
to the ibis, your kindred;
welcome a new sun rising from
Nile waters, like a bright flamingo
shrieking with joy…

Dawnsong. Jubilee. My bones and fossils
powder this proud land mankind
reclaims as Mother.
The Great Rift Valley, the Mountains
of the Moon, the Great Lakes region
blessed by a million mornings of legendary
dreamtimes, visions, times of living
gods, demons, royal ancestors: chants
which fertilized
   the humid atmosphere
    human aeons ago–fifty thousand years!
Yea. The swamps and wide savannahs
of the stellar people pregnant with
myriad myths and magic rituals; resounding



Let Freedom Ring | April 17, 2008
Symposium IV | Advancing American Ideals: Democracy as a Goal for the Arts