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Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah
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WIU's AAS Chair Receives Bynner Foundation Grant for MLK Jr. Anthology

July 11, 2008

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MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University African American Studies Department Chair Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah received a $5,000 grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, Inc. to assist in the publication of a collection of multicultural poems contributed by writers from around the world.

The manuscript, "Martin Luther King, Jr.: An Anthology of Multicultural Poetry," includes some 180 poems selected from more than 2,500 submissions.

"In this anthology, Martin Luther King, Jr. is used as a metaphor for our society's ideal for equality, racial justice and cultural plurality," said Na'Allah, who received a Western Illinois University Foundation Summer Stipend in 2000 to begin this project. "Apart from the opening tributes and salutations for Martin Luther King, Jr. and a few other cultural heroes, the poems in this collection deal with cultural, historical and social issues such as the Negritude movement, cultural and social emancipation, slavery, war, peace, human rights, patriotism, ancestral connections, identity issues, globalization and pluralism.

"This book has an excellent promise for adoption at all levels of educational institutions, including elementary and high school, where teachers and librarians are eager for students to understand how Martin Luther King, a major American hero, is a symbol of the civil rights struggle and American liberty, freedom, equality and human dignity. Also, because of the relevance of the poems to contemporary issues of our world, this book will attract interest internationally," added Na'Allah, who has three poems in the anthology: "Mandela," "Global Africa" and "Seseseko Fire."

The collection includes 14 sections of poetry:
Tributes and Salutations;
Time: yesterday, today, tomorrow, Blackboy, Whitegirl and Brownchild;
Negritude, Pan-Africanism, Non-Violence on Violence;
Ghetto Perspectives;
Patriotism, Nationalism, New-World Pluralism;
Solidarity, Ethnic, Cultural, Ancestral Connections;
Globalization, Global Ethics, Global Crises, War;
Racism, Apartheid and Racial Justice;
Environment, Nature, Human Rights, Human Spirit;
Slavery, Slave Mentality; Oppression, Aggression, Chaos;
Discriminations, Phobias, Hypocrisy;
Struggle, Emancipation, Survival;
Freedom, Peace, Equality, Love; and

Poets were selected through a jury Na'Allah set up as well as other scholarly peer advice.

Among poets who have contributed to the anthology are Rodney Torreson, Cassie Premo Steele, Joan Noeldechen, Rashidah Ismaili AbuBakr, Joan Seliger Sidney, Jane Bryce, Jan Lee Ande, Gina Streaty, Reginald Lockett, Davi Walders, Niyi Osundare, Willie James King, Leigh Amanda Lichtenstein, William Pitt Root, Suzanne Burns, Pius Adesanmi, Majorie Maddox, Ann Tweedy, Elayne Clift, JoAnne Growney, Brian Gilmore, Sola Olorunyomi and Remi Raji-Oyelade.

Na'Allah, who was born in multicultural and multilingual Ilorin in northern Nigeria, joined Western's African-American studies department in 1998 and founded the Creative Writers Society that fall. He was named department chair in 2004. A writer, poet and performer of African oral literature, Na'Allah's book publications include "Ogoni's Agonies: ken Saro-Wiwa and the Crisis in Nigeria;" "The People's Poet: Emerging Perspectives on Niyi Osundare;" "Ahmadu Fulani: An African Poetry;" and co-editor with Bayo Ogunjimi of "Introduction to African Oral Literature and Performance," which includes teaching and curriculum development suggestions to encourage student performance. He is working on a book on Elaloro, an indigenous African discourse paradigm. His articles also have appeared in numerous professional publications.

In April, Na'Allah served as the convener of the 34th Annual African Literature Association (ALA) Conference, "African and African Diaspora Women Writers, Global Challenges and Cultural Identity," hosted at Western Illinois University. The six-day conference included presenters, performers and participants from across the globe.

"Martin Luther King, Jr.: An Anthology of Multicultural Poetry" is currently being placed for publication and is expected to be available in early 2009. For more information, contact Na'Allah at Western's African American Studies department, 309/298-1181, or e-mail

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