In seeking to accomplish the goal of Afrocentricity, the Molefi Kete Asante Institute, 5535 Germantown Ave., is taking bold steps.
Fresh off of his lecture with Cornel West at Arcadia University, Asante, along with the institute’s executive board members Ama Mazama and Ana Yenenga Asante, explained its purpose and goals.
“The idea, actually, is maybe four or five years old,” Asante said. “It took, maybe, three years to implement. And the key was to build an institute that would have an impact on public policy that affects African people, both domestically and internationally.”
In addition to Asante, and Mazama, who are leaders in the field of African studies, and partly responsible for its growth, the MKA institute has a strong backing of scholars.
“We wanted to build an institute supported by experts,” Asante said. “We have 45 identified. In addition to the experts we have 12 senior fellows, who give us a substantive base. So we are, in effect, an institute with a strong research and scholarly foundation.”
Citing a lack of institutions dedicated to the study of issues affecting African people, the MKA institute will produce non-partisan scholarly research for legislators and academics, as well as programming to educate the public.
There are around 7,000 think tanks worldwide, yet, the Molefi Kete Asante Institute is the first and only independent Black think tank, according to Asante.
“The idea was to institutionalize Afrocentricity,” Mazama said. “That was really our motive and still is. People come and go but institutions that have been well built will grow, and go on. So it was very important to have an institution accommodating Afrocentricity, and making it more readily available worldwide.”
The fact the MKA institute is non-partisan and strictly autonomous enables it to produce relevant research and makes them more accessible to the community.
The center is not bound to any institutional restraints and can operate in the manner it sees fit. Lectures, book discussions, and presentations lead by various experts and scholars are there for the taking, if one is so interested.
“We are not trying to build another ivory tower,” Mazama said. “We really believe that our people are what really matters, and we need to be very much in tuned to what affects us.”
The choice of Germantown as the location was a strategic one as well.
“We are not on Germantown Avenue by chance,” said Executive Director Ana Yenenga Asante. “This is where we wanted to be. This is a really convenient location, and we wanted to make it convenient.”
Asante added, “We also have this idea in the back of our mind that there will be Germantown renaissance, that will be nationally important. Just like the Harlem renaissance. There are enough intellectual, artistic, cultural, and philosophical things going on in Germantown that this will be the beginning.”