African think-tank opens in Germantown to ‘be a part of a cultural renaissance’

The African origin of all language and writing on the planet was at the forefront of discussion Monday evening at the Molefi Kete Asante Institute, the new African think-tank in the heart of Germantown.

Dr. Molefi K. Asante, the founder of the first Ph.D. program in African American Studies in the country (at Temple University), created the institute with his wife Ana Yenenga Asante, and other scholars.

They chose Germantown to “be a part of a cultural renaissance that will hopefully spark many other artistic and cultural groups in this area.”

The opening talk

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Jimmy Kirby Jr., a doctoral candidate in the African American Studies program at Temple, introduced Asante’s in-depth discussion on research and logic that holds the origin of language and writing were in Africa.

He began the talk by expressing the wealth of African contributions to the fields of philosophy, medicine, religion, mathematics, and other areas that are often overlooked.

Asante offered research from a 2011 study by New Zealand professor Dr. Quentin Atkinson that suggests the origin of language was in Africa.

“Scientists took 504 languages from all over the earth and came up with clues from these languages,” he said of a study which was cited in the journal Science and the New York Times.

Asante also talked about how the study parallels scientific research of genetic diversity, and offered a historical overview of writing.

“Oral tradition existed everywhere and still does. People think that Africa only had an oral tradition, but there was a written tradition as well,” he said. “German scholars concluded that writing existed 400 years before Mesopotamia, on the African continent in Egypt.”

Reaction to the institute

Aaron Smith, another doctoral candidate in the African American studies program at Temple, was in the audience listening to Asante, his advisor.

“The institute is important in Germantown because it can be part of a historic presence in the African American community here,” Smith said. “The history and dialogue will not be directed toward the community, but will actually be a part of it.”

After the talk, Ana Yenenga Asante, the institute’s executive director, gave a tour of the building which used to be the Bentley robe factory, an African-American owned company that makes robes for churches and institutions across the country.

“We’re looking to educate our community, and everyone, about the issues we’re presenting. We’re looking at changing policy,” Yenenga Asante said. “It’s the heart of the community. We could have looked downtown, or in Montgomery County, but this is where we wanted to be.”

The Institute has a full lineup of upcoming events on its website.

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