In this book, Mwatabu Okantah resists the mindset which has historically taught whites to misrepresent black people and other peoples of color as inferior and relentlessly attempt to control them. The poet uncovers the troubling past and recent history of white racist and imperial violence on black and brown bodies—one that stretches from the Atlantic slave trade to the contemporary legal abuses against vulnerable populations that White-America continues to perceive as “illegals,” “terrorist,” or dangerous individuals.
Moreover, the poet recovers his African Griot tradition and deploys it as a weapon against tyranny and a means to speak the truth. He celebrates a long line of elders who taught him to first see Africa in himself before he later met and bonded with the “real Africa” that reminded him of what he already knew about himself. From this consciousness, Okantah remembers key intimate moments such as his childhood in New Jersey’s Vaux Hall community and his meditations in Ghana’s Atonkwa village. Whether he reminisces his times in America or in Africa, Okantah equally admires the wisdom, dignity, and solidarity of African people who made him who he now is.
Guerrilla Dread is a marvelous book that reveals how various black elders, moments, and spaces inspired Mwatabu Okantah to search for and represent his African identity. The poet uses his quest and embrace of the African Griot tradition as a means to explore the painful past and current history of black people and other peoples of color against systematic white violence.
—Babacar M’Baye, Kent State University
In these times when we are stuck listening to the lies of leaders at home and abroad, Okantah’s poetry follows Mari Evans’ orders to, “Speak the truth to the people /Talk sense to the people/ Free them with honesty….”
—Diane Kendig, author of Prison Terms and The Places We Find Ourselves
Mwatabu S. Okantah is an Associate Professor and Poet in Residence in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University. He serves as Director of the department’s Ghana Study Abroad Program. As a performer, he has worked in a variety of musical situations, including time as Griot for the Iroko African Drum & Dance Society and in ongoing collaborations with the Cavani String Quartet as well as with Vince Robinson and the Jazz Poets.
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