Better or Verse

David Andreatta, New York Post, March 13, 2006

A 7-year-old prodigy unleashed a firestorm when she recited a poem she wrote comparing Christopher Columbus and Charles Darwin to “pirates” and “vampires” who robbed blacks of their identities and human rights.

Hundreds of parents of Peekskill middle- and high-school students received a recorded phone message last week apologizing for little Autum Ashante’s poem, titled “White Nationalism Put U in Bondage.”

“Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse,” the aspiring actress and poet wrote. “They took the gold, the wisdom and all the storytellers. They took the black women, with the black man weak. Made to watch as they changed the paradigm of our village.

“Yeah white nationalism is what put you in bondage. Pirates and vampires like Columbus, Morgan and Darwin.”

Autum was invited to speak at the Westchester schools on Feb. 28 by Melvin Bolden, a music teacher at the middle school who advises the high school’s Black Culture Club and is a member of the Peekskill City Council.

Autum, whose résumé includes several television appearances and performances at the Apollo Theater and the African Burial Ground in Manhattan, told The Post that her poem was meant to instill pride in black students and to encourage them to steer clear of violence.

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It did not sit well with parents.

In a telephone interview with The Post, Bolden said Autum has been “unofficially” banned from performing in a district school again and that school officials would review transcripts of future speakers.

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