On February 10th Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. Director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research, gave a rousing talk about his new book and PBS television series America Behind the Color Line with an intimate group of Ashesi supporters at in Seattle. Prof. Gates, who is on Ashesi's Advisory Board, described the experiences that led him to explore the lives of African Americans across the United States through a series of candid interviews.


Prof. Gates stated that today even though more African Americans than ever before live a middle-class lifestyle, the percentage of African Americans living at or below the poverty line has remained the same since the 60's. Through his research, Professor Gates is working to develop strategies that will allow more African Americans to escape the cycle of poverty in which many families are trapped. Together with Ashesi Trustee, Prof. Kwame Anthony Appiah of Princeton University, Gates has developed an after school program that encourages academic achievement from its students. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School program teaches inner city youth about African and African American history. As an advisor to Ashesi University, Prof. Gates is helping to develop an African studies curriculum at Ashesi.


Prof. Gates' remarks were followed by a moving speech by Patrick Awuah, President of Ashesi University Foundation who read a poem written by Ashesi staff member Mohammed Osumanu. Mohammed's poem shares how his experiences both working and taking a course at Ashesi University have impacted his outlook on life. Following his talk, Patrick participated in a question and answer session with Prof. Gates. The two fielded questions about Ashesi's program and the Ashesi's impact not only Africans but also African Americans.


Both Patrick and Prof. Gates agreed that the development of the African continent will have an effect on how people of African descent are perceived world-wide. Prof. Gates, went further to describe Ashesi as "one of the most interesting things happening on the African continent today."