Thirteen-year-old Autum Ashante is a child prodigy. She could read at age 2, and by 3 she was writing and performing poetry. Less than ten years later, at the age of 12, the Bronx native graduated high school and is now widely known as a poet, United Nations youth ambassador, speaker, and activist. But now it’s her poetry that conservatives have latched onto and made a fuss about. And in the hoopla, the teenager’s college dreams may be at stake.
Earlier this year Ashante was accepted at the University of Connecticut, where she planned to study medicine starting this August. Her single father, who home schooled her and recruited retired teachers to tutor Ashante, planned to move to Connecticut this summer before she started her college career.
“What she’s doing is groundbreaking but this is not about vanity,” Ashante’s father told NY Daily News. “It’s about setting the tone for other black and Latino children who will come behind her. They’re always being told they are underachievers. We want to show this can be done.”
But two weeks ago, the University of Connecticut rescinded her acceptance, declaring her not “academically ready”– although she has an IQ test score of 149. (The average college graduate has an IQ score of 115).
Ashante’s father, a 50-year-old retired corrections officer, told NewsOne that his daughter is “devastated.”
In the video above, which was uploaded to YouTube July 2010, Ashante mentions she’s going to the University of Connecticut next fall. She’s been talking about going to the University for a year now. But many people believe Ashante’s admission was revoked because her poems are seen as too radical.
Right-wing bloggers have been following her performances for years with headlines like “Meet the 7-Year-Old Racist Poet.” When news broke of her acceptance, news outlets like NewsOne and the New York Daily News included YouTube videos of Ashante performing her poetry, many of which have black nationalism themes.
Josephine Minnow, a University of Connecticut alumna, has started a petition to reinstate the admission.
“As an African-American female who attended the University of Connecticut , it saddens me to see my alma mater treat someone of such promise this way, especially when we live in a world, where the most celebrated African-American women are those on the reality Show, ‘Basketball Wives’,” Minnow writes in the petition.
While Minnow said she does not want to believe this incident is racially embedded, “It’s hard to not think that way,” she told NewsOne.