As a poet who has known and worked with M’Wile Askari for several years, I was thrilled when I first heard that there would be an article on him coming out in the Washington City Paper (“Poetic License,” 9/24). Besides me, Askari has worked with many poets over the years, including Charles Curtis Blackwell and Garth Tate.
But, after reading the article, I was disturbed by some of the unfounded allegations. Implying that Askari is a practicing addict and a con man comes dangerously close to slandering a man who exhibits a gentleness toward everyone he meets. Ta-Nehisi Coates uses quotes from sources who have never set foot in Bar Nun and don’t have a clue about the man they’re speaking of or his relationship to the poets who frequent the readings. The “blaxploitation” of M’Wile Askari serves no good purpose. There is less chance of Askari’s being a junkie than there is of Coates’ being a dealer. That’s how easy it is to imply such things.