Nov 21, 2006    #163
Contact: Nick Barron

Event will honor beloved African American poet

BkMk Press and “New Letters” magazine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) will host a celebration of poet Mbembe Milton Smith's life, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., in the Blue Room, 1616 E. 18th Street, adjacent to the American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th and Vine District.

Mbembe, a Kansas City native, was achieving a national reputation in American poetry when he took his own life in 1982 in Chicago. He would be 60-years-old this year. Mbembe’s poetry began appearing in New Letters magazine in 1972, and continued through posthumous publications in 1984.  UMKC’s BkMk Press published two early books, To Go On and Allegory of the Bebop Walk, and in 1986 published Mbembe: Selected Poems, which is being reprinted for this event.  The audience at the celebration will include members of Mbembe’s family and the local African American community, political leaders, and regional writers and editors.

Mbembe was a graduate of UMKC (B.A. 1972, M.A. 1978) and was the first person to earn a double major in Creative Writing and English through UMKC’s masters program. A scholarship was established at UMKC in Mbembe’s honor to assist Kansas City-area African American students in obtaining a college degree in creative writing.

Mbembe was just one of many minority authors who have been published by BkMk Press.

“BkMk Press has been one of this region’s biggest advocates and book publishers for local poets and fiction writers,” Robert Stewart, BkMk editor-in-chief, said. “We could cite not only Mbembe Milton Smith but Stanley E. Banks, Jo McDougall, Maryfrances Wagner, and Trish Reeves, among many others.”

BkMk Press was founded in 1971 and became part of UMKC in 1983. Financial assistance for BkMk Press is provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, by UMKC, and by private donations. Media review copies of Mbembe: Selected Poems can be requested by calling (816) 235-2558.

New Letters is published by the University of Missouri-Kansas City and distributed world wide; it is available by subscription for $22 per year (four issues).  Call (816) 235-1168, e-mail, or visit the New Letters Web site at to order.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students.  UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health sciences, and urban affairs.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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