Endowed Chair: African/African-American Studies
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'Niyi Coker, Jr.
E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of
African/African-American Theatre and Cinema,
Directing for Stage and Screenwriting and Playwriting
International Studies and Programs
'Niyi Coker, Jr.
Recognizing St. Louis' Largest Minority Community
Through the generosity of noted St. Louis philanthropist, E. Desmond Lee, the University of Missouri-St. Louis established the E. Desmond Lee Professorship in African/African-American Studies in 1998.
The creation of this professorship comes at a particularly auspicious time. As the elements for economic, social and political renewal create changes throughout Africa, the E. Desmond Lee Professorship in African/African-American Studies will support the work of a distinguished expert in the field of African/African-American Studies. Through teaching and research that focus on African and African-diaspora studies, the history, contributions and current status of African nations and their descendants will become better known. This enhanced knowledge will create a new appreciation for the cultural heritage of African-Americans in the St. Louis community and acknowledge their contribution to the unique nature of our local cultural diversity.
'Dr. 'Niyi Coker, Jr. is E. Desmond Lee Professor in the Department of Theatre, Dance and Media Studies. 'Niyi Coker Jr., has directed over 50 major stage productions around the world. He has also served as Director for several professional theatre companies ranging from the National Theatre of Nigeria, to Malmo Hogskola in Sweden, and several productions in Bermuda.
He is the founding Artistic Director of the African Arts Ensemble in New York City. His theatre directing credits include Ola Rotimi's "The Gods Are Not to Blame" at the Nat Horne Theatre- Off Broadway in New York City, Lewis Nkosi's "The Psychiatrist" at the John Houseman Theatre in New York City (Theatre Row), and at King Alfred's Theatre in Winchester, England. He has also received the Kennedy Center Merit Award and recognition for Directing.
He received British Council Grant and Support in writing the play, "Endangered Species", which was also performed at John Houseman Theatre in New York and toured several theatres in the United Kingdom. In association with the Southern Ute Tribal Council in Colorado, he wrote the historical play, "Ouray". This is a play based on the 19th century struggles of the Utes in Colorado, against European encroachment. In collaboration with Musician, Dr. Barbara Harbach and Lyricist, Dr. Jonathan Yordy, he wrote and directed the musical "Booth!", which had its Off-Broadway New York Premiere at the NYU Skirball Theatre. His latest play, "Preemptive" is currently in preparation for a 2010 tour of Barbados, Bermuda, Nigeria, Ghana and Great Britain.
His Film writing, directing and producing credits include, "Black Studies USA", which won best short documentary at the 2005 Berlin Black Film Festival in Germany, 2007 Silver Remi Award at Worldfest in Houston, and was Official Selection at the 2007 Hollywood Black Film Festival. He also directed & produced "The Black 14" for FERPA/PBS through the University of Wyoming Television. He has served as Consultant for Black Canyon/HBO Productions Emmy nominated documentary "Fields of Fire". His is currently completing, "Pennies for the Boatman", a feature film he directed, based on writer Mario Farwell's play, "The Seamstress of Saint Francis Street".
'Niyi Coker, Jr. received the B.A. in Dramatic Arts from the University of Ife. He received the MFA in Directing from Brooklyn College CUNY, and the Ph.D in African American Studies from Temple University, Philadelphia.
He has published two books; "A Study of the Music and Social Criticism of African Musician Fela Kuti" and "Ola Rotimi's African Theatre: The Development of an Indigenous Aesthetic". His articles have appeared in several newspapers and journals including, the NYU Renaissance Journal, the Journal for Black Studies and the Encyclopedia of Black Studies. He has a book chapter on "Film as Historical Method in Black Studies" in the "Handbook for Black Studies" edited by Molefi Asante and Maulana Karenga, published by Sage Press.
He is a member of the United States Commission for FESMAN III to be held in Dakar, Senegal in 2011. He was recently honored with the 2009 Saint Louis American Excellence in Education Award. He is Festival Director of the Africa World Documentary Film Festival.