KOFI OSEI WILLIAMS
Detailing his role as CEO with Asase Yaa, Williams states, “I develop our programs, curriculum and run most of our day-to-day operations. I also remain a musician for the dance theater and the summer camp. One of our ongoing core missions has been to bring people from Broadway and professional companies into the neighborhood to teach at affordable prices so kids can benefit and flourish in the arts.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Williams is the son of father Ofori Payton – a rebellious, Mississippi-born Black Nationalist – and mother, Nana Kodia Ababio, an African Spiritualist. Both inspired Kofi to become entrenched in African culture and the Black community.
Kofi and his siblings attended a private school started in 1982 by their mother through an organization run by the great Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu. Within this school was the Asafoba Dance Company where Kofi began indulging passion for African drumming and dancing. The best students went on to the professional Dinizulu African Dancers, Drummers & Singers – the oldest African Dance company in America (1947). By 9th grade in 1993, Kofi entered Professional Performing ARTS School in Manhattan and found he was significantly ahead of other students in academics.
Upon graduation in 1997, Kofi and his brother Yao made a pilgrimage to Guinea to study the African drum, Djembe, with the National Company of Guinea. Yao had a vision in 2001 for the brothers to pool their knowledge and experience into starting their own dance company. Following two years of development, they invited First Child Society to fund a concert held on Saturday, June 28, 2003 at York College titled “Africa: A Journey in Dance” headlining Asase Yaa along with four others – three from New York (representing Guinea, Ghana and Senegal) and one from Washington, D.C. (Ivory Coast & Guinea). This begat the launch of the Asase Yaa African-American Dance Theater, symbolically named after the Earth Goddess of fertility in the tradition of the Akan people of Ghana. In 2005 they participated in the acclaimed Dance Africa at Brooklyn Academy of Music – a MAJOR event for African Dance (starting in 1977) where Kofi also came under the invaluable creative and business mentorship of Artistic Director Chuck Davis.
In 2010, Kofi also co-founded, produced and directed an African dance & drum concert series, “Djembe in the New Millennium.” This is in addition to Kofi’s annual month-long continued studies in Ghana, drumming for programs and workshops given by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and adjunct musician duties at Medgar Evers College.
This year, Kofi wrote the play ‘The HBCU Show’ for their Summer Camp, which teaches the value of historical black colleges and the culture behind them. Asase Yaa’s primary goal in producing their various theater productions is to create richly impactful learning experiences beyond books that their students can contribute to and share face to face (or first hand).