BSA President Leaves Harvard To Star in Movie

Ashong to Act in Spielberg Production

Harvard students have been known to go to Hollywood from time to time.

But this weekend, Derrick N. Ashong '97 made it a little bit faster than most.

Ashong, the Black Student Association (BSA) President, resigned from his post over e-mail in order to take part in acclaimed director Stephen Spielberg's next feature film.

Ashong will have a leading role in Spielberg's film, Amistad, which focuses on a slave mutiny during antebellum times.

In the meantime, the BSA presidency will be filled by the current vice-president, Luanda M. Williams '99.

"[Derrick] did an excellent job addressing the issues facing the black community, and he gave his full effort in addressing them," Williams said.

Kishka-Kamari M. Ford '97 said that Ashong's absence has also been felt in his residence, Currier House.

"The house is walking around with long faces on," she said.

Ashong made the leap from theatre to Tinseltown after only three undergraduate productions, according to Naeemah A. White '97.

White was supposed to direct Ashong's senior thesis, a play based loosely on his early life growing up in Ghana, for Arts First Weekend this spring.

The play focuses upon differences in the conception of race between the United States and Africa.

White said she was not surprised that Ashong received the role.

"Although he had done only a few undergraduate productions, he was very good in them," she said.

Ashong's big break came over winter recess when he auditioned for the part in New York City. He received a callback, and this past Friday, got the news that he had the role.

Ashong left Boston yesterday and will be filming in Los Angeles for the next three weeks.

Ashong said that he has already been contacted by an entertainment agent.

However, he said he is most con- cerned about walking with his class in June and finishing his degree in the fall.

Initially, his parents did not want him to pursue an acting career, but their opinion changed this year, he said.

"Last summer, I mentioned that I was seriously considering an acting career, but over the course of the year they realized I did not want to be an investment banker," he said. "Their main concern was that I find work."

Amistadrefers to a slave ship on which a group of captive Africans revolted in 1839. Under the leadership of Joseph Cinque, they took control of the ship and tried to return to Africa.

They were eventually forced to land in the Long Island Sound, where they were arrested and held for trial.

Ashong's role concerns a conflict between his character and his adopted father over his love for someone of a different ethnic background.

The case of the Amistad revolt made it all the way to the Supreme Court before the slaves were allowed to return home.

John R. Marks '99, BSA publicity chair, said he did not foresee any major problems arising from the change in leadership.

"Derrick was a great president, and we're sad to see him go. But in the past, when Derrick was unable to be present, Luanda was able to take the helm and get the job done," he said.

According to Marks, the BSA board has already planned out this semester's events and will proceed accordingly