On Thursday, January 9, Amiri Baraka died in Newark, N.J. He was 79. Amiri Baraka was one of the greats in African American literature. He was a writer—poet and dramatist. He was a voice of the Black Arts movement. A voice who spoke out against the injustices done to his people and imbued his works with his anger towards Black suffering and oppression. Like those who choose to speak the truth or speak truthfully about their experiences and observations, he was tagged as controversial. Sometimes he was penalized for his thoughts. But such actions did not deter him from continuing to reveal the truth and present reality.
I was first introduced to Baraka in college when I took an English seminar course that focused on African American literature. We studied a few of his work including the popular play, Dutchman, and poems such as “A Poem for Black Hearts”, “SOS”, and “In Memory of Radio”. My favorite was “Black Art”. I’ll admit, I’m not a great fan of poetry but I appreciate Baraka’s work because his passion is readily apparent. His poems stir you and change you while you read. By its end, your thoughts will be leaping wildly, trying to keep up with the storm of emotions thrown at you. I have included above a video of Baraka reading his poem, “Someone Blew Up America”. It’s one of those poems that expose truths, rile people to action or leave them unsettled, and cause an artist to be labeled controversial.
Amiri Baraka. May his soul now rest in peace.
- Questlove Reflects On The Legacy Of Amiri Baraka (hiptothegame.com)
- NJ funeral for activist poet-writer Amiri Baraka (sfgate.com)
- Rememberances Pour Out for Amiri Baraka (theroot.com)