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Amiri Baraka: A New Ark Has Sailed

It’s Me!



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Amiri Baraka young 2Amiri Baraka.

The Sacrilegious Sixties saw the coming of age of (Everett) LeRoi Jones. Mired in violence that was spawned by racial degradation, tension, riots and murders / assassinations, anybody that made it through this decade is a survivor.  And, the scars they sustained are battle wounds. Some made it through the battles and some even withstood the war by living to tell the tales that robbed children of their fathers, men and women of their careers, people of their rights, and people of their lives.  This was the time in which LeRoi Jones lived.

The Sacrilegious Sixties saw the assassination deaths of 5 people: Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.  It witnessed the lynchings of too many to name, and only a very few made it to the newspapers headlines like Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner.  There waschaneygoodmanschwerner nothing sacred about living during this time, and so LeRoi Jones leaned on the ancestors, turned to the Blues and Jazz and he became a poet. The music provided the rhythm and the tumultuous conditions of life for Black people, disenfranchised people, poor people became an elixir; from his Black man soul, he poured it out into poems and stories.

The Sacrilegious Sixties wouldn’t allow the world to look rosy through Baraka’s glasses because the lenses were too blood-stained from the violence of murder of Amiri Baraka Blues Peoplethis time. The glass from which he wished to drink wouldn’t quench his thirst because it was always half full of equal rights and justice.  The Golden Rule looked more like yellowing caulk–had Amiri Baraka and others of his time followed the Golden Rule, there may not have been one perpetrator of racial violence, or racist injustice standing. But they were too kind and shrouded with too much spirit to act on their anger. And so they wrote about it just like what a therapist would have recommended.

Who were we to think that these men and women of the 60s had no rights to feel anger and anguish? Who were we to limit the expression of the poets when poets have always used imagination, expression and thought to shape the ways in which the world is viewed–whether that view is good or bad?

The Sacrilegious Sixties gave birth to a new-found self-determination through organizations like the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Subsequently, these organizations gave people like Amiri Baraka a reason to believe that life could actually be better than the 60s decade that they survived.  And, like Muhammad Ali, LeRoi Jones changed his name in 1967 and became Amiri Baraka.

Amiri Baraka oldAmiri Baraka is the Father of the Black Studies Movement. He leveraged education by teaching next generations of thinkers in schools like Stonybrook, Columbia and Rutgers.  He was appointed New Jersey’s Poet Laureate in 2002. Amiri Baraka lived long enough to see some of the 60s energy transferred to other decades, and [prayerfully] he lived to see traces of brighter days shining through, too.

Amiri Baraka made his transition from Earth on January 9th, 2014 at 79 years old. Today in New Jersey’s Newark Symphony Hall, Brother Amiri Baraka will be honored for his life, his work and the truths he packaged in tiny rectangular books and whose messages and impact will forever be too large to contain.  This New Ark has sailed to be with the ancestors. 

Click here for more details about his funeral arrangements: Amiri Baraka’s Funeral Arrangements

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