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Amiri Baraka 1934-2014
7 months ago

Poet, writer, teacher, and political activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University and Howard University, spent three years in the U.S. Air Force, and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. Baraka was well known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an incendiary style that made it difficult for some audiences and critics to respond with objectivity to his works. Throughout most of his career his method in poetry, drama, fiction, and essays was confrontational, calculated to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of black Americans. For decades, Baraka was one of the most prominent voices in the world of American literature.



Baraka’s own political stance changed several times, thus dividing his oeuvre into periods: as a member of the avant-garde during the 1950s, Baraka—writing as Leroi Jones—was associated with Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; in the ‘60s, he moved to Harlem and became a Black Nationalist; in the ‘70s, he was involved in third-world liberation movements and identified as a Marxist. More recently, Baraka was accused of anti-Semitism for his poem “Somebody Blew up America,” written in response to the September 11 attacks.

Baraka incited controversy throughout his career. He was praised for speaking out against oppression as well as accused of fostering hate. Critical opinion has been sharply divided between those who agree, with Dissent contributor Stanley Kaufman, that Baraka’s race and political moment have created his celebrity, and those who feel that Baraka stands among the most important writers of the twentieth century.

In the American Book Review, Arnold Rampersad counted Baraka with Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison “as one of the eight figures . . . who have significantly affected the course of African-American literary culture.”

Amiri Baraka

7 months ago
A New Reality Is Better Than a New Movie!

By Amiri Baraka

How will it go, crumbling earthquake, towering inferno, juggernaut, volcano, smashup,
in reality, other than the feverish nearreal fantasy of the capitalist flunky film hacks
tho they sense its reality breathing a quake inferno scar on their throat even snorts of
100% pure cocaine cant cancel the cold cut of impending death to this society. On all the
screens of america, the joint blows up every hour and a half for two dollars an fifty cents.
They have taken the %#&!*% out to lunch, for a minute, made us partners %#&!*% Charlie) or
surrogates (boss %#&!*%) for their horror. But just as superafrikan mobutu cannot leop
    ardskinhat his
way out of responsibility for lumumba’s death, nor even with his incredible billions
    rockefeller
cannot even save his pale ho’s titties in the crushing weight of   
things as they really are.
How will it go, does it reach you, getting up, sitting on the side   
of the bed, getting ready to go to work.   Hypnotized by the ma-
chine, and the cement floor, the jungle treachery of
    trying
to survive with no money in a money world, of making the boss   
100,000 for every 200
    dollars
you get, and then having his brother get you for the rent, and if
you want to buy the car
    you
helped build, your downpayment paid for it, the rest goes to buy   
his old lady a foam
    rubber
rhinestone set of boobies for special occasions when kissinger   
drunkenly fumbles with her blouse, forgetting himself.
If you don’t like it, what you gonna do about it. That was the   
question we asked each
    other, &
still right regularly need to ask. You don't like it? Whatcha   
gonna do, about it??
The real terror of nature is humanity enraged, the true   
technicolor spectacle that
    hollywood
cant record. They cant even show you how you look when you   
go to work, or when you
    come back.
They cant even show you thinking or demanding the new so-
cialist reality, its the ultimate
    tidal
wave. When all over the planet, men and women, with heat in   
their hands, demand that
    society
be planned to include the lives and self determination of all the   
people ever to live. That is the scalding scenario with a cast of   
just under two billion that they dare not even whisper. Its called,   
“We Want It All . . . The Whole World!”
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