Amiri Baraka  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones; October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014), formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was an American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism. He was the author of numerous books of poetry and taught at a number of universities.

Contents

Controversies

Baraka's writings, and the covers of his early notebooks with large images of erect penises which were in open display in the Greenwich Village cafes where he sat, have generated controversy over the years, particularly his advocacy of rape and violence towards, at various times, women, gay people, white people, and Jews. Author Jerry Gafio Watts contends that Baraka's homophobia and misogyny stem from his efforts to conceal his own history of same-sex encounters. Watts writes that Baraka "knew that popular knowledge of his homosexuality would have undermined the credibility of his militant voice. By becoming publicly known as a hater of homosexuals, Jones was attempting to defuse any claims that might surface linking him with a homosexual past." Critics of his work have alternately described such usage as ranging from being vernacular expressions of Black oppression to outright examples of the sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, and racism they perceive in his work.

The following is from a 1965 essay:

Most American white men are trained to be fags. For this reason it is no wonder their faces are weak and blank.…The average ofay [white person] thinks of the black man as potentially raping every white lady in sight. Which is true, in the sense that the black man should want to rob the white man of everything he has. But for most whites the guilt of the robbery is the guilt of rape. That is, they know in their deepest hearts that they should be robbed, and the white woman understands that only in the rape sequence is she likely to get cleanly, viciously popped.

In 2009, he was again asked about the quote, and placed it in a personal and political perspective:

Those quotes are from the essays in Home, a book written almost fifty years ago. The anger was part of the mindset created by, first, the assassination of John Kennedy, followed by the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, followed by the assassination of Malcolm X amidst the lynching, and national oppression. A few years later, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. What changed my mind was that I became a Marxist, after recognizing classes within the Black community and the class struggle even after we had worked and struggled to elect the first Black Mayor of Newark, Kenneth Gibson.

In July 2002, ten months after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Baraka wrote a poem entitled "Somebody Blew Up America?" that was controversial and met with harsh criticism. The poem is highly critical of racism in America, and includes angry depictions of public figures such as Trent Lott, Clarence Thomas, and Condoleezza Rice. It also contains lines claiming Israel's involvement in the World Trade Center attacks:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
[...]
Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion

Baraka said that he believed Israelis and President George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks, citing what he described as information that had been reported in the American and Israeli press and on Jordanian television. He denied that the poem is antisemitic, and points to its accusation, which is directed against Israelis, rather than Jews as a people. The Anti-Defamation League though, denounced the poem as antisemitic, though Baraka and his defenders defined his position as anti-Zionism.

After the poem's publication, then-governor Jim McGreevey tried to remove Baraka from the post of Poet Laureate of New Jersey, to which he had been appointed following Gerald Stern in July 2002. McGreevey learned that there was no legal way, according to the law authorizing and defining the position, to remove Baraka. On October 17, 2002, legislation was introduced in the State Senate to abolish the post which was subsequently signed by Governor McGreevey and became effective July 2, 2003. Baraka ceased being poet laureate when the law became effective. In response to legal action filed by Baraka, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that state officials were immune from such suits, and in November 2007 the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal of the case.

Works

Poetry

  • 1961: Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
  • 1964: The Dead Lecturer: Poems
  • 1969: Black Magic
  • 1970: It's Nation Time
  • 1970: Slave Ship
  • 1975: Hard Facts
  • 1980: New Music, New Poetry (India Navigation)
  • 1995: Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones
  • 1995: Wise, Why’s Y’s
  • 1996: Funk Lore: New Poems
  • 2003: Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems
  • 2005: The Book of Monk

Drama

  • 1964: Dutchman
  • 1967: The Baptism and The Toilet
  • 1966: A Black Mass
  • 1978: The Motion of History and Other Plays

Fiction

Non-fiction

  • 1963: Blues People: Negro Music in White America
  • 1965: Home: Social Essays
  • 1971: Raise Race Rays Raize: Essays Since 1965
  • 1979: Poetry for the Advanced
  • 1981: reggae or not!
  • 1984: Daggers and Javelins: Essays 1974-1979
  • 1984: The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka
  • 1987: The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues
  • 2003: The Essence of Reparations

Edited works

  • 1968: Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing (co-editor, with Larry Neal)
  • 1969: Four Black Revolutionary Plays
  • 1983: Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women (edited with Amina Baraka)
  • 2008: Billy Harper: Blueprints of Jazz, Volume 2 (Audio CD)

Filmography

  • One P.M. (1972)
  • Fried Shoes Cooked Diamonds (1978) .... Himself
  • Black Theatre: The Making of a Movement (1978) .... Himself
  • Poetry in Motion (1982)
  • Furious Flower: A Video Anthology of African American Poetry 1960–95, Volume II: Warriors (1998) .... Himself
  • Through Many Dangers: The Story of Gospel Music (1996)
  • Bulworth (1998) .... Rastaman
  • Piñero (2001) .... Himself
  • Strange Fruit (2002) .... Himself
  • Ralph Ellison: An American Journey (2002) .... Himself
  • Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed (2004) .... Himself
  • Keeping Time: The Life, Music & Photography of Milt Hinton (2004) .... Himself
  • Hubert Selby Jr: It/ll Be Better Tomorrow (2005) .... Himself
  • 500 Years Later (2005) (voice) .... Himself
  • The Ballad of Greenwich Village (2005) .... Himself
  • The Pact (2006) .... Himself
  • Retour à Gorée (2007) .... Himself
  • Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place (2007)
  • Revolution '67 (2007) .... Himself
  • Turn Me On (2007) (TV) .... Himself
  • Oscene (2007) .... Himself
  • Corso: The Last Beat (2008)
  • The Black Candle (2008)
  • Ferlinghetti: A City Light (2008) .... Himself
  • Motherland (2010)




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Amiri Baraka" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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