louis reyes rivera made transition last friday in brooklyn hospital following a brief illness. rivera fully embodied the best of our african selves: activist. artist. critical thinker. editor. essayist. historian. poet. radio host. teacher. union organizer. he was 66 years old.
born & raised in brooklyn on may 19, 1945, rivera was a proud graduate of boys high. he began studying the craft of writing in 1960 & founded the continuing student publication, the paper, at city college of new york. after graduation in 1969, rivera started teaching & his influence as a teacher spanned many generations.
rivera distinguished himself as a professor of african-american culture & history, caribbean history, creative writing, nuyorican literature, pan-african literature, & puerto rican history at such institutions as boricua college, college of new rochelle, hunter college, laguardia college, pratt institute & state university of new york-stony brook, among others.
from 1996-2011, rivera hosted a reading series in brooklyn, first & third sundays jazzoetry & open mic @ sistas' place, where he also conducted various workshops. for many years rivera hosted the engaging radio talk & interview show, "perspectives," on wbai 99.5 fm in new york (streamed at wbai.org/archives).
a cultural icon & political activist, rivera was prominent in the successful struggle for "open enrollment" at city college in 1969. since then he's participated in many progressive movements & activities, including supporting the establishment of the freedom party, which ran candidates in the 2010 new york state election. rivera co-hosted two writers for mumia programs dedicated to freeing long term political prisoner mumia abu-jamal, one in 2007 & the other in 2010.
rivera served as chair of the new york chapter of the national writers union (nwu) since 2004. he was revered by all nwu members who saw him in action in new york & at delegate assemblies. rivera provided leadership on union issues & performed his insightful poetry.
calling himself the janitor of history, rivera is viewed as a living bridge between the african & latino communities. also known as the "dean of nuyorican poetica," he is an internationally recognized literary figure, with translation of his work appearing in italian, latvian, russian & spanish.
rivera published four books, who pays the cost (1978), this one for you (1983), in control of english (1988 & 1992) & scattered scripture (1996), for which he received the 1997 poetry award from the latin american writers institute. he had just completed his epic poem, jazz in jail, & was in the process of preparing it for publication.
rivera was honored with dozens of awards. some include the ccny 125th anniversary medal (1973), a special congressional recognition (1988), a lifetime achievement award (1995) & a new york foundation for the arts fellowship (2003) - each award serves to celebrate his impact & scholarship on contemporary literature.
since 1966, rivera performed at various clubs & jazz festivals. he worked with such bands as ahmed abdullah's diaspora, ebonic tones, the james spaulding ensemble, the sun ra all-stars project & his own band, the jazzoets. last spring rivera was inducted into the brooklyn jazz hall of fame. at his last public appearance on february 11, rivera was the featured poet at the american jazz museum's black history salute to jazz poetry in kansas city, missouri.
over the last 40 years, rivera assisted in the publication of well over 200 books. among them are adal maldonado's portraits of the puerto rican experience (1984), john oliver killens' great black russian (1989), bum rush the page: a def poetry jam (2001), co-edited with tony medina, & the bandana republic (2008).
rivera's essays & poems appeared in numerous publications, including african voices, areyto, boletin (center for puerto rican studies at hunter) & the city sun. several award-winning book collections, including, aloud: live from the nuyorican poets cafe, in defense of mumia, & of sons & lovers, utilized his brilliant work.
rivera once performed on the peabody award-winning hbo show, "def poetry jam." he also completed the translation of clemente solo velez's caballo de palo/broomstick stallion & worked on the collected poems of otto rene castillo of guatemala, por el bien de todos/for the good of all.
he was loved, respected & valued by the african diaspora.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.