on thursday newark, new jersey lost a son, father, husband, uncle, friend and leader. the world lost a poet, activist, revolutionary, author, historian, professor, scholar, freedom fighter, pan-africanist, and critical thinker. baraka was, in his own words, describing james baldwin during his home going service at riverside church in harlem, 'god's black revolutionary mouth.'
baraka was one of the leading organizers of the black and puerto rican convention in newark in 1969. he supported the political careers of ken gibson, sharpe james and others. the convention - a grassroots effort to put folks in office - led to the election of newark's first black mayor, ken gibson.
newark's first latino mayor, louis quintana, said "we're going to remember him always for his contributions to newark, new jersey and america." baraka's political leadership empowered blacks and puerto ricans to organize collaboratively in order to achieve equal representation in newark city government.
baraka was a keynote speaker and organizer at the 1972 gary convention. the convention, a black political convention, was hosted by gary mayor richard hatcher, one of the first black mayors of a major city. the gary convention was considered controversial, by some, for many reasons.
the gary convention excluded whites. the convention worked deliberately to establish a national black political agenda. this agenda included community control of schools, national health insurance and proper political representation. it was a progressive political movement specifically designed to put black candidates in office, unlike the occupy movement, for example.
baraka was a literary virtuoso. he was a poet, playwright, essayist and novelist. his acclaimed writings included blues people, dutchman, preface to a twenty volume suicide note, the system of dante's hell, the slave and somebody blew up america. baraka always challenged poets and artists to engage in political activism with their work.
baraka was a leader in the black arts movement, establishing the celebration of kwanzaa in newark. he was the architect of the black arts repertory theatre/school in harlem. he believed artists had to be engaged in the community, and he wanted art to "help with the liberation of black people."
still, his work also invited controversy and criticism. he distanced himself from some of his more provocative comments made about rev. dr. martin luther kin, jr., his anti-homosexual attitudes concerning gays, as well as his verbal assaults of whites, in general. admittedly, baraka caused harm, made amends, evolved politically and grew spiritually.
in 2004, the 70 year-old baraka spoke at the malcolm x shabazz high school. the auditorium was filled with black art, black kids and black love. he eloquently read lines from "wise why's, y'z." he told them, " at the bottom of the atlantic ocean there's a railroad made of human bones - black ivory."
imamu amiri baraka made transition at the age of 79.
- 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.