Amiri Baraka (1934--2014) --- What an extraordinary person he was. While I don't agree with all of his ideology, particularly the positives of multiculturalism, I am impressed with his tenacity, fortitude, and controversial prognoses.
Here is a basic overview from Wiki that details some of his credentials and personality:
" ...born Everett LeRoi Jones, formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was an African-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, including the State University of New York at Buffalo and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received the PEN Open Book Award, formerly known as the Beyond Margins Award, in 2008 for Tales of the Out and the Gone.
Critical reception of Baraka's poetry and writing is a conflict of extremes. Critics within the African-American community compare him to James Baldwin and call Baraka one of the most respected and most widely published Black writers of his generation. Baraka's brief tenure as Poet Laureate of New Jersey (2002–03), which involved controversy over a public reading of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America?" and accusations of anti-Semitism, brought Baraka's work a barrage of negative attention from critics, politicians and the general public. Other critics, most notably Jerry Gafio Watts, explain Baraka's expression of violence, misogyny, homophobia and racism as evidence of psychological projection. "
Here is an excerpt from his bold and brazen piece, " Somebody blew up America:"
Who decided Affirmative Action had to go
Reconstruction, The New Deal,
The New Frontier, The Great Society,
Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for
Who doo doo come out the Colon's mouth
Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza
Who pay Connelly to be a wooden negro
Who give Genius Awards to Homo Locus
Who overthrew Nkrumah, Bishop,
Who poison Robeson,
who try to put DuBois in Jail
Who frame Rap Jamil al Amin, Who frame the Rosenbergs,
The Scottsboro Boys,
The Hollywood Ten
Who set the Reichstag Fire
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? Who? Who?
Explosion of Owl the newspaper say
The devil face cd be seen
Who make money from war
Who make dough from fear and lies
Who want the world like it is
Who want the world to be ruled by imperialism and national
oppression and terror violence, and hunger and poverty.
Who is the ruler of Hell?
Who is the most powerful
Who you know ever
But everybody seen
Like an Owl exploding
In your life in your brain in your self
Like an Owl who know the devil
All night, all day if you listen, Like an Owl
Exploding in fire. We hear the questions rise
In terrible flame like the whistle of a crazy dog
Like the acid vomit of the fire of Hell
Who and Who and WHO who who
Whoooo and Whooooooooooooooooooooo!"
* * *
It was from an article in the Houston Chronicle that made me aware of him and his recent death. The Journalist had this to say about him in comments I've excerpted about some of his life and times:
" NEW YORK (AP) — Amiri Baraka, the militant man of letters and tireless agitator whose blues-based, fist-shaking poems, plays and criticism made him a provocative and groundbreaking force in American culture, has died. He was 79.
First published in the 1950s, Baraka crashed the literary party in 1964, at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village, when "Dutchman" opened and made instant history at the height of the civil rights movement. Baraka's play was a one-act showdown between a middle class black man, Clay, and a sexually daring white woman, Lula, ending in a brawl of murderous taunts and confessions.
Baraka was born Everett LeRoy Jones, in 1934, a postal worker's son who grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood in Newark and remembered his family's passion for songs and storytelling. He showed early talents for sports and music and did well enough in high school to graduate with honors and receive a scholarship from Rutgers University.
Feeling out of place at Rutgers, he transferred to a leading black college, Howard University. He hated it there ("Howard University shocked me into realizing how desperately sick the Negro could be," he later wrote) and joined the Air Force, from which he was discharged for having too many books, among other transgressions. By 1958, he had settled in Greenwich Village, met Ginsberg and other Beats, married fellow writer Cohen and was editing an avant-garde journal, Yugen. He called himself LeRoi Jones.
He was never meant to write like other writers. In his "Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka," published in 1984, he remembered himself as a young man, sitting on a bench, reading "one of the carefully put together exercises The New Yorker publishes constantly as high poetic art."
And he was in tears.
"I realized that there was something in me so out, so unconnected with what this writer was and what this magazine was that what was in me that wanted to come out as poetry would never come out like that and be my poetry," he wrote.
Amiri Baraka taught at Yale University and George Washington University and spent 20 years on the faculty of the State University of New York in Stonybrook. He received numerous grants and prizes, including a Guggenheim fellowship and a poetry award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Baraka was the subject of a 1983 documentary, "In Motion," and holds a minor place in Hollywood history. In "Bulworth," Warren Beatty's 1998 satire about a senator's break from the political establishment, Baraka plays a homeless poet who cheers on the title character.
"You got to be a spirit," the poet tells him. "You got to sing — don't be no ghost."
HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer "
... Beyond everything else, he was a Beat Poet extraordinaire!