Sunday, January 19, 2014

Amiri Baraka's Homegoing Celebration

Here are some photos from Amiri Baraka's (1935-2014) homegoing ceremony at the Symphony Hall on Broad Street in Newark. It was a remarkable affair, as much celebration as memorial, and drew major figures from across the Black artistic, cultural and political spectrum, including Amina Baraka, all of Baraka's children, Asha Bandele (who acknowledged Baraka's children by Hettie Cohen Jones, who were there with Jones, and Baraka's daughter with Diane DiPrima), Michael Eric Dyson, Danny Glover, Savion Glover, Haki Madhubuti, Tony Medina, Jessica Care Moore, Sonia Sanchez, Sister Souljah, Glyn Turman, Cornel West, and Saul Williams. Baraka's son, mayoral hopeful Ras Baraka, delivered an elegy for his late father that was, hyperbole excused, soul-stirring. 

I went in part because though I have not always agreed with--and have even outright rejected them--Baraka's positions and rhetoric, I can say without hesitation that he was and remains one of the most influential and important Black--American--writers of the 20th century, a towering figure whose stature, based on his creative and cultural work, will only grow. His poetry, his essays, his plays, his fiction, his central role in the development of the Black Arts Movement, his position as a founder of landmark institutions, his teaching and mentoring, and his long and sustained activism and resistance are all worthy of the highest consideration. I had the opportunity to hear and spend time with him several times during his life, including a car ride from Newark to NYU that nearly cost me my job (though he did what he could to ensure I kept it, as our delay was not my fault), and each time he demonstrated why he was the commanding figure people know him to be. 

May his soul rest in peace, poetry and power, and may the best of his words, the ones that offer visions of a better tomorrow, live as long as words live in and with us.

You can read my eulogy for Amiri Baraka, posted a week ago, here.

You may read others reflections on his life and work at First of the Month.

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