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17704Fw: Funeral Held For Activist Poet-Writer Amiri Baraka [VIDEO]

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  • Yusuf Nuruddin
    Jan 29, 2014

    On Wednesday, January 29, 2014 6:09 AM, Ernst Perodin <ernstperodin@...> wrote:
    Description: News One
    Funeral Held For Activist Poet-Writer Amiri Baraka [VIDEO]
    By NewsOne Staff/Associated Press
    Click on hyperlinks to view videos of Amiri Baraka’s funeral.
    Description: Ras Baraka Eulogy at his father Amiri Baraka's
    Description: Amiri Baraka's Funeral
    Description: Amiri Baraka
    A cacophony of bagpipes, African drums and jazz riffs creatively blended — much like the elements of an Amiri Baraka poem — at the Saturday funeral for the activist-writer and a founder of the Black Arts Movementwho died earlier this month.
    The service, held at Newark Symphony Hall, featured poetry, music and tributes to a man several speakers hailed as a creative and committed revolutionary who had a profound influence both on American culture and on a generation of artists and activists.
    The 79-year-old author died January 9, 2014 in his native Newark of an undisclosed illness.  Baraka wrote blues-based poetry, essays, plays, and books and operas — or “boperas” as he called them — mixing music, spoken word and rhythm in a signature style that many credit as an important precursor to hip-hop, rap and slam poetry. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995.
    Several of the speakers at Saturday’s service read Baraka-style fist-shaking tone poems in tribute to a man, as poet Tony Medina described, who had “rolled a boulder uphill.”
    “Great spirits do not die, they are energy … agitating our bones to move,” Medina said, reading a poem he had written in tribute.
    Actor Danny Glover, who officiated at the service with producer-director Woodie King, recalled Baraka’s 1967 visit to San Francisco State University when Glover was a student.  He said Baraka pushed him into acting, urging him to perform in a school production.  He spoke of the profound influence Baraka had on the school founding the first Black Studies program in American higher education.
    Baraka also helped found the Black Arts Movement in 1965 and left a legacy of community activism in Newark and elsewhere.
    Several community activists spoke at the service, recounting how Baraka had urged them to work for change in their communities — especially in his beloved Newark — and to engage in social activism through art.
    Musicians played jazz standards and original pieces written for the service. Tap dancer Savion Glover performed as poet Sonia Sanchez read a poem written by Maya Angelou as a tribute to Baraka.
    Amiri Baraka was named New Jersey’s poet laureate in 2002, but the position was eliminated following controversy over his poem, “Somebody Blew up America.”  The poem, alleging that some Israelis had advance knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks….
    Several of the speakers at his service alluded to Baraka’s fiery, controversial public image, while hailing him as a man who had contributed greatly to the civil rights struggle.
    The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who spoke at a wake for Baraka on Friday night in Newark, called Baraka “a curious, creative activist and change agent who never stopped fighting or working for the formula to create social justice.”
    Baraka is survived by his wife of 47 years, Amina Baraka, and nine children.  One of his sons, Ras Baraka, who is running for mayor of Newark, was to give the eulogy at Saturday’s service.
    January 18, 2014
    A Death In Newark: Amiri Baraka’s Funeral As Told By Dwayne Rodgers
    Description: Amiri Baraka's funeral sevice in Newark
                                                                                          Photo: Nicole Benvigeno for the New York Times
    This past Saturday the funeral of writer and revolutionary icon Amiri Baraka shut down a section of one of downtown Newark’s main streets, dignitary style.  Barricades.  Mounted cops in formation. Hanging above the street, an American flag so large that it was held by a crane on either side, four stories tall perhaps. Police sirens on silent, pulsing their blue/red, blue/red, blue/red into the wet, gray slab of a cold January morning–snow falling gently upon the living and the Dead. African drummers flanked the entry to Newark Symphony Hall, greeting each attendee with ancestral rhythms and setting the tone for what would be a Homegoing service filled with music, poetry, remembrance and fire; the fire you light when a world-changing, shape-shifting native son has left the building–never to return. At least not in this incarnation, so greatly loved and admired.
    Inside, every seat was taken.  Thousands, came from around the corner and around the world to pay their respects to Amiri Baraka a/k/a Imamu Amear Baraka a/k/a LeRoi Jones a/k/a Everett LeRoi Jones. He reserved the right to choose–and change–his name as he found one better suited to express who he was or was becoming. Beat poet, Black Nationalist, Marxist, Griot, Shaman, Lighter of Fires; those are just a few along the path for a man whose intellectual and spiritual breadth were reflected in his perpetual search for his truest place in the world.
    So here was the coffin of Amiri Baraka being carried down the center aisle of this majestic building, while New Orleans jazz was played by the band on stage and hands clapped and here and there women’s voices would pierce the shroud of celebratory solemnity with stark ululations. During the service, poet Saul Williams intoned “This is a stick up. Amiri get out of the coffin”–and then he spoke of Lazarus. This was as much a funeral as it was a call for resurrection, everyone in the room knowing that people with the passion and level of social engagement that Amiri Baraka had are becoming increasingly rare. And we need them.
    Description: Danny Glover at Amiri Baraka's funeral sevice in Newark
                                                                                                                                                                         Photo: Nicole Benvigeno for the New York Times
    I was there because I couldn’t imagine not being there. And I imagine for the same reason Woody King Jr. was there.  And Danny Glover was there.  And Asha Bandele was there.  And Michael Eric Dyson was there.  And Jessica Care Moore was there.  And Tony Medina was there.  And Sonia Sanchez was there.  And Sister Souljah was there.  And Haki R. Madhubuti was there.  And Cornel West was there.  And Oliver Lake was there.  And Glynn Turman was there.  And Ras Baraka was there; the son.  The chosen son, rhapsodizing, channeling the spirit of his father, Amiri announcing from the grave the power of a father to shape his son into a reflection of himself and into his own man.  And Savion Glover was there.  Savion.  The sound and image of Savion tap dancing next to the coffin of Amiri Baraka, The Poet, The Master Teacher is forever seared on my cerebellum and soloing in my nervous system.  It was evidence of our collective genius.  The People were there…because they could not imagine not being there.
    Dwayne Rodgers is an artist and writer who has previously contributed words & images on the Million Hoodie March in honor of Trayvon Martin and his own Black Vernacular photo project for Okayplayer.