Axis of Logic
Finding Clarity in the 21st Century Mediaplex

Venerable Verse
Amiri Baraka, Afro-American Revolutionary crosses to the other side.
By Amiri Baraka (video); Axis of Logic Commentary
Axis of Logic
Saturday, Jan 11, 2014

Amiri Baraka, a prolific revolutionary poet, teacher, theater director/producer, writer, activist, poet, music critic, and voice for Afro-Americans for the last 60 years died on Thursday at the age of 79. Following a trip to Cuba in 1960 Amiri became part of the beat generation, a supporter of Black Nationalism and the Black Arts Movement in the US. He also founded the literary magazine Yugen. He published his first poetry collection in 1961. He taught at Yale and George Washington University, and for 20 years at SUNY (State University of New York).

Amiri was a critic of Afro-American music emanating from Black middle class musicians who fell into the traps of white US producers stating,

''The further jazz moves away from the stark blue continuum and the collective realities of Afro-American and American life, the more it moves into academic concert-hall lifelessness, which can be replicated by any middle class showing off its music lessons. The Black Artist's role in America is to aid in the destruction of America as he knows it." (Speech At Black Film Festival, 1984).

In his seminal work, Blues People: Negro Music in White America and the poetry collection, The Dead Lecturer,  Amiri wrote,

"As I began to get into the history of the music, I found that this was impossible without, at the same time, getting deeper into the history of the people. That it was the history of the Afro-American people as text, as tale, as story, as exposition, narrative...that the music was the score, the actually expressed creative orchestration, reflection of Afro-Amerian life, our words, the libretto, to those actual, lived lives. That the music was an orchestrated, vocalized, hummed, chante, blown, beaten, scatted, corollary confirmation of the history... That the music was explainng the history as the history was explaining the music. And that both were expressions of and reflections of the people!"

After the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X he played a principal role in the creation of the Black Arts Movement, as the head of a theatre and school in Harlem. His response to the murder of Malcolm ... 
Malcolm's words
fire darts, the victor's tireless
thrusts, words hung above the world
change as it may, he said it, and
for this he was killed.
Amiri was named Poet Laureate of New Jersey in July, 2002. When Somebody Blew Up America, Amiri's poem about 9/11/01 attacks in New York was published, some were outraged by what they considered to be "anti-semitic" and insensitive to the victims. NJ Governor Jim McGreeve demanded that he resign as Poet Laureate, Amiri refused and it was illegal to strip anyone of the title. So legislation was passed to abolish the post altogether in the state. When asked about it in 2012, Amiri told the New York Times,  "Poetry is underrated so when they got rid of the poet laureate thing, I wrote a letter saying 'This is progress. In the old days, they could lock me up. Now they just take away my title'."

Amiri Baraka is survived by his second wife, Amina, whom he married in 1966 and his children.  In the video below, Amiri reads his poem, Somebody Blew Up America.

- Les Blough, Editor
Axis of Logic