Legendary Poet, Amiri Baraka

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As Poetry Month rears to an end, we would like to pay tribute to Newark’s Legendary Author, Amiri Baraka. Previously known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, this renowned poet was an activist in favor of addressing racial politics within his works of art. He was one of the major forces in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. The assassination of Malcolm X was a turning point in his life that led to him changing his name to Amiri Baraka.

He was a founder and chairperson of a national Pan-Africanist organization called the Congress of African People, and he was also one of the chief organizers of the 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. Among Baraka’s many honors are the PEN/Falkner Award, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

This lecturer was a great African American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays, plays and music criticism who authored over 50 books and taught at several universities. Among his poetry collection, Baraka was most famous for “The Dead Lecturer” and “Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, 1961-1995”; the play “Dutchman” (won the Obie Award); and “Blues People: Negro Music in White America.”

It is honoring to see the influence of Amiri Baraka throughout Newark during this month’s poetry events such as “Poets Who Love Newark” hosted by Rhythm & Word Creative Writing and “Evolution Dopen Mic” hosted by Sean Battle. Essex County was saddened with Amiri Baraka’s passing on January 9, 2014, at 79 years old, however, he remains to be one of the most prolific controversial writer, activist, and scholar that Newark bred to the world. You can find the last remaining mural of Amiri Baraka on the side of the iconic King’s Family Restaurant & Catering located on the corner of Clinton & Treacy Avenue.


By: Jonique Waddy | Digital Media Engineer for IM SO NEWARK