Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), 1934-2014

A young Amiri Baraka

A young Amiri Baraka

In 1965, immediately after the assassination of Malcolm X, LeRoi Jones moved from Greenwhich Village to Harlem and started the Black Arts Repertory Theater School.

The Black Arts Movement was born, providing a vehicle for writers like Gwendolyn Brooks, Jayne Cortez, Ed Bullins, Hoyt Fuller, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez,Haki Madhubuti, Ishmael Reed, and many others. This very important literary movement inspired writers like Toni Morrison and Ntozake Shange who came later.

Amiri Baraka I value the work of Baraka tremendously, and appreciate his ability to usher in an entire movement of black writers who challenged racial oppression in such a way that they had to be heard by the elite black literary establishment (e.g. Ralph Ellison), middle class African Americans, white liberals, white supremacists, or anyone else who felt the need to silence their voices. Like other black feminists, however, my scholarship challenges the ways in which some of Baraka’s early work silenced black women’s voices. I stand by that challenge. I also stand by my appreciation for all that he has done for black liberation.

I celebrate Baraka the activist, Baraka the writer, and Baraka the scholar. Rest in Power, Amiri Baraka. May your voice live on.

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