Amiri Baraka,poet, writer, playwright, activist and revolutionary made his grand going home transition on January 9, 2014.
I had the honor of attending his wake, which took place at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. A block away, walking towards the church, I heard what sounded like a political rally going on right in front of the church. Friends and supporters of Amiri, led by Larry Hamm of the Peoples Organization of Progress, chanted slogans such as, 'Long Live The Spirit of Amiri Baraka'.
Inside, people were lined up and down every aisle, just to get a chance to say goodbye to one Newark’s most beloved leaders. In addition, there was a presentation reviewing the legacy of New Jersey's last poet laureate that included his poems. One of my favorites is 'Somebody Blew Up America' :
Who define art Who define science
Who made the bombs Who made the guns
Who bought the slaves, who sold them
Who called you them names Who say Dahmer wasn’t insane
Who? Who? Who?
Who stole Puerto Rico Who stole the Indies, the Philipines, Manhattan Australia & The Hebrides Who forced opium on the Chinese
Who own them buildings Who got the money Who think you funny Who locked you up Who own the papers
Who owned the slave ship Who run the army
Who the fake president Who the ruler Who the banker
Who? Who? Who?"
The Home Going was on Saturday January 18, 2014 at the Newark Symphony Hall. Nearly 3500 people present- family, friends, artists and dignitaries from around the country in attendance. Public figures that were there included theatre producer, Woody King, actor/political activist Danny Glover and revolutionary Christian Dr. Cornell West. Sonia Sanchez performed two powerful poems, while Savion Glover spoke through the rhythmic sound of his tap shoes. Avery Brooks, the actor known as Captain Sisko on Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, sang Amiri's favorite song by Thelonious Monk, 'Round Midnight'; and activists Sista Soulja and Larry Hamm expressed their lasting impressions.
Ras Baraka, Amiri's son, delivered the eulogy, which was an incarnation of his father. At the end, the room burst into applause and a standing ovation. Amiri's funeral, like his life, was empowering and inspiring.
Black Activist of all stripes and persuasions, holders of a wide gamut of political views gathered to salute a man that worked to create artwork based on and infused with the totality of the African experience.
I knew Amiri on a personal and political level, from my first days in community activism, back in early 1970’s. That was when I worked with the Committee for a Unified Newark and became a member of the Congress of Afrikan People.
He was my political Baba (father) and will always be. 'Long Live the wisdom of Amiri Baraka:
‘THERE IS NO JUSTICE IN AMERICA, BUT IT IS THE FIGHT FOR JUSTICE THAT SUSTAINS YOU”