I like that Alexs Pate states in the video below “Amiri was before beat,” because though Mr. Baraka was part of the movement, even publishing, Kerouac and Ginsberg before he started Yugen magazine, he is often not thought of as part of this very significant beat shift in literary thinking, especially poetry.
Amiri Baraka strikes a chord in me for many reason, one reason because of his bravery. Still I search for that consistent core or reserve and resolve to be who I am and do the right thing. He is asked in this video what is the cost of truth telling. I feel that I have made great and significant gains but sometimes not.
I’m not quite sure what institution Amiri Baraka didn’t buck while being himself and following what he learned and what he believe in. For instance he distanced himself from Black Nationalism to become a Marxist.
He imparted some insight to this shift stating, "As long as the black writer was obsessed with being an accepted, middle class, Baraka wrote, he would never be able to speak his mind, and that would always lead to failure. Baraka felt that America only made room for white obfuscators, not black ones."
His life at the very least exemplifies, an Ismael Reed, quote, “writin is fightin,” from Reed's essay titled, Writin is Fightin: Thirty Seven Years of Boxing on Paper. I love that Baraka was more than sympathetic toward Castro and Cuba, which he made plain with, Cuba Libre, an essay and as a member of the Fair Play for Cuba committee in 1960 and through, ‘A Declaration of Conscience,’ a literary endeavor in favor of Castro’s regime that he co authored.
Alexs Pate’s intro is rather long but, actually
one of the few intros you don’t want to fast
forward through. Amir Baraka starts at 9:34
Perhaps the following bespeaks my simple-mindedness, but of all his endeavors, of all there would be to discuss I would have loved to talk to him about his name change. I legally changed my name in the early 90s and to this time, January 2014 still many are insulted and hurt feelings continue with many refusing to speak it or even write it in legal documents. I approached it thinking of its permanence more or less like a tattoo. Interestingly, out of all the stakeholders (many more than I thought there could be) the only one who heard the why and embraced me, Cavana Ibeji Opo Faithwalker, was my father after whom I was named.
Many laugh at us Africans-American half-breeds and we at ourselves as the misspellingess, most prolific name changers on the planet from Shanaynay to Tequila to Mercedes to Trevon, Malik, and Jamal. I am not positing that we should all change our names or even that we corner the market on name changing and creating anew. I do affirm it is one of our weapons of mass construction to reclaim our very souls and bodies as we have light to do so. However, we must stop and look at the continuum from Shanaynay to Amiri and realize that “X” marks the spot. “X” may be the alpha and omega of our kujichagulia, our self-determinism. Poor Shaniqua political at birth, political by birth, political when she just wants a proper future for her son. Take heart in Amiri.
Thank you Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones; October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014), formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka