Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka, born Everett LeRoi Jones, has been a voice of revolutionary poems, plays, music history, criticism and over 40 books of essays since the early 60’s. Baraka is a political and cultural activist who has lectured in the United States, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. Known as the founder of the Black Arts Movement of Harlem in the 60’s, Baraka was one of the earliest influences in Black Nationalism.

In 1968, he became a Muslim, changed his name to Imanu Amiri Baraka, and founded Kawaida, a Black Muslim organization. In that same year he gave benefits for the Black Panther Party. From 1968 to 1975, he was chairman of the Committee for United Newark, a Black united front organization. And in 1974, Baraka dropped Imamu, meaning “spiritual leader” when he embraced Marxist Leninism.

Baraka’s influences include John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Malcolm X, Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, and revolutionary movements around the world. His works explored topics such as reparations, racism, national oppression, colonialism, neo-colonialism, self determination, and national & human liberation.

His unique and poetic way of connecting words has been honored by documentaries such as Mario Van Peeple’s Poetic License and St. Clair Bourne’s In Motion: Amiri Baraka. He has appeared in films such as M.K. Asante, Jr.’s The Black Candle. His awards include:

Pen/Faulkner Award

Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama

The City College of New York’s Langston Hughes Award

Before Columbus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award

The Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts fellowships

He has taught at the New School for Social Research in New York, the University of Buffalo, Columbia University, San Francisco State University, Yale University, and George Washington University. Since 1985, he has been a professor at State University of New York. He and his wife Amina are co-directors of Kimako’s Blues People, a community arts space.

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