Respected Poet and Leader Amiri Baraka Dies at 79: "We Want Poems that Kill" | Kulture Kritic
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Respected Poet and Leader Amiri Baraka Dies at 79: “We Want Poems that Kill”


Respected Poet and Leader Amiri Baraka Dies at 79: “We Want Poems that Kill”


by Maria Simon

Amiri Baraka was a giant to those who know him.  And now that he is physically gone, his legend will only grow.

Baraka died this week at the age of 79 years old.  The Associated Press confirmed his death through his booking agent, Celeste Bateman.    He had been in the hospital since last month.

Formerly known as LeRoi Jones, Baraka was a critical figure in bringing the civil rights struggle into the world of the arts.  His work has inspired an entire generation of poets, playwrights and musicians.   The FBI once identified him as “the person who will probably emerge as the leader of the Pan-African movement in the United States.”

Baraka was a recognized and respected revolutionary, demanding equality for people of color and the teaching of black history and various art forms.

“We want ‘poems that kill,'” Baraka once wrote in the Black Art manifesto in 1965.

“Assassin poems. Poems that shoot guns/Poems that wrestle cops into alleys/and take their weapons leaving them dead/with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland.”

Of course he had his critics, black, white and otherwise.  But even those who critiqued him considered him to be brilliant, even referring to him as the Malcolm X of literature and spoken word.   He pushed forth the Black Arts Movement, something that might be valuable in 2013 after most African American artistic expression has been warped for the pursuit of the corporate dollar.

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“From Amiri Baraka, I learned that all art is political, although I don’t write political plays,” said August Wilson, who won the Pulitzer Prize.

May he rest in peace and may a thousand others take his place.


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  1. Rev. George Brooks

    January 10, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Sorry to hear about Amiri passing away. He was indeed a great poet, as well as great leader of blackness. And the title of being the Malcolm X of poetry is a perfect title for him. And hopefully some among the young will take the baton and march onward in his likeness and style. Rest in peace my brother. — Rev. George Brooks

  2. Haile

    January 11, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    The legacy of the great brother should be taught in all school and must be taught at home. I remember him well when I lived in New York. He has always been a Great Dynamic Brother,I always love him.I am so fortunate that the Great Creator has allowed me to know about the Great Brother.We must never forget the name of our Great Beloved Brother and what he stood for and follow his example at any cost.

  3. David Duckett

    January 12, 2014 at 2:09 am

    Oh yes. He will be truly misses. His play on Broadway, his poem a few years ago ( WHO),his many appearances ,speeches, his love for Jazz Music and on and on. Took pictures of him and Bad Ass Sweetback at the Book Fair on 135th Street a couple of summers ago. RIP

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