(AllHipHop News) The world has lost one of the greatest wordsmiths its ever known. Controversial writer, poet laureate, professor and activist Amiri Baraka died yesterday (January 9th) after years of battling an undisclosed medical condition.
The 79 year old scholar had been was hospitalized in late December for an undisclosed illness.
Baraka was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and changed his named from his birth name Everett LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka following Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination. Baraka also founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre and School.
The Baraka-led Black Arts Movement of the 1960s produced such legendary African American artists as Gil Scott Heron, Nikki Giovanni and others. In 2007, he spoke on the purpose of the Black Arts Movement:
[W]e wrote art that was, number one, identifiably Afro American according to our roots and our history and so forth. Secondly, we made art that was not contained in small venues. The third thing we wanted was art that would help with the liberation of black people, and we didn’t think just writing a poem was sufficient. That poem had to have some kind of utilitarian use; it should help in liberating us. So that’s what we did. We consciously did that.
Baraka was also a polarizing figure whom attracted a considerable level of controversy for his poem “Somebody Blew Up America” about the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. The poem was released after Baraka’s 2002 induction as the second ever poet laureate for New Jersey and contained lines that were perceived as anti-semetic. Soon after the poem was released, the poet laureate position was removed.
Check out Baraka perform the controversial poem, “Somebody Blew Up America” below: