Home > News > Poet/Activist Amiri Baraka 1934-2014: Video Tribute

Poet/Activist Amiri Baraka 1934-2014: Video Tribute

Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka died on Thursday at the age of 79. There are a number of in-depth obituaries chronicling Baraka’s long career, but the Gallerist’s Andrew Russeth points out his recent popularity in the art world and posts an amazing video clip (reposted below) that was included in the exhibition New Jersey as Non-Site at Princeton University Art Museum. The show, which just closed, was organized by Kelly Baum (formerly of the Blanton Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) and focused on work by artists in New Jersey from 1950 to 1975.

Among his many accomplishments, Baraka (who went by LeRoi Jones in his early writing career) initiated a cultural organization called the Spirit House Movers and Players in Newark’s Central Ward. The LeRoi Jones Young Spirit House Movers and Players appeared on a 1968 TV show called “Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant” to perform an incredible spoken word piece on race relations:



also by Paula Newton
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3 Responses

  1. Garry Reece

    Amiri Baraka was more than a johnny-come-lately-darling of the white artworld. Does a great disservice to such a multivalent individual to focus on the portion of his being that only merits the artworld’s acknowledgement. And yes I know, this is an online art magazine. He was playwright, poet, critic, djali, fiction writer, founder of the Black Arts Movement, political activist, a scholar and poet laureate of New Jersey before he questioned who really has and continues to blow up America. It really would behoove GlassTire to have its writers put in a bit more research when writing about African-American artists.

  2. Paula Newton

    Hi Garry,
    Sorry, the post was definitely NOT intended to describe Baraka’s full impact on American culture, which is why I attached a link to one of many long obituaries. Since Glasstire covers “Texas visual art,” I used ex-Texan Kelly Baum’s inclusion of Baraka in her recent exhibition as a means to pay tribute to him on Glasstire and as an excuse to post that incredible video. It wasn’t so much a lack of research as it was simply a tenuously appropriate venue.
    I am aware of his many roles and contributions over many decades (and am constantly learning more), but you’re right—I am not qualified or schooled enough to begin to write something that would truly describe the life of Amiri Baraka on less than a day’s notice. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to acknowledge his passing on our site.
    You certainly have a point about the “white artworld,” but I think that, as a Texas-based journal, we have a slight edge on our research of African-American artists because most of the really kick-ass African-American artists live and show here! Thanks to some really incredible Texas artists addressing contemporary and historical issues, we get a desk at the front of the classroom!
    Speaking of teaching, it sounds like you have a longer story you could pitch to the editor—I’d love to read it.

  3. Garry Reece

    Through no fault of your own I issued a salvo that should have in the very least not come across so acerbic, so personal. Sorry for that. For the acknowledgment of his passing, I thank you. But the main point is that most in the artworld care very little about being versed, even moderately so, as relates to black culture much less black artists; so abbreviated renderings seem to be the norm. If you doubt me, wait until next month.
    As far the seat in the front row of the classroom, have concerns about what people are learning, since a lot of the reviews that deal with African-American artists in publications in this city, deal mainly with biography in lieu of actually talking about their work. If there is a story to be pitched about Baraka, I think it has to come from a lot of different quadrants, and, maybe just maybe, it would be great experience for a few non African-American writers to take up that journey. You game?

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