So sad. Iconic poet, Amiri Baraka, passed away after a short illness on Jan. 9. He was known for his epic writing, his political voice, and his poem about 9/11 heard ’round the world.
The world has lost one of its most talented writers and poetic activists. Amiri Baraka, who was formerly New Jersey’s poet laureate, died on Jan. 9 at New Jersey’s Beth Israel Medical Center after a short illness, his agent confirmed to CNN. He was 79 years old.
Amiri Baraka: Activist Poet Dies At 79
Baraka, considered a founder of the 1960s Black Arts movement, made a name for himself by being unafraid to hold a mirror up to society with his writing. His own website said that he “adopted a confrontational style for his poetry, drama, fiction and essays. With intent to create awareness and about the concerns of African-Americans, his writings… on one hand have been praised as a voice against oppression, on the other hand, have incited controversies.”
He wasn’t afraid to stir up a little debate in order to make a point, a unique courage that allowed him to become a force in the art world. Described as a “poet icon and revolutionary political activist,” Baraka was named New Jersey’s poet laureate in 2002 by then-Gov. James McGreevey on the recommendation of the state’s Council for the Arts.
Baraka however, lost that title about a year later when a poem he wrote about 9/11, “Somebody Blew Up America,” stirred up immense public outrage. Though Governor McGreevey did not have legal authority to strip Baraka of his title, state legislation eliminated the position in July 2003. Baraka called it a “confirmation of the ignorance, corruption, racism, and criminal disregard for the U.S. Constitution.”
Despite that blow-up, Baraka will always be revered as a revolutionary writer who passionately represented a state and a community. He will be missed, and our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.
— Andrew Gruttadaro