The poem was received harshly at the time and then-New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey tried to remove Baraka from the post of Poet Laureate of New Jersey, but could not legally do so. The New Jersey state legislature introduced a bill abolishing the post in 2002; the governor signed the bill into law in 2003, stripping Baraka of his post.
Ironically, McGreevey was forced to resign from the governorship in 2004 after it was revealed that he was involved in a sexual relationship with a man while he was married to his wife.
In 2010, Baraka spoke of the irony at the Dodge Poetry Festival where he recited the controversial poem again–this time, to cheers.
“I am the last Poet Laureate of New Jersey,” he told the crowd, moments before reading the poem. “Governor McGreevey asked me to apologize and resign, and then a year later he had to apologize and resign.”