NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A cacophony of bagpipes, African drums and jazz riffs creatively blended— much like the elements of an Amiri Baraka poem — at the Saturday funeral for the activist-writer and a founder of the Black Arts Movement, who died earlier this month.
The service, held at Newark Symphony Hall, featured poetry, music and tributes to a man several speakers hailed as a creative and committed revolutionary who had a profound influence both on American culture and on a generation of artists and activists.
The 79-year-old author died Jan. 9 in his native Newark of an undisclosed illness. Baraka wrote blues-based poetry, essays, plays, and books and operas — or “boperas” as he called them — mixing music, spoken word and rhythm in a signature style that many credit as an important precursor to hip-hop, rap and slam poetry. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995.
Several of the speakers at Saturday’s service read Baraka-style fist-shaking tone poems in tribute to a man, as poet Tony Medina described, who had “rolled a boulder uphill.”
“Great spirits do not die, they are energy … agitating our bones to move,” Medina said, reading a poem he had written in tribute.
Actor Danny Glover, who officiated at the service with producer-director Woodie King, recalled Baraka’s 1967 visit to San Francisco State University when Glover was a student. He said Baraka pushed him into acting, urging him to perform in a school production. He spoke of the profound influence Baraka had on the school founding the first Black Studies program in American higher education.
Baraka also helped found the Black Arts Movement in 1965 and left a legacy of community activism in Newark and elsewhere.
Several community activists spoke at the service, recounting how Baraka had urged them to work for change in their communities — especially in his beloved Newark — and to engage in social activism through art.
Musicians played jazz standards and original pieces written for the service. Tap dancer Savion Glover performed as poet Sonia Sanchez read a poem written by Maya Angelou as a tribute to Baraka.
Amiri Baraka was named New Jersey’s poet laureate in 2002, but the position was eliminated following controversy over his poem, “Somebody Blew up America.” The poem, alleging that some Israelis had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, led to widespread outrage and added fuel to critics who had long denounced Baraka as homophobic and anti-Semitic.
Several of the speakers at his service alluded to Baraka’s fiery, controversial public image, while hailing him as a man who had contributed greatly to the civil rights struggle.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who spoke at a wake for Baraka on Friday night in Newark, called Baraka “a curious, creative activist and change agent who never stopped fighting or working for the formula to create social justice.”
Baraka is survived by his wife of 47 years, Amina Baraka, and nine children. One of his sons, Ras Baraka, who is running for mayor of Newark, was to give the eulogy at Saturday’s service.
(AP Photo: Poet Sonia Sanchez reads a poem during the funeral of poet Amiri Baraka Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, in Newark, N.J.)
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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