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  • Honoring the Life of Amiri Baraka

    by Representative Donald M. Payne Jr.

    Posted on 2014-01-10

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    PAYNE asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute.) Mr. PAYNE. Mr. Speaker, today I come to the floor to honor the life and legacy of an icon, poet Amiri Baraka, who died yesterday in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, at the age of 79.

    Born during a time when racial tensions were at their peak, Amiri Baraka used poetry to empower and enlighten. He eventually founded the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and '70s in Newark and around the country, and received countless awards for his contributions to the arts.

    My father and he attended high school together, and I will never forget, as a youngster, hearing Amiri Baraka's poetry and recognizing the power his written words had over a person, regardless of race, age, or gender.

    Amiri Baraka was not only a poet, he was an activist. In 1969, he organized the Black and Puerto Rican Convention, which brought those communities together at a time when it looked bleak. He also was one of the main organizers and the keynote speaker of the 1972 Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. His profound words were influential as many searched for meaning in some of the most troubling struggles of our time, like civil rights, war, oppression, and poverty.

    My heartfelt condolences go out to the entire Baraka family, including my former colleague, Newark City Council Member Ras Baraka, and his brother Amiri Baraka, whom I have come very close to over the course of the past 4 or 5 years. To their mother, who has brought me in as almost a son as well, my deepest sympathy. I know where you are. I have been there just a short while ago. But let it be known, today the Nation is in deep mourning at his passing.


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