A Tribute to Amiri Baraka (1934-2014)

“Sometimes you are afraid to listen…” : A Tribute to Amiri Baraka (1934-2014)

“Nothing was more perfect than what she was. Nor more willing to fail,” begins Baraka’s “Dark Lady of the Sonnets,” a tiny piece on Billie Holiday that looms large in what we now recognize as a massive body of great work. Not perfect, Baraka leaves thinking about the music and art of black people totally changed: his “changing same,” his “fuck poems / and they are useful,” his “was we always… surrounded by the worst negroes in this nightmare”— these are not phrases, but forces with which all of us must grapple/struggle in our dealings with the confounded overdetermination of blackness. “Say you might have some problems /

but ain’t none of ‘em bad as the ghost.”

Some day, I will really understand the poetic space that is occupied by Baraka’s “gray” and “dead.”

It is impossible to replace or follow him. “Emotion, is wherever you are.” We have, now, his recorded theory of the world. Sometimes it is hard to listen…

Simone White


Please join us in celebrating Baraka’s life, work and legacy on Saturday, April 5, from 2-4 pm in the Sanctuary of St. Mark’s Church. Featuring readings and performances by Ammiel Alcalay, Steve Dalachinsky, Toi Derricotte, Latasha Natasha Nevada Diggs, Cornelius Eady & Rough Magic, Thomas Sayers Ellis & James Brandon Lewis, David Henderson, Bob Holman, Oliver Lake, Tracie Morris, Julie Patton, Greg Tate, Quincy Troupe, Anne Waldman & Ambrose Bye. Copresented with Cave Canem, Cosponsored with St. Mark’s Church.