Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Poet and Activist Baraka Speaks at Passaic Event

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Poet and Activist Baraka Speaks at Passaic Event

Article excerpt

PASSAIC -- The poet Amiri Baraka came to town Wednesday night and closed out Black History Month with an impassioned call for renewed struggle toward black equality -- and a few passing barbs at powers like President Obama and Governor Christie.

"The goals are the same," Baraka told about 100 people at Martin Luther King Jr. School 6.

"Equal rights and self-determination -- we still don't have equal rights and still do not have self-determination," Baraka said. At one point he added "We built this country with no money and no pay."

Pursuing the point, the poet, playwright and political activist form Newark, who at one point estimated the gross national product of African-Americans at $700 billion, gave a long discourse on the history of black oppression not only in America but all around the world.

"The general disunity of African people over the centuries has contributed to their oppression," he said. "We are oppressed all over the world. Pan-Africanism is a worldwide struggle."

In Amiri Baraka, the audience heard from a fiery radical who has spent most of his adult life advancing the cause of Black Power. Now 77 years old, Baraka has lost none of his passion.

Closer to home, he said that the election of President Obama represented "progress," but he added that "Obama has often been less than what we need."

He criticized the president for the "bombing of Libya and the murder of Gadhafi," which he said was "sickening to me."

Baraka also took a shot at Governor Christie for policies he considered antagonistic to black interests. But he didn't go into specifics, instead using derogatory language to joke about the governor as akin to a person's entire rear end.

Baraka is no stranger to controversy. Born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark in 1934, his 50-plus years of literary work are almost inseparable from his life as a black revolutionary. …

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