There have been many gains made so far in 2014- one of the most illuminating has been the release of CeCe McDonald. There have been great failures so far, such as the Nigerian Anti- Gay Law, considered one of the harshest Anti-Gay legislation in the world- citing also glances into severe human rights obstructions against self identified Queer persons on the continent. Both topics would have mandates posts from me, but for the month of January, I have suppressed the desire to conjoin words to create an idea. This is due to one of the men that first showed me that sound, words, and visual image can liberate, or at least critique the foundations that slyly marginalize and oppress people. This man Amiri Baraka, I owe. Through the way Baraka lived, I reassured myself. As he turned from New York hipster Leroi Jones, into Afrocentric Amiri Baraka, the development of the radical black consciousness became into what I noticed as a full production.
The conflict between ‘intellectualism’ versus ‘racial radicalism’- he fought throughout his youth into adulthood, as did James Baldwin, as did Assata Shakur, as did I. You see, the conceptualization of the recognition of ‘race’ being a social disease in primary white intellectual spaces is what drove those thinkers into creating their own ‘intellectual’ space, free from those who simplify race, gender, sexuality, nationality, as categories that divide. Baraka, abandoned Leroi as he abandoned that white intellectual space. He did this with courage, without noticeable fear, which offset many of his former white colleagues and associates( and some argue motivated his separation from his first ‘bi-racial’ family) . Not to say, he did not have contradictions and qualms of his own, but as human, he forced himself to grow- tremendously. Countless books, plays, films, lectures all attest to the growth of him, but also the Black Arts Movement of the 20th century. Baraka was key on developing the movement as Pan-African, inciting dialogue throughout the Trans-Atlantic and Africa. Without him, Jazz as revolutionary art would not be as fully understood. Without him, the intricacies between Afro- Diaspora groups would be less poignant in our intellectual requiem.
Without him, I wouldn’t have recognized my Africaness as “cool”. His play, “Dutchman” engulfed me into a spectrum, into a world I never bothered to considered. Black masculinity challenged and deciphered through conflict of his identity’s juxtaposition- white femininity. Alas, Baraka told many truths- those in which we will no longer be privy to hearing. To say he has motivated me to tell my truth would be an understatement, through his writings, the way he lived life, he has motivated me to seek my truth, with no fear.
Below is a film adaptation of “Dutchman” and his footage from his funeral
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