Ketu Oladuwa pens celebration of Amiri Baraka

| February 5, 2014
amiri baraka

Amiri Baraka (Photo: Francesco Truono)

Courtesy of TRIAAC

Amiri Baraka made his transition January 9th, taking with him a vital breath to many a poet, writer, activist, revolutionary, intellect… In April 2012 I had the opportunity to hear the brother read his work in Indianapolis at the Etheridge Knight Festival, and to have a few words with him. Back in the 70s I had the opportunity to visit him at a Spirit House Movers presentation. The brother’s house was packed — wall to wall people with poetic offerings coming in spirited rounds.

Amiri Baraka was the transmegistus of his time. A vital element in the movement of a people through time and place, a change maker, spur in the side of oppression, a vital voice for the liberation of Afrikan people. He was a man of changes, pronounced changes that took him from Greenwich Village through Cuba, to Harlem and back home to Newark that he dubbed New/Ark, and onto international acclaim.

Thank you Amiri for having the audacity to be the Baraka we needed when we needed it! RIP, Elder!

free spirit, rise now

celebrating amiri baraka

By Omowale-Ketu Oladuwa 

whether[1] you charted weather 
or rolled from thunder to cloudburst-bolted
zigzag escaping streetgray tomb
graveyard stone crying out
you came cool as
oya wind
brother.
 
came searchin’ the bighead
navigating mindstone-blited intellect
questioning questioning
razoreyes  slashing
 
bohemia swept transpotency
stripping gutters of western wigwam 
whisking transcendental mindfuck
to a world realer than
crossroad
realer than a mississippi jukejoint
in the new/ark.
 
1960s
blackjack crackin’ nappy head
more alive than jacked teeth
and split lip swirling in polar vortex
of goodmanesque 
bad music.
 
corrupt cops and capitalist copy
way of the western world
you         /whetherman
the weather that ices
sheets of sound rolled into bluesthunder
broadaxe of a natturner hand
harlem muscle
uptown justice.
 
walked away
from a twenty volume suicide note
into a repertory black arts trismegistus[2]
stepback to a duboisian single-mindedness
a freejazz radical ornetticism
doubleblind past double consciousness
word as streetspeak
 
and you 
/blues wail of a corner speakeasy
blackmusic bluespeople
you kept tellin’ us…
be.
spirit.
walktalkbe.
 
spirit every breath from right
into left
and resist
walkrunsprint jab thrust fight
till you fund democracy
find freedom
/once free never don’t be
never slave a     
gain
never dutchman the a-train.
 
you teached us
know thyself
temple message from land of the black
experience as groundforce intellect
warrior knowledge as cultural
realpolitik
 
 
you         /object ever of market force
never again.
 
be free spirit                        
walkthetalk
thinkthinkthinkthink
think.
be!
 
be the word you speak
speak the be you word
 
you kept the question:
                  who you know ever
                                                    seen god?             
but everybody seen
                                   the devil
 
you said,                what do you mean
what are you sayin’
what do you mean
what are you sayin’
 
what is the function of art in the world
reflection of your time?
 
what
whatwhatwhat
what you mean?
 
will you sell your children
sell your babies for status and comfort
will you sell your you to be that
which is against you
kills you               
                  /smothers your possibility to be a whole and new you?
will you boot dance to irish fiddles
and dance on yo’ mama’s grave?
 
2.
i hear you, brother, hear you scattin’ cross the transitional divide:
                  poems are bullshit unless they are
                  teeth or trees or lemons piled
on a step.
 
i hear you, brother:
                  the quality of night that you hate most
is its black and its starteeth eyes…
 
i hear you brother:
                  my poetry is what i think i am.
 
ms. brooks said it:
“baraka is always news.”
 
haki said it:
“Baraka”               <blessing>
news news news news news news news news news
the blessing                           /new news  
 
the good news you left us
struggling to be something real
something other than jesusophiles stacking tithes
in preacher plates
 
you told us:
be whys.
be wise!
Be y!
 
3.
brother ain’t take no prisoners
him ain’t give no quarter either, son.
ain’t take no shit…
boyo was manish long as i knowed a-him
way back in the late ‘50s village days
swappin’ lines with ginsberg 
and publishing the cutting edge of white literary culture
 
back from air force become force in his own word
way out on the fringe, below the underneath
in the human substratum of be-less
all/ways more and asking, asking
always asking
always learning and revolting and revolutioning and
changing.
 
him be giant sun
stomping out the dark of white hate
growing strong men[3] in blind alleys of america’s ghoulness
cuckolding the negroness of white supremist conformity 
building clear black thot
 
resist now, resist now! rise now…
move to a united front
stompout negroignorance.
 
took the black in the nation and melded it  
with brown brothers and sisters stepping salsa lively 
it’s nation time
dance words mixing rhyme and rhythm
culture and el barrio history
 
you
exiting one thot                  /one movement
across years toward human
toward be-ness in the valley of the shadow at new/ark
 
one god, one aim, one
leroy become leroi become imamu, become ameer barakat
become amiri baraka
become prince of sound
blessing of a burgeoning nation
become foreshadow and lifeline to afrika revolution
become lite in the dark horn of whiteness
become clear, pure water  
 
baraka                    /become identity
stood resistant
when negroes was marchin’ on them patches a-cotton
toward their black
growing up outta southern fields and northern factory floors.
 
amiri’s jersey 12 miles from wall street empire
was a-standupness
place of growing mind
spirit place
mind building body of revolutionary aware
aware mindfulness building blackfists of rebellion
flames and fuel for the fusion
become a communist lite that blinded illusion
crippled poormouth
took streetspeak
and called humans human
called man to microphone
the polyrhythmic polyphonic scat of horn and cymbal
 
bassline
baraka was spirithouse
was mover and mortar
was punctuation in sound become word
was freejazz
 
elegba in the movement of black art
was brain and muscle
the word uncut
obatala.
 
4
there’ll be no more dead lines
no more dead lines
no haphazard phrases rocking simple minds to sleep
amiri been here
still here.
 
amiri calling fists of intellect
calling committed soldiers to identity
devotees of the malcolm blood
matches of the fire what burned newark and birthed the new/ark.
 
no more sounds curdling in the vat of ameri-dimness
no more lies in the name of democracy
one man one voteness
one black guy become pawn of market force
for the onepercent clique
no more.
 
amiri gave us the sweet of our selves
bequeathed the passion of our bloodriver
amiri gave rise to an america we could live in
gave us back the potential for freemind
 
rise now               
and walktalkbe                  
free the spirit
rise now!!!
© 2014 by Omowale-K étu Oladuwa

[1] expressing a doubt or choice between alternatives.
[2] He may be a representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth
[3] “Strong Men,” Sterling Brown, 1931

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