Committee Hosts 75th Birthday Celebration for Literary Giant Amiri Baraka
Tribute Scheduled for October 3-9, 2009
Amiri Baraka (photo by: Z. Risasi Dais)
Randy Weston performs October 3rd (photo by: Carol Friedman)
Newark, NJ (BlackNews.com) - A group of community activists, artists, educators and civic organizers are planning the 75th birthday celebration of renowned poet, author and playwright Amiri Baraka. Baraka turns 75 on Wednesday, October 7, 2009. The celebration will highlight Baraka's social activism and his life-long involvement in the arts and politics. Events will take place in his hometown of Newark, NJ.
Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, NJ. After leaving Howard University and the Air Force, he moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1957 and co-edited the avant-garde literary magazine Yugen and founded Totem Press which first published works by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and others.
His reputation as a playwright was established with the production of Dutchman at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York on March 24, 1964. The controversial play subsequently won an Obie Award (for "Best off-Broadway play") and was made into a film. The play was revived by the Cherry Lane Theatre in January 2007 and has been reproduced around the world.
Amiri Baraka's numerous literary honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, the Langston Hughes Award from The City College of New York, and a lifetime achievement award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995. In 1994, he retired as Professor of Africana Studies at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, and in 2002 he was named Poet Laureate of New Jersey and Newark Public Schools.
In the fall of 2002, Baraka, who had been named New Jersey Poet Laureate by then Governor James E. McGreevey, came under fire from the NJ office of the Anti-Defamation League, the New Jersey Assembly and others after a reading of his controversial poem "Somebody Blew Up America" about the 9/11 attacks at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's annual poetry festival in Stanhope, NJ. Baraka's $10,000 stipend was rescinded and the Poet Laureate position eliminated in 2003 by Gov. McGreevey who resigned in disgrace in 2004. In 2007, the U.S Supreme Court refused to hear Baraka's case in which he asserted that his First Amendment rights were violated. Baraka bounced back from the melee and remains a figure in demand at international festivals, book fairs and on university campuses.
Back on the literary front, Baraka's book of short stories, Tales of the Out & The Gone (Akashic Books) was published in late 2007. Home, his book of social essays, was re-released by Akashic Books earlier this year along with Digging: The Afro American Soul of Music (Univ. of California).
Amiri Baraka's 75th Birthday Celebration
Saturday, October 3
The first Jazz Vespers of the 2009-2010 season at Bethany Baptist Church, 275 West Market Street in Newark, Saturday, October 3 at 6:00 p.m. is dedicated to Baraka and will feature renowned pianist/composer Randy Weston. Amiri grew up in Bethany where his parents served on the Deacon Board for many years. Admission is free.
Tuesday, October 6
There will be an exhibition of Baraka's drawings at aljira: a Center for Contemporary Art. The opening reception will be held Tuesday, October 6 , 6:00-8:00 p.m. at 591 Broad Street. Admission is Free.
Wednesday, October 7
A birthday jam will be held Wednesday, October 7, 7:00-11:00 p.m. at the WISOMMM Cultural Center, 15 James St. in downtown Newark featuring a jazz jam session with local and nationally renowned musicians. Tickets are $50 which includes a light buffet, live entertainment and complimentary wine.
Thursday, October 8
A literary event, "Baraka Book and Birthday Bash" hosted by The Newark Public Library, 5 Washington St. will take place Thursday, October 8. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and will include poetry readings by young poets, short film screenings and a book signing with Amiri Baraka.
Friday, October 9
On Friday, October 9, a symposium, The Political Evolution of Amiri Baraka, will be held at Central High School Auditorium, 246 18th Avenue in Newark at 6:00 p..m. Panelists include, Amina Baraka; reporter, poet and activist Felipe Luciano, an original member of the Last Poets and founding member of the Young Lords and Komozi Woodard, author of A Nation Within a Nation. Al-Tariq Shabazz will serve as moderator. Admission is free and open to the public.
"It is only right that we honor one of America's greatest national treasures, Amiri Baraka, our native son of Newark," says planning committee chair David Muhammad. Updated information on all events will be posted on the official website at www.Amirib75.com
The National Black United Fund serves as fiscal agent for the planning committee. For additional information, please visit the website at www.AmiriB75.com or call David Muhammad at (973) 698-9504.
Dr. Maya Angelou, Author and Activist
Hon. Cory Booker, Mayor, City of Newark
Ed Bullins, Activist and Author
Ben Caldwell, Writer
Jayne Cortez, Artist
William Cosby, Jr. PhD, Actor and Comedian
Ruby Dee, Actress and Activist
Mel Edwards, Poet
Danny Glover, Actor and Activist
Balozi Harvey, Activist and Entrepreneur
Rev. William Howard, Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church, Newark, NJ
Clifford Janey, PhD, Superintendent, Newark Public Schools
Felipe Luciano, Reporter, Activist, Founding Member of the Last Poets
Haki R. Madhabuti, PhD, Activist, Author, Poet, Educator and Publisher
James Mtume, Artist, Activist, Co-host, 98.7 Kiss FM, Open Line
Gil Noble, Host of WABC TV Show, Like It Is
Rep. Donald Payne, NJ Congressman
Kevin Powell, Author and Activist
Sonia Sanchez, Poet, Author and Activist
Ntozake Shange, Playwright
David Shakes, Educator
Hon. Cleopatra Tucker, NJ Assemblywoman
Cornel West, PhD, Author, Civil Right Activist and Professor
Marvin X, Activist and Author
Sandra L. West
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