Amiri Baraka's Legacy Both Controversial And Achingly Beautiful : NPR
Amiri Baraka was a complex brilliant but somewhat bitter man. Was he an anti-semite. Yes, many of his poems clearly demonstrate this. Did he believe he was one? No, I know this from personal conversations with him. His talent was matched by his bitterness over oppression. We shared a love for jazz. My politics were far too conservative for him. I rejected communism in high school after reading Richard Wright's the Outsider. Black Cultural Nationalism, which he exposed when I first encountered his writings had some attractions but clearly was nihilistic at it's core. It was a pseudo religious cult birthed out of a justified anger but limited by it's tribalism. Barack never lost his love for Alan Ginsburg, the great beat poet.
Baraka's love for Ginsburg, who was born Jewish and adopted Buddhism proves the truism that an anti-semite, a racist, a homophobe or any other bigot can still have friends and care about people from the group they despise. In this sense despite his obvious talent Amiri Baraka's life is a cautionary lesson in human frailty.
John H. Armwood
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