“Some people have the wrong right. Some people got the right wrong.”— Ziggy Marley
I blame Amiri Baraka for a lot.
But mostly I blame him for taking away my innocence — or maybe I should say ignorance.
I was just a kid, barely 18 using a work study grant to find a cleaning service NYC and work at one of my University's libraries, when Baraka shattered my view on the world — unbeknownst to him.
One day a patron asked for a book that I was forced to retrieve from a special section where I'd never been. While looking for the book, I stumbled upon Baraka's famous work, which was bound in leather. Even the writing on the spine was in gold. I had never seen anything like it so I picked it up and began to read it. Swept up, I read the book for what must have been thirty minutes.
Needless to say, I lost that job, but what I gained was far greater than $5.15 an hour. It was the catalyst that changed my life, and led me to pursue a literary career rich in cultural and ethnic diversity.
If my fellow journalists have their way, Baraka, will quickly fade to Black. These journalists, most of whom are White, are denouncing Baraka for his 9/11 poem entitled, Somebody Blew Up America, accusing the living legend of anti-Semitism. His stance on America's reaction to the ethnicity of the alleged terrorists has set off some of the nation's most prominent leaders and journalists.
To be sure, Baraka is NOT always on the right side of America's moral compass. Who could forget when he blasted Spike Lee for his work and called him the corporate film studio's 'house nigga''? Clearly, at times, Baraka has gotten lost. A few years ago, I got to thank him in person for his literary fortitude. Even then, Baraka managed to make the top of every blacklist. He was a guest speaker at the Etheridge Knight Festival, and I was the only journalist to show up to speak with him. But, without a doubt, Baraka's contribution to the literary world and journalism should be heralded for its free speech-oriented, truth seeking creativity. Even if his critics are successful in silencing his voice and forcing him to resign his academic position, Baraka will always be a part of Black history and hold a special place in my heart. - DC Livers
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