WASHINGTON (March 7, 2014) – On Saturday, March 22, 2014, Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC), Department of English, and Department of Afro-American Studies will present a symposium and commemorative program titled “IN THE TRADITION,” celebrating the life and work of the late Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), whose poetry, plays, essays, criticism, and activism challenged the boundaries of contemporary American thought and action. The symposium will take place in the Browsing Room of Founders Library (500 Howard Place NW) from 1:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. The evening tribute will be held at Cramton Auditorium (2455 Sixth St NW) beginning at 6:00 p.m. All programs are free and open to the public.
The event will be streamed live. To view the live stream, visit here.
Baraka, who died on January 9, 2014, at the age of 79, attended Howard as an undergraduate in the 1950s. He became one of America’s most renowned and prolific writers, producing 27 published books of poetry, drama, music and literary criticism, political analysis and commentary, social justice theory, biography, and autobiography. His ties to Howard University spanned six decades. Baraka frequently lectured, read, and performed on Howard’s campus, educated all of his children here, and designated the MSRC as the repository of his archival papers and memorabilia.
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Amiri Baraka was also one of Black America’s most outspoken political writers, thinkers, and activists. He was active in both the Black Nationalist and Black Power movements, but helped to forge meaningful coalitions between moderate and radical factions within the African American and world communities. Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he was recognized and celebrated for his vast knowledge and uncommon intellect, yet he remained firmly grounded in the African American vernacular tradition and faithful to his Black cultural allegiances.
The afternoon symposium will feature scholarly panels and a plenary examining Baraka’s literary and cultural legacies. Presenters will include professors Dana Williams, Eleanor Traylor, Jennifer Jordan, Sandra Shannon, Shauna Kirlew, and Meta Jones of the Department of English, along with Greg Carr of the Department of Afro-American Studies.
The evening program will feature live performances, commentary, and multimedia presentations by celebrated musicians, poets, playwrights, actors, and political activists, including excerpts from Keep Your Razor Sharp, a musical celebration of the 50th anniversary of Baraka’s classic book, Blues People: Negro Music in White America, which he coauthored with jazz trombonist and long-time collaborator Craig Harris. Harris will be among the several distinguished poets and artists—including Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti, Avery Brooks, A. B. Spellman, Abiodun and Babatunde of The Last Poets, Eugene Redmond, Tony Medina, and Jessica Care Moore—who will share tributes to Baraka, reflecting on and/or reading from some of Baraka’s best-known works.
Theater impresario Woodie King will bring a number of distinguished actors to the Cramton stage to perform excerpts from Baraka’s more celebrated plays, including Dutchman and Mad Hearts. Washington-based activists Tom Porter and James Early will provide commentary on Baraka’s political views and activities, while the Howard University Jazztet, and others (to be announced) will perform musical selections in Baraka’s honor.
According to the co-producers of the tribute program—MSRC and HU Library System (HULS) director Howard Dodson, veteran cultural events planner Karen Spellman, and HULS communications specialist D. Kamili Anderson: “Baraka was a brother for all seasons, one of America’s most extraordinary Renaissance men. Howard University is delighted to preserve his papers and to celebrate the life and genius of this amazing African American icon.”
For more information, email D. Kamili Anderson at email@example.com or visit the Howard University Library System website here.