The Schomburg Library in Harlem Celebrates Amiri Baraka’s 75th Birthday
The celebration included Mrs. Amina Baraka, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Bullins, Sonia Sanchez, Louis Reyes Rivera, Dr. Tony Medina, Miguel Algurin of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, John Watusi Branch of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, David Murray, Oliver Lake, Chris Harris, Eugene Redman, Sam Anderson, Aishah Rahman, Herb Boyd, Bob Law, Woody King, and Producer/ publisher of the anthology Let Loose on the World: Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75, Ted Wilson. The anthology is 475 pages of writings by writers expressing their love and honor of our greatest living poet, playwright, essayist, musicologist, historian, organizer, husband, father, lover, mentor, raiser of consciousness of the black nation and Pan African world.
Little noticed was our greatest historian Dr. Ben who was in the lobby trying to get in, but was not allowed in because the event was packed beyond the fire code. Dr. Ben was holding a walker and a little thirsty. Marvin X gave him a bottle of water from his walker.
Imagine, our greatest living historian was denied entry to this historic event! But there were similar happenings when other key movers and shakers were denied entry, no matter the VIP list. Marvin X, on a national tour of his controversial pamphlet Mythology of Pussy, said he experienced ignorance in Mississippi and there is ignorance in Harlem as well! Let us be clear about this. But the revolutionaries, led by sister Amina Baraka, said “We must be compassionate with the workers, the security people and others. They want to go home. They are trying to do their job by holding the crowd to the fire code. We must not be angry with them or insult them because some of us VIPs weren’t allowed into the after party. We as revolutionaries should respect the workers and not try to be here all night. Let’s get out and let them go home.”
Also in the audience was revolutionary nationalist Dr. Muhammad Ahmed of Temple University, former head of the Revolutionary Action Movement or RAM. Also Ed Spriggs of Black Dialogue Magazine and of course Director of the Schomburg Howard Dotson, who promised Marvin X a night at the Schomburg with the Black Arts Movement. Marvin X envisions a night with BAM key players, including Woddy King, Ed Bullins, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Jayne Cortez, the Last Poets, Haki Madhubuti, Askia Toure and Marvin X, with music by Milford Graves and others from BAM.
On this night at the Schomberg, there was great music by our black classical musicians, including-–first I must mention the African drum processional and the Fusha Dance Company. Harlem became Africa in an instant, the urban jungle transformed into Africa, the drummers and dancers took us there—we were no longer in Harlem but transported to somewhere in Africa, beside Lake Victoria, the Nile, the Congo, the Niger, we were there as the drummers came upon the stage, and then the dancers, taking us back down memory lane, the forgotten path of long ago, the dance, the grind, the mask, the shout and moan, the cry of time past when we were pure and holy.
The black classical musicians included Reggie Workman, bass, Onaje Allan Gumbs, piano, Andrew Cyriulle, drums, Bradford Hayes, sax, Lil Phillips, vocals, Vijjay lyer, piano, Pheeroam Aki, drums, Billy Bang, violin, Dwight West , vocals.
There were young poets Jinad Blake, Ariana Gibbs, Autum
Ashante, Ron Jaye.
We only know this, “When Harlem loves you, you are truly loved.” Harlem showed its love for Amiri Baraka who launched the Black Arts Movement in the cultural capital of Black America.