SEMPER, ROI, SEMPER: AMIRI BARAKA (1934-2014)
May 15 – May 18
Born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey in 1934, Amiri Baraka is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential writers of the 20th century. In the early 1950s, after a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, Baraka landed in Greenwich Village, where he became a seminal figure in the Beat movement, editing the avant-garde literary journals Yugen and Floating Bear, and publishing his first two collections of poems. In 1965, in the wake of the assassination of Malcolm X, Baraka recommitted his life and work to the self-determination of the African-American community and to the global struggle of oppressed peoples everywhere against Neo-Colonialism. As a poet, novelist, dramatist, essayist, and activist, Baraka’s indefatigable, fearless energy made him a galvanizing presence; his ability to rouse the ire of opponents on the far-right, liberal-left, and everything in between makes his passing earlier this year, at 79, an immeasurable loss to those who felt protected by his very existence. To honor him, this series brings together a selection of interviews, documentaries, and films that reflect, but can hardly hope to encapsulate, the dynamism and spirit of Amiri Baraka, an artist and cultural leader beyond all epithets.
Baraka also features in THE BREATH COURSES THROUGH US, a new documentary about the New York Art Quartet that we’ll be premiering immediately following this series, on Sun, May 18 at 7:30.
Organized by Michael Chaiken, Andrew Lampert, and Jed Rapfogel. Special thanks to Woodie King, Jr.; Haden Guest, Liz Coffey, and Amy Sloper (Harvard Film Archive); Livia Bloom (Icarus Films); Chris Calhoun; Frazer Pennebaker (Pennebaker-Hegedus Films); Ruby & Lukas Perrson; Winter Shanck and Joe Basile (Channel 13/WNET); Helen Silfven (Moyers Media); Nick Tosches; Todd Wiener & Steven Hill (UCLA); and Jonas Mekas.