Damn Right (For Amiri Baraka)

DamnRight (After Razor)

Dedicated to Imamu Amiri Baraka.

Read at his Memorial Service at Newark Symphony Hall, January 9, 2014.

For Ras, Mama Amina,
and the entire Baraka family.

the death of my father at 69
reminds me
that every new year
is a kiss from god

or maybe it is simply a reminder
that catching bullets in our teeth
are not just for comic book super heroes
that literary giants also battle
against the monstrous heads
of connie and bill and survive,

attention critics from nowhere.
u might be forced to wear your spine to work. today.

Amiri Baraka is busy with a higher calling.

somebody gotta ask
who gonna be the messengers?

where is Sun Ra?
where are the holy ghosts
our prophets?

wise why’s y
do they call us hip hop
or say we slam
when we r your students. Baraka.
the invisible ones
the spooks that knocked down doors
we don’t juggle or hop scotch or jump through fire

we write.

we know your bright suns have plans for this mourning
we know your daughters are re-imagining the night
others began writing our suicide letters for us

a long time ago.

ignoring the young cultural revolutionaries
u taught us how
to breathe inside the polluted
cesspool of segregated libraries.
in the name of Baraka

we dance. we teach.
we tear down. we build up.
we believe in the face of the faithless.

we move for those who be stiff
we fly for those who be still
we have no choice.

he created this fire
who gonna keep it lit?

Scholar with sword. Master teacher
with miracles as metaphor.

who’s gonna call the ignorant ignorant
to their faces on national television?

who gonna make love inside a 8 bar blues?

here comes the heart
here come our cities
here come the people

u don’t have to explain your chakras

just breathe
here comes Baraka
damn right
here comes injustice
damn right
here comes protest

here comes the hat tilt
here comes the b boy stance
here comes freedom
here comes peace

who’s gonna spike the tea?
who’s gonna plant a poem and grow a life?
who’s gonna bring the scholars
out their ivory tower prisons?

who’s gonna call a spade a King and
out joke the joker?

who’s gonna build the low ku bombs?

with the world and our bookshelves
dying a little more
every day

who gonna teach the children?
who gonna rebel?
who gonna go into our prisons?


r our redemption songs



we conjuring the whole truth of language
from the scraps of a twisted alphabet
the chitterling backwash taste of bitter standardized
testing and watered down curriculums

we are the economy of pyramids
the who we be’s
and the what we did’s.

we what they thought
was hid.

damn right
these words don’t fit
damn right the records skip

when your life is a calling
when the ancestors have prepared you
for the politricks

how do u pick the red pill or the whitest fence
when our cities are born with the bluest eyes
the darkest tales and the most beautiful African
people who don’t know they is Africans.

who’s cutting the grass of
the killing fields?

the dream dealers, the beat creators
the painters, the poets, the movement
the truth tellers, the lovers, the liars

oh, bless u, the liars

who’s blues they gonna steal



Which names they gonna mispronounce,
leave out, set back, pretend not to know?

He created this fire.
who gon’ keep it lit


who’s gonna print the books

who’s gonna program the silences

who’s gonna own the bookstores

who’s gonna burn the house down

who gonna tell em
the revolution is your mirror


He created this fire.

who’s gonna keep it lit


Baraka black Baraka jazz
Baraka blues Baraka danced
‘til there were no shoes to drag

where u from?


who gonna fill the ark with art?
who gonna be the new?

who gonna recognize the old?
who gonna identify your soul?

spirit don’t lie
but the papers      do.

who gonna control
who remember you.
me. me. us us we we.

damn right

your stories are that of a lion
on the frontline of an american schizophrenic jungle
prophet footing and warrior ink blood.

they cannot kill us all

with their black face and tragic twisted
imitations of life
we understand

Amiri Baraka has
out lived your double cross.

his books held political prisoner by
un-established unsophisticated establishments
we hold his words as


as a symbol of our fearlessness

we ask his children, his wife Amina
for permission to claim him

we smile his boyish grin
waiting for the low-ku
bomb to

he teaches us there is jazz playing
every time the sun rises
a jackal of words a blues man with his hat always in place

father of movement and possibility
Baraka black and artistic handing out pamphlets
full of rebellion and resistance

we know your lifework
is simply an answer to a question

why God?
why Ancestors?
why Malcolm?

why Langston?

why Jayne?

why Lucille?
why Haki?
why Askia?
why Gil?
why Sonia?
why Last Poets?

(why asha why tony why saul why thomas why mike why kevin why ekere why ursula why lamar why willie why carl why major why leeza)

why ancestors

why brilliant
why organizer
why fathers
why uncles
why scholars
why essayist
why teacher
why legacy
why blk genius

why Baraka?

why God?

why in the hell did you have to make


a poet?

and God replied,

Leroi, somebody had to show them how to do it.



From Sunlight Through Bullet Holes [/full_width_color]

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