Amiri Baraka

The distinguished poet and playwright, Amiri Baraka, spoke at the University of Oregon the other day. He began by talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the early years of the Civil Rights movement, which, he argued, began with the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. He discussed the violent attacks on civil rights activists, and he drew a direct line from the terrorist opponents of that struggle to the current-day Tea Party. (He said that George Romero predicted the Tea Party with his film, Night of the Living Dead. This got a good laugh from the audience.) He talked about how King and Malcolm X both called for a “united front”. He said that people on the left with different ideologies must work together. He also defended Obama, although he admitted to having disagreements with him. He said that Obama should have taken over the banks instead of bailing them out. Yet he defended Obama’s “tax cut compromise” by saying it was necessary to help the unemployed. (Is he aware that this “compromise” undermines Social Security?) I agree with Baraka’a analysis of the Tea Party, but I don’t think that defending Obama is the best way of dealing with this problem.

During the question-and-answer session, Baraka made clear that he takes a conspiracist view of history. He believes the assassinations of John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy were all conspiracies. I’m not keen on conspiracy theories, because I believe they lead to cynicism rather then activism. Baraka also claimed that the 9/11 attacks were a conspiracy by the U.S. government. He apparently doesn’t realize that if this conspiracy were real, Obama would have to be in on it.

Baraka also read some of his poems. They were funny, biting and thought-provoking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: