It is with great sadness to report the passing of our beloved Amiri Baraka, who had been ill for several weeks, and last reported was improving. Newark Mayor Luis Quintana said Baraka will be sorely missed.
“I went to visit him at the hospital about two weeks ago,” Quintana said by phone. “He was more than a poet, he was a leader in his own right. He’s going to be missed and our condolences go out to his family today.”
Quintana recalled Baraka’s role in the 1970 Black and Puerto Rican convention, a landmark political meeting that resulted in the election of Ken Gibson, Newark’s first black Mayor.
“We’re going to remember him always for his contributions to Newark, New Jersey and America,” Quintana said. “In this time of pain, the citizens of Newark and I are with him.”
Baraka had long struggled with diabetes, but it was not immediately clear what the cause of death was.
A Newark native and resident formerly known as Leroi Jones, Amiri Baraka has published dozens of poems, essays and works of non-fiction. In 1963 Amiri Baraka wrote “Blues People,” an in-depth history of music from the time of slavery throughout the various incarnations of blues and jazz, with integrated social commentary. The book’s 50th anniversary was recently celebrated during an event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
In 1964, Baraka published the book of poetry, “Dead Lecturer” that marked a significant transition in his career. Also written under the name Leroi Jones, the book featured more traditional poems but also laid the groundwork for the more radical, experimental work that would come to define his later career.
Our adored Poet Laureate, activist, author, and most importantly unapologetically a true Newarker. Our thoughts and prayers goe out to the family and love ones. Mr. Baraka meant a lot to all of us. I want to personally thank the family for sharing him with us all, he will truly be missed. The going home arrangements are as follows:
Friday, January 17, 2014
4:00pm to 9:00pm
Metropolitan Baptist Church
149 Springfield Avenue
Newark, NJ 07103
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Newark Symphony Hall
1020 Broad Street