Long-time activist, poet and playwright Amiri Baraka has died. A spokesperson confirmed Baraka’s passing on Thursday after a long battle with various health related issues.
He was born Everett LeRoi Jones on Oct. 7, 1934, in Newark, N.J. A gifted student, he graduated from high school two years early and went to college at New York University and Howard University. After serving in the Air Force for more than two years, Baraka — then Jones — was dishonorably discharged for reading communist texts.
He then moved to New York, attending graduate school at Columbia University and becoming involved in the Beat scene. In 1958, he founded the avant-garde poetry magazine Yugen, which he co-edited with Hettie Cohen — the two were married from 1960 to 1965.
After Malcolm X’s assasination in 1965, Jones changed his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka. He moved to Harlem and led the Black Arts Movement, one similar to that of the Black Panthers.
Baraka has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, a PEN/Faulkner Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, and the Langston Hughes Award from City Colleges of New York.
Rest in Peace Mr. Baraka. You will be sorely missed.
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