Amiri Baraka hates America. Yet, in the land of the free that he
despises so deeply, this black nationalist writer has had no trouble finding
fellow Americans to show him love.
At the top of Amiri Baraka's donor list: The American taxpayer.
In the 1960s, Baraka (then known as LeRoi Jones) received
federal anti-poverty funds to run a "Black Arts Repertory Theater/School" in
Harlem. According to The New Republic magazine, Baraka petulantly barred
Sargent Shriver, President Lyndon Johnson's chief strategist in the War on
Poverty, from entering any of the school's federally subsidized facilities.
"I don't see anything wrong with hating white people," Baraka
bragged at the time to a U.S. News and World Report writer. One of Baraka's
popular Harlem street performances in 1965 involved a black valet murdering
In 1981, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) apparently
saw nothing wrong with Baraka's outspoken hatred, either. The agency forked
over public subsidies to Baraka for "poems" that railed against capitalism
and Christianity. Policy Review magazine uncovered this tax-supported verse
penned by Baraka:
Poetry must see as its central task
a Marxist Leninist
in the USA
So that even in our verse
over political line
NEA money also supported a Baraka screed entitled "When We'll
Worship Jesus," which proclaimed:
jesus need to be busted
jesus need to be thrown down and whipped
till something better happen. . .
In 2001, the NEA again coughed up tax dollars that benefited
Baraka. The federal agency gave a $10,000 literature grant to an outfit
called "Divinity Inc.," which hosts a World Black Poetry Festival featuring
performances by Baraka. In 2002, the NEA handed another $5,000 to the poetry
Also in 2002, the NEA awarded $20,000 to Naropa University in
Boulder, Colo., "to support the preservation of recordings of central
literary figures who have visited the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied
Poetics since 1974. Authors featured on the tapes include . . . Amiri
The federal stamp of approval helped propel Baraka into the
literary stratosphere over the years, and enabled him to secure various
teaching positions at the New School for Social Research in New York, the
University of Buffalo, San Francisco State University, Yale University,
George Washington University, and the State University of New York in Stony
Brook. His writings have been used in public high school classrooms and in
Black Studies courses in colleges across the country.
His anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and anti-Western
verses of vitriol have won Baraka a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and the
PEN/Faulkner Award. Baraka is a favorite of the Geraldine R. Dodge
Foundation, the left-wing charity established in the name of a Rockefeller
daughter. He was recently inducted into The American Academy of Arts and
In July 2002, Baraka received his most recent gift from American
taxpayers: a $10,000 stipend from the state of New Jersey to serve as its
"poet laureate" for two years. Democrat Gov. James McGreevey demanded last
week that Baraka resign from the post after reading his figurative
flag-burning opus, "Somebody Blew Up America," at a Dodge Foundation poetry
festival last month. Baraka refuses to budge.
Gov. McGreevey claims to be shocked by the venomous lies
embedded in Baraka's tirade, which reads in part:
Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion?
Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay at home that day,
Why did Sharon stay away?
The paranoia lasts for six pages, implying that white Americans
are worse than the Sept. 11 terrorists because they "tried to waste the
Black nation," "invented AIDS," "stole Puerto Rico" and "tried to poison
McGreevey's outrage is laudable, but "Somebody Blew Up America"
was written nine months before Baraka was named New Jersey's poet laureate.
Audio recordings of Baraka, in which he crows the poem with gleeful fervor
to adoring blame-America audiences, have been available on the Internet
since at least January 2002.
In the Third World countries he idolizes, Baraka would have lost
his tongue and hands by now, if not his life. Only in America do we make
lifelong literary kings of those who peddle treachery as art.