Look who supports Amiri Baraka

Posted: Oct 02, 2002 12:00 AM
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 white victims. 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 building a Marxist Leninist Communist Party in the USA So that even in our verse we wage ideological struggle 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 festival. 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 Baraka." 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 Letters. 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 Fidel (Castro)." 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.