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“Somebody Blew Up America” with Amiri Baraka & Rob Brown

February 21, 2009 @ 8:00 pm 10:00 pm EST

The poet icon and political activist Amiri Baraka (1934-2014) will perform with Rob Brown, one of the New York City downtown music scene’s most in-demand saxophonists, in a reading of his new book Somebody Blew Up America and Other Poems.

This event is part of the “Free Jazz from the Sanctuary” series which is co-sponsored by the Department of the Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Albany Sonic Arts Collective, with support from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

AMIRI BARAKA, born in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey, is the author of more than 40 books of essays, poems, drama, and music history and criticism, a poet icon and revolutionary political activist who has recited poetry and lectured on cultural and political issues extensively in the USA, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. With influences on his work ranging from musical Orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as the founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. The movement and his published and performance work, such as the signature study on African-American music, Blues People (1963) and the play Dutchman (1963) practically seeded “the cultural corollary to black nationalism” of that revolutionary American milieu. Other titles range from Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1979), to The Music (1987), a fascinating collection of poems and monographs on Jazz and Blues authored by Baraka and his wife and poet Amina, and his boldly sortied essays, The Essence of Reparations (2003).

The Essence of Reparations is Baraka’s first published collection of essays in book form which radically explores what is sure to become a twenty-first century watershed movement of Black peoples to the interrelated issues of racism, national oppression, colonialism, neo-colonialism, self-determination and national and human liberation, which he has long been addressing creatively and critically. It has been said that Amiri Baraka is committed to social justice like no other American writer.

Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems is Baraka’s first collection of poems published in the Caribbean and includes the title poem that has headlined him in the media in ways rare to poets and authors. The recital of the poem that mattered engaged the poet warrior in a battle royal with the very governor of New Jersey and with a legion of detractors demanding his resignation as the state’s Poet Laureate because of Somebody Blew Up America’s provocatively poetic inquiry (in a few lines of the poem) about who knew beforehand about the New York City World Trade Center bombings in 2001. The poem’s own detonation caused the author’s photo and words to be splashed across the pages of New York’s Amsterdam News and The New York Times and to be featured on CNN–to name a few US city, state and national and international media.

Baraka lives in Newark with his wife and author Amina Baraka; they have five children and head up the word-music ensemble, Blue Ark: The Word Ship and have co-directed Kimako’s Blues People, the “artspace,” housed in their theater basement for some fifteen years. He has taught at Yale, Columbia, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His awards and honors include an Obie, the American Academy of Arts & Letters award, the James Weldon Johnson Medal for contributions to the arts, Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts grants, Professor Emeritus at the State university of New York at Stony Brook, and the Poet Laureate of New Jersey.

ROB BROWN was born in Hampton, VA in 1962. He has been playing the saxophone since the age of 11. He moved to New York City in 1984, and since then has been actively leading groups or working as a sideman with Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Joe Morris, Whit Dickey. Others that Rob has performed and/or recorded with are Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Denis Charles, Bill Dixon, Butch Morris, Reggie Workman, Henry Grimes, Roy Campbell Jr., Hamid Drake and Fred Hopkins, as well as various dance groups, poets, and performance artists. He has toured Europe extensively. He is a 2001 CalArts/Alpert/Ucross Residency Prize winner and has received many Meet The Composer Fund grants. In 2006 Rob was awarded a Chamber Music America New Works grant.

The Sanctuary for Independent Media is a telecommunications production facility dedicated to community media arts, located in an historic former church at 3361 6th Avenue in North Troy, NY. The Sanctuary hosts screening, production and performance facilities, training in media production and a meeting space for artists, activists and independent media makers of all kinds.

3361 6th Ave
Troy, 12181 United States
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