THE CREATION OF THE NEW ARK by lmamu Amiri Baraka


Email this review


Problematic, this account of the progression of poet/playwright LeRoi Jones from a Village Bohemian with an ""arty-college-boy-European-boulevardier look"" into a dashiki-sporting Pan-Afrikanist separatist -- problematic, since by this time he's no longer ""Imamu"" but ""Chairman"" Baraka, having just last fall repudiated his former ""racist"" black nationalism for the ""Scientific Socialism"" of Marx. Most of the ideology presented here is taken from the Kawaida doctrine of Ron Karenga, with a little help from Malcolm X and W.E.B. DuBois and a few good words from the Kennedys. Marx, Lenin, et al., seem to him as irrelevant as Swift, Henry James or Hemingway --they're ""Jewish-oriented,"" ""white boys,"" etc. In 1966, Jones returned to Newark (the New Ark) for an AfroAmerican Festival of the Arts which gradually (so it seems from this rhetorical telling) became a commitment to organize, educate and mobilize to ""control our space."" There's a sojourn to California, where he fell in -- and quickly out -- with the Panthers. He's appalled by their posters of Ho and Che and Mao, though today his Temple of Kawaida features icons of white class-struggle leaders. During the '67 riots (""rebellion"") he's arrested and the judge reads one of his poems as evidence of his complicity. He's converted to Sunni Islam (hence the new name); takes up Swahili; works on the Black-Puerto Rican convention and voter registration that swings the election for Kenneth Gibson, who turned out to be as much a dupe as Addonizio anyway. This book fades away after that 1970 election, and leaves you wondering what's gone down since then for the Black Powerhouse who's virtually the only surviving member of that late '60's loose cadre of articulate young men so determined to seize the time -- now, by and large, dead or silent. Baraka intends to stir up once live coals, but what you feel -- in spite of all the fickle confusion -- is respect and sympathy.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1975
Publisher: Howard Univ. Press