Honoring Amiri Baraka 1934-2014
First program: Real Politics, Real Poetry
The role of creative people in society has long been debated. Should they focus on their art and stay away from politics? Poets, writers, painters, filmmakers, musicians, artists in general occupy a unique position. Their impact and influence extend far and wide. They illuminate realities in imaginative ways that expand awareness and understanding. Think of Dylan’s “Masters of War” or Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” or Picasso’s “Guernica” or Langston Hughes’ poem “Columbia,” where he exposes the depredations of U.S. imperialism. He writes:
“In military uniforms, you’ve taken the sweet life
Of all the little brown fellows
In loincloths and cotton trousers.
When they’ve resisted,
You’ve yelled, “Rape,”
Being one of the world’s big vampires,
Why don’t you come on out and say so
Like Japan, and England, and France,
And all the other nymphomaniacs of power."
Second program: Resistance and the Arts
From Allen Ginsberg to Kurt Vonnegut and from Bob Dylan to Michael Franti artists have been on the cutting edge. The arts play a pivotal role in society. The great historian Howard Zinn said: "Whenever I become discouraged I lift my spirits by remembering: The artists are on our side! I mean those poets and painters, singers and musicians, novelists and playwrights who speak to the world in a way that is impervious to assault because they wage the battle for justice in a sphere which is unreachable by the dullness of ordinary political discourse. The billionaire mandarins of our culture can show us the horrors of war on a movie screen and pretend they are making an important statement. But the artists go beyond that, to resistance."
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