In the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, students across the country have taken action by protesting and voicing their concerns about firearms. On March 14th, 2018, high school students from Bard High School Early College, located inside LaGuardia Community College’s B-building, walked out of class and began marching towards […]
On April 23, 2014 Ras Baraka, poet, writer, principal, educator and current Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, came to address the LaGuardia community. He came to speak on behalf of his father Amiri Baraka.
The senior Baraka was scheduled to speak at LaGuardia, but he died in early 2014. Mr. Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amiri Baraka, was one of the most respected and widely published Black writers of his generation. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, and he also wrote drama, fiction, essays, and music criticism. Baraka taught at a number of universities and believed in the power of art to transform.
Mr. Baraka discussed his father’s legacy and how his work as a poet, educator, and activist stems from his father’s teachings. He emphasized learning the importance of reading and culture from his father; he shared stories about growing up in a house with his parents and poetry. Mr. Baraka also mentioned how his educational and communal values connected to his desire to become mayor of the very city where he was raised. He attributes his understanding of poetry, politics, and activism to the work of the senior Baraka.
He quoted his father’s perspective about poetry, “poetry opposes ugly…now you have to define what is ugly to you.” Mr. Baraka says that he writes poetry to show his understanding of the world. He also discussed his educational philosophy about keeping students interested in learning. He used a smart analogy. “If you look at a picture with a group of people the first thing you would do is look for yourself. The next is to look for your friends. If you go through the picture and you don’t see yourself, you become less interested in the picture. If you don’t see anyone you know, you will not look at the picture for long because you or anyone else you know, are not in the picture.” He added that when teaching, “ you have to make the students see themselves in what they want to be.” Baraka then closed the address with the “A Black Fire,” a poem he wrote and read for his father’s eulogy.