Asante Sana, Amiri Baraka (3 of 3)

Although I just called you “Sir.”

How could I not? I was only a kid when I covered you, both for The New Jersey Afro-American and later The Star-Ledger.

I have a lot of memories I will have to hold onto myself now:

I will miss barging into your house, with guests in tow. (I did this SEVERAL times, because it was no big deal in Newark to do this.)

I will miss “Kamako’s Blues People,” a.k.a. your long-running monthly concert series in the basement of your house. I remember the time I went–in late 1992, right after “Malcolm X” was released. I remember laughing hard at your response poem, “The X is Black (Spike Lie).”

I remember the time you let me borrow some document to read. It was your copy of the Gary Convention report! I still shudder thinking about it! How generous you were to a kid!

I remember you dogging me out in front of over 200 people at the annual Newark MLK celebration in the Robeson Center at Rutgers-Newark in 1992. (“I see Todd Burroughs is here. Maybe he’ll get the story right this time. Maybe they won’t be on his neck when he writes the story.”) I was so excited to be dogged out by Amiri Baraka! You signed my copy of “The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader” that day.

I remember spending weekends on my first semester in graduate school in bed, reading that reader, thinking, “WOW! THIS is the guy I used to cover?!?” I refused to believe that I had ever talked to you. The first time I drove back to Newark, my first stop was not my mother’s house or The Star-Ledger; it was straight to your house, where I found you outside, waiting for your ride to go to Stonybrook.  You said hello, so I had my proof, my happy reality.

I am losing all my favorite writers. First Judy Dothard Simmons, then Gil Scott-Heron, and now you. Almost two years later, I’m just beginning to get over Gil Noble (my favorite broadcaster), and now this. DAMN. *SIGH*.

Glad you are now with your daughter. Say Hello to Judy for me.

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