Imamu Ameer previously known as leroi jones.( Baraka, was an American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays,music criticism and a political activist. In African – American community, some compare Baraka to James Baldwin due to his writing style (he was also an African American writer) and recognize him as one of the most respected widely published Black writers of his generation. Critics said that his work is an expression of violence, misogyny and homophobia. He became a leading advocate and theorist for the burgeoning Black Art during that period . The Black Arts Movement (BAM) was an African –American art movement formally established in 1965 when Amiri Baraka opened the Black Art Repertoty Theatre in Harlem.ht would help you to understand the poem if you keep in mmind this concept of black art Before reading this poem. (The Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s was a political and social movement whose advocates believed in racial pride, self-sufficiency, and equality for all people of Black and African descent.it envisions an art that speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of black America.
The poem Black Art (1965) became the major poetic manifesto of the Black Art Literary Movement.The poem is written in an imperative tone and Baraka used this poem as a weapon against racism. He used enjambment in this poem to keep the attention of the readers. In this poem he used the language of Black Community for example ; “girdle mamma”, “mulatto bitches”. As an American writer Baraka emphasizes that the Whites could not separate them from their language and culture.The poetic persona in this poem is Baraka himself and written the poem in an aggressive tone. By writing this poem in an unconventional way, Baraka encourages the readers to protest for their freedom.( also to fight against the rules deliberately prepared by the whites) AS William words worth said poetry is the sponataneous overflow of powerful emptions recollected in tranquillity,like that The spontaneous overflow of his words enhances the emotional impact of the poem. Baraka addresses Black American aritists to follow their own methods instead of depending on White’s culture.
The style of language used in the poem Black Art alludes the emergence of Hip – Hop music during that time.Hip-Hop was a recognized salient musical form of the Black Aesthetic. Baraka said that “music was explaining the history as the history was explaining the music”This method of expression in music parellels significantly with Baraka’s ideals presented in Black Art .Use of uneven lines, punctuations and spelling in this poem focuses on the violence and allows the readers to understand the mindset of the poetic persona. In general, Baraka tried to teach the idea of equality among races and classes through his poems, plays and speeches. Baraka’s poetry falls in to three periods ; each reflects what he viewed as a corrupt culture. Baraka’s three creative phases are ; the intellectual avant – garde , the Black Nationalists and the radically political.
The hatred towards the Whites can be seen in the mentioning of Elizabeth Taylor’s name, who was a White American actress and had acted in many films .He uses lot of verbal violence in this poem. Baraka said that only a Black consciousness can save Black people from annihilation at the White man’s hands and that no other nation is safe unless the Blacks in America is safe. Baraka argues that the artist must use the language and semantics unique to his culture to create his art, and that the work should also be understood within the context of that culture. In this poem Black Art ,dedicated to African American to wake up and reverse the situation by taking control over everything.
Baraka interconnects art with racial identity .Black Art Movement promoted arts and crafts for the Black community and allowed them to participate to the full extent. As a Black Art writer, he puts his literary writings to serve for political and social aims. As Larry Neal (scholar of African American theatre) put in his essay, The Black Arts Movement (1968) “Black Art is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power Concept. As such it envisions an art that speaks directly to the needs and aspiraitons of Black America and to Afro – American desire for self – determination and nationhood”. In this poem, Baraka demands to assassin the poems that shoot guns.Here he personifies ‘poems’ as Whites who shoot guns towards Blacks. With the rise of Civil Rights Movement Baraka’s work take on a more militant tone.
Baraka calls for realism in Black Poetry and to stop over glorifying the lives that Black people must live in a racist nation.Baraka places realism in his poem to create a world that would reflect the lives of Black people.It helps to recognize themselves and inspires them to revolt against their circumstances. By this poem Baraka crtiticizes racism and demands the African- Americans to rise from the race constraints. He had used onomatopoeic words in this poem to express the need for violence. The poetic persona criticizes the poems that are not useful. He describes prominent Black leaders on the steps of white house,kneeling between the sheriff’s thighs negotiating coolly for his people. Poet also presents Euro – centric mentality by referring to Elizabeth Taylor as an epitome of Whites in the society.
To conclude, Amiri Baraka expresses his anger and frustration and demands the Black artists to react against oppression.The poem is in a conversational style and used informal words. Barka had used many poetic innovations in form, language and style to react against the negative stereotyping of African-Americans. The slogan such as “Black is beautiful” was prominent during that time. The use of slag in this poem denotes the mindset of poetic persona. Werner Sollors (professor) criticized his peom as an expression of Black aesthetic , but is striking for its venomous language and for its rhetorical violence.