From “Remembering Amiri Baraka with Politics and Poetry” by Annie Correal (New York Times):
Mr. Baraka, born Everett LeRoy Jones, and later known as LeRoi Jones, was by turns a Beat poet, a fiery playwright, a strident follower of Malcolm X, a Muslim and a Marxist.
Those who spoke praised Mr. Baraka’s passion, his persistent vigilance over the politics of Newark, and his grit, even as they tried to reconcile his tumultuous past.
In his eulogy, Mr. West called Amiri Baraka “a literary genius,” who wrote his way into the mainstream yet, “at the same time, was willing to reject the white establishment and say, ‘I am going to raise my voice.’ ”
“ ‘If you reject me,’ ” he added, invoking Amiri Baraka, “ ’I’m going to be in solidarity with the wretched of the earth.’ ”
Mr. Baraka was widely praised for his work, notably “Blues People: Negro Music in White America,” a 1963 historical survey of black music, and the 1964 play, “Dutchman,” which won an Obie Award. However, in the course of his six-decade career, critics accused him of being homophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic.
In 2002, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, he performed a poem widely perceived as anti-Semitic, “Somebody Blew Up America,” in which he suggested Israeli leaders had prior knowledge of the attacks. To oust him as New Jersey poet laureate, state officials eliminated the post. His relationship with his birthplace was often a troubled one.
The former mayor of Newark, Sharpe James, said after the services, “He was our challenger in Newark. He was our agitator for progress.”