How do you best describe an activist, author and playwright who, for 40 years, has captivated the minds of people all over the globe?
While "phenomenal lyricist" comes to mind, the term, "ambassador for black cultural nationalism" is just as fitting. However you chose to describe that person, make sure the name Amiri Baraka is attached.
For the past four decades, Baraka has opened minds and raised awareness not only in the African-American community, but throughout the world. To that end, it's like Baraka 's poetry, which focuses on a variety of "hotbed" issues, has been placed inside a looking glass for the masses to see and dissect.
But Baraka has said his poetry isn't used as an escape mechanism, but more as a weapon of action. An example is the 2002, controversial poem, "Somebody Blew Up America," which raised questions of racism in America and lent focus to Baraka's idea of who really blow up the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
Fast forward to Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 when Baraka took the stage at the historic Bohemian Caverns in Northwest – a venue where jazz greats from Miles Davis to John Coltrane have played and often left their audiences speechless.
Well, Baraka didn't break the tradition of leaving the audiences speechless, because after his final poem was read, there was a moment of dead silence before he was bombarded with requests for an encore.
An encore for the poetry? That's all too common when Baraka speaks. There are times when his audience needs a second round in order to digest the first round.
When asked why Baraka has remained relevant for 40 years, audience member Tom Porter responded that, "[Baraka's] message is timeless. It resonates with the people from the '60s; it resonates with young people today because they look at the world they're living in. He is still on point," said Porter. "He is one of the few artists from his generation that's still out there and still relevant."
After the show, Baraka was asked to two questions. One surrounded his advice for longevity to which he responded: "[You need] to keep doing it, no matter what the odds are or how much resistance you get. "
The other question hinged on Baraka's sentiments regarding the 2012 presidential election and the Republican party.
"Any intelligent person has to support Barak Obama, but I think they've [also] criticized him for some things," Baraka said. "I don't see how any thoughtful person can see [the GOP] for anything . . . there's nothing there. I think Obama will win," he continued. "This is the United States of America and he's the president of it, he's not a freelance politician."