Siapakah Imamu Amiri Baraka?

Beberapa hari yang lalu ada seseorang yang mencari tentang Imamu Amiri Baraka yang diarahkan ke blog ini. Saya mohon maaf karena saya hanya menyitir Amiri Baraka sedikit di tulisan tentang novel Mohja Kahf Gadis Kerudung Jingga atau The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf. Tapi jangan kuatir, sekitar bulan Agustus tahun 2010 saya mendapat tugas menulis semacam entri ensiklopedia tentang beberapa sastrawan minoritas etnis Amerika, termasuk sastrawan Muslim Amerika, dan kebetulan Amiri Baraka masuk ke dalam daftar itu.

Jadi, silakan menikmati tulisan saya di bawah ini. Mohon maaf kalau masih memakai bahasa Inggris:


Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones. He changed his name to Amiri Baraka after he converted to Islam during the civil rights movement, during which African American people started to strongly believe that the last names of Black people come from the names of their ancestors’ masters. In his poems and plays, Baraka shows a strong resentment towards white society in general, indicating the strong influence of the theology of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, which in the early decades of the organization considered all white men “devils.” Later in time, Baraka became known as an exponent of the black Marxist movement.

This sentiment is seen in one of Baraka’s earliest plays Dutchman, which presents the story of a young man called Clay who meets a white girl called Lula in a subway. In this play, Baraka presents Clay as an educated black man who is different from the stereotype of Black young men. Instead of living on the street, he goes to college and is enlightened. While initially, when seduced by Lula, Clay shows the politeness that anybody can expect from an educated person, nearing the closure of the novel Clay shows his Black radicalism by unmasking the motives behind Lula’s behavior and showing that she can never expect him to be like any other black men that she has taken advantage from as sexual objects.

Baraka’s use of provocative statements is not only found in his poems, but also in his public statements. This use of provocative statements has invited animosity from the media. In a famous TV interview, a prominent show host incites Baraka’s anger by pointing at his hatred towards white society in general. After a long heated debate with the interviewer still unable to accept Baraka’s point, Baraka states that what he intended was not making white people understand but making Black audience understand.

One of his latest controversies is related to his poem on the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In this poem, Baraka indicates that Jewish workers in the World Trade Center have known about the incident and have been absent from work. These critics see as Baraka’s anti-Semitism people and his belief in the conspiracy theory behind the whole terrorist attacks. The controversy led to the abrogation of his position as the Poet laureate of New Jersey.


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