Wednesday, November 18, 2009

GAZA @ Lincoln Center: Fighting Political Censorship in the U.S. 'Art World'

Amiri Baraka defends "Somebody Blew Up America" (2003)

by Amiri Baraka

November 17, 2009

Of course it is simply a microcosm of the Big Hit that literally flattened Gaza earlier this year, by the always "correct" Israeli Imperialists, who were until just a few years ago the closest running buddies of Apartheid South Africa. But it shows you how long the arms of injustice can reach and how fine tuned their aim.

Earlier in the year the indefatigable and admirable Phil Schaap, undoubtedly one of the most well informed on-air voices of the music, asked me to teach a four session course at his Swing University at Lincoln Center. The course was to be themed around my new book DIGGING: The Afro American Soul of American Classical Music (University of California Press, 2009).

A few weeks later someone from Lincoln Center called to set up a book signing, Oct 15, for the book. I thought, for a minute, maybe the controversy agitated by my poem "Somebody Blew Up America", had finally subsided. As a result of that poem New Jersey's former Governor McGreevey asked me to apologize and resign from the post of Poet Laureate of New Jersey,at the urging of the Anti Defamation League, the best known Israeli apologist in the United States. citing two lines in the poem as Anti-Semitic: "Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion/ And cracking they sides at the notion" and "Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/to stay home that day..."

Ultimately since McGreevey and the Legislature could not fire me , they simply abolished the position of Poet Laureate, which is why I still sign some mail "The Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey".

But then in early October a Lincoln Center spokesman call to say that the book signing had been canceled. Today, an Adrian Ellis, chairman of the Jazz at Lincoln Center called to tell me that they had canceled the Swing University class. Phil Schaap was annoyed and surprised and I'm sure he had nothing to do with the cancellations.

Meanwhile the politics of imperialism continue to dominate the world. And questions about one of the most backward regimes in the world can get one censured by sympathizers across the ocean (I lost $60,000 income last year.) so the anti-Baraka blitz continues. Meanwhile Israel thumbs its nose at President Obama's call for Israel to stop building its illegal settlements. A UN mandate, along with the resolution calling for Israel to return to its pre-1967 war borders, both of which Israel has ignored since 1967.

So if I can sign my letters The Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey, the Israeli government can sign its official correspondence The Last Settler Colony in the Middle East.

Amiri Baraka, The Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey