Music in the Word

Amiri Baraka–known until 1967 as LeRoi Jones, black nationalist and surrealist political playwright-poet–cut his teeth on beat poetry and the improvisational populism that fueled Greenwich Village life and art in the 60s. His commitment to art as a revolutionary form of persuasion hasn’t wavered since, although his politics have shifted from Black Panther separatism and Muslim nationalism to his current belief in anti-imperialist Third World Marxism. “Americans are so tricked up by this scam of the great supremacy, the white supremacy of America,” he told me, “that they believe everything they do is just. It’s madness. You have got to get people to confront the contradictions of imperialism in as many ways as you can. Art can reach beyond the surface of things, but it has to be profound, intriguing, and entertaining.” With two friends–World Sax Quartet member Oliver Lake and jazz composer Steve Colson–Baraka will show Chicago what a pre-poetry-slam revolutionary slammer can do: free jazz, improvisation, and revolutionary fire jam the stage for the February event in Steppenwolf’s “Traffic” series. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650. Monday, February 23, 7:30 PM. $25. –Carol Burbank

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Amiri Baraka photo.