Friday, January 27, 2017

An Anti-War march, Amiri and Amina Baraka, and me

During my time as a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University, I made several trips to New York City. On  one of those trips during my last year (somewhere between fall 2002 and spring 2003), I was in the city for a conference. I somehow ended up on a street, standing on the curb watching as demonstrators marched by during one of the many anti-war demonstrations taking place.

I was standing there watching large groups of protestors walking by and shouting slogans. (i.e. "No war. No peace.").

Most of the protestors were in packs of 10 or more. They were mostly white, primarily young women. Then, I saw something unexpected.

There was an elder black couple walking down the middle of the street. The woman, taller than the man, held closely to him. The man was shouting various statements.
"Bush needs to be in jail!"
"They all need to be in jail!"
"Arrest'em! Now!"
I knew that voice. I recognized the man and woman. The flow of the march had stopped. So they were now standing in one place. Without even thinking about it, I stepped off the curb and walked into the street toward them.

“Baraka!” I said, as I went up to him. It was Amiri and Amina Baraka, walking down the street in a protest march.

"Amiri Baraka. Mr. and Ms. Baraka, hello," I said, excited and nervous.

They looked at me, wondering and understandably thrown off by a random person coming up to them in the march and calling them by name.

I introduced myself and quickly thought of words that would put Baraka at ease. "I'm a student of Professor William Harris," I said.

"Ohhh, you're Billy Joe's student? He's a great guy," he said. "This is my wife, Amina."

He turned to Amina: “You know, Billy Joe Harris. This is his student. Billy Joe's a great guy.”

Baraka then reached into a bag he was holding and handed me a sheet of paper. It was a photocopy of a crude hand-drawn image ridiculing then-attorney general John Ashcroft. The words on the page read "Asscraft Landing." In the top left-hand corner was the statement "'Home Land Security' is Bush'it for Gestapo." At the top right-hand were the words "Unity & Struggle / Razor."

The flyer Baraka gave me that during the march

The march began moving again.

"Walk with us," Baraka said. So I did.

We continued together for a few blocks. Amina Baraka on one side, and me on the other, and Baraka in the middle shouting out anti-war statements.

Amiri Baraka 

1 comment:

Mamatha said...

"Walk with us" he said. So I did.

I came across this site couple of months back while researching about Amiri and Amina Baraka. Thank you for sharing this seemingly simple, but an inspiring and memorable event. Memorable because I keep remembering this out of the blue and it makes my day.