I met him in high school during or after Zora Neale Hurston. During a scene study in drama class, I read The Dutchman. I found it very bold and the vernacular likening my uncles and father. He felt familiar. I read more on him and the adjectives attached to his name were, “controversial and radical” which I had not yet defined for myself. But I knew if my sheroes, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez and Maya Angelou spoke highly of him… he was someone I needed in my library.
Leroi Jones / Amiri Baraka
His body of literature is a mixture of oil and gold. Priceless. Sought after. and Needed. You cannot discuss the Black Arts Movement without mentioning his name. You cannot discuss African American literature without mentioning his name. You cannot discuss American literature without mentioning his name. I can’t believe today marks a year you became an ancestor.
I remember the first time I heard you speak, I told myself, ‘I am going to share a stage with him one day.’ And I did, twice as a matter of fact. And both times I fumbled my poems terribly! I wanted to reach you, I wanted you to hear me. At a reception after the second time I opened for you, you came to me and said, “what’s your name again?” I said, “Nikki, Nikki Skies.” You smiled and replied, “We have Nikki Giovanni and now we have Nikki Skies.” It meant the world to me! And yes, I want to be included. It is every writer’s dream to be remembered amongst the greats! I have a loooong way to go and plenty of stories and voices to bring to life but I just wanted to say… I remember you today. And thank you. And your son became Mayor. And I love you for making my brown beautiful and my deep voice and roots important and valid. We thank you.