03/28/02

Amherst Hosts Panel on Baraka

Jazz and Massachusetts swap spit again (see Jazz News 3/20/02 and 3/22/02), this time at Amherst College in the form of a debate/panel entitled “Baraka: Examining a Legacy.”

On Apr. 7, jazz critic Stanley Crouch will sit down with Harvard University Professor Werner Sollors and Trinity College Professor Jerry Watts to debate the value and impact of writer/poet Amiri Baraka’s contributions to musical, literary and intellectual histories over the past 50 years. And given the rap sheets on these panelists, scandalous things will surely be said, eyebrows will surely raise and feelings might get hurt.

Watts’ controversial book on Baraka, Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual (NYU Press), poses Baraka as a vaunted outsider with a penchant for instigating, rather than a committed artist with serious plans for social change. Sollors cuts Baraka a bit more slack in Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones: The Quest for a “Populist Modernism” (Columbia University Press), depicting Baraka as a worn-and-torn hero of the Beat Generation who made significant contributions to the politics and arts of the movement before evolving out of his Beat shell and adopting a unique array of aesthetic and political identities. Crouch, as impassioned in person as on paper, will share his (not often flattering) opinions on Baraka.

The debate will take place four days after Baraka’s performance at Amherst College on Apr. 3 as a featured vocalist in bassist William Parker’s ensemble featuring pianist Dave Burrell, saxophonist Darryl Foster and a host of others, all backed by the dewdrop sounds of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ Choir.

The debate begins at 3 p.m. in Cole Assemble Room, Converse Hall and is open to everyone with a sweet tooth for intellectual combat. Admission is free. More information is available, e-mail djking@amherst.edu.

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