Books by Amiri
Tales of the Out &
The Essence of Reparations /
Somebody Blew Up
America & Other Poems
of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka /
Selected Poetry of
Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones
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Books by Ras Baraka
Black Girls Learn Lover Hard /
In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers
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Amiri Baraka's Daughter Killed
Thursday August 14
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.
(AP) - A daughter of New Jersey's deposed poet laureate and the
daughter's friend were found shot to death in a home,
authorities said Wednesday.
The bodies of Shani Baraka, 31, and Rayshon Holmes, 30, were
discovered Tuesday night in the Piscataway home that Shani
Baraka shared with her sister, according to prosecutor Bruce
Police were searching for Shani Baraka'a brother-in-law, James
Coleman, who also goes by the name Ibn El-Amin Pasha, Kaplan
said. Coleman is the estranged husband of Wanda Pasha, Shani
Baraka's sister. Coleman was not called a suspect.
Amiri Baraka, the former poet laureate, said Wanda Pasha made
several domestic violence complaints against Coleman, from whom
she separated in February. He said Wanda Pasha was in Las Vegas
at the time of the shootings.
Kaplan said Coleman was not served with two complaints and has
been considered a fugitive since July.
Amiri Baraka's post as poet laureate was eliminated last month
after he wrote a poem suggesting that Israel had advance
knowledge of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Investigators do not believe the uproar over the poem had
anything to do with the shootings.
* * * * *
Tensions Flare As Barakas Confront Suspect in Slayings
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Grief gave way to anger yesterday for the family of poet and
Newark activist Amiri Baraka during a court appearance for the man
suspected of fatally shooting Baraka's daughter and her friend in
Piscataway last week.
Muttering obscenities to himself, Baraka glared across the New
Brunswick courtroom at James Coleman, the estranged husband of
Baraka's other daughter, Wanda Pasha.
Coleman has not been charged in the deaths of Shani Baraka, 31,
and Rayshon Holmes, 30, who were found shot multiple times in the
family room of Pasha's Piscataway home last Tuesday, but is the
only suspect authorities have identified.
Coleman, 35, who is also known as Ibn El-Amin Pasha, surrendered
to Piscataway police about 1 p.m. Sunday and is being held in the
Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in North Brunswick on
charges of threatening to kill Pasha in June. Coleman pleaded not
guilty yesterday to that charge.
Frustrated that no one has been charged in the women's death,
Baraka's family lashed out at Coleman during his courtroom
"You know damn well you did it!" Shani's mother, Amina
Baraka, shouted at the end of Coleman's arraignment. "You're a coward!"
another Baraka relative yelled as the family filed out of the
Family members fear for Pasha's safety and are upset that Coleman
could be released if he posts the $250,000 bail set yesterday by
Judge Phillip Lewis Paley.
"This man is an obvious perpetrator of a double homicide and
these charges need to be upgraded immediately," said Amiri
Baraka, who was New Jersey's poet laureate until his job was
eliminated this year because of a controversial poem he wrote.
Amina Baraka said that given the history of domestic violence
between Pasha and Coleman, he should remain behind bars.
"He has no business on the street endangering my other
children's lives," Amina Baraka said. "I do not want him
on the street."
First Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor William Lamb said
Coleman is considered a flight risk, adding that additional
charges may be filed against him.
"As we develop a more rounded picture of the domestic
situation" between Coleman and Pasha, Lamb said it becomes
clear that the June 15 death threat "was not an isolated
event, but part of a recurring pattern of domestic violence."
Pasha threw Coleman out of the house in January and obtained a
restraining order against him in April. His behavior worsened in
recent months, according to Pasha's brothers, and he allegedly cut
a hole in her pool and burned her car.
In the charges filed July 2, Coleman is accused of cocking a gun
at Pasha's head and threatening to kill her.
Lamb said Coleman's case will be presented to a grand jury Sept.
Coleman's attorney, Hassen Abdellah of Elizabeth, declined to
discuss details of the murder investigation.
"To date, there's been no documentation that links my client
to the crime scene," Abdellah said. "As far as I'm
concerned, there are no murder charges."
Authorities would not disclose what, if any, evidence they have
linking Coleman to the crime scene in Piscataway.
"There is information that we have, leads that we are
pursuing, people we want to talk to," Middlesex County
Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said.
Shani Baraka, a Newark teacher and girls high school basketball
coach, had been staying with her sister in Piscataway, and
returned with Holmes last week to collect some belongings when
they were shot, authorities said.
Both women's cars were stolen from the driveway. Assistant
Middlesex County Prosecutor Thomas Kapsak said investigators are
processing Shani Baraka's red Mercedes- Benz found a half-mile
from the crime scene, looking for fingerprints and other evidence.
"We are still processing the car, looking very closely for
all trace evidence," Kapsak said. Authorities are continuing
to search for Holmes' vehicle, a white 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser
with New Jersey license plate MPP-19Z.
During his court appearance, Coleman, who wore glasses and a short
beard, stood handcuffed in the jury box. He provided a Newark post
office box as his address.
Abdellah said he did not want Coleman's whereabouts made public,
because of escalating tensions between him and the victims'
Emmanuel Avraham, a cousin of Coleman, said Coleman is saddened by
what happened. "He expressed to me that he didn't have
anything to do with that," Avraham said. "If he's not
the one who did this, we have to find out who did."
The situation between Coleman's relatives and the Barakas is so
volatile that Avraham said he fears for Coleman's safety if he is
released. "It's a very touchy situation right now," he
Leaving Coleman in custody may be the best thing for everyone
involved, Abdellah said.
"I understand the (Coleman) family don't want to believe it's
him," said Ras Baraka, Shani Baraka's brother and Newark
deputy mayor. "They know like everybody else knows what was
going on. They just got to face it." "We're going to
ascertain what the truth is," Ras Baraka said. "We'll
find out what the truth is because this is not going to be no
unsolved crime. This is going to be solved. We're going to know
who, why and what."
At a vigil last night outside Amiri Baraka's Newark home, more
than 100 people rallied to stop violence against women. Some,
including the Barakas, questioned whether homophobia
was a motive for the slayings.
"Did he kill them because they were women? Did he kill them
because they were gay?" Baraka asked the crowd. He asked
residents with information about the shootings to report it to
www.nj.com/news The Star-Ledger Essex
* * * *
Poet urges calm after daughter's murder
By John P. McAlpin
Associated Press Writer
August 14, 2003
TRENTON, N.J. -- A poet who protested police brutality for decades
and wrote a Sept. 11 verse that prompted charges of anti-Semitism
urged supporters to trust authorities as they search for his
Autopsies completed Thursday showed that Shani Baraka, 31, and
Rayshon Holmes, 30, each died from multiple gunshots to the head and
Shani Baraka's red Mercedes Benz sports car was found Thursday less
than half a mile from her home in Piscataway, where she and Holmes
were found dead late Tuesday. Holmes' sport utility vehicle is
Both vehicles were taken from the home Shani Baraka shared with
sister Wanda Pasha.
Police were still searching for Shani Baraka'a brother-in-law, James
Coleman, who also goes by Ibn El-Amin Pasha. Coleman, Wanda Pasha's
estranged husband, has not been identified as a suspect.
Supporters flocked to Amiri Baraka's home in Newark, and the poet
said some have demanded a protest against police, claiming officers
failed to act on complaints that Coleman was violent and abusive.
"Do not move, let the police do their work, that's what I'm
telling them," Baraka said in a telephone interview. "I'm
trying to show these people that there's some good in the
The poet also denounced any move by supporters to search for Coleman
on their own.
"We as citizens should be able to sit and grieve and wait for
(the police) to lock this guy up. I ain't for no vigilante. We have
to wait for the police to lock them up," Baraka said.
Wanda Pasha made at least 12 domestic violence complaints against
Coleman, from whom she separated in February, family members said.
They said a restraining order was issued against Coleman on April
On July 2, Coleman pointed a gun at Pasha's head and threatened to
kill her, according to a complaint filed with Piscataway police.
Coleman was never served with the restraining order or the complaint
and has been considered a fugitive since July, Middlesex County
Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said.
Investigators do not think Coleman is still in Middlesex County,
said Tom Kapsak, head of the prosecutor's major crimes unit.
"Our people are out there. There are a lot of officers out
there talking to people who know him, relatives, friends,"
Shani Baraka was a teacher at Vailsburg Middle School in Newark and
the assistant basketball coach at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in
Newark, her father said. Holmes was a single mother of an 8-year-old
Amiri Baraka's post as poet laureate was eliminated last month after
he wrote a poem suggesting that Israel had advance knowledge of the
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Born LeRoi Jones, Amiri Baraka is an award-winning playwright who
has taught at Columbia and Yale universities. He is also known as a
civil rights activist.
Source: Associated Press
* * * *
"American Poem" Ras
Baraka (Def Poetry) /
Lauryn Hill and Ras
Baraka—Hot Beverage In Winter
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* * * * *
Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost
* * * * *
Incognegro: A Memoir of
Exile and Apartheid
By Frank B. Wilderson, III
Wilderson, a professor,
writer and filmmaker from
presents a gripping account
of his role in the downfall
of South African apartheid
as one of only two black
Americans in the African
National Congress (ANC).
After marrying a South
African law student, Wilderson reluctantly
returns with her to South
Africa in the early 1990s,
where he teaches
Johannesburg and Soweto
students, and soon joins the
military wing of the ANC.
portrait of Nelson Mandela
as a petulant elder eager to
accommodate his white
countrymen will jolt readers
who've accepted the
usually accorded him. After
the assassination of
Mandela's rival, South
African Communist Party
leader Chris Hani, Mandela's
regime deems Wilderson's
public questions a threat to
national security; soon,
having lost his stomach for
the cause, he returns to
Wilderson has a
distinct, powerful voice and
a strong story that shuffles
between the indignities of
Johannesburg life and his
early years in Minneapolis,
the precocious child of
academics who barely
tolerate his emerging
about love within and across
the color line and cultural
divides are as provocative
as his politics; despite
digressions, this is a
riveting memoir of
apartheid's last days.—Publishers
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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update 22 March 2012