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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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This man is an obvious perpetrator of a double homicide

and these charges need to be upgraded immediately



Books by Amiri Baraka

Tales of the Out & the Gone  / The Essence of Reparations / Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems  / Blues People

 Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka / Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones / Black Music

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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 Kaplan.

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.

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Family Tensions Flare As Barakas Confront Suspect in Slayings

By Dore Carroll
Star-Ledger Staff


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 appearance. "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 courtroom. 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. 2.
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' families.

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 said. 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 authorities.

Source: The Star-Ledger Essex County


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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 daughter's killer. Autopsies completed Thursday showed that Shani Baraka, 31, and Rayshon Holmes, 30, each died from multiple gunshots to the head and body. 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 missing.

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 system." 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 27. 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," Kapsak said.

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 boy. 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

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"American Poem" Ras Baraka (Def Poetry) /  Lauryn Hill and Ras Baraka—Hot Beverage In Winter

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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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

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson, III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, 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. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment 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 America. 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 political consciousness. Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.Publishers Weekly

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

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.     

Professor Perry 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 Caucasian babies.

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 indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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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 Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 22 March 2012




 Home  Amiri Baraka Table

Related files: #1  #4  There Are Some Black Men  Baraka's Daughter Killed  Poems of Remembrance   Home-Going Celebration  A Plea from Amiri Baraka