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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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As the sound of African drums begin to pick up in pace (evoking the spirit of . . .

all begin to make their way . . . in a healing circle to clap, dance, shout with joy,

and help to welcome Shani a safe passage back home



Books by Jamie Walker

101 Ways Black Women Can Learn to Love Themselves: A Gift for Women of All Ages  /  Signifyin’ Me: New and Selected Poems

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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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Home-Going Celebration for Daughter

of Amina and Amiri Baraka, Touches Many

By Jamie Walker


Saturday August 16, 2003

Newark, New Jersey--Hundreds filed their way into Metropolitan Baptist Church at 149 Springfield Avenue in Newark, New Jersey Saturday August 16, 2003 to pay final tributes to Shani Isis Makeda Jones Baraka, 32, the youngest daughter of artist-activists, Amina and Amiri Baraka, along with her companion, Rayshon Holmes, 30.

Both women were found murdered Tuesday evening, August 12, 2003, in the family room of Shani and her older sister, Wanda Pasha's home in Piscataway, New Jersey. Each are reported to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head and body.

Although Middlesex County prosecutor, Bruce Kaplan, does not consider Pasha's estranged ex-husband, James L. Coleman, a suspect, detectives are still searching for him. Coleman, who also goes by the name of Ibn El-Amin Pasha, had a restraining order issued against him on April 27. In early July, he was charged with pointing a hand-gun at Pasha's head in her home and threatening to kill her.

Coleman, whom Pasha divorced this past February, has not been served with either charges and has been considered a fugitive since July, Kaplan said. Pasha, who filed a total of 12 mostly neglected and unanswered domestic violence complaints against Coleman, was in the West Coast at the time of her sister, Shani and Rayshon's senseless deaths.

During funeral services held at Metropolitan Baptist Church, in which Rev. Dr. David Jefferson, Sr. read the eulogy, Amiri Baraka, New Jersey's most recent Poet Laureate and acknowledged father of the historic Black Arts Movement who co-authored Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women (Quill 1983) with his wife, Amina, spoke on behalf of his beloved daughter, Pasha.

"She filed twelve reports with the Piscataway police department." Baraka repeated, "Twelve reports. How many times do you have to say there is a crazy man out here who is going to kill me?"

Baraka's expressed indignation aroused a resounding applause from the filled-to-capacity Metropolitan church congregation. His daughter's case mirrors that of many women involved in domestic violence disputes who receive little, if any, help or full protection under the law from the police department until it is much too late.

"It's a sad occasion," said Teddy Harris, a collage artist who traveled all the way from Philadelphia, PA with his friend, Kinshasa Coghill, to attend funeral services for Shani and to support the Baraka family. "All of this is so unnecessary."

Harris' sentiments echo that of poet, Ted Wilson, friend of the Baraka's, who knew Shani since she was a little girl.

"There's not enough words you can say unless you have been in this place before," said Wilson, who was also in attendance at Shani's home-going services. "That is, having buried a child from a violent act." Wilson, then, quoted from the preface of a poem he had written for Amadou Diallo, son to activist-author, Kadiatou Diallo, who was killed in 1999 after four white New York City police officers fired a fuselage of 41 gunshots into his 23-year old body.

"The most horrific act that one can experience is to bury a child," Wilson said. "And for a mother to bury her child from an act of violence is the most devastating thing in the world."

Born to Amina and Amiri Baraka, October 23, 1971, in the middle of what her parents might call "the torrent of struggle that characterized the Civil Rights Movement," Shani Isis Makeda Jones Baraka was a gifted, self-determined, talented young Black woman who, as her older brother, Ras, notes, "was full of life and fire."

After finishing an early education at Madison Avenue School, she later went on to graduate from University High in Newark, New Jersey, where she was considered "one of the brightest stars on the girls' basketball team."

While on a four-year basketball scholarship to Johnson C. Smith, a historically black college located in Charlotte, North Carolina, Shani, at 5'1 (she always said 2), quickly established a name for herself as point-guard. She impressed coaches, teachers, and fellow peers alike with her "aggressive, but silk smooth game," which she patterned after Isiah Thomas who was also short. Most recently, Shani taught science and language arts at Valisburg Middle School and was also Assistant Coach (to Head Coach Joanne Watson) at Malcolm X Shabazz High School, where she played an important role in helping the girls' basketball team to bring home the gold medal this past year.

Averaging 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 11 assists, Shani, who graduated magna cum laude from Smith, still holds the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) records for steals and assists. In 1993, she was named CIAA Women's Co-Player of the Year and has, to her credit, a distinguished, "Honorable Mention" on The Eastman Kodak All America Team.

Her companion, Rayshon Holmes, was mother to an 8-year old boy and also a well-known, respected member of Newark's prodigious Black community.

"Shani was the best of us all," her older brother, Ras Baraka, an alumnus of Howard University, said in a loving, deeply passionate, and moving speech he gave just before his father, Amiri. "She had the most courage. And if you knew our family, you knew she would fight first. She had more fights than all of us put together. That's why we couldn't protect her, because she was too busy protecting us."

Through tears, which began to stream down his cheeks, Ras asked: "Then why is she dead? And her friend too? Why couldn't we save her in all of our Blackness, prayers, our revolution talk, or [healing] conferences? Why couldn't we keep her alive? How can we shape a community and let our little sister die?"

Ras' memorable, heart-wrenching speech brought the congregation not only to tears, but also to their feet much like his father, Amiri Baraka, did when he delivered a gripping, prophetic statement he'd recently written for Shani. In his statement, which was fused with a sense of conviction and fire, Baraka spoke out against the evils of internalized racism and homophobia within the Black community, as well as the need for men (who are often conditioned in society to "hate" women that are "triply oppressed by gender, race, and class") to "stop killing our women! Stop killing our babies!"

Earlier in his speech, Baraka asked: "Who killed our little Shani? I ask it for her mother, my wife, Amina, for her brothers and sisters, her aunts and uncles, her nieces and nephews, for the people who loved her, all the people who love our little Shani. For gay friends and straight ones. All of us wanna' know who killed our Shani. As little as she was, we know you didn't have to kill her."

Baraka then concluded by speaking directly to the people, to the Piscataway police department, and the mayor. He said: "This is a mostly Black city. A Black Mayor. A Black Police Director. Elected by the people of this city or appointed with great expectations from those people. And it is your job, which you have sworn to us to carry out. That is why I have told all these snarling young folks and growling not so young ones to try to be cool, though this thing has hacked to the bone, has shot us, like Shani, directly in our hearts. The heat of the people and City of Newark." Baraka said, "You must find this maniac very soon. That is your job. That's what you are paid by us, what you were elected by us, to do. But if you do not do it, and do it soon, then people will get angry past angry. And some of them, especially the young ones might also lose their lives to the same killer. And if that happens I said, no one will have to campaign against you or call you political names. If you let the murderer of our Little Shani get away, anarchy will break out in this Brick City of ours. And you will be cursed and screamed at and finally pulled down!"

Poet, Sonia Sanchez, herself a leading female of the Black Arts Movement and close friend of the Baraka family, who, in 1965, taught one of the first Black Studies courses in the nation at San Francisco State University, read a poem called, "A Pavane for Shani: A Young Sister Warrior." Through tears, Sanchez asked:


How have we come to this place with the scent of summer bursting from her young feet
...come come come drums beating a whole life
come drums beating a new life
come life we need you as she cremates the air, folds herself into the passion of a butterfly
Shani, Shani, Shani, my daughter. Woman sister teacher, la mujer, de todos los pasados
woman in the fullness of time
know that nothing is ever lost. forgotten.
i see you walking on morning tiptoes
your brown eyes trailing evening stars.

Other incredible testimonies, which came from all over the world in support of the Barakas, that were read during the "acknowledgments" included comments from Mayor Sharpe James; Rev. Hubert Daughtrey; Congressman Donald Payne; Ms. Joanne Watson; Rev. Dr. William Howard, Jr.; Max Roach, Lucille Clifton, Jayne Cortez, Ntozake Shangé, and Jose Cruz, among others. Also in attendance were well-known authors from Shani's generation, including Tony Medina, Kevin Powell, Ewuare Osayande, and Asha Bandele.

Back at the Baraka house, posters of Shani adorned street and lampposts outside, which read, "Not Just Another Short Story" and "I Know That You All Loved Me." Just inside the house, the sound of African drums could be heard by three male friends of the Barakas who were in the living room, playing. At the front door, a woman by the name of Pat stood to greet relatives, guests, well-wishers, mourners, and other friends, all of whom were welcomed to help themselves to a plate a food, water, ginger ale, or a seat in the house. In the dining room, poet, Ted Wilson, sat next to "seasoned" author, Vertamae Grosvenor, a "cultural correspondent" for NPR, and musician, John Hicks, who later got up to play the wooden piano sitting in the middle of the floor. Directly across from the piano sits a tiny altar built in memory of Shani that is adorned with flowers, awards, sympathy cards, letters, and pictures.

As the sound of African drums begin to pick up in pace (evoking the spirit of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. Du Bois, and David Walker, among numerous other ancestors) and quickens the spirit of elders, young persons, relatives, and friends present in the Baraka home, all begin to make their way toward the living room, where they will now gather round in a healing circle to clap, dance, shout with joy, and help to welcome Shani a safe passage back home. It is at this moment that Amiri and Amina Baraka, who have been married for over 35 years and, most recently, read their work together at "Poetry Ona MOVE," enter the house, with their poet and sister-friend, Sonia Sanchez, following not too far behind, along with other members of the Baraka family, who have recently returned from Shani's interment at Fairmont Crematory.

Noticing the irresistible sound of the African drum, as well as the healing circle, which was already being formed in their living room, poet-husband-father-brother-warrior-teacher, Amiri Baraka, along with poet-wife-mother-activist-sister-warrior-teacher, Amina Baraka, willfully, step inside. For the ancestors were calling, beckoning them to welcome Shani's spirit back home. 

After Amiri reaches on top of his living room mantel for an 8 ½ x 11 poster board with Shani's picture neatly pasted to it, he then greets everyone from within the circle, raising her picture up high to the sky, showing all who had eyes and ears free enough to listen, a beautiful photograph of his youngest daughter.

"Remember, Shani!" Baraka said.

And Amina was right there with him. At the funeral services earlier, she cried while laying her weeping body across her daughter in her casket. But now, in the living room of her own home, something under her feet was tickling her, causing her to move and to dance. And she did.

Those who were gathered around Amina stood by, clapping and sometimes dancing, too, as they chanted, "Shani! Shani! Shani!" For they, too, knew that Shani's awesome spirit had, indeed, entered the room to dance and join them in celebration.

After the crowd shouted, "We love you. We miss you, Shani," silently or out loud, Amina then, gracefully, lifted and outstretched her hands toward the Lord, in the middle of the healing circle. And it was clear to all who were in attendance that Amina knew and had received the news: her baby, her youngest daughter, Shani Isis Makeda Jones Baraka, who she had buried only an hour ago, had finally made it. She arrived, safely, to become one of our ancestor spirits, whose short time spent with us here on earth is destined to touch many lives.

Jamie Walker is a freelance writer, Ph.D. student in the Dept. of English at Howard University, and author of 101 Ways Black Women Can Learn to Love Themselves: A Gift for Women of All Ages (Xlibris 2002). She can be reached at or via email at

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City of Newark 2010 Inauguration—Part 7—Ras Baraka Speech

On Thursday, July 1, 2010, the City of Newark inaugurated the Mayor and Municipal Council to new four-year terms.

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

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#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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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.   Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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 29 February 2012




Home   Amiri Baraka Table  Jamie Walker 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