Baraka, who died on Thursday at age 79, is seen as one of the last voices of the radical Black Power movement of the 1960s, and a man who retained his radical roots in his home town of New Jersey.
Although Baraka warned McGreevey about naming him to the post of poet laureate in 2001, McGreevey asked for Baraka’s resignation in 2002, after Baraka published a controversial poem about 9/11, a poem Baraka continued to read even though some of the information contained in it was proven to be inaccurate.
Baraka read the poem as a kind of personal protest – something he commented on during an appearance at Jersey City Library in the Greenville section a few years later.
Baraka’s resignation became a symbol of the limits of free speech for many.
But McGreevey this week called the poem “a great artist.”
“He was exceptionally gifted,” McGreevey said. “I named him poet laureate because I appreciated his art, his intelligence and his creative energy. I’ve always had great personal affected for him and recognized him as a gifted creative force.”
Watch for a bigger story in next week’s Jersey City Reporter. -- Al Sullivan