Interview with Amiri Baraka
QUESTION 6
JUDY RICHARDSON:

Oh, before you get into that.

AMIRI BARAKA:

Knocked off, yeah.

JUDY RICHARDSON:

Yeah. Let me just ask you. How did he personally, again in terms of personal stories, personally affect your writing?

AMIRI BARAKA:

Well, you see, it, it, it, you can't make it more than the influence of ideas, I mean unless you're going to have him guiding my pen, you know. It's, it's a question of, ah, of, of the ideas and the image that Malcolm represented in terms of, of, of standing strong, standing tall, in terms of what this oppression was. See, the, the, the question of, ah, the oppression of Black people, ah, was so constant. It's not like it's something that we don't know about. It's so constant in our everyday life, and to see somebody who represents taking a stand, a forthright and sincere stand against that, and says the things that have to be said no matter what the consequences are and, you know, tells the truth, the truth about these things. These, that was very impressive to me and to a lot of people. And, ah, certainly when you see these, these kinds of, you know, vacillating opportunists, super cautious negroes that many times, ah, supposed to represent us, ah, who will not tell the truth longer than 20 seconds about anything. You know what I'm saying. And at that point, Malcolm came, you know, he came through. This was after the King thing, and, and, ah, after King was assassinated. So Malcolm had come to the fore as the kind of major Black leader, you see, which was why he was killed then, because then, that's when he--I mean King wasn't killed then--but once they killed Kennedy, then a lot of Black people began to see that the so-called non-violent thing, you understand what I mean, was not the way. In other words, I think that Dr. King's influence had come to, let's say, a kind of, sort of stalemated by, ah, the Kennedy assassination, you know. The March on Washington, I think was the kind of, high-water mark and at the same time, the beginning of the end, I think for that particular domination. So, the whole, ah, Malcolm's preeminence began to be clear, the fact that non-violence would not work. You know, the fact that Black people had mainly been non-violent, and all they had gotten was violence in return, no question of self defense, and also the question of imperialism being the enemy. Malcolm began to be clearer on that. You know he came back from Mecca and he used that as his means of saying that finally it was not the color of somebody's skin that was at fault, it was the nature of their politics, you know, and, and the whole question of, of, ah, of internationalism. That was very, very important, you know, the Black people and people generally began to look at Malcolm now more closely because, you know, the non-violent thing had been, ah, I think proven to be ineffective to, to some extent. And the fact that Kennedy, who Black people looked to as quote, ah, "The only person who's going to make this non-violent thing work in the first place," since they had killed him, it became clear that these people would kill anybody, you know, to, ah, I mean, since they killed Kennedy, you know what I mean, it became clear, you know, they would kill anybody. And then of course right away, then Malcolm.