Amiri Baraka

The late poet Amiri Baraka once said, “I wrote poetry ’cause I always had something to say. Always.” Baraka’s work is included in a new anthology, “Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin,” alongside the verses of other poets tackling topics of racism and the killings of black Americans. We speak with the co-editor Michael Warr and other local poets about how the power of the verse has helped to inspire and inform protest movements.

Al Young, poet laureate of California in 2005
Michael Warr, deputy director, Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco; co-editor, "Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmet Till to Trayvon Martin"
Prentice Powell, Oakland-based spoken word artist
Aya de Leon, poet & director, June Jordan's Poetry for the People at UC Berkeley

  • Ben Rawner

    Though I believe in the power of the written word in all its forms, do your guests think that poetry can really grab people’s attention in our ADD viral society for more than 30 seconds? Could some of your guests point out their favorite poems of protests?

  • Sar Wash

    The guest’s claim that black have the lowest total fertility rate (number of children per woman in a life time) of any racial or ethnic group in America is factually inaccurate. In descending order, the total fertility rate in the United States is 2.4 for people of Hispanic origin, 2.1 for blacks, 1.8 for Asians, and 1.8 for non-Hispanic whites.

    • Strandwolf

      Another race hustler rags on whites for not being able to keep up with blacks in thar regard. One of these factoid slingers is in error. Maybe both are.

  • Patricia

    Seriously…interrupting her poem? You didn’t know there was a commercial break coming up and could ask her to read it after the break? Before she got started? Not saying you wouldn’t have done this with a man you admired but ….
    How tone deaf can you get?

    • Noelle

      Ironic that the poem was about interruption.

    • Following Up

      I agree entirely. Also, she wasn’t asked follow up questions about her poem. In fact, she only spoke 3 times. The poet who came in after the break was given the chance for longer and more comments. Mr. Krasney dropped the ball. I was very disappointed.

  • Another Mike

    Reminds me of the great protest song-poems of the 1960s, like Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, or Gene McDaniel’s Compared to What.

  • Robert Thomas

    A little breaking news: NPR has announced that

    “After much experimentation and discussion, we’ve concluded that the comment sections on stories are not providing a useful experience for the vast majority of our users. In order to prioritize and strengthen other ways of building community and engagement with our audience, we will discontinue story-page comments on on August 23.”

    “Beyond Comments: Finding Better Ways To Connect With You”, August 17, 2016

    Apparently, NPR has decided that only those who confine their lobotomies to 140 illiterate characters or who feel comfortable applying their sucking mouthparts to the Zuckerberg are worth catering to.

    • Robert Thomas

      “Social media is now one of our most powerful sources for audience interaction. Our desks and programs run more than 30 Facebook pages and more than 50 Twitter accounts. We maintain vibrant presences on Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr. Our main Facebook page reaches more than 5 million people and recently has been the springboard for hundreds of hours of live video interaction and audience-first projects such as our 18,000-member ‘Your Money and Your Life’ group.”

      Scott Montgomery
      “Official Biz”

      • Strandwolf


    • Strandwolf


    • Noelle

      maybe there was too much spam?

    • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

      Yikes! Would seem at first glance like a step backward. Does it cost that much to maintain this online feature while adding other ones? If not, hope NPR will reconsider.

  • Strandwolf

    Some perspective: Fully 50% of the murders committed in the U.S. are by under 2% of the population: male African-Americans aged 18-26. Ironic that mothers lecture their boys about safety out there on the mean streets…

    • William – SF

      Ironic in the same way conservatives argue that the national debt is too high while bribing citizens for their votes by suggesting they’ll lower their taxes?

      • Strandwolf

        Exactly. These mothers tend to generate the very problems they fret about, any consider the cause to be police! Police kill fewer than 600 African-American males per year on average, which is a minuscule proportion of the population. Perhaps these mothers actually fear their kids’ apprehension and subsequent incarceration after criminal behavior has been determined at trial…

        • William – SF

          You make no sense! That’s disgusting!

          African American mothers are as caring and compassionate as white American mothers towards their children, and they aren’t in denial about the risks their children face in America, in impoverished neighborhoods in America, by police that shoot and kill their children without cause (watch the videos), …

          African American mothers DON’T create the problems they fear – it’s NOT possible.

          And WTF, are you saying it’s okay to kill 600 black males because that’s a much smaller number than 300 million?

          Spend some time with people you so freely malign and grow a compassionate pair.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Many thanks to all the brave and cultured guests, to master host Michael Krasny, and to the Forum team on this meaning-spectacular show. Special thanks to Prentice Powell for his deeply touching and affecting poem and reading. May it get the wide exposure it richly deserves.

  • Mary

    I phoned in, but time ran out before I could mention an Oakland poet I’ve recently discovered. His name is Malcolm Shabazz Hoover and he is the author of One Hundred Forty-Four Poems and Essays for God, Love, Truth, Justice, Peace, and Hip Hop.

  • Belinda Lesser

    Please post the link to Prentice Powell’s poem,” Daddy Just Wants You to Come Home Safe”. Blew me away, I want to share it.

  • InabaML

    I’m sure this will get much play as Prentice Powell’s poem is very moving. I hope that his son feels the warmth and caring in his father’s voice and takes that away with him. I’m not sure how I feel about parent’s expressing their fear and anger directly to children who are too young to put it in perspective. I think it would be better for adults to work out their emotional turmoil with other adults and then finding a way to communicate calmly with children. Children to develop a realistic sense of risk in order to navigate the world. To tell a young child that they and their parent are targets of violence because of their skin color can leave a child feeling helpless and fearful. Kids need to be helped to assess risk rationally and realistically, not emotionally. I know that the intent here is good. I’m not sure that the methods are the best. My instinct was to hug the young boy who was becoming upset and bring him back when Dad was calmed-down and in a better state to have “the talk.” I am a grandmother, poet, and child psychologist so my take on this may be different.

    • Strandwolf

      Most interracial violence is black on white. See FBI statistics available on their website.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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