Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
The Last Poets took the revolutionary pronouncements of South African poet Willie Kgositsile, the self-determination being preached by Malcolm X, and the creative fervor of the Black Arts movement and melded them into rhythmic, political, street poetry. In essence, they created rap. Oyewole has never taken personal credit for it, however. As Rickey Vincent, professor of Black Studies at San Francisco State University points out, "It was really kind of a movement. It was something that was part of the popular culture. The idea of mixing a poetry reading with a revolutionary passion, with an ancient African tradition of truth-telling, and with a griot-style of conga playing; all those things came out at just the right time."
The Poets' new spoken word form became enormously popular in Harlem in New York City. They found a loft space there and would perform with the likes of poet Amiri Baraka (then called LeRoi Jones) and musician Sun Ra. The group began to hold political clout; they were suddenly allied with outfits like the Harlem Committee for Self-Defense, the Black United Front, the SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), and the Black Panthers.
Through the years, Oyewole has recorded new material -- notably with his friend and fellow Last Poet Umar bin Hassan -- and has become an educator in the community. "Back then, I wanted to see everything burned, I wanted to see riots," Oyewole has said. "Now, my whole thing is, we have to see how we can be the greatest part of us, which is the healing part of us. This self-empowerment mode is where I'm at. I'd rather that folks learn how to save themselves before they kill themselves. That's what I'm trying to do."
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