Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Last Poets

The Gil Scott-Heron post brought back memories of my youth as did the Dylan post. I was attending Art School at the University of Missouri and involved with several of the anti-war groups including a guerrilla theater troupe when the Last Poets released their first album.

The Last Poets is a group of poets and musicians who arose from the late 1960s African American civil rights movement’s black nationalist thread. Their name is taken from a poem by the South African revolutionary poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, who believed he was in the last era of poetry before guns would take over.

The Last Poets have been cited as one of the earliest influences on what would become hip-hop music; critic Jason Ankeny wrote, “With their politically charged raps, taut rhythms, and dedication to raising African-American consciousness, the Last Poets almost single-handedly laid the groundwork for the emergence of hip-hop.” The British music magazine NME stated, “Serious spokesmen like Gil Scott-Heron, Gary Byrd, and the Last Poets paved the way for the many socially committed Black [emcees] a decade later.” 

John Pietaro [The Cultural Worker] describes what was appealing to me about the Last Poets, John Sinclair and the MC5 as well as guerrilla theater:

No revolutionary act can be truly complete in the absence of art, no progressive campaign can retain its message sans the drumbeat of creativity, no act of dissent can stand so strong as that which counts the musicians, writers, painters, dancers, actors and performance artists within its ranks. Here's to the history and legacy of cultural work in the throes of the good fight... john pietaro

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