Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, New Jersey, book, father, blues people

Newark Mayor To Discuss Late Father’s Groundbreaking Book ‘Blues People’

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka will join with his sister to celebrate their late father's seminal book “Blues People: Negro Music in White America."

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka will join his sister, historian Kellie Jones, to celebrate their late father’s seminal book Blues People: Negro Music in White America.

In honor of renowned author and activist Amiri Baraka, Ras and Kellie will appear at Express Newark on Wednesday, April 3, to celebrate the legendary status of Blues People, Rutgers-Newark reports. Express Newark serves as the school’s center for art and design, which has been celebrating Blues People through an exhibition of the same name. Five artists and a series of events have explored the book’s themes and the issues it addresses.

The April 3 event will see Ras, the city’s mayor, and Kellie, a Columbia University professor, MacArthur “Genius” fellow, and curator sit down for a chat moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Salamishah Tillet, executive director of Express Newark.

“Mayor Ras Baraka and Dr. Kellie Jones are two of the most important and incisive voices on the role that art plays in making our society more equitable and our world more just,” Tillet said.

“In their respective fields of politics and academia and their shared practice of writing and activating art in public spaces, they have kept the extraordinary vision of ‘Blues People’ alive. We have much to learn from their brilliance, and I am honored to be in a conversation with them both.”

One of 50 books Amiri Baraka wrote before his 2014 death, 1963’s Blues People was written when he went by the name LeRoi Jones. It helped create a cultural identity for Black Americans by tracing the evolution of Black music in the U.S. to how enslaved Africans became African Americans.

Supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation and Harborview Foundation, the chat will explore the legacy of Baraka’s book with a special focus on art and activism. It will also tackle the significance of blues music and how it addresses class, race, and politics.

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