African-American Lit: Southwest TN. College – The Vernacular Tradition & The Last Poets

In concluding the discussion on the Vernacular Tradition we watched a Bravo show about The Last Poets. Instead of going into detail in regard to the show, I’d like to list a series of questions/statements. I won’t state the obvious here in explaining how relevant The Last Poets remain in today’s version of the Spoken Word (They were featured on Common’s song ‘The Corner’ from his album Be), what I would like for you to analyze and consider in regard to them is this:

*The Black Power movement and the Black Arts Movement, according to Amiri Baraka, fell short in accomplishing a real goal which was to utilize the GNP of the African American community which is valued at over 405 billion dollars. This falls in line with what Dune said in the documentary. Dune stated that he left the group because he felt that the revolution through poetry was not really revolution.  What did both of these men mean here? Do you think they are correct? Now this question forces you to analyze the time that the Last Poets came into being.

Some facts that you may have missed: The Last Poets consisted of the original poets: Gylan Kain, Dahveed Nelson and Abiodun Oyewole. The group shifted and added Puerto Rican poet Felipe Luciano (who eventually left and organized the Young Lords-the political party not the gang). As the poets loyalties and philosophies changed a second version of the Last Poets included Jalaal Nuriddin, Umar Bin Hassan and Sulaiman El Hadi.

The group began unofficially on May 19th 1968 and their first official gig was at NYU.  The first suggestion for a name was the Blue Guerrillas, but they chose The Last Poets from the poem written by Dahveed Nelson.

*Die Nigger Die” is a poem that is immediately identified as one of the most important poems created by the TLP. Why do you think this poem is important? What is different about the use of the word Nigger in this poem in comparison to the songs and the use of the word today?

*Gil Scott Heron’s most popular poem was influenced by TLP’s “When The Revolution Comes”. What is the name of that poem?

*Actor and activist Ossie Davis stated that what The Last Poets inspired in rap has been lost and is now, “Milling about in the hallways and pissy staircases of society.” What did he mean by this?

I hope you all take a few minutes out of your day to learn more about The Last Poets. Go listen to a few poems and add any commentary to this section. On to the Literature and Slavery Era…

Prof. B