Have you heard of the Last Poets before? You may think oh they are poets, yeah. Well you may think their musicians, their actually both. The Last Poets performed at a spoken word concert at the Langston Hughes Auditorium located at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Saturday, January 20th.
The group that formed in the 1960’s poetry has had a continuous impact on American Poetry. The three poets Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, Abiodun Oyewole, and Umar Bin Hassan worked to educate their people. In May 19, 1968 Malcolm X’s birthday The original members formed as the Last Poets in East Harlem. Gylan Kain, Felipe Luciano and David Nelson are the original members of the group.
As the group continued to grow the main members of the group included Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole, Jalal Mansur Nuriddin and the percussionist of the Last Poets Nilaja. The four were on the cover of the groups self-titled debut. Which was contracted by Jimi Hendrix in 1970.
The reunion concert at the Schomburg Center featured Abiodun Oyewole, Umar Bin Hassan, and Nilaja. The group performed a number of different poems. One poem that was “banned” on Def Poetry titled Terrorist. Your not going to hear this poem on Def Poetry according to Oyewole who said “Russell is trying to keep his capitalist jobs.” It may be controversial, it might be band but “whenever they ban something it seems like it gets a lot of play,” said Oyewole. The poem describes America as terrorists, the KKK, CIA and the FBI “the real terrorists.”
The group also performed Niggers Are Scared of Revolution. Oyewole spoke about the use of the “N” word in the Black community. He doesn’t want to hear about any more conferences that are focused on the use of the “N” word. “I am sick and tired of that bullshit. The Nigga is fine…. A nigga is a character…it’s like when you go to Halloween, you put on a costume, that’s what a nigga is. A nigga is a human costume,” said Oyewole.
“We need to put some restraints on how we use this word nigga,” said Oyewole.
Oyewole said “we need to recognize ….we have given some honey and sweetness to Nigger.”
“Everything that they gave us has some other meaning that they gave us. We can flip anything but we still have to have discipline and respect. Understanding that we don’t need no conferences about the word nigga,” said Oyewole.
“Nigga isn’t going nowhere it’s a character. It’s going to be here longer then Mickey Mouse, it’s a character. And we need to recognize the character and let him….retire sometimes, don’t be a nigga all the time,” Oyewole added.
The group also performed a poem titled My People which dealt with unifying the black community. Umar Bin Hassan lead the singing of the poem This is Madness with his powerful voice. At the end the one of the groups followers Jessica Moore also got on stage to perform a poem, it was geared toward the black women.
The Last Poets recited a number of there poems. The poems touched down on events and happenings in the black community. Some themes for the poems were: revolution, slavery, terrorism, politics, the N-word, racism and much more.
After the sold out event was over the group spoke with audience members and sold copies of there poems on CD’s as well as video tapes of their performances.