Poetry News

Canada's Exclaim! Meets Last Poets

By Harriet Staff
Last Poets, Undertand What Black Is, cover

In anticipation of their newest album, Understand What Black Is, which will be released tomorrow, A. Harmony of Exclaim! meets with poetry/spoken word/hip-hop icons, the Last Poets, to discuss their inspirations and their perspectives on the current, cultural state of affairs. "Long before 'woke' became a buzzword and Twitter hashtivism was a trend, there were the Last Poets," Harmony explains. From there: 

The group formed in Harlem in 1968, an especially turbulent time in America's history; the country was fraught with war, riots and racial tension — particularly after the murders of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black Panther Bobby Hutton two days later. America was enraged. And so were the Poets.
 
"When they killed Dr. King, I thought it was an insult to every black person in America," Last Poets founding member Abiodun Oyewole tells Exclaim! "I felt horrible. I wanted to retaliate. I was so angry, I wanted to get a gun and start killing. [But we] went and got the Last Poets together. I made my mouth a gun and my words the bullets. That was the way we attacked the system. And that's what we're still doing."
 
Fifty years after their inception, the systemic oppression the Poets fought against in their verses has yet to dull. Even though the world has evolved in many ways, the racism, brutality and inequality that incensed the Poets in the '60s still endures in 2018. It's why they're releasing Understand What Black Is, a compilation of poems chronicling the ongoing struggle for equality, set to steady, reggae-tinged rhythms.

Continue reading at Exclaim!

Originally Published: May 17th, 2018