Pivotal spoken-word group performs at SF State
November 1, 2008 9:16 AM
As part of this weeks series of lectures and panel discussions commemorating the 40th anniversary of 1968 student-led strike, Associated Students Performing Arts and Lectures hosted an evening of spoken word poetry Thursday night, featuring performances by students, former students and the legendary spoken word trio The Last Poets.
The Last Poets are a New York-based group, formed on Malcolm X's birthday, May 19, 1968 in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park. The original group consisted of three poets and a drummer. By 1970, The Last Poets had grown to include seven artists. Today, the groups' three remaining members still tour internationally, spreading the same messages to audiences as they did in that Harlem park 40 years ago.
The lyrics, much like the artists, were a product of the civil rights movement. Change, revolution and equality are constant themes in their poetry. As The Last Poets grew in popularity, releasing their second album in 1971, they quickly became a sign of the times. Their work became associated with the Black Nationalist movement, and eventually the subject of controversy. The group became known for condemning the United States government and supporting the Black Panthers.
Spoken word artists, such as The Last Poets are credited with laying the groundwork for Hip-Hop music. Jalal Mansur Nuriddan, founding member of The Last Poets, is now known as "The Grandfather of Rap"
Muata Kenyatta, Director of Performing Arts and Lectures, and former SFSU student, opened the stage for the performers. "The first time I heard the last poets, I was a young guy, and they scared the hell out of me - because I never heard anything that intense. Something not Euro-centric, something that sounds like what I listen to, what I hear on the corner - how it was related to me."
The evening consisted of a mix of beat-driven spoken word poetry interweaved with discussion of discussion of the 1968 strikes and the upcoming Presidential Election. The sound from the drums remained constant throughout the evening, sometimes making it unclear where the dialogue ended and the performance began. Central to the art and form of spoken word poetry are the elements of both rhythm and philosophy.
The Last Poets closed with remarks that 1968 was a very special year. It is their 40th anniversary as well, and they were happy that they could be here to celebrate that anniversary at San Francisco State University.
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