“The Last Poets.”
They seem to burst out of nowhere. The Last Poets, a group of poets, singers who use syncopated rhythms and dazzling drum beats to tell the stories of black revolutionary movements sweeping the country and the sixties, seventies, and beyond.
Their voices, linked in classical forms of call and response, called out the making of a new black world, breaking with the old world of oppression and subservience. Their music lives in memory but also on record and in megabytes of rebellion, teaching, reaching, speaking in the voices of a new generation, a generation of resistance.
What do I most remember? Blessed are those who struggle, oppression is worse than the grave, better to die for a noble cause than to live and die as a slave. Fueled by a rapid staccato drumbeat, accented by the break of hi-hats, the lines drill into consciousness where the message of struggle and sacrifice lives for decades.
The last poets were rapping before there was rap. Their voices, rhythms, beats, and accents gave poems to the people, and from them arose inspiration, hope, rebellion, and a hunger for freedom in this land of black unfreedom. Blessed are those who struggle, oppression is worse than the grave, better to die in a noble cause than to live and die as a slave.
For 50 years, the Last Poets have played the role of cultural warriors. We salute you.
From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
these commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.