Letters To The Editor


March 26, 2003

Baraka employs the resources of his tradition

On March 15, The Sun's article "Literary warrior uses poetry as a weapon" presented fair and balanced coverage of the controversy surrounding Amiri Baraka's poem "Somebody Blew Up America." I find it disturbing, however, that Gregory Kane's column "Black liberals need to respond to insult of Rice by Baraka" (March 19) suggests that members of the state government should have censured the remarks of Mr. Baraka, a leading African-American artist and intellectual, because Mr. Kane finds selected comments made at a paid appearance at a literary conference held at Coppin State College offensive.

Mr. Kane's suggestions border on the encouragement of violations of freedom of speech and academic freedom.

Mr. Kane's comparison of Mr. Baraka's comments on National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to Mayor Martin O'Malley's criticism of Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy is also off the mark. Mr. Baraka is not a public official acting in an official capacity; he is a poet. The use of such forms of figurative language as hyperbole and metaphor are part of his trade.

Furthermore, Mr. Kane failed to recognize that Mr. Baraka's lecture was a performance in the African-American oral tradition known as "signifyin'." The improvisational, satirical use of ironic humor dates back to slavery times when black folks employed sophisticated verbal play to resist and subvert oppression.

And satirical attacks on public figures and policy are also the stock and trade of literary artists and have been employed by writers ranging from Jonathan Swift to Mark Twain to Langston Hughes.

Finally, my deepest concern with Mr. Kane's column is that he focused exclusively on isolated comments in Mr. Baraka's lecture. He failed to even give the slightest attention to the other 60-plus presenters at our conference, including the Coppin students and alumni, and the professional writers, editors and publicists from throughout the country who provided practical information and inspiration that will be transformed into genuine empowerment for the conference participants, who were drawn largely from Baltimore's African-American community.

Robert H. Cataliotti


The writer is a professor in Coppin State College's department of humanities and media.

Black liberals let us down again

Gregory Kane's column "Black liberals need to respond to insult of Rice by Baraka" (March 19) is right on point. Black liberals have let us down once again.

The statements by Amiri Baraka are false and poorly stated, and I, as a black male, find the statements unfounded and downright wrong.

I hope some leader among black liberals stands up and tells America that all African-Americans do not agree with the poet and won't stand for stupid statements made about African-American women.

But I am sure I will be waiting a long time.

Timothy C. Nevels


Executing prisoners reveals face of evil

The brutal execution by Iraq of U.S. prisoners of war should foreclose the possibility of asylum in a foreign nation for the rulers of Iraq ("Arab TV displays bodies of U.S. troops," March 24).

When they are captured, those leaders, along with the participants in this crime, should be tried by a military court and appropriate punishment imposed.

The American public has seen the face of evil, and all those who were not previously convinced of Saddam Hussein's evil intentions should now be aware of them, and should condone the use of force to remove him from Iraq.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

Will we be bullies of the new century?

As Americans we need to realize that our actions in Iraq are rejected as illegal, unjustified and heavy-handed by many people, as witnessed by the multitude of protests around the world, including our country.

A lot of good will toward the United States has been lost. And we, as individual Americans, will be blamed for all the destruction of property, the deaths of women and children and the suffering of Iraq. After all, we are the ones paying for the bullets and the war is prosecuted in our name.

I just hope this war can be stopped soon, before irreparable damage is done, and that the hotheads in Washington who believe might makes right will realize we cannot be the bullies of the 21st century.

Jaime Lievano


Survivors of rape need contraception

I am writing to thank you for The Sun's editorial endorsing a bill that would make emergency contraception available at pharmacies ("Keep it out of court," March 9). This bill would offer important protection against unwanted pregnancy for women in Maryland who have been raped.

In research that I published with a co-author in June 2002, we showed that in a nationally representative sample of U.S. emergency departments surveyed from 1992 to 1998 only 20 percent of women who had been raped received emergency contraception during a visit to their emergency room.

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