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New Jersey city gives rousing send-off at funeral for activist poet-playwright Amiri Baraka

NEWARK, N.J. – Bagpipers, African drummers and jazz musicians led a rousing procession as the casket bearing activist poet-playwright Amiri Baraka was carried into his funeral service.

The 79-year-old author of blues-based poems, plays and criticism died Jan. 9 of an undisclosed illness. Actor Danny Glover was expected to officiate at Saturday’s service at Newark Symphony Hall.

Baraka’s supporters considered him a genius and a prophet. He helped found the Black Arts Movement in 1965 and left a legacy of community activism in his native Newark and elsewhere.

Critics have denounced him as homophobic and anti-Semitic. He was named New Jersey’s poet laureate in 2002, but the position was eliminated following criticism of Baraka’s Sept. 11 poem “Somebody Blew up America.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a civil rights activist, spoke at Friday’s wake.