Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
– Khalil Gibran
When we look at a tree we see the width and the strength of the trunk, the branches reaching out toward the sun decorated by leaves. What goes unseen all too often goes unthought of. It’s hard to see the roots of a tree but without roots there’s no support, no foundation for the trunk, to sprout branches to reach further into the sky and no leaves to scatter and split the sun’s rays. The roots not only hold up the tree but nourish it drawing up water and nutrients of the soil up into the branches and the leaves.
The metaphor of a tree with deep roots can be applied to Hip-hop. It reaches for the sun, but where are the roots? Like the tree they can often be difficult to see since they’re underground. It takes some digging to find the roots. And once we see them it can be a humbling experience to see how fragile a beginning can be.
When you dig down into the earth surrounding the tree of Hip-hop you find The Last Poets. The group came about, out of a compelling need to combat the oppression they not only saw but experienced. The Last Poets defined the political upheaval of a generation of Black people in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Their firebrand of political poetry set to a sparse soundtrack of drums opened up the possibilities of what Hip-hop could and would be.
Of all the members of the Last Poets no one has consistently carried the torch for the group like Abiodun Oyewole. Abiodun isn’t just a revolutionary poet because he wrote about revolution, Abiodun is a revolutionary poet because he put he converted his political thought, word and artistry into political action and served time in prison for doing so.
Perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry
written with a splash of blood.
– Yukio Mishima, Runaway Horses
The life of Abiodun Oyewlole is one that’s worth unearthing in a creative documentary. Harlem’s Last Poet will follow Abiodun as he works with a group of extremely talented musicians to create a concept album that will document his life. As we follow that story arc Abiodun will speak about his life. At key moments in Abiodun’s life there will be short surreal, hallucinatory, dream like reenactments that fleetingly crop up into the narrative. When the album is near completion the film will follow the preparation of a concert in London with Jamaican dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson who was highly influenced by the Last Poets. The film concludes with Abiodun’s concert with Linton Kwesi Johnson in London.