Our community has lost another great artist. Louis Reyes Rivera, prolific writer, poet, and activist, has passed. From early reports, he died in his sleep. For those who may not know much of Rivera, he was an influential educator and artist. Steeped in a Pan-African outlook and dedicated to teaching those around him, Louis made numerous literary contributions. Despite earning many accolades, he was always approachable. The winner of many literary awards came to be known as “The People’s Poet” through his embrace of issues of everyday folks. One of his sharpest points of focus was on the connection between African-American and Latino culture.
Rivera was born in New York City in 1945. Raised in Brooklyn, he would come to do some vital things in the world of activism. He was a key person in the struggle of Black and Puerto Rican students back in the 1960’s. Louis was a student leader in the 1969 takeover of City College, and the co-founder of The Paper, a student publication for people of color. Without the efforts of Rivera amongst others, generations of people of color would not have had the opportunity for higher education.
Always willing to reach back into the community and share his wealth of knowledge, Louis could often be found at a workshop or classroom. He would teach on the finer points of poetry, knowing your rights as a writer, and carrying forth the history of the oppressed through artistic means. He was a member of the National Writers Union and performed a piece at the 30th anniversary of the organization late last year. He held workshops at the Harlem Book Fair, and performed on Def Poetry.
Louis Reyes Rivera was a conduit of information, and inspired many artists and activists. He will definitely be missed. For paving the way for countless students of color to gain access to public higher education, I must say Rest in Power, and thank you. Rivera was 66 years old.
-Marc W. Polite
Edit: Rivera was 66 years old, not 67 as stated in the original post.
4.4.12 Update: There is a great video on Louis Reyes Rivera that I would like to share with the readers of this site. It was created by two Brooklyn-based filmmakers. You can view it here.