Umar Bin Hassan hasn’t even hit 70 yet, but he walks with difficulty and there’s sadness and fatigue in his eyes. As a member of The Last Poets, a group of performance poets who expressed the progressive spirit of the times starting in the late 1960s, he was a major influence on later hip-hop artists. In one of his best-known pieces, Niggers Are Scared of Revolution, he criticizes his black brothers’ destructive, macho behavior.
Scared of Revolution concentrates on Hassan’s personal life, in which he still fights his demons. He grew up poor with a violent, unpredictable father, which in turn left him with an inferiority complex. In the course of his adult life, he has had a string of bad relationships and left children without a father figure. In his darkest hour, he also battled a crack addiction.
“Deep inside, Umar was scared of the revolution himself,” says fellow member of The Last Poets Abiodun Oyewole. But Hassan takes control of his life again, breaks the destructive cycle and does his best to be the devoted father and grandfather that he was never fortunate enough to have.